Waving the Flag

IN 1913 Loomis Temple of Music of New Haven published sheet music for a Yale fight song called "Good Night Harvard." "Good-Night...

IN 1913 Loomis Temple of Music of New Haven published sheet music for a Yale fight song called "Good Night Harvard." "Good-Night poor Har-vard, Har-vard Good-night!" goes the refrain. "We've got your number you're high as a kite. Oh, Oh, Oh, Good-Night poor Har-vard you're tucked in tight, When the big blue team gets af-ter you, Har-vard Good-Night!" (A few bars of the melody appear in a Yale medley confected by Leroy Anderson '29, A.M. '30, that is played occasionally by the Harvard Band.)

Fath Davis Ruffins '76, G '79, historian at the National Museum of American History, came upon the sheet music in the museum's vast holdings of such material and was taken aback by its iconography. She had never before seen the jackass used as a symbol of Harvard. Perhaps it is so used only at Yale? she queries.

"I've never seen Harvard thus portrayed," assures Mark Branch, an editor at the Yale Alumni Magazine. Neither has Judith Schiff, chief research archivist in the Yale University Library, which also possesses a copy of this sheet music. "Perhaps the people at Loomis Temple thought a Puritan figure of John Harvard too boring a symbol," she suggests. "Perhaps someone told their cover artist that all Harvard men are jackasses." Ruffins wonders whether anyone can say how this illustration came to be.

COMPANY NAME lettered on the side of a truck seen near the Barker Center for the Humanities: "Road Scholar Transport."

In its crackdown on perpetrators who use the University's name inappropriately, the provost's office, in the person of senior administrative specialist Elizabeth Hess, asked the New York Harvard Club to stop calling its e-mail newsletter "Harvard Today." Michael Pollak '68 broke the story in the New York Times, noting that the newsletter would change its name to "Today@hcny." "The eminently noncontroversial newsletter is mailed out by the Harvard Club to 4,000 people, and deals only with events [for club members] in and around New York," Pollak reported.

Hess explains that "the newsletter's title violated a policy against using the Harvard name in a way that could mislead people into thinking it refers to the University as a whole."

Barney Oldfield, A.B.E. '79, C.A.D. '82, who writes the newsletter, considered more than 200 suggestions for new titles, including "Yale Today." He isn't peeved about having to change the name, but, he told his readers, "I don't like being called 'eminently noncontroversial.' There are a few things we could call the Times."

A DIVERSITY OF FLAGS flies over Harvard Yard, mounted on the imposing 180-foot-high German-made Liebherr 316EC-H12 tower crane that began last summer to move equipment, materials, and debris in and out of the light courts of Widener Library (see September-October 1999, page 67).

At one end of the 300-foot-long horizontal boom is a white flag bearing the new Harvard College Library logo in crimson: a rounded modification of a handsome oak-leaf Veritas shield devised in 1962 by Rudolph Ruzicka, with the Veritas replaced by the initials "HCL." The oak-leaf motif, says the library's public-information officer, Beth Brainard, "suggests intellectual growth, potential, and strength. From little acorns..."

At the other end of the boom are a red Marine Corps flag and a black flag remembering soldiers missing in action and POWs. They are there because the operator of the crane, Brett St. Germaine, is a Vietnam veteran and wanted them there. All flags on the crane fly at his pleasure. A green, white, and orange Irish flag is on the boom at the request of the contractor's project superintendent. Just below the Stars and Stripes at the pinnacle of the tower is a small blue and red triangle that the steward of the laborers' union proposed. Through binoculars, one recognizes it as the burgee of the Orient Heights Yacht Club in East Boston.

In the 1850s, Donald McKay built clipper ships in East Boston. From the skysail mast of the Flying Cloud, Captain Josiah Perkins Creesy would have flown the white, red, and blue swallow-tailed flag of his shipping firm from an altitude even loftier--by 25 feet--than the vertiginous height of the Widener crane.

 

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