Now, some of you may know that for a period of UPS history, from the mid-1960s until 1999, the University’s athletics colors were not maroon and white, but green and gold. And it just so happens that recently, the athletics department was digging around “under the bleachers somewhere” (this is what they tell me, believe it if you like) and made an unusual discovery: One day back in the 1970s, some poor sod left his bright green and gold football gear, along with a sweater, a blanket, and a few other assorted pieces of clothing somewhere and then forgot about it, and wherever he left it, it stayed there for more than 40 years, until it was uncovered and brought to the Archives & Special Collections.
The clothing, clearly unwashed before it was abandoned, still smells a little like sweat and dirt, and is covered in grass stains. A football, which you may have seen on display as part of the 125 anniversary arrangements, has curled and hardened like a dead beetle, and the felt blanket is creased from where it was resting, probably never to lay flat ever again.
Now, all of this may seem like an odd acquisition for the archives. There are, after all, hundreds of pictures, many of them in full color, of students wearing and playing in the green and gold uniforms. Footballs and jerseys and blankets are all mass produced and have little inherent value to them, and on top of it all, the whole box smells like something is starting to grow in it, but the importance of having a real, physical connection to the past cannot be overstated.
After all, the things we use and see every day are the least likely to be preserved. Consider how often you think someone sits down, grabs a blanket and a few sweaters, and says “these should be kept somewhere safe, so that in 50 years’ time people will know what we were like.” For the most part, the people who do this fall into one of three categories: People who fill time capsules (which are more often than not succinctly forgotten), members of rabid fanbases, and those people on the internet who think that it’s completely justified to have their houses “zombie proofed, just in case.”
And this is really unfortunate. It’s one thing to record history. Dates, events, who gave what speech when, and who was in charge for how long, and all of this is important. But to have real, solid objects, memorabilia and artifacts, is a reminder that the people who lived in years past exist in more than just pictures and history books. And while the 1970s may not seem that far away from a historical perspective, remember that uniform will still be in our collection 50 years from now. Maybe even 100 years, or longer.
So there you have it. Leave your dirty gym clothes out for long enough, and eventually if the right person finds them, they could become items of historical interest, forever stored so that future generations can appreciate that the past is more than just what you read in a book. That being said however, this does not qualify as an excuse. Go do your laundry, we don’t want it.
Or, at least not yet.
To read more about the school colors and other University traditions, check out President Thompson’s histories online at Sound Ideas.
By Zebediah Howell