In 1946, Life magazine visited Old Nassau to document the Reunions experience and marvel at the spectacle of the then-largest P-rade in Princeton’s history, boasting 8,000 alumni and 32 bands. “As universities go,” the reporter wrote, “Princeton is small . . . But in the matter of reunions it stands like a dinosaur among mice.” Princeton’s grandest Reunions tradition—a living timeline of passing generations cheered by thousands of spectators—has inspired writers of memoir and fiction, and the P-rade has marched into immortality on the printed page.
“She had marched in the P-rade since the age of five, her mother’s first reunion.”
Jean Hanff Korelitz, Admission (2010)
“Jake smiled, awed by the P-rade and his dad’s part in it, awed too by Ben, by the horses and other beasts. Jake was amazed by all the different bands playing all the different Princeton songs. And the hats. Orange-and-black cowboy hats, orange-and-black baseball caps, straw hats (skimmers and panamas, if Jake had known their names), canvas hats, sailors caps . . .”
Geoffrey Wolff ’60, The Final Club (1990)
“And my dear, the P-rade. The P-rade is the climax of the whole thing. Matadors, Mickey Mouses—each returning class is dressed up to look like something different, and they all carry comic signs and bottles of one thing or another. They come from the far corners of the earth.”
C. Frederick Buechner ’47 P81, The Book of Bebb (1979)
“In every direction, as far as you looked, there were orange warm-up suits, orange and black blazers and pants and T-shirts, baseball caps, straw boaters encircled by orange and black ribbons, children and adults alike wearing furry tiger tails. Some graduates drove antique cars that they honked jovially, and in celebration of themselves, the major reunion classes had arranged for special performers—brass bands from local high schools, a belly dancer, even a fire-eater—who preceded the class.”
Curtis Sittenfeld, An American Wife (2009)
“They were absolutely beautiful, these Princeton men marching by on a sunny June Saturday, and I don’t give a holy hoot in hell that I cried for the one hour and fifteen minutes it took them to pass me. . . . Row after orange row of them, singing their song on their day on their street on their campus. . . .
Behind them came perhaps the most poignant and gallant of them all, the Old Guard. The very oldest living Princetonians, singing ‘Going back . . .’ for what surely must be, for some of them, the last time. . . . Some of them will never make that march, I’d thought, not in this heat. And indeed, some were waving jauntily to the crowd from an open limousine. But others, by God, walked every step of the way, swinging along erect and vibrant, with perhaps only the common cord of Princeton sustaining them. And one, Class of ’15, rode a unicycle. Roars of pure love swelled to meet them; there were many children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren in the crowd, and more than one had a son and grandson marching with them, in other classes. But had there been no kindred soul there for any of them, they would have affected us the same. As they turned the corner onto Prospect Street, the crowd rose spontaneously to its feet, sun hats off, and all along the street they rose till the entire street was lined with standing people as the Old Guard went marching by.”
Anne Rivers Siddons S48, John Chancellor Makes Me Cry (1975)
“They rode into Princeton as the sun was making colored maps of the sky behind the graduate school, and hurried to the refreshment of a shower that would have to serve in place of sleep. By noon the bright-costumed alumni crowded the streets with their bands and choruses, and in the tents there was great reunion under the orange-and-black banners that curled and strained in the wind. Amory looked long at one house which bore the legend ‘Sixty-nine.’ There a few gray-haired men sat and talked quietly while the classes swept by in panorama of life.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald ’17, This Side of Paradise (1920)