I was a freshman living in the basement of Virginia Hall, so my room was very accessible from the outside. We had one pay phone in a booth that we all could use, but it was kept locked at night. The doors at either end of the dorm were locked with an alarm which, if opened, would sound. I was the only student in our dorm who had a tool kit including a screwdriver. All of this sets the scene for what happened on Thursday, May 10, 1956 at 10 p.m. with a new moon overhead.
We got word that there was going to be a panty raid, which, of course, was frowned on by the University and our dorm mother. But we thought it sounded like a fun idea, which would be called cool now. The boys who initiated the raid were known to some of us. Naturally we were going to cooperate by giving them the underwear they wanted, so it was being thrown out the windows to encourage these friendly “thieves.”
One of the leaders was a guy from my home town who was known for being a little wild, although he was on the varsity football team. I managed to unscrew the lock on the phone booth with my handy screwdriver so we could call the guys to egg them on, which we did. Remember, there were no such things as cell phones in 1956, so text messaging was non-existent.
Those of us who lived on the basement floor opened our windows so the guys could come in to retrieve our garments. There was lots of commotion and I was running down the hall when one of the guys, his face covered with panty hose, running toward me, grabbed me around the waist and said, “How the heck do I get out of here?” He and I ran down the hallway to my room, and he escaped through my window. At that point, the dorm mother called all of us to gather in the living room to keep us from any further cooperation with these “raiders.”
Needless to say, the campus security and the police were involved at this point and the power on the campus was turned off. Before that happened, some of the boys had made their way to the sorority houses and, aided and abetted by their victims, pulled off a successful panty raid. No one was hurt and no one was arrested or spent the night in jail. Lots of undergarments were the prize for the night. For this freshman, it was quite an initiation to this Methodist University!
Believe it or not, this panty raid was news and made the newspapers and even warranted a photo in Life Magazine. Those were the innocent and good old times!
Marty Leonard ’59