June 7, 2016

Curtain Time: Back In The Day, Adelphi Students And Faculty Put On A Show

by Suzanne Bopp

“It was sort of the poor man’s Saturday Night Live,” said Sally-Ann Cohen ’55, who was her class’ co-chairman of the event for four years. “Each class put on a skit, and there was a sing-off. Each class wrote an original song or original lyrics to a well-known tune.” The event was an annual Adelphi tradition from 1923 to 1957.

The faculty usually entered too, and everyone competed for best skit and best song. As juniors, the Class of ’55 won for a skit called “Prod the Groom.” The sophomore class took second that year with a skit featuring a cancan line.

It was also the night when the freshman class would introduce their mascot to the rest of the school. “The big thing for us as kids had been a TV show called Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Ollie was a dragon,” Cohen said. “Our class named our mascot Argyle Ollie: a little dragon with a large argyle sweater.” Ollie was two feet tall, made from paper-mâché.

Cohen ran the skits, and credits the experience with shaping her career in live variety television—she was a talent booker for The Dinah Shore Show, among others, and knew many of the biggest stars, including Carol Burnett and Betty White (“Wonderful women,” she said). “I became a grownup and continued doing All-College Night because I had no real talent,” she said, laughing. “I couldn’t act; I couldn’t write; I couldn’t do anything, but I was wonderful at crazy skits.”

When the skits required props, the students made them themselves. “One year, we need – ed a large cloud. Somebody was going to walk the cloud across the stage; all you would see was the cloud and their feet,” Cohen said. “We weren’t allowed to have boys in our dorm. My friend, Lee Cassidy, was helping me make the prop, and we used to sneak him in so that at night we could hammer and cuss and saw and do the whole thing, and then sneak him out. The damn cloud was such a production that my roommate and I kept it and used it as a bulletin board. When we left, we had to decide what to do with that plywood cloud.”

Making what Cohen called “gentle fun” of familiar figures on campus, such as deans, professors and coaches, was another feature of the evening, and all were usually in attendance. “The student body never topped 2,000—and that included the school nurse. It was a very small school.” Everyone packed into the gym to see the show. “It was standing room only.”

Every year she was at Adelphi, Cohen’s class took a prize at All-College Night. “The Class of ’55 was a knockout,” she said. “I graduated magna cum laude, but I’m more proud of my student activities than that.”

Cinderella from All-College Night, 1956

Cinderella from All-College Night, 1956. Ruth S. Harley ’24, ’01 (Hon.), dean of women with William J. Condon Jr., dean of men.

Cinderella from All-College Night, 1956.

Cinderella from All-College Night, 1956. Professor Revis Frye (physical education and band), Ruth S. Harley ’24, ’01 (Hon.), Professor Betty Leonard (education) and Professor Helen Clement (French).

All-College Night, 1957

All-College Night, 1957

All-College Night, 1955.

All-College Night, 1955.

This piece was published in AU VU Spring 2016 issue.

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