Wine, women and song have been the ingredients for some pretty successful carnivals over the last few millenniums. But Dartmouth College, with its annual winter carnival, has been experimenting with and improving on the formula. To the W, W & S recipe it has added, over the past 44 years, a major ski meet, a hockey game, a swimming meet, a basketball game, an ice-sculpture contest, a beauty contest, a Broadway play and an elaborate outdoor evening ice show featuring some of the world's greatest skaters. There are undoubtedly other items, but I am writing this report during the immediate post-carnival or convalescent period, and these are all I can remember.
Dartmouth Winter Carnival, with its merry-go-round of sports and social events not merely overlapping but overtaking each other, is a 30-ring circus that makes Ringling Brothers look like a two-wagon job on a vacant lot in Sapulpa. Dartmouth likes to remind you of the words of its most famous alumnus, Daniel Webster: "It is a small college but there are those who love it." Well, all I can say is that it is a good thing Daniel never came back for a winter carnival. For on this weekend the Hanover population of 2,700 undergraduates and some 3,000 townspeople gathers to itself an additional 1,700 members of a species rare to the Hanover plain. They are known as young ladies, dates, babes or mice, depending on the tone of your vocabulary. They are a sight for sore eyes (such as mine were) but equally agreeable, it seemed, to younger, brighter eyes as well. They descend on the white, Georgian campus on Thursday evening and Friday morning, and they appeared to this aging sentimentalist as a great flock of brilliantly plumaged birds back from the Southlands to decorate the bare New England trees with the color of their complexions, their personalities, their ski sweaters and their smiles. Tell me that birds don't wear sweaters and don't smile and all I can say is that anybody who exposes himself to some 20 indoor and outdoor events, laced with a plethora of cocktail parties, dinner parties, dance parties and some old-time basement drinking—readers, that fellow has earned his right to mix a metaphor or two, having mixed practically everything else over a tough 72-hour course.
JOHNNY DARTMOUTH AND JOANIE DATE
In fact, while I bow to no one as sports fan and hope any paragraph now to be telling you of Dartmouth's victorious sweep of the ski meet against the best ski teams in the East, the swimming victory over Navy, the hockey wins over Boston College and Yale, the basketball upset of Princeton and the wrestling team's moral-victory tie with the heavily favored Coast Guard Academy—before I tell you of the prowess of Dartmouth's exciting alpine team, sparked by the ballet-graceful Japanese Olympic skier, Chiharu Igaya, I would like to doff my ski cap to the couples who never get their names in the sporting headlines or the scoring columns but who may rank with the most accomplished athletes of the weekend. They are the young of face and resilient of muscle who dance into the cooling hours of dawn, rise with a few hours sleep to do some dub skiing of their own on the golf course, walk several miles back to the heart of the campus to pound their hands and feet at a three-house jam session, again walk several miles to the ski jump, spend three hours climbing up and slipping down the icy surface of the crusted snow to see the jumpers from various vantage points, hike back to the swimming pool, risking pneumonia to watch the hard, shiny bodies of the natators slash down the watery lanes in the steam-bath temperature of the indoor pool, then walk back to the fraternity house for a little informal dancing, and on to the basketball game, the play or the concert and then—after 14 hours in which they may have covered 10 to 20 miles—they are ready for the real party, with its three or four hours of go-go-go dancing. You may talk about the courage of your downhill racer checking to avoid a rock at 60 mph, or the endurance of the cross-country skier, uphill, down dale and over obstacles for eight long miles—but my choice for championship, all-round performance of the carnival goes to Johnny Dartmouth and Joanie Date, the couple who attended everything. They can describe Igaya's stylish bird flights in the jump, John Glover's dominance of the 220-and the 100-yard freestyle swimming races, Sophomore Jim Francis' spirited ability to take the play away from Princeton on the basketball floor, and then having covered all the sports events like a—well, maybe even more conscientiously than a—correspondent for SI, they Charleston and mambo with the tenacity of marathon dancers.
