Go ask Alice? We would if we could

For more than four decades, students chosen to become knights of St. Patrick underwent a baptism into a pool of soupy, slimy concoction that came to be known as “Alice.”

A mix of stale beer, leftovers from fraternities and eating clubs, the occasional road kill, and other ingredients too bizarre or sickening to mention, the substance fit well with the raucous St. Pat’s traditions of celebrating excess and satirizing pomp and ceremony.

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Although the exact ingredients were a mystery known only to St. Pat’s Board members (if even they knew, or recalled), the fact that Alice was a repugnant mixture was no secret to anyone who gained the honor of being tossed into it.

More of a mystery, perhaps, is how this slop came to be known as Alice. Was it a reference to the Lewis Carroll children’s book, Alice in Wonderland ? Perhaps a dip into the messy pool was analogous to Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole. Or maybe the name referred to the title character of Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 anti-war song, “Alice’s Restaurant,” or the 1969 movie of the same name. Possibly the Alice of St. Pat’s lore was a reference to Audrey Meadows’ character, Alice Kramden, from the 1950s TV show The Honeymooners. Only instead of sending Alice “to the moon,” as husband Ralph (Jackie Gleason) threatened in episode after episode, moon-eyed students were sent into the ooze of Alice.

Dunking student knights into a cattle trough of stuff began in the 1950s, but according to the 1991 UMR St. Pat’s Board Baby Rep Manual, the gunk first became known as “Alice” in 1967. The name was bestowed in honor of an ex-girlfriend of Richard Dumay, CE’71, MS EMgt’72, who allegedly dumped him. So, in a twisted sort of payback, St. Pat’s guards “dumped” student knights into Alice.

Now retired from a civil service career and living in Charleston, S.C., Dumay acknowledges dating a woman named Alice during his time at UMR, but won’t divulge much more than that.

“Yes, I remember a lady named Alice,” says Dumay, who enrolled at MSM in 1964. “She was a very nice lady. She was working on a Ph.D., I believe. Somehow she got to hanging around with us.”

Dumay also acknowledges that Alice broke up with him, but he harbors no ill feelings toward her. “She really was a nice lady,” he insists. Was the relationship serious? “Any time you can find a girl in Rolla,” Dumay says, “it’s serious.”

From 1967 through the late 1990s, the Alice experience was an integral part of the St. Pat’s celebration. The student knighting ceremony, in which students were tossed into Alice, took place on Saturdays after the St. Pat’s Parade – first at Lions Club Park, then later on the athletic fields behind the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building. At its height in the 1980s, throngs of students and visitors would crowd into Allgood- Bailey Stadium to watch the event and toss tennis balls into the pool.

During Dumay’s day, “It was this livestock watering trough full of this green stuff, liquid. … There was usually a lot of beer and it was usually green. Everything was green.”

Alice was a ceremonial rite of passage for the student knights, Dumay recalls. “They got baptized, anointed,” he says. “In order to be a proper knight, they had to be blessed and all that.”

Bob “Fitz” Fitzsimmons, the St. Pat’s photographer for decades (see story on page 19), took pictures at many a knighting ceremony, beginning in 1960. “It was really gross back then,” he says, but didn’t
improve much over time.

The practice ended in the late 1990s when university administrators decided the liability associated with the ritual was just too great. But St. Pat and his court wanted Alice to go out with a big splash, Fitzsimmons recalls. “The last year, the whole court jumped in it at the end, and I said, ‘Well, if you’re all going in it, then I’ll go in, too.’ I was the last one in it.”

A search of the university’s alumni records turns up no record of an “Alice” enrolled as a graduate or Ph.D. student in the 1960s. We wanted to go ask Alice, but apparently her identity, like some of the ingredients of the substance that bore her name for more than three decades, will remain a mystery.

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