January 26, 2011 15:58 Age: 3 yrs

The History of the Harvest Moon Ball

By: Tom Kosman 76L

Editor’s note: A letter to the editor detailing the history of the Harvest Moon Ball arrived in August. Here is an excerpt:

It seems like the students and administration aren’t as clear on the origins of the Harvest Moon Ball as they might be, so I took a few minutes to write the official history. I say “official” because if anyone can claim to have founded the Harvest Moon Ball, it would probably be me.

I helped found the Young Frankelmoin Legal Society (motto: Cum Grano Salis), a loose group in the Class of 1977 sometimes referred to as “The Crazies,” though usually with affection. We ran (with limited success) for Student Bar Association offices (staging Baby Kissing Day and mounting a kazoo band to play Hail to the Chief). We had a great softball team. We created memo­rable Law Day skits. And, as I explain in the enclosed article, we founded the Harvest Moon Ball.

The first Harvest Moon Ball was in October 1975 at the Big Dipper Lounge on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Its origin was the previous spring when the Young Frankelmoin Legal Society’s softball team held an awards banquet at the topless bar in the basement of Hotel Clermont. It was billed as a faux semi-formal—an oppor­tunity for women to recycle tacky bridesmaid dresses and for Mason Barge 77L to break out his snakeskin jumpsuit.

The team and its fan base mingled with the regulars and staff at Hotel Clermont, gave out awards that memo­rialized any and all misadventures we could recollect and listened to a keynote address ramblingly delivered by our Contracts professor. The evening wrapped up with everyone—professors, softball players, patrons and strip­pers—dancing together on stage.

It was a hell of a good time. When we fondly recalled it the following fall, we realized there was no need to wait for softball season for a reprise, that any reason for a party would do. I am pretty sure it was Joe Leghorn 77L who came up with the name, Harvest Moon Ball.

Joe forwarded me the Emory Annual Fund’s Harvest Moon Ball page last fall with the observation that things seemed to have been somewhat sanitized from its begin­nings as a “counter-cultural happening.” That’s not a bad description of what it was.

The Big Dipper and Ray Lee’s Country Lounge were real redneck trucker bars with country bands and juke­boxes that featured Patsy Cline. And, 150 or 200 Emory Law students would descend unannounced on the place on the appointed evening, commandeer the stage, set up a kitschy photo booth (with a Harvest Moon backdrop by Charlie Nafman 77L) mingle with regulars, give out awards for dubious achievements, listen to game faculty members give brief speeches (anything beyond a minute or two was hooted mercilessly) and drink like there was no tomorrow. Sometimes, in a good year, it would end with us riding around in the semi cabs of our new friends.

We always named a queen. The first year, Ruth Weil 77L, my wife of 30 years, was crowned with a distinguished tiara sporting a stuffed bird on top of a towering cardboard cone. I can’t remember who won the following year—we were never much on archival preservation.

By the second year, we had dance cards and a theme (Tropical Fruit), and Ray Lee’s proprietors were so thrilled with their unexpected business they brought out hundreds of sandwiches around midnight.

It was all a fine, boisterous and counter-cultural happen­ing as Joe described it. From what little I can glean from the Internet, it seems the current Harvest Moon Ball is not only encouraged but sanctioned by the administration.

It’s nice to think that we started a tradition that endures, but it seems like it has mutated in the process and not necessarily for the good. We wouldn’t have sought and would have declined if proffered, the administration’s backing for our soiree.

Then again, maybe the official embrace is an admis­sion that the Young Frankelmoin Legal Society was onto something with the idea that law school can use a little humanizing. So go ahead and drink up in whatever form and at whatever forum the Harvest Moon Ball takes place these days. But in the process, raise one of those drinks to the founders and their old buddies, the denizens of Ponce de Leon.

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