In this period (before the Civil War) the students had very little
time or opportunity for social life except among themselves. Their
only vacant period in the week was Saturday afternoon, five full days
being given to recitation and study, and Friday night and Saturday
forenoon to the work of the Literary Societies. In the College sessions
there were no holidays. In the early years the Commencements seem
to have had no social features and to have been very meagerly
attended.1 After the period of the Institute, the first notice of anything
of a social nature in connection with Commencement was with that of
1843, when on the night of the last day a large party of ladies and
gentlemen partook of the refreshments provided, and after a suitable
time spent "in a most friendly manner," left at an early hour much
pleased.2 It was in 1845 that a reception such as prevailed at Wake
Forest Commencements on the evening of the graduating day until
well into the present century was first given by the students of the two
Literary Societies.3
One may gain from the reports for the successive years after this
that these occasions were greatly enjoyed; they were soon fittingly
left to the more cheerful and fairer portion of those in attendance,
while the more serious older people retired to their homes. The
reporters of the occasions were not insensible to "the array of female
beauty" and of "the very large number of beauti-
1 Creecy, Wake Forest Student, XXVIII, 314, says "As the College was in its
infancy, I think the commencements were rather tame affairs; with very little
preparations and very thin attendance. A notable man spoke, as well as the
graduating class."
2 Biblical Recorder, July 1, 1843.
3 Biblical Recorder, June 28, 1846. "In the evening a large party of ladies and
gentleman (among whom were Governor Graham and lady), attended an
entertainment given by the students of the two literary Societies, who remained until
a late hour at night. The occasion was enlivened by the excellent brass band from
Raleigh." (N. J. Palmer.) Similar accounts in the same paper in reports of nearly
every other Commencement until 1861.
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