The Showdown at Jack & Jill Ranch

A recollection of the longstanding rivalry between the classes of 1953 and 1954.

Words: Ray Smith ’54
Photos: Courtesy of Ray Smith ’54

Editors’ Note: In the summer 2023 issue of Wheaton magazine, we published an article titled, “Wheaties Have Fun: How Wheaton Students Have Fostered Joy and Amusement Over the Years.” Responding to the section on class rivalries, particularly between junior and senior classes, Ray Smith ’54 recalls one particularly dramatic event, providing an inside look at the school spirit and class loyalty of the times. We have edited for brevity and clarity.

Juniors holding the welcome banner

Holding the welcome banner: Joe Atkinson, Bob Teed, Keith Bailor, Keith Kensinger, Ken Christiansen, Ken Kilinski, Ted Dyrness, Jack Bailey, Milt Revere, Duke Robinson, John Luft, and Heap Big Chief Pott (seated).

The May 1953 showdown climaxed a frenzied week of hide-and-seek between the classes of 1953 and 1954, as the seniors attempted to sneak out of town unhindered, even undetected, to a retreat site unknown to their rival class of 1954. Not to be easily deterred, a cadre of a half dozen juniors, led by Norm Pott, had been meeting regularly in the upstairs apartment of Rex Roth’s parents on Main Street. Maps and guidebooks in hand, the juniors combed for campgrounds, resort hotels, and retreat centers within a 250-mile circumference around Wheaton in six adjoining states. Their goal? To send out scouts.

Wily juniors posing as “advance guard” seniors ventured out to query the staff at each site, hoping a slip would unveil the seniors’ upcoming May 21 destination. A few days ahead of the Senior Sneak, one reconnaissance pair returned from Portage Point Inn in Onekama, Michigan, and said, “Eureka, we found ’em.”

Ray Smith (waving), Keith Kensinger, John Shenk, Ken Kilinski, Duke Robinson (standing), Rex Roth, Milt Revere, Stan Hogle.

The first juniors to arrive on site: Ray Smith (waving), Keith Kensinger, John Shenk, Ken Kilinski, Duke Robinson (standing), Rex Roth, Milt Revere, Stan Hogle.

The G2 was convincing enough for me, as editor of the one-issue Wheaton Wreckerd (a spoof on the official Wheaton Record student newspaper) to headline “Seniors to Michigan Thursday” in 72-point type across the front page of the infamous junior-class-funded edition blanketing campus the day before seniors were to depart. Roth, who served as the junior class president, reported “hundreds of hours, great cost, and efforts of over 20 ‘husky’ junior men in the most intensive junior search in history” as they sought to uncover the correct location.

While juniors chortled, Senior Class President Jim Anderson ’53 and his Sneak Committee just stood by and smiled smugly.

When it comes to what happened over the next 12 hours, there are as many stories as people involved. Let it be known that the juniors were in the right “church” (Michigan) but the wrong “pew” (Portage Point was never the site). But there are two key, differing accounts of how the juniors ultimately discovered Jack & Jill Ranch.

To this day, Roth claims that a week ahead of the Sneak, a senior-in-the-know mistook Roth for Anderson and, in a casual question about retreat logistics, mentioned the name of the ranch. If this is true, the information never got around to me in time for printing in the Wreckerd.

The other and more colorful account features a reconnoitering junior driving north into Michigan. Coincidentally, he recognized an advance-guard senior also driving north and spotted the car turning into the road that lead to Jack & Jill Ranch. Although amazing, this seems probable, since that junior phoned down to his peers in Wheaton. Following the call, Roth borrowed his parents’ car and rounded up several of us. We took off Wednesday afternoon for Michigan, arriving at Jack & Jill Ranch after dark. Another carful of juniors arrived later, much to the amusement of the ranch owner George Storm. (Storm hadn’t yet figured out we juniors were interlopers keeping a low profile on the ranch grounds.)

Dr. Clarence Hale and local authorities arrived to chastise the lads.

Dr. Clarence Hale (far right) and local authorities arrived to chastise the lads.

Chaos ensued when the mild-mannered senior adviser Dr. Clarence Hale arrived in the wee hours and summoned the Roxbury police. The juniors scattered. I ran into an adjacent cornfield and hunkered down until daylight. Others drove off to find something to eat. Gradually we regathered, joined by more “brave sons true” from campus who brought with them a huge “Welcome Seniors” banner.

The juniors correctly anticipated their jig was up and passively awaited the mid-morning arrival of senior buses, shivering in the unseasonable chilliness of late May in Michigan. The seniors, meanwhile, stopped to buy a case of raw eggs paid for by Don Evans and, upon arrival, disembarked to unleash a barrage of missiles at the waving, grinning juniors. As the only working journalist on site, I quickly determined that at least one victim needed to survive to report the impending chaos. I jumped into a parked car, locked the doors, and sat unmarred as seniors pelted the car and any juniors within range. Roth was photographed covered with egg yolks. The only real casualty occurred when 300-pound all-American tackle Jerry Snyder took a hit that just missed (blessedly) an eye. As the struggle slowed, the juniors left. The seniors still had a great weekend and, guess what? The Class of 1954 also went to Jack & Jill Ranch a year later, announcing their plans in advance to avoid a replica of the previous year’s escapades.

Sixty years later in Wheaton, Roth and Anderson signed the historic Peace Treaty of Embden Lane in the presence of many classmate witnesses. Long live ’53 and ’54. “Oh Wheaton, dear old Wheaton, ‘liver’ ever!”

Jerry Snyder, Karl Johnson, Ed Olsen, Ed Davies, Ted Dyrness, and Milt Revere sitting on a fence post

Shivering in the early morning chill: Jerry Snyder, Karl Johnson, Ed Olsen, Ed Davies, Ted Dyrness, and Milt Revere sitting on a fence post waiting for seniors to arrive.