Striving for bigger and better things, the committee soon decided to try a more elaborate affair, moving the event out of the library to give the poor students a visual break, and including real food in the form of pizzas. The first of these was an apparent disaster. Not knowing how many students would show up, the committee ordered 12 pizzas. No plates. No forks. At 9 p.m. on the appointed night, this brave group of alumni volunteers who assembled in Vollum lounge were overwhelmed by ravenous Reedies. It was all over in seven minutes. Pieces of pizza were flung like broken Frisbees over the heads of the throng, in an effort to give everyone something to eat. Food went everywhere. Presumably, many students went away still hungry.
And yet, these hearty volunteers returned in the spring for another attempt. This time they thought they were prepared. Janan Abdo Stoll '78 had the brilliant idea of including plates and juice boxes in the preparations. They arranged the tables in a square with themselves safely fortified in the middle. Several alumni brought their children. With 35 pizzas available, surely things would be smoother. Amazingly, they were right. Students actually sat down on the floor with their plates to eat and even chat with each other. They helped clean up. They seemed a little reluctant to leave.
Each semester's event added more food, more alumni, and more opportunities to allow students to relax from the rigors of studying. Each semester, more students came. Alumni contributed vegetable trays and cookies to the menu. Their children interacted with students. The students interacted with the alumni. The alumni reassured them that it was all worth it-that suffering through these exams was just the price to pay for achieving a lifetime of possibilities as a Reed graduate. The event now lasted as long as 45 minutes.
Students and alumni began coming for the social opportunities, not just to feed or be fed. One student came regularly in drag, with a video camera, and filmed everyone and everything, offering an ongoing commentary on the affair. Joe Weisman '65, a driving force in the frenzy, has brought his son Jazz for the past six years. In 1998, lured perhaps by the addition of a television set showing the X-Files, 71 pizzas and 324 juice boxes were served to hundreds of students. Last December the event moved to the Kaul Auditorium, which was still decorated for the holidays. Despite the long trek from the library, students came in droves, drawn by the prospect of real food and a chance to think and talk about something besides academics for an hour or so.
The feeding frenzy is likely to outlive many a generation of students because it fills a basic need for both recipients and servers. The breaking of bread (or pizza) together encourages alumni and students to share stories and to discover threads of common interest, common values. It's all really about community. But the food helps.