Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

An Elephant's Memory

On Valentine’s Day, a column in The Lima (Ohio) News headlined “Stray thoughts on life and love” carried the byline of Tom Harrison, of the Washington and Lee Class of 1983, a reporter with that newspaper.

The second part of the two-part column was a love letter to the W&L Mock Convention and especially to Jewel, the elephant that marched in the parade that year.

One of Tom’s former football teammates, Ron Magee, of the Class of 1984, also lives in Lima, where he is a vascular surgeon. Ron’s son, Ron Jr., is currently a W&L junior.

The W&L portion of Tom’s column begins by noting how he, Ron Sr. and now Ron Jr. all have the experience of a Washington and Lee Mock Convention in common.

Tom, who was a freshman in 1980, played a distinctive part in that Mock Convention, which correctly nominated Ronald Reagan. Here’s how he described his performance in his column:

My most vivid recollections of my participation in the 1980 mock convention were the nomination of Ronald Reagan, Sen. Barry Goldwater as featured speaker, and my role in the convention parade of states. My roommate and I donned gas masks, shouldered shovels and followed “Jewel,” the GOP elephant, while pushing a shiny trash can on wheels. For this act we were paid a half-keg of beer for a grand old party at a later date. I still have the photo of my roommate, Andy , in his gas mask and cowboy hat, clipped from a Sunday edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Sadly, Tom’s roommate and teammate, Andy Foley, died in February 2008. And, of course, last Friday’s parade for the W&L Mock Republican Convention did not include an elephant. The organizers cancelled its appearance rather than have protests by animal-rights activists overshadow the events.

Tom and Ron Jr. traded Facebook messages about the event, and the absence of an elephant came up. Wrote Ron Jr.: ”As much as I regret the loss of such a spectacle, I’m sure we W&L students can more than compensate.” He was right. If you missed it, you can see all the parade floats on our Facebook page and can even watch a video of the parade here.

We asked Tom to send us a copy of that issue of the Times-Dispatch. He’s still looking: “I’m not quite at the point yet where I can hide my own Easter eggs,” Tom wrote. “That clip must be just where I left it. If only I could remember where that was.”

Once he remembers, we’ll post it here. Meantime, we’ll have to do with this shot of Sen. John Warner ’49 and then Virginia Gov. John Dalton meeting Jewel before that 1980 parade.