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Postcard showing Berthoud, Guggenheim, and Arthur Lakes buildings, circa 1970.  Man pushing lawnmover.
Berthoud Hall, Guggenheim, and the Arthur Lakes Library on the CSM campus

In its earlier years, the School of Mines had a strong tradition of hazing underclassmen. Rocky Mountains to the World: A History of the Colorado School of Mines quotes a 1949 graduate:

Hazing started when we set foot on campus and continued through the all-school gauntlet just before Christmas vacation. Fraternity pledges received additional hazing that culminated in Hell Week at the end of the first semester….

Sophomores ran us through two gauntlets a week, one when the class emerged from Doc Ward’s chemistry lecture and another when we left the Armory after stacking our rifles following ROTC drill. There was only one exit from each of these. Buttocks were to be swatted with belts; however, some sadists used the buckle end.

One of the school's “cherished traditions” held that only seniors were allowed to wear beards. Underclassmen who violated the tradition were seized, held down, and shaved by roving bands of seniors.

Several men wearing gray hats sit on bleachers.  Three men in barber's smocks examine them.
The beard-growing contest was still going strong in 1965, when Bill Robie took this photo, which shows celebrity barbers judging the students’ beard-growing efforts.

65 Years Ago
Golden was celebrating its Centennial year in 1959, and the Chamber was encouraging men to grow beards, to make them look like pioneers. This created a conundrum for Mines underclassmen, who were forbidden to wear beards and subject to attack and forcible shaving if they failed to comply.

“Shooting in Defense of Beard Occurs on CSM Campus Mar. 12.”
The March 19, 1959 Colorado Transcript reported that junior classman Alexander Forbes Bissett II had shot a senior. The victim, Philip Howell, had been one of a group of seniors who had been waiting for him as he left his math class.

Bissett had received an anonymous call the night before, telling him to “shape up or ship out.” In response, he decided to come to class armed.

As the group of about 25 seniors approached Bissett, he warned them that he was armed. One claimed that his gun must be unloaded, so he shot two rounds into the ground.

He was about to enter his car, Bisset said, when the seniors moved in on him. Bisset claimed that he fired two more shots low into the group and “accidentally” hit Howell in the lower abdomen.

Bisset was arrested. “Undersheriff Lew Hawley said some of Bisset’s instructors have visited him at the jail and have encouraged him to continue his studies at Mines.” He was released on bail and suspended for the remainder of the term.

Howell went into surgery “in which his right kidney was removed and a bullet wound in his liver was closed to prevent bleeding.” Two of the other seniors (including the Senior Class President) were charged with aggravated assault and six were put on “strict probation” for the rest of the term.

Bisset’s trial took place on April 14th.

After deliberating for a very short time Wednesday afternoon the jury returned a “not guilty” verdict on all counts. – Colorado Transcript – April 16, 1959

Thanks to the Golden History Museum for providing the online cache of historic Transcripts, and to the Golden Transcript for documenting our history since 1866!