The Streak

As reported in the March 7 issue of the Old Gold and Black, “streaking, the latest college craze, has made its debut in Spartanburg.

On March 4, 1974, one of the more memorable moments in modern Wofford history took place. A group of Wofford students streaked the Converse campus.

Streaking became something of a national fad in the spring of 1974. Someone streaked the Oscars, another streaked the Hawaii state legislature. And Ray Stevens memorialized it all in song. Even today, individuals occasionally try to streak the Super Bowl or other sports events.

As reported in the March 7, 1974 issue of the Old Gold and Black, “streaking, the latest college craze, has made its debut in Spartanburg. On Monday night, 125 Wofford students entertained a crowd of 700 Converse and Wofford spectators by running nude across the Converse campus. The Spartanburg Herald, the city’s morning newspaper, ran two front page stories the next morning with slightly different details. It suggested the number of streakers was around 60. The event took place between about 8:30 and 10 pm, and while Converse security and Spartanburg police were both on hand, no one was arrested or charged. Stories initially celebrated this as the first college to streak another college, and the first all-male college to streak an all-female college. Later stories corrected it to “almost all-male,” since Wofford in 1974 had women day students. (Some of those students were present for the event and were quoted in the Herald’s story.)

Converse students interviewed in the Herald applauded their campus security officers for not overreacting. In fact, one Converse security officer said, “we knew it was going to happen and decided not to interfere as long as it didn’t get out of hand, meaning no injuries and property damage, primarily.” In an Old Gold and Black article a few weeks later, Converse President Robert Coleman laughed off the whole event. “I consider streaking to be just a prank, a way of easing frustration, a lark.” He continued, “It has been my experience that every college generation comes up with some way of thumbing its nose at society.”

The story was front page news in the Old Gold and Black later that week, with a large photo, and got coverage with campus reaction at both college for two more issues. The incident also made the Bohemian that year as well, with some of the same photos in both publications. Mark Olencki ’75, then a student Bohemian editor and photographer, noted that some people accused him of participating in the streak, and he said that was impossible, since he was the one taking the pictures.

Perhaps the more interesting part of the story is the rumors, fueled in the Spartanburg media, that the Converse students would return the favor at Wofford the next night. The Herald even reported it at the end of the article. “Reliable sources report that another first will occur tonight as the Converse gals answer an invitation to streak across the Wofford campus at 8:30, weather permitting.” On Tuesday night, a crowd sometimes estimated at 2,000 people descended on the Wofford campus, anticipating a show. They were sorely disappointed, as the counter-streak did not materialize, and unfortunately took out their frustrations with some acts of vandalism.

The Streak resulted in a number of amusing newspaper stories. The Herald story quoted three Wofford women students’ descriptions of the event. Jo Ann Deakin noted that many of the men wore handkerchiefs over their faces. Pam Mason reported that some of the Converse students were chasing the streakers. Terry Rosenberg noted that some of the guys “were chicken and wore pants, while others wore long shirt tails flapping in the breeze as they ran.” One group of Converse students told the Herald reporter, “Please for goodness sakes please don’t say we were offended or nothing like that. If anyone is embarrassed or easily offended they shouldn’t be out here.”

In a March 21 Old Gold and Black story, an anonymous reporter wrote about several Converse student reactions. “Shouts of ‘I touched one,’ ‘Wow, did you see that?’ and ‘Give us a moon’ rang out among the audience.” The reporter went on to share his own reminiscences of the event. “The mooning on Fairview Avenue was a genuine disappointment. Growing up in a small southern town where mooning was a much more common pastime than going to the movies since there was no theater, I felt rather competent as a critic. The Wofford mooners lacked technique. There were no half-moons, baby moons, or moon faces… Only the basic full moon which is rather dull for spectators after a while. One young man must be commended, however, for shooting a moon across a Wofford decal in the back of a Volkswagen bus.”

The fad passed as quickly as it came. Dean of Students Mike Preston put out a memo on March 6, following the damage to campus, warning students that streaking was against the law and students would be prosecuted. While he knew it was not malicious, he did not want to see campus or student property further endangered. As Wofford campus safety chief Chuck Darnell warned the Wofford students after March 5, “three streaks and you’re out.”

Note: This blogger absolutely does not encourage a semi-centennial commemoration of the event!

By Phillip Stone

I've been the archivist of Wofford College and the South Carolina United Methodist since 1999. I'll be sharing college, Methodist, and local history, documents, photographs, and other interesting stories on this blog, which I've been keeping since December 2007.