Sci ’01s steal grease pole from Frecs

Chris Hanford Sci ’01
Image by: Joseph Brean
Chris Hanford Sci ’01

Three years after having the grease pole stolen from them in a car chase, the fourth year applied science students have been vindicated by a stroke of ‘dumb luck’. A group of eight Sci ’01s stole the coveted pