Smoot Marks the Spot of a Pledge to Bridge the Gap

After 25 years of use in Cambridge, Mass., the smoot has not replaced the foot or rivaled the meter, but it has not been forgotten either. For those who have to scramble over the 2,000-foot-long Harvard Bridge over the Charles River to get to class, a smoot is one of 364 paint marks. To Oliver R. Smoot Jr., returning to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this weekend for his 25th reunion, it represents his 5-foot-6 body. He recalls that when he was a freshman pledge at Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, his pledge master, Tom O'Connor, announced he was tired of being late to class and wanted to know how long the bridge was. "I want it measured in smoots," O'Connor said. The pledges headed out onto the bridge about midnight, and Smoot had to get up and lie down 364 times as the others, equipped with chalk and paint, made their marks, which have since been repainted by successive years of pledges. Smoot, now 46, is a vice president of a Washington computer trade association and the father of Steve Smoot, 19, a freshman at MIT. "He's dined out on the story all year," the father said. "And he may be the only freshman (MIT) President (Paul) Gray remembers this fall."

--When it comes to photos at promotion time, Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost, the chief of naval operations and a stickler for physical fitness, wants the whole truth. As of Oct. 1, he said in a message distributed to all Navy commands, head-and-shoulder pictures are out. "Personal appearance is a key factor in individual pride, professionalism and personal excellence," he said. "To provide maximum incentive for members to comply with appearance standards, full-length officer photographs are now required." And anyone hoping that dress blues might cloak a beer belly will find that loophole closed. "The uniform for official photographs shall be summer khaki in order to provide maximum photographic clarity," Trost said.

--Two of Notre Dame's Class of 1957 members traded jabs and jokes in a debate at the campus this weekend. But the friendly pokes began earlier in the week when Richard V. Allen, President Reagan's first national security adviser, called talk-show host Phil Donahue. Donahue said Allen opened the conversation with: "This is the Notre Dame graduate who achieved the highest public office." Donahue responded by saying: "Is this Jose Napoleon Duarte (the president of El Salvador and a Notre Dame graduate)?" Allen countered with: "Is this Oprah Winfrey?"

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°