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When Students were Students

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

"Woe unto this present generation" is not a phrase you're apt to hear much these days unless you sneak into a teacher's lounge for a cup of coffee. Along with your coffee, you'll get an earful of nostalgia about the good old days when students were students who came to class on time with their assignments read.

If you happen to have a Xerox of the April 4th, 1901, Argus on hand, you might give those teachers a snapshot of the good old days. Not every good old day was good.

It seems that two weeks before, the sophomore class at Augustana College had suddenly declared their colors by sporting new blue caps with the class name "1903" across the front. It had taken the freshman class two weeks of secret meetings to devise a way of retaliating. On April 2nd, they ran their colors, pink and green, up the college flagpole.

As several freshmen guards ringed the flagpole defending their colors, they were rushed a party of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. No one was hurt, but several items of clothing were ripped, and the freshman colors came down.

That same afternoon, the business class at the college ran up its own flag at the pole, and it, too, was torn down.

By now, several local Rock Island boys had caught the spirit. The following day, they ran a red flag up the pole, and dared the college boys to take it down. Several members of the Ling Athletic Club did just that.

That evening, as the Ling Athletic Club was working out in the college gymnasium, the local boys returned and beat them up, breaking furniture and windows in the process. "Survivors escape from the ruins," is how the Argus put it.

Club members put in a riot call to the Rock Island Police, who sent Officer Sid Pearson to see what the trouble was. The attackers had fled, but the following day, club president A. F. Lundquist swore out warrants for the arrest of the local boys.

They were arrested, charged with disturbing the peace, and fined one dollar each.

Complaining teachers might find something to salvage in this article. Not a single coed was involved in the riot. I'm sure they were all in their rooms studying hard for class.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.