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Student Traditions
Skimmer: Origins


Callow Day, 1949 and 1950

1927 photograph of Rusty Callow. Click for larger view and more information.The origins of Skimmer Day can be traced to a February 1949 gathering in a small back room at the Daily Pennsylvanian. In an attempt to arouse student interest in the crew races, crew manager William Black Grant (B.S. in Econ. 1949), DP writer Alan Oser (B.S. in Econ. 1950) and Philip James Moloney (B.S. in Econ. 1951) conceived of a day for students to gather on the banks of the Schuylkill to enjoy themselves while cheering on the crew. The event was named in honor of "Rusty" Callow, famous Penn crew coach. The date was chosen to coincide with the home regatta for the Blackwell Cup. Beyond the recommendation to wear straw hats, there was little planning. Publicity was limited to word of mouth and a few informal letters to fraternities, and it was assumed that liquid refreshment would take care of itself. Despite the lack of intensive preparations, the response was beyond anyone's expectations. Thousands of enthusiastic student spectators appeared, and the event was judged hugely successful from its inception.

By January of 1950, planning for the second Callow Day was already underway. Organization of the event was coordinated by a three man committee, responsible for planning activities and publicity. The crew managerial staff published the program and directed the river events. Other student organizations also became involved, especially the Houston Hall student union and Penn's WXPN radio station. The event was now a weekend event, beginning on FridayPhoto of Phil Moloney from 1951 yearbooknight with a rally for the crew and with the Spring Dance, a traditional Houston Hall event moved to this date. On Saturday, an Honor Society Race was added as comic relief. A live radio broadcast of the main race was provided from a blimp, reporting on the cheering students who filled the shoreline and the Penn victory which returned the Childs Cup to Philadelphia. Newspapers up and down the East Coast praised the event. The tradition was in place!

Phil Moloney proved to be the key student behind the establishment of this traditon. Not only was he one of the three undergraduates to conceive of Callow Day in 1949, he was also on the three-man 1950 Callow Day Committee. In 1951 (his senior year) Moloney would chair Small image of Moloney's account in the 1951 Skimmer Program.  Click for more information and to read a larger versionthe event under its new name of "Skimmer Day" and include his own account of the first years of Callow Day in the 1951 Skimmer Day Program.


First Skimmer Day, 1951

In 1951, when Coach Callow left Penn to teach and coach at Annapolis, a student poll was taken to rename the event "Skimmer Day" in honor of the straw boater hats which had become the accepted attire for the occasion. This year Phil Mahoney's Skimmer Day Committee had twenty-nine members to plan activities for the weekend of the May 12 Adams Cup Regatta.

By this time, the event had spread all over the East coast, attracting thousands of undergraduates from many colleges. The celebration was in effect Skimmer Weekend, featuring a crew rally, the Honor Society Race, the regatta itself as well as two new activities - a Pre-Skimmer cabaret dance and a Poster pageant directed and produced entirely by women.


This exhibit was created in April 2005 by May 2005 by Irina Kalashnikova, B.A. and M.A. 2006, and Mary D. McConaghy






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