OUR FIRST ATOMIC GENERATION
That, my friends, is youth, and if you wanted to see American youth on skis, in the pool, on the wrestling mats, or simply indulging in friendly intramural wrestling around the fraternity houses, you should have been with us on these brittle February days. Here truly was accent on youth, a world's fair advertising the vigor, the prowess, the talents and the staying abilities of our first atomic generation to come of age. A fresh-faced, smiling-eyed, almost heart-breakingly young carnival queen was chosen in the person of Skid-more Sophomore Karen Thorsell, but we think another prize might have been given Sunday afternoon when athletes, dancers, spectators and played-out playboys sprawled and crawled around the fraternity houses, barely moving, not unlike the alligators I had seen on the steaming banks of Everglades canals the week before. On Aftermath Sunday I would select the couple exhibiting the fewest symptoms of utter exhaustion. The date who manages a smile, the escort still on his feet to await the final bell, the couple still congenial to curious outsiders and perhaps even thinking of a farewell walk into the glistening white hills of outer Hanover, a farewell drink, a dance, a laugh, or even a farewell thought-there is a couple on which to build the future. For the way ahead is an uphill course, and I came away with the conviction that we will need not just the competitive skill of downhill winner Bill Beck, the aggressive spirit of the Dartmouth skiers, but the vitality, the companionability and the stamina of the 1,728 representatives of the "weaker sex" who managed to hold their own on ice slopes and dance floors and often wore down their outdoor college dates who pride themselves on health and manly vigor.
I found myself drawn to this particular carnival for complex reasons. Sixteen years ago, when the golden hairs of youth were still to be seen on this old gray head, I was part of an ill-fated, locally notorious and later celebrated visit to Dartmouth on behalf of a motion picture company making a film called Winter Carnival. My companion was F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I still prize a volume of his wondrous novel Tender Is the Night inscribed "To one who pulled me out of crevices into which I sank and away from avalanches..." On that occasion the avalanche eventually had overtaken us and we had departed the college somewhat ignominiously before the end of the carnival. Dartmouth had had a powerful ski team in 1939 too, with Dick Durrance, Steve Bradley, John Litchfield and their like, and returning to the Hanover Inn the other day, I finally found out how it had fared that hectic, shaky weekend long ago. Dartmouth had won it that year, by 15.6 points.
THREE JOHNS AND A SHOW
This time Dartmouth had a 25.7-point lead over its nearest competitor, Middlebury, 579.8 to 554.1, with the University of New Hampshire third at 542.7. This year Dartmouth swept the alpine events with a 1-2-3 in the slalom (Igaya's specialty) and a near-incredible 1-2-3-4 in the downhill, with Dartmouth's American skier, Beck, first to cross the line at the end of the mile-and-a-quarter course in 1:52, followed by the Canadian Peter Kirby at 1:54, Igaya at 1:54.6 and Dartmouth's exuberant Norwegian, Egil Stigum, in 1:58.6. Oddly enough, it was the less-spectacular Hanover performers that won the ski meet for the local favorites, for Dartmouth was known to have an unsurpassable alpine squad (slalom and downhill), which Middlebury and the University of New Hampshire and Vermont hoped to stand off in the Nordic events (crosscountry and jumping). While Vermont's outstanding cross-country man, Larry Damon, won the grueling eight-mile race by nearly a full minute, Dartmouth's three Johns—Johnstone, Johnston and Johnsrud—finished sixth, tenth and eleventh to give Dartmouth an unlooked-for third place in what was anticipated as their weakest event.
Aside from the whim of a sentimental journey, revisiting the scene of some youthful adventures, I found myself drawn back to the carnival through a renewed interest in skiing after a recent New Year's weekend at Franconia. Watching my 15-year-old daughter Vicky, a fine Swiss-trained skier, come sweeping down Cannon Mountain, I remembered my old snow-plow days on the Dartmouth golf course. The silence of skiing, the whiteness of skiing, the crisp, clear whisper of ski edges raising the powdered snow, the body grace of the slalom, the sure, slick movement of checking—it all came over me again at Franconia in a sharp cold rush of nostalgia. It was time to see another carnival. "It'll be worth it just to see Igaya," said John Carleton, a former Dartmouth ski star, now a prominent lawyer from Manchester and the only man I have known personally who went to Africa to ski.