My spouse and I were both present at the event that became the genesis of the NQR. At that time I lived in West Hall, where the naked runners now start. We compared our memories of that first event last night, which I will share.
Our main recollection is that the first event was largely spontaneous. A few groups of people may have planned some activities, and there were several overwhelmingly male groups of “streakers”. But what distinguished the evening and made it memorable was that it quickly became a spontaneous campus-wide party that went on into the wee hours. A weeknight party on such a scale seemed unprecedented.
The spirit of the event was whimsical. It was absurd yet somehow enjoyable that large numbers of the normally studious (called “throats” at the time) had simply discarded their plans to study and/or sleep. I recall eating and drinking with several friends in a room in Carmichael Hall with an excellent view of the Quad. I have a funny memory of one student cycling around the quad repeatedly at high speed, wearing only a ski cap and a scarf.
The night was, in the words of Frost:
…an impulse not to care--
Not to sink…
The next morning schedules returned to normal, but for a few hours they had been completely and delightfully discarded.
We have other slightly different recollections than the story in the Tufts Daily . We recall that the first event occurred during the Spring term, probably in March or April, and on an unseasonably warm evening. We also believe that the year was 1974 rather than 1973. It was not during the week prior to exams, but perhaps it did occur as academic pressures were mounting.
The Tufts Daily reports:
One common story is that the event began as a protest against co-ed dormitories. "I've heard different rumors. One was that it started when West Hall was all single sex and was becoming coed, but I don't know if that's just a myth that's been created," senior Katie Winter said. But according to alumni and officials who were at Tufts when the tradition began, its origins are far less concrete. TUPD Sergeant Robert McCarthy, who has worked at Tufts for 35 years, said that the first Naked Quad Run had nothing to do with dorm policy. "How that came out, I have no idea. It started a long time before West Hall even thought of becoming coed," he said.
West Hall was an all-male dorm at that time. Its high ceilings, hilltop views, and 3-4 person suites were coveted by students of both genders. The building was then divided in half by a wall, so designating one half of West as a women’s dorm would have been simple, even with the standards of the day. The barrier to women living in West, according to a letter from the nascent feminist organization to the campus newspaper, was that each half of West Hall was served mainly by a large gang shower in the basement. Tufts women of that day, even feminists, were not open to the practice of showering in the company and view of other women. Of course most men living in West did this daily.
West Hall became coed after it was extensively remodeled in the 1980s, including opening the barrier wall between the 2 halves of the building and replacing the ancient gang showers. So much for 1970s feminist liberation, and so much also for the account of the sole eyewitness quoted in the Tufts Daily:
“We grew up with our childhoods[sic] in the '60s and it was fine to be comfortable with your bodies and what you looked like - big, small, thin or fat."
That particular recollection may be blurred by the unfortunate aftereffects of hallucinogens. The time when humans (females especially) are universally comfortable with your bodies and what you looked like - big, small, thin or fat is as likely as the withering of the state under socialism.