Sarah Camey ’18
It’s almost that time of year again; classes are in full swing and a few more leaves sprinkle the ground with every passing week. Before we know it, we’ll be awoken by the sweet sounds of chiming bells signifying our release from one day’s responsibilities. Perhaps you aren’t woken up by bells; perhaps you’ll be awoken by your fellow housemates running through the halls screaming the truth you had all suspected: “It’s Mountain Day!” Maybe you are like me: laying groggy-eyed in bed, scrolling through emails on your phone, looking for that one long anticipated subject title that will grant you an extra hour or two of sleep. No matter your source, times have changed since the beginning of the Mountain Day tradition back in 1877.
The bells are no longer the only announcement of Mountain Day witnessed on campus. In fact, a few things have changed since November of 1877, and there are a few things we hope never will. Mountain Day has been a signature Smith tradition for over a hundred years, only cancelled twice, once for a hurricane and once for an infantile paralysis epidemic, according to a 1980 Sophian article. The tradition started in October of 1877 when President Seelye organized a ferry to take students across the Connecticut River. Students then headed up into the mountains for picnics and admiration of the scenery.
Today, Mountain Day is a complete surprise, but up until 1923 it was always the second Wednesday in October. However, after a string of rainy days Mountain Day became up to the discretion of the President, according to a Sophian article from 1985. In a 1953 article on Mountain Day, she said the element of surprise “undoubtedly enhances the day’s enjoyment.” This seems to be the general consensus for Mountain Day as Maureen Ryan-Friend ’85 specifically remembers enjoying hearing footsteps going up into the bell tower, and “knowing moments before anyone else it was Mountain Day.”
The activities on Mountain Day have also changed significantly throughout the years. According to multiple articles found in the Smith College Archives between the years of 1920-1950, the most popular activity for the occasion was traveling to Yale in search of a good party. Amherst College was another prime location, and the migration of Smith students had such an impact on the town that one student even wrote a poem: “On into Amherst town / Rode the Smith students / Oh maids of eighty-two / Our class will put this through / But if our teachers knew/ Of this imprudence.”
In 1964 an article in the Sophian titled, “Save Mountain Day for Scenery and Cycles,” was solely dedicated to inspiring Smith students to go on bike rides rather than hiking to further appreciate the fall scenery. Another 1977 article suggested a trip to the Calvin Coolidge library for students who chose to use their day off to catch up on work. However, no matter the day and no matter the age, all Smith students can agree that Mountain Day is a vital tradition at Smith, and we are all impatiently awaiting its return year after year.