Bring back the W&L Swing

Caroline Schell

Attending an all girls’ camp in the middle-of-nowhere Tennessee would seem to have little relevance to my life here at Washington and Lee.  While I made friends there who turned out to be classmates and friends, I did not think that my knowledge of the Amazon tribe—my camp team—would hold any value in my time on campus.  I was very wrong.

When sitting at my first football game, cheering on the Generals for Homecoming in 2014, the “Washington and Lee Swing” began to play over the loudspeaker.  I excitedly turned to my camp friend who clearly recognized the song from the same place; we sang a similar tune at camp to cheer on our team.  The song left me nostalgic for camp and my time there, but as I excitedly bopped to the tune of the orchestra, I noticed the students around me had little to no idea what the song was, what the words were, what it symbolized or even where it was coming from.

I will be the first to admit that I am a shameless situational football fan.  I only attended the homecoming game as a freshman because it seemed appropriate at the time.  However, when thinking back to the “W&L Swing,” I became curious if it held a place in the memories of alumnae of the university, or if any current students had affection for the song.

I discovered my answer when I played the marching tune in the middle of Elrod Commons. While sitting at a table selling t-shirts, I pulled up a recording of the fight song and watched as students passed by with confused stares.  Sure, the music was a little out of place, but no one connected the song to W&L.  I, too, did not know the lyrics to the song, but I did recognize it as a part of history here on campus.  Other students did not seem to have the same response.  A football player explained that the song played “occasionally” throughout the season.

“Washington and Lee Swing”

Come cheer for Washington and Lee,
We’re going to win another victory!
The White and Blue we will ever wave in triumph
For the University. RAH! RAH! RAH!
Fight to the finish we are with you,
Break through the line on every play;
Rush the ball on down the field
And we will win this game today.

When Washington and Lee’s men fall in line,
We’re going to win again another time;
For W&L I yell, I yell, I yell,
And for the University, I yell, like hell!
And we will fight! fight! fight! for every yard;
Circle the ends and hit that line right hard!
And we will roll those Wahoos on the sod!
Yes, by God! RAH! RAH! RAH!

Curious to see if the swing was only lost on our generation, I reached out to Billy Alpaugh, ‘78, who said, “I have to say that I do not remember the song at all. The football team had not won a game for about four or five years. I went to half of one game.”

It seems the “W&L Swing” has lost the sense of pride and camaraderie that the song once sang of when Mark W. Sheafe, class of 1906, first introduced the tune to campus.  Even though the song achieved national recognition in the 1930s and 40s, students on campus do not identify with the song today.

Our pride as Washington and Lee students is generally unwavering, and the lyrics to our fight song sing that praise.  Perhaps now is a good time to revitalize the “Washington and Lee Swing” and ensure its legacy on this campus.