374 History of Wake Forest College
And well they might come, for often they were not only delighted
with the skill of the young men in debate but instructed as well; the
debaters had not studied for eight months for nothing. The challenge
of the occasion brought them to do their best. For once the youthful
couples seated before them forgot to talk, and listened.
Seldom did the orations excite so much interest as the debate. They
were usually labored and dull, and were respectfully tolerated rather
than enjoyed. Occasionally however, a masterful young orator would
have a speech of merit and would hold the audience in control as he
delivered it. Such was the case at the Anniversary of 1890, when John
B. Spilman spoke on "Israel's Political Redeemer" (Judas
Maccabaeus), an excellent address in reading as well as in
for the delivery of which he took nearly half an hour, audaciously
relieving his tendency to hoarseness with sips now and then from one
or another of two glasses, one containing a colorless fluid, the other
red wine. Those who heard the speech will never forget it, nor the
In one respect the orators had the advantage of the debaters: as on
entrance the marshals conducted them down the central aisle of the
hall, the flags of the Societies were carried one down each of the side
aisles amid the thunderous applause of the Society members in the
After the orations came the reception in the Society halls; they were
always brilliant and greatly enjoyed by the young people, and never
broken up until midnight by which time the repeated bellowing of the
locomotive at the railroad station had called the Raleigh contingent of
young ladies and a few others from the halls to take their special train
Such were the celebrations of Anniversary until well after the turn
of the century, and with little slackening of interest until the
legalization of fraternities in the College in 1922. They were
exhibitions of the training the Societies gave their members;
8 Mr. Spilman's address is printed in the Wake Forest Student, IX, 505ff, July,
1890. Many of the other orations are published in the same periodical.
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