• U.S.

Education: Goldfish Derby

3 minute read

Last week Joe College was busy gulping goldfish. He garnished it with salt, with mayonnaise or with ketchup, and he chased it with milk, orange juice or soda pop, but one routine did not vary. Each goldfish was gulped alive.

“The craving of these goldfish cultists,” explained Chicago’s Consulting Psychologist Robert N. McMurray, “really is for public acclaim, that is, exhibitionism. The eater of goldfish takes delight in the repulsiveness of his act.”

Harvard Freshman Lothrop Withington Jr., son of a onetime (1910) Harvard football captain, started the fad sweeping U. S. campuses, as raccoon coats did some 10 years ago, as the Veterans of Future Wars did in 1936. In Withington’s room in Holworthy Hall one night last month conversation turned on his aquarium. Freshman Withington boasted that he had once eaten a goldfish. A classmate remarked it would be worth $10 to see the feat repeated. Thereupon young Withington seized one of his pets by the tail, popped it into his mouth, chewed well, won his reward.

Three weeks later Franklin and Marshall’s Frank Pope Jr. belittled this feat by salting, peppering and swallowing three goldfish. Unlike Mr. Withington, Mr. Pope did not chew.

To regain the championship for his alma mater, Harvard’s Irving Clark Jr. four days later polished off 24, sucking at an orange after each one. He also offered to eat a bug for a nickel, an angleworm for a dime and a beetle for a quarter.

Few hours later University of Pennsylvania’s Gilbert Hollandersky gulped 25 goldfish, topped them with a steak dinner. Then University of Michigan’s Julius Aisner swallowed 28, Boston College’s Donald V. Mulcahy 29 (with three bottles of milk). Thereupon Albright College’s Football Captain Mike Bonner gulped 33 without a chaser. Outside Boston’s Opera House, Northeastern University’s Jack Smookler raised him three—gulped 36.

By that time humanitarians were thoroughly aroused. In Boston, State Senator George Krapf filed a bill ordering the State Conservation Department to “preserve the fish from cruel and wanton consumption.” Meanwhile Robert F. Sellar, president of Boston’s Animal Rescue League, threatened to send agents to arrest goldfish swallowers if college authorities did not stop it. Said he: “This is not a subject for levity. I hesitate to bring such a matter to court, but we won’t sidestep the issue. There have been too many complaints.”

Three policemen and 100 cheering students watched the next champion, M. I. T.’s six-foot-four Albert E. Hayes Jr., wash down 42 fish with four bottles of chocolate soda. He stopped, explained Freshman Hayes, because ’42 were his class numerals. Said he: “You lay the goldfish well back on the tongue, let it wiggle forward till it hits the top of the throat, then give one big gulp. Same effect as swallowing a raw oyster.”

First warning of more serious effects came from Dr. Edwin E. Ziegler, pathologist of the U. S. Public Health Service, who reported that goldfish might contain tapeworms which, lodging in the intestinal tract, would give swallowers anemia. Nevertheless, collegiate swallowing continued.* Gordon (“Doc”) Southworth, of Massachusetts’ Middlesex University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, stationed himself beside Soldiers Monument on Waltham Common with a pail of goldfish, in 14 minutes swallowed 67. At University of Missouri Marie Hansen became the first co-ed to swallow a goldfish. Champion at week’s end: Clark University’s Joseph Deliberato—89 fish.

*At University of Chicago Junior John Patrick scoffed at “eastern sissies,” chewed and swallowed two and one-half phonograph records, but was too fastidious to eat the labels.

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