In the early days, every meal at Tabor was a seated and formal affair. Students wore school dress, and faculty donned jackets and ties. They sat five or six to a table while a rotating crew of student waiters—who, until 1942, sported signature white tunics—ferried trays back and forth from the kitchen.
Coming together for three square meals a day not only ensured every student was accounted for and well-nourished, it fortified the relationships and shared values that were critical to the school’s culture. Seating assignments changed regularly, giving students and faculty who might not routinely cross paths an opportunity to mingle. These sit-down meals remained a hallmark of everyday life until the early 1970s, when renovations and kitchen enhancements ushered a shift to cafeteria-style dining.
Meals may have become less ritualized, but an appreciation for the sanctity of breaking bread as a community has never disappeared. Throughout Tabor’s history, food has played a prominent role in strengthening communal bonds and marking important occasions. There have been many memorable meals. Some are connected to storied traditions; others are more of the ad hoc variety, like the dinner of canned fruits and cold pot roast the entire school shared during the Great Hurricane of 1938.
These communal dining experiences vary in their levels of decorum, but they have all enriched campus life and school history in meaningful ways. The annual Thanksgiving feast brings everyone together before vacation for an early celebration of a beloved holiday meal. For international students, it’s an exciting opportunity to participate in a widely observed national tradition. For everyone, it’s a jovial night of harmony and fellowship. This same spirit permeates less formal events. The tailgate at Holderness Day, for example, was a scrappier but no less scrumptious jamboree that performed the same unifying function.
The best culinary-infused events of Tabor’s past and present may have different looks, sounds, and tastes, but they use the same basic ingredients: school pride and community engagement. Below, we take a closer look at some of the most memorable meals and traditions that have brought us together over the years.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, Tabor athletes would mingle with their opponents during formal tea receptions in the Beebe Lounge following athletic contests.
Jay Winburn ’65 has fond memories of these gatherings. “They were great,” he says, “especially when Mrs. Wickenden was serving. It was a terrific way to meet kids from other schools.”
Mrs. Wickenden and other faculty wives poured tea from silver urns into porcelain cups, and the athletes—showered and back in their jackets and ties—engaged in friendly conversation. Among other benefits, these receptions encouraged good sportsmanship during games since competitors knew they would soon be fraternizing with their opponents.
“The receptions were a good lesson in ‘you got out of it what you put into it,’” says Jim Henry ’75. “Over time, some of us learned to shake hands with a particularly memorable opponent or two—invariably the toughest ones—and volunteer to help clean up afterwards instead of leaving it for poor Mr. Zeitler to do. He brightened up amazingly when he got even a little cooperation.”
The myth of “senior spring” is a delicate one for many high schools to handle. Once a senior receives a college acceptance letter, that coveted boarding pass to the next four years of life, there’s a concern that they may be tempted to take their foot off the gas. Sensing that senior spring could begin for some students as early as January, many educators downplay its significance—or even deny its existence—in order to keep their students on track. While Tabor prides itself in pushing its seniors to finish strong, it also treats senior spring as a real and momentous occasion.
For many alumni, their last two months at Tabor hold some of their favorite memories. It’s a period of introspection as they reflect on their own journeys and the impact of the people and place with whom they’ve shared so much of their time. (Four-year seniors will have spent over 20% of their lives at Tabor).
It’s also a time of communal revelry. Through events like the 100 Days Dinner and Senior Banquet, Tabor has a long history of bringing seniors together to celebrate their class’ accomplishments.
The tradition of the Senior Banquet goes back to the early 1930s, when the school would take seniors off campus for a special dinner. The 1932 banquet was held at Kittansett, Marion’s prestigious golf club. Tables were arranged in a symbolic “T” with black and red decorations. A student toastmaster emceed the dinner, and speeches were made by the senior president and a faculty member who was a special guest of the class.
“When the speakers had finished,” The Log noted in its recap of the dinner, “presents were given according to the class statistics. These were accompanied by much applauding and laughing. The Class Will was read by the toastmaster, and the banquet came to a close.
The 1938 Senior Banquet was held at the Anchorage restaurant in Mattapoisett, which The Log recounted in mouth-watering detail. “Mrs. Barrows served a steak dinner with French-fried potatoes, fresh string beans, topped off with the seniors’ perennial favorite—pie a la mode.” During the speeches, Headmaster Lillard “spoke very touchingly of this year’s class and shed many crocodile tears, it is reported, at the thought of the impending departure” of the seniors.
This same description could easily apply to more recent senior dinners, joyous evenings remembered for warm laughter, happy tears, and excellent food.
Milk and Cookies
While not technically “meals,” there are some extracurricular snacking traditions that many alumni remembered fondly in our recent food survey. One informal ritual we kept hearing about was “milk and cookies” the night before athletic contests.
Rev. Bob Malm ’70 and Jim Henry ’75 both shared memories of gathering with their football teammates and coaches on Friday nights in the Beebe. Henry says the crew team had a similar tradition. Coach Hoyle and his wife Jackie would host rowers at their home on the eve of a race. The milk and cookies were a nice draw, but the real treat was spending quality time together.
Generations of Tabor athletes have passed the tradition down over the years. When Harrison Lyman ’07 was on the football team, they would meet in the admissions living room after study hall on Friday nights. “It was cozy and felt like home,” he says. “The whole team was there—day students, everybody. Coach Hrasky and the other coaches would say a few words, and then they’d leave us to have our cookies and just swap stories with each other."
“It was a great opportunity to build meaningful bonds before a game,” he says. “When you’re that young, that’s how bonding happens. Sharing stories and connecting on a personal level, which you can’t always do on the practice field. I went to a Tabor at Tia’s reception in Boston a few years back and ran into some old teammates. We spent a lot of time reminiscing about milk and cookies.”
In their first year at Tabor, Tony and Lucia Jaccaci have reignited this cherished tradition by hosting milk and cookies for individual dormitories and day students. While it’s helped bring the campus community closer together, its resurgence has also connected the school’s present with its past, as the best traditions always do.
Boar's Head Festival
No, the inspiration for one of Tabor’s more curious culinary traditions is not the famous deli meat company. There’s a medieval folktale about a young English scholar who was walking in the woods one Christmas when he was attacked by a wild boar. Armed with only a copy of his Aristotle text, the scholar slayed the beast using his book—a classic case of the pen being mightier! When he returned to school and shared the improbable story with his classmates, they paraded into the forest and emerged with the boar’s head, which they brought to their cook to contribute to the Christmas feast.
An article in the December 1972 issue of The Log shared this story with the Tabor community. “Now the English—being sticklers for tradition!—immediately made this affair an annual wingding,” the writer explained. “And so it shall be at Tabor! But to do this we must first convert Hoyt Auditorium into the banquet hall of a medieval castle.”
For the next five years, Tabor celebrated the Boar’s Head Festival every December. It was like something out of Chaucer. A dozen or so faculty and trustees, robed in the garb of the Middle Ages, presided at a head table on the Hoyt stage. Students sat before them at long, ornately decorated tables. The banquet’s fare was sumptuous. The menu changed every year, but whole roasted pigs were a constant. Entertainment included comedic skits, ritualized sword dances, and music. There were drums and trumpets and carols—some performed by various student ensembles, others by the entire community.
“After the long evening of song, merriment, and folly, the feast ends in grand fashion,” The Log described in 1974. “Arm in arm, faculty and students, trustees and tired children, sing one last chorus of, ‘Auld Lang Syne.’”