Georgia Tech's early professors were a stern and unyielding group of disciplinarians who placed great emphasis on their own dignity and authority. A notable exception was Tech's original Professor of English, Rev. Charles Lane. But even the most mild mannered of men may react angrily given the proper motivation.
A heavy snowfall started in Atlanta about sunrise on Saturday, February 24th, 1894. As the students of Georgia Tech were gathering on campus before their first class of the day, some of them started a snowball fight. Many of the students were sixteen and seventeen years old, attending Tech's preparatory program, as the high schools in their hometowns did not offer the 12th grade level instruction necessary for normal admission to Tech.
One of the preparatory students, Smith, spotted Professor Lane walking across campus toward his classroom in the Academic Building. Smith hit the professor solidly with a snowball in front of a large portion of the student body. Professor Lane knew that he had to respond to this affront in a sufficiently intimidating manner or he would never get any respect from the students again. He chewed Smith out roundly and departed, satisfied that he had adequately protected himself. Other professors had gotten students expelled for less, but Professor Lane never even brought the matter before the Faculty.
The watching students were quite amused by the incident. In the next issue of Tech's student magazine, The Georgia Tech, no less than three different contributors made mention of it. But by far the best offering was this one:
The snow was on the ground that morn,
The air, it was quite biting;
When Smith, a prep., out on the grounds,
With snowballs had been fighting.
He gazed across the campus there,
When much to his delight,
Professor L----, with gallant stride,
Did surely come in sight.
Then that kid thought to have some fun
Out of the sage instructor,
He'll think he ought to have with him
A football nose protector.
He threw his first; it struck--
Alas! He wished he had not done it;
Professor L---- walked up to him
As mad as any hornet.
"Young man, I take no insolence
From small preps. on the campus;
The first thing that you know I'll have
You swinging to a lamp post."
Was that prep. scared? Well, you just bet,
His hair it stood on end:
"Of course to hit you Mr. L----,
I never did intend."
And a little later in the day,
Professor L---- was interviewed;
He said he certainly was glad
Right then and there to end the feud.
"You see," said he, "certain I was,
The prep. my bluff had swallowed,
I had to tell him that you know,
To keep from being wallowed."
The Georgia Tech, March 1894, p. 23
Atlanta Constitution, February 25, 1894, p. 20 "An Icy Mantle"
Atlanta Constitution, February 26, 1894, p. 5 "A Record Breaker"