The Cannon Club
The Cannon building was built in 1915 by Cannon Club, the sixth oldest eating club at Princeton having been founded in 1895. The Cannon building served as the home of Cannon Club through the early 1970s, when Cannon Club ceased to operate during the height of the Vietnam War turmoil which existed on the Princeton campus at that time. When Cannon Club closed it donated the Cannon property and building to the University. The University used the Cannon building to house the Office of Population Research for about thirty (30) years until it moved into the then new Wallace Building behind Dial Lodge and Colonial Club. The University then used the Cannon building for several years in the early 2000s to house the Freshman Writing Program. During the 55+ years (a period of time during which the student body at Princeton was virtually all male) that the Cannon building served as the home of Cannon Club, it became known as the place that offered the best food on campus, held the best and most noteworthy parties, and housed the hardest partying and most athletic Club members on the street (which then had 16 eating Clubs). Some of the famous entertainers who performed at parties in the Cannon building included Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, the Isley Brothers, the Everly Brothers, Bobby Vee, Troy Shondell & the Shadows, to name just a few. While in operation in the Cannon building, Cannon Club won more annual Inter-Club athletic competitions (year long athletic competitions that included touch football, basketball, softball, volleyball, track & field, golf, pool, ping-pong, horseshoes and other sports contests) than all the other clubs combined, including 17 straight years from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. During the late 1930s through most of the 1960s all the 15 other eating clubs required their members to wear jackets and ties to dinner at those clubs. Cannon had no such rule and the wearing of PU gym shirts and jeans (or even PU gym shorts) at dinner was not uncommon at Cannon. Over the years many legends, myths and stories have been told about Cannon. Some are true and some are not. The “Oreos and beer” story is true, as are the Bo Diddley story, the Bobby Vee story, the record single weekend beer consumption in 1967, and the group mooning of the Dinky train’s arrival from Princeton Junction. The “Nude Volleyball Game” story is partially true in that it did occur, but it was an all male game and not coed as often reported. Some of the “Jane Fonda” stories are true and some are not. The Cannon building has always held a special place in the hearts of Cannon alumni. On Saturday evening of Princeton Reunions in 1980, a group of about twenty (20) Cannon alumni led by members of the class of 1960, which was holding its 20th reunion in Holder courtyard, “reoccupied” the Cannon building taking “hostage” a graduate student who was working late in the building that evening. After successfully retaking the Cannon building, the invaders promptly called the campus proctor’s office, informing them of the retaking of the Cannon building and the holding of a “hostage”, and stating their demands, which were in order of priority: (1) “amnesty” for the members of the invasion force, (2) removal of the books from the Red Bar and the Green Bar (which the University had turned into libraries for the Office of Population Research), and (3) a ride back to Holder Hall. The proctors promptly sent five (5) cars to the Cannon building and granted the 1st and 3rd demands, but, unfortunately, not the 2nd. This love of the Cannon building and their Club experience is what has prompted the alumni members of the Club to expend the time, effort and money necessary to reacquire the Cannon building, restore and renovate it, and reopen it as an undergraduate eating club. The cannon that stands in front of the Cannon building is the larger of two (2) cannons that were left in Princeton by George Washington’s Continental Army after the Battle of Princeton in the American Revolution. The cannon was relocated to New Brunswick in the War of 1812 to help ward off a possible attack by the British. In 1836, sixteen (16) Princetonians retrieved the cannon from New Brunswick, bringing it back as far as Queenstown where their wagon collapsed. In 1838, one hundred (100) Princetonians led by Leonard W. Jerome, Winston Churchill’s maternal grandfather, brought it back the rest of the way to Princeton. A feud raged for years between Rutgers and Princeton over who has rightful claim to the cannon, until a joint faculty committee decided that it belonged to Princeton. What followed was (as The New York Times dubbed it) a century long “cannon war” between Rutgers and Princeton students. The latest skirmish reported was in 1953 when, at pre-dawn on Wednesday before the Princeton-Rutgers Saturday football game to be held at Princeton, a group of Rutgers students painted the cannon red and painted “Rutgers” on it. After the game, which Princeton won, as The New York Times reported, “Scores of Princeton Cannon commandos compelled a half-dozen Rutgers students to “unpaint” the historic cannon outside the Cannon Club with paint remover, strapping two (2) of the Rutgers students to the barrel of the old siege gun in the process.” The cannon was also painted at one time with flesh-colored paint and other accoutrements by the girls from Westminster Choir College. The Cannon Club response can be told at another time.
The History of Dial Lodge
Dial Lodge was founded in 1907 and moved into its Clubhouse at 26 Prospect Avenue in 1917 where it operated for over 75 years. In 1990 Dial merged with Cannon Club and a year later the Club merged with Elm Club. In 1999 the Dial property was traded to the University as part of a transaction in which the Club acquired the Cannon property. The Dial building now houses the Bendheim Center for Finance, but the Sun Dial that was built into the front façade of the Dial Lodge Clubhouse remains today. Dial was well known in the club community as one of the more “spirited” clubs on the Street. Originally a bicker club, Dial became a sign-in co-ed club in 1970 and became popular for attracting an eclectic group of athletes, intellectuals, artists and other kindred spirits. They all shared a common desire to have a good time and establish an “oasis” at Princeton: a club where they could be themselves in an open, friendly, fun and non-judgmental environment. Dial’s doors were always open and, while never mainstream, Dial was always true to its values of openness, good times and inclusion. Dial was known for not only beer on tap 24/7 but also many “institutional” weekly events including Wednesday Night Club, Thursday Night at the Bar, countless encounters in the Red Eye Lounge and nightly viewings of M*A*S*H or Star Trek. Among the many Dial traditions of the 1980s were Blow Pong competitions (particularly with TI – Dial definitely having more wins than losses), Yasgur’s Farm on the Lawn (an outdoor concert on Dial’s front lawn which drew all Princetonians to the Club like a magnet with the best Robert Plant look alike EVER), and Barbarian Day (an iconic Dial event, infamous for Dial members dressed in faux fur and leather staying up all night to roast their suckling pig in the front yard and terrorizing all with their barbaric behavior).
The Elm Club
Elm Club was founded in 1895 (as the seventh eating club at Princeton) and opened its Clubhouse at the corner of Olden and Prospect in 1901. Elm operated from 1895 through 1973 when it temporarily suspended operations and leased its building to the University. Student demand, including an effort by a group of co-eds interested in creating an all female selective club, resulted in Elm reopening in its Clubhouse in 1978 as a sign-in co-ed club. Elm merged with Dial and Cannon Clubs in 1991 and operations continued in the Elm Clubhouse through 1998. In 1999 the merged Club traded the Dial and Elm properties to the University for the Cannon property. Currently, the original Elm building is operated by the University as the Carl A. Fields Center. During the years of Elm’s operation there were many exceptional member events, sports and party activities held at the Elm Clubhouse. Member events included many creative and hilarious theme nights: Tacky Dress (plaid on plaid, etc.), Medieval Nites (no utensils!), Come As You Are Not costume parties, etc. One of the many bands that played at Elm was that of Jerry Lee Lewis, who arrived with his teenage wife. When, in the mid-1960s, the University moved to restrain club parties by limiting the number of weekends on which the clubs could hire bands, Elm enrolled many student musicians in bicker and formed the Club’s own Band. In the 1980s, when he was only known as “Mork”, from the popular sit-com of the time, Robin Williams demonstrated his unique gyrations on the Elm dance floor and entertained Club members with his preppie imitations next to the Elm tree in the Club’s downstairs pub. Many famous Princetonians were Elm members, including the late financial publisher Malcolm Forbes, a noted entrepreneur, motorcyclist, ballooner and raconteur for whom Forbes College is named.
Dial Elm Cannon Club (DEC)
As mentioned above, DEC was created from the merged Clubs in 1991. Elm was used for meals, parties, and other social events, while Dial was an additional residence facility for the Club’s members. With the available rooms in the 2 buildings combined, approximately 30 members of the Club could live on Prospect. “Dial Room Draw” was eagerly anticipated every spring by the interested membership. Much like the situation with the parking lot behind the Cannon building today, ample parking was available to the membership from the lots behind Dial and Elm. A “Snicker” process which combined elements of sign-in and bicker was used for admitting new members. The members of DEC carried on several traditions started by the members of its constituent Clubs, as well as creating their own traditions. The Dial moose was the Club’s official mascot, and the semi-annual Beer Pong tournament drew entries from many alumni as well as current students. Beirut became a popular game in the last few years of the Club’s operation. Toga parties, various theme nights, and all around good fun were had by all members. Train, who won another Grammy award just this year, was the last band to play at DEC in Spring of 1998.