Press "Enter" to skip to content

Alumna details importance of honoring Mills traditions

Laura Grimshaw, Class of 1983

Oh gather ’round, students, the truth needs be told, Come hear tales about Mills Alumnae of old, Be they Morse-elles or Moore-ons, their tales here unfold, For the times they are a changin’.

First, please allow me the indulgence of saying a big THANK YOU to everyone on campus for a fantastic reunion. It was, truly, an incredible and wonderful time my 25th anniversary “Silver” Sisters of ’83 and I will always treasure. Thank you all for one of the best weeks of my life.

During reunion, a major and recurring topic of conversation amongst alumnae of all ages was how much Mills, Mills women, and our traditions have changed or even disappeared. This saddens us, for it is through tradition and ritual that we connect to you, the contemporary student; it gives us a common language and bond unique to Mills and in some ways keeps us young.

In that spirit, here are a few tidbits of tradition from years past. For if you are to remember who you are and what you represent, you had better know the big picture!

Dress Dinner: On Wednesday evenings in the old dorms, instead of serving yourself from the buffet, the wait staff brought food to each table family style. We were encouraged to dress up for the occasion – Ethel Moore took this very seriously – but in OM and Olney, we made a token effort. It was on these nights that special events, such as the annual talent show or a Candle Passing Ceremony, would be held.

Candle Passing Ceremony: C’mon and sing along. You know the tune!

Remember the times you’ve had here

Remember when you’re away;

Remember the friends you’ve made here

And don’t forget to come back some day!

Remember the eucalyptus,

And Lake Aliso too.

For you girls, belong to Mills,

And Mills belongs to you.

Here’s the deal: a recently engaged student puts her rock on a lit candle (usually white) situated prettily in a dainty bouquet of flowers (roses, carnations, often pink, with perhaps a spray of baby’s breath; very feminine and sweet). This display passes around the tables, person to person, while we repeatedly sing the above. When the bouquet finally reaches the betrothed, she blows out the candle, cueing all present to squeal and applaud. Ooh, you should have seen the cases of carat envy! Most fake, to be sure.

This may seem dated and a bit, well, sexist. However, as with all historical events it must be understood in context. Can you imagine the life-changing significance of this small celebration in a pre- Roe v. Wade world? Truth be told, I was the impetus for my parents’ rather hasty nuptials in 1961. It can happen to anyone…

Think further back to WWII: a Mills student’s beau is shipping out from NAS Alameda to fly a P-51 Mustang or F6F Hellcat against Japanese Zeros in the distant Pacific. He asks for her hand the night prior to departure. Just imagine how these young women must have cherished the happy memory of the Candle Passing during his tenuous absence.

Crab Dinner: Another food-oriented activity in the old halls (for if you feed them, they will come.) in the 1960s was the annual crab feed, an evening during the spring semester with all-you-can-eat crab legs. This tradition, unfortunately, didn’t make it to my day. But who says it can’t be renewed? Gluttony be damned. You only live once!

Hopefully, The Campanil will have space in future issues for more tales of yore. Until then, remember: le plus ca change, le plus c’est le meme chose (the more things change, the more they remain the same). Mills, past and present, will always be Mills to us all.

– Laura Grimshaw, Class of 1983