Top of the morning, March 8, 2014

Top of the morning, March 8, 2014

"Kids were running all over the streets, causing chaos for everyone!" — Betsy Hendrick

At 74, Betsy Hendrick isn't into the shenanigans that played out on campus Friday. But her description of her era's Unofficial St. Patrick's Day — the infamous Water Fights at the University of Illinois — had a familiar ring to it.

"They were as big as Unofficial is now," she said. "And just as crazy."

A 1961 UI grad who now owns and operates Hendrick House on campus, Betsy has experienced both traditions. While a half-century apart — the Water Fights ended in 1961 — the shindigs have much in common, including arrests (32 in '57) and commotion (5,000 students in '61).

There was one big difference, however.

"I think the Water Fights were more fun because you were more sober," Betsy said. "You knew what you were doing."

Seeking a break from May exams, students started with squirt guns and buckets of water, working their way up to opening fire hydrants. As a UI student and reporter for The News-Gazette, Betsy had a bird's-eye view of the Water Fights:

How do kids today react when you tell them about the Water Fights?

I mentioned them to one of my RAs, and he said 'Oh how childish, how high schoolish.'

So they brought in UI football players to keep students from opening fire hydrants?

"That kind of dulled the event, took the fun out of it for the kids. What they did was cut off access to the water."

Were parents in the '50s as worried about the Water Fights as they are today about Unofficial?

"I don't think parents were as much helicopter parents in those days as they are now. They cared about their kids but I don't think they watched them every minute. Now, it's much easier to do that today with technology."

Water Fights, Unofficial ... what are we going to be talking about 30 years from now?

"Probably flying drones around campus."

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