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Penn History

Penn Student Traditions Rowbottom 1959 Rowbottom Remembered

This exhibit was created in April 2005 by Ashish Shrestha, B.A. 2008, and Mary D. McConaghy

1959 Memories of Paul Kelly

The following account of the 1959 Rowbottom is excerpted from an article by Molly Petrilla published in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Sept. 30, 2003. It is based on Petrilla’s 2003 interview with Paul Kelly, whose generosity to his alma mater has benefited Kelly Writers House.

….In those days, spring at Penn heralded Rowbottoms — which would originate in the Quadrangle and sometimes spill out onto what was then known as Locust Street.

“Somewhere back in the dim, dark past of Penn there was a student who used to wander in late at night who was all drunked up,” [Paul] Kelly says, explaining the Rowbottom legend. “He could never figure out where his room was, so he’d start yelling for his roommate, whose name was Rowbottom. At a given point in time, people would start throwing things at him down there.”

The Rowbottoms became a tradition and would start up on a warm spring night with a Quadrangle student yelling out “Rowbottom!”

The year Kelly got into trouble, the rioting had spread all over campus.

“People were running around and throwing stuff,” he recalls. “The police… were grabbing people and putting them in paddywagons, and I got a little too cute.”

“There was a guy selling ice cream bars and I kind of sauntered over to get [one], kind of looking at the cop as I was doing it,” he says. “I was within grabbing distance, so even though I wasn’t doing anything, he grabbed me and stuck me in the paddywagon…. They took us down and booked us, and then they turned us over to the University.”

Kelly, who served as freshman class secretary and had been actively involved in lacrosse, track and sprint football, was put on mass probation along with many other students, which meant that he could no longer participate in extracurricular activities….