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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

The College Pump

Loot, Vinegar, Blisters

May-June 2015

Altrocchi at his home in Reno. The goalpost has to go.

Altrocchi at his home in Reno. The goalpost has to go.

Photograph courtesy of John Altrocchi

Call him a preservationist, certainly not a thief. This magazine got an explanatory note recently from John Altrocchi ’50, retired as a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Nevada School of Medicine and as a clinical psychologist. He enclosed a photograph in which he holds a five-foot-long segment of the goalpost that he and three co-conspirators “took from grasping Yale fans after our big win at home in ’48,” he wrote. Their names are painted on the relic: classmates and fellow Lowell House denizens Bob (Carl Robert Wesen), Dick (Richard B. Covey), and the late Bill (William L. Mobraaten).

“I have carried this with me,” Altrocchi wrote, “when moving from Cambridge to Berkeley, to North Lake Tahoe, to Reno (background is the view of Reno from our house). We are moving to Laguna Beach, California, and I think it may be time to throw it away—but it is too big for our garbage service to take. Do you think the athletic department might have any interest in the piece of goalpost as a memento?”

The editors forwarded Altrocchi’s letter to Warren M. “Renny” Little ’55, curator (pro bono) of the Lee Family Hall of Athletic History. He conferred with various other powers-that-be in Harvard’s athletic establishment, among them director of athletics Robert Scalise, executive director of the Harvard Varsity Club Robert Glatz, and football coach Tim Murphy. They deliberated. They weren’t sure just where they would put the piece. Little observed that it could be positioned somewhere so as to point toward the Stadium. In the end the conferees decided that yes indeed, they wanted that hunk of history. It’s coming home.

“By the way,” Altrocchi added, “if you are interested in my bona fides on goalpost shenanigans, here is a picture of me from the Crimson (11/21/49) attempting to paint the Yale goalpost crimson after our disappointing loss there in ’49. We couldn’t pull the goalpost down because it was made of metal pipe—and covered with lard! The New Haven police were much less tolerant than the Cambridge police and we barely got away.” [Read more about the incident at the end of this 1951 Crimson article.]

Altrocchi noted that Harvard’s first game of 1949, his senior year, was an away game against Stanford in which Harvard lost 11 starters, and as a result was “creamed” by all the Ivy teams, including Yale, so “the only fun we had was tearing down the goalposts.”

Gone but not forgotten: The main Cambridge Public Library has in its second-floor local-history reference room a case filled by the Historical Commission with products once manufactured in Cambridge. There are the paper collars, later replaced by innovative paper-and-cloth, made close to Harvard Yard on Arrow Street by the Reversible Collar Company. Catching the eye also is a bottle that once held Harvard Vinegar (marked by a red pennant with an H for a trademark), made by the Harvard Pickle Works, Inc. The label promises vinegar pressed from fresh apples and “reduced to legal strength.”

Rite of passage: If history repeats, many of this year’s graduating women will have entered the real world with sore feet. Athletic curator Renny Little is also a stalwart of the Harvard Alumni Association’s Committee for the Happy Observance of Commencement, and does color commentary in the broadcast of the proceedings on the afternoon of the day. He reports an encounter he had at the grand pageant last year. “I got to talking with a middle-aged woman who had a stethoscope around her neck and wore an EMT badge. I noted that I didn’t think she would be needed as much as in the past because the weather was pretty cool. She replied, “Oh, I’m here with the bandages. These young ladies have been wearing flip-flops for four years and this is the first time many of them have worn high heels.”

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