The close-watched boys of Haverhill Prep expressed their adolescent sexual energy and frustration towards the cloistered girls of Haverhill Prep in the traditional way, with the Panty Raid.
And even this venerable tradition, begun when the boys school merged with the girls school some ten years before would soon disappear. The separation of boy and girl fading, forgotten, unneeded as the Sexual Revolution marched on.
But for now, this revolutionary state had not yet reached the unmixed wards of this well-monitored campus and the innocents thereon. Few had experienced anything approaching sexual congress. All still edged nervously, hopefully, around the prospect of “Getting Laid.”
They were tongue-tied, acne-ravaged; many were ill-haircut. Theirs was an awkward, hormonal brooding. Which is where we find them. Silent. Waiting.
Darkness shrouds them, some sixty-five boys, ranging from tiny Tim Snell, the redheaded freshman coxswain of the varsity eight wearing a dark mesh cap and sweater to unshaven Vince Oliva, the postgraduate tackle from Bergen County. They are braving the late New England night on a raid. A Panty Raid.
A knitted brow of soft-needled white pines, edging the ridge overlooking the girls’ campus, shelters the boys from the betraying light of the harvest moon. All await the agreed-upon signal to launch. Theirs was a triumph of mass curfew-breaking, of edging past half-in-the-bag housemasters and senior house counselors who purposely looked the other way or were in fact numbered amongst the small army. The clock edged towards 11:30. Some of the boys wore bandanas over nose and mouth, highwayman-style. Junior Chet Skorzeny wore an actual Soviet Army winter uniform, which he’d smuggled out of the USSR during the school-sponsored trip the preceding summer.
Below, the five main buildings of the girls’ campus huddled around Packard Quad like circled wagons. They gleamed darkly in the blue moonlight beaming through the clear night air.
Upperclassman Sullivan, commander of this expedition, leaned protectively over a snapping Bic lighter to shield it from the cold autumn breeze. It sparked, sparked again; 130 eyes watched the effort. A short blue flame finally held, and the short fuse of a bottle rocket spat sparks.
Within the objective, the girls’ campus, the “Pentagon” as some called it, the peculiar energy of vital, semi-cloistered young woman ensured that no one was asleep yet, despite that new-fangled clock with its gleaming LED display reading a half-hour past curfew. Some went cross-eyed studying French irregular verbs, others trigonometry. Some paged through glossy magazines featuring feathered Fawcett, Travolta, Tiegs, or huddled close in talk. Some of the newest and youngest lonely strove to banish the homesickness digging constantly at their hearts.
The first of three bottle-rockets arced through the Connecticut night sky with a SCREEE-BANG, announcing the onslaught.
All the girls rolled from their beds or arose from desks and the coned light of tensor lamps or broke their lonely reveries or bitchy colloquies and rushed to battle-stations at dorm-room windows. The second missile, closely followed by the third, screamed and cracked. The moonlight clearly illuminated the hormonal horde pouring from beneath the eyebrow of the hilltop.
One of the observers was Inessa LeFebvre, house counselor and nominal authority figure for the sophomore girls of Penn House 2. Inessa had blossomed in four years at Haverhill from bespectacled, freckled, freshman nobody into sudden, senior, long-limbed late-bloomer. She was no stranger to the concept of Panty Raid. She braced the back of a wooden chair against the knob of the inward-swinging door of her closet-like single room. There would be no drawers stolen from her drawers for the pillagers from the Lower Campus tonight to prize, parade, and subject to who-knows-what depredations.
Whooping, the night raiders laid siege to the Pentagon, spilling into the quad, a silly roaring swirling without effect. Impotent, until a breach was allowed by one of the more sporting of the girls.
By now, old Mrs. Mraz had been summoned to slow-comprehending awareness of boys rampaging in her house. She’d been just now dreaming dreams occasioned by the scream of bottle rockets, memory-dreams of Luftwaffe sodium bombs and the sharp crack of London air-defense cannon she had experienced during the Blitz. She had lost most of her hearing working with now-departed husband Bill, running engine reliability tests on the Merlin 12-cylinder. But even she could hear, and be awakened by, this mayhem.
Now, henna hair blazing atop her insulated flannel nightgown, she barred the stairwell from the attacking boys with a broom held like an Enfield .303 with bayonet fixed. Her eyes, ablaze behind the light-warping thicknesses of her lenses, retained their Heinkel-spotting acuity.
Her girls, eleven 10th-graders and her house counselor, Inessa, stood behind her, laughing, as the boys rounded the turn of the stairwell, only to behold Mrs. Mraz and come to skidding halts, creating a Marx-Brothers’ pileup in the landing.
“Hawkins. Taylor. Rapp. Holub. Smith!” She snapped off the names of the boys. Triumphantly, she added, “It’s trouble ahead, for you, my boys.”
All of this would pale, however, next to the events of the next few weeks.