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Rearview Mirror: You Break It, You Buy It?

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Since it’s January and the late 1960s, it’s time to talk about the Reck again.

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A good example of how much the accents and trimmings of the Reck have changed over the years.
Georgia Tech Archives/Georgia Tech Photograph Collection (http://history.library.gatech.edu/items/show/4737)

With Reck Club recruitment in full swing, the Ford 1930 Model A Sport Coupe is once again on my musing mind as I sit down to write this week’s Rearview Mirror. It’s been a busy few weeks once more as, somewhat ironically, sources become more patchwork as time rolls on towards the present. There’s also precious little time in the second semester of senior year to find it. So, stuck between a rock - lengthy writing time - and a hard place - lack of comprehensive sources - trying to bring a well-research column to you each week, we’ll be taking it week by week to be as thorough as possible. And also, hopefully, to take a couple trips down paths less traveled. But enough intro, it’s time to talk about the old car.


When we last discussed the Ramblin’ Reck, it was incidentally in Birmingham on its first-ever road trip. Since then, Rearview has been bouncing around some eclectic topics, so, really, the onward march of this column towards the present day hasn’t much outpaced where we sit in the Reck’s timeline.

Shortly after the trip to Alabama, the Reck went to the first of many bowl games, a 1961 appearance in the Gator Bowl against Penn State, a loss for the Yellow Jackets

Alright, full honesty time. I went looking for sources on the next major event that happened to the Reck, but got absolutely sidetracked by the copy of the Technique I found, so I’m going to marvel at that for a minute. I was about to say that it must’ve been a strange time at Georgia Tech, by the looks of the content. The October 18th, 1963 edition of “The South’s Liveliest College Newspaper” certainly lived up to the billing, though I admit I was skeptical, seeing as the ‘Nique still uses that catchphrase today, and, well, it’s rather normal most editions. On the front page alone, there’s a fascinating editorial by the Editor in Chief in which he deftly and highly accurately casually references the financial straits of the early days at Tech. It was, after all, the 75th Anniversary of the Institute, and in the grand scheme of things, relating to the circumstances of Tech’s birth was probably quite common during the cavalcade of speakers and events. Guinn Leverett does casually reference the just-released Dress Her in White and Gold, which is probably the most recent instance of that happening before the existence of this weekly column.

Two quotes jump out at me right away. The first, “Nowdays the only axe in sight is the one swinging gently and surely at the innocuous red neck of Auburn, and Georgia Tech is a multi-million dollar concern,” which contrasts the early hardships of the Institute, is a direct potshot at Auburn. I can’t imagine a modern version trying to throw shade at, say, Pittsburgh in the middle of a school week. The latter, “Student conduct has been questioned. There is concern because some football cheers contain “hell” or “damn.” (There is legitimate cause for concern about a few other “old guard” cheers— but “hell”?, these cheers have to be eliminated because the Techman, in his new found maturity, has started dating’ Scotties instead of high school girls. Dr. Andrew Walker’s fight for the emancipation of rats seems to be gaining momentum. Freshman classes continue to be more and more intelligent,” is more interesting as a sign of the times. These were still the days when the ladies of Agnes Scott College were much more readily existent than campus coeds. He also laments the receding tide of participation in extracurriculars. Some things never change.

Next to it, there’s an article about a fire at Alpha Tao Omega. The subtitle is “Phi Delis Not Implicated.” Personally, I think that’s hilarious and would absolutely be an over-the-top prank, but this is just the tip of the iceberg in how vital to campus this newspaper was. Fraternities advertised their social events. The editor of the Auburn paper mailed in a letter asking for good sportsmanship on the football field in their upcoming game. The scores of intramural games were posted. There were quips seemingly at random. The Technique cost money for a subscription. This is at a present time when free circulation of the paper has dropped to a third of its previous amount of 15,000. They can’t give it away. It makes sense why old school professors hate the idea of reading the paper in class. This edition came out 57 years ago and I still couldn’t put it down.

Of course all of this distracts from the original reason I picked up this particular edition in the first place. Allowing myself to quote essentially all of the article,

“There is no news in the fact that the Yellow Jackets flattened the UT Vols last Saturday. No doubt the Jackets would have won even had they not been angry over losing 7-6 to LSU, but anger can produce the desire to exert that little bit extra, and the Recks probably got a little hot under the collar upon seeing the Ramblm’ Reck painted glaring red-orange. That’s right—RED-ORANGE. The Reck was towed to Knoxville last Friday and stored under lock and key on the UT campus. The administration of the University of Tennessee had agreed to provide for the security of the car, and should have had the foresight to preclude any attempts by pranksters to tamper with our Model A. However there was no nightwatchman, and someone succeeded in breaking in and painting the Reck—top, sides and tires—rather thoroughly. I would say that we at Tech are definitely not against practical jokes, but the UT boys carried this one a little too far. One hears from time to time of the kidnapping of a mascot, but as yet I haven’t heard of one being shot, which is comparable to the dousing of the Reck. The repair bills will be sent shortly to the University, with the hope of being reimbursed in full. However this expectation may never be compiled with after the much disputed and finally refused protest of UT Athletic director Bob Woodruff concerning the 54 yard pass play by Lothridge and Davis in last Saturday’s game.”

That bill is still unpaid.

And yet, that is just a few inches of space in a newspaper crowded with what’s happening on campus - coverage of the freshman football team, cross country news, and a young Bill Curry and other letterwinners cutting a check from the T Club in support of the Student Activities Building that was supposed to be complete in 1964. Much like the previously-discussed Student Activities Complex, that date came and passed by a longshot before it opened in 1970. The paper even featured an article from Coach Bobby Dodd himself, which is a tradition handed down from the likes of John Heisman, who used to write long prose to get students rhetorically amped up for games even back when they took place at Piedmont and Ponce de Leon Parks. It is hard to imagine a letter from Geoff Collins in today’s Technique.

The 75th Anniversary of Georgia Tech was a sign of the times in a lot of ways. Though the Mr. and Ms. Georgia Tech were Miss and Mrs. Homecoming, a lot of things were the same. There was still a homecoming concert, though it was run by something rather surprisingly called the Bulldog Club. Tech commanded the presence and acknowledgement of those in power, buoyed by its ever-increasing academic stature, as evidenced by the line of speakers anchored by Robert Macnamara. And yet, so much, be it the paper, the culture, or the football, is utterly different. In this sense, it’s almost certainly that there’s no longer a liquor store wedged between what used to be Atlantic Drive and Hemphill Street - now pathways along the Campanile and Tech Green, respectively - in what is now the heart of campus, no matter how much the staff and students at the time may have bemoaned its loss.

I say all of this about this snapshot of 1963 not to be unwavering in sentimentality. A fair bit of the anachronisms are best left in the past, not the least being the large advertisement for the Pickrick on Hemphill, a restaurant that within a year would be the epicenter of the anti-integration brouhaha that would proper Lester Maddux to governorship, as well as the promotion of Kappa Alpha’s party as taking place “under the Stars and Bars.”

It is incredibly important when looking at history, especially the history which we have not ourselves lived through, to not lean into the sepia tones of nostalgia or to don the biases of the rose-colored glasses.

At the time, the now red-orange Reck was in an interesting state of limbo itself. After Ted Johnson sold it to the school for the moderate sum of $1,000, about $8,700 today, it went into the hands of the Student Council, led by president John Hayes. Much ink was spilled over that man in the October 18th, 1963 edition of the Technique. The Ramblin’ Reck Committee, as it was dubbed, became a sub-function of the council, similar to the boards that oversee finance or the other projects the government body works on today. Reck Club was mentioned just once in the paper, in reference to the organization of the homecoming Ramblin’ Reck Parade - an outdated spelling, to boot - and to their role in getting every RAT to run the Freshman Cake Race, complete with dorm checks and roll call.

As noted in previous weeks of Rearview, the Reck hasn’t missed a home football game since its debut against Rice in 1961. Just two years into that run, that streak was in pretty major jeopardy. With the benefit of nearly six decades of perspective, that Tennessee game is probably the most significant event to happen to the Reck in its first decade on campus. To be quite honest, knowing what it takes to get that beauty to run as well as it does nine decades into its useful life, it’s rather amazing that it bounced back so quickly for the Auburn game in 1963. It may have been a brighter yellow, and had different ornamentation, but it was still the Reck of today. Given the severity of the incident in Knoxville, it’s a little surprising this story isn’t more famous today. I suppose playing them once in football in the last few decades will go a decent way to quelling rivalrous feelings.

One other critical thing did happen, though, to the Reck in the 1960s. In 1968, Student Council voted to disband the Ramblin’ Reck Committee and hand over the day-to-day oversight of the car to the Ramblin’ Reck Club. It seemed to make sense and simplified the roles of the student government, which was growing rapidly as the student body gained in size and self-representation. The driver, though it was always a single person chosen for the role, would now be an elected member of the Reck Club.

The club which has seen so drastically a re-tooling of its unchanging core mission - spreading joy through school spirit and preserving its traditions - in the last ninety years had, after 37 years of existence, finally gotten the aspect which has proven the most fundamental to its mission: The Ramblin ‘Reck.

For more information on the Ramblin’ Reck Club: click here. Kudos to them for their well-versed history of the Reck page. For application information: click here.

A special thanks to Dress Her in White and Gold, Engineering the New South, and the Georgia Tech Archives for the background information and images used in writing this column.


If you have any events or ideas you would like to see investigated, leave a comment below and I will be sure to look into adding it to the schedule. What is old is new again, or at least liable to be featured in the future. Thank you for reading this latest edition of From the Rumble Seat’s Rearview Mirror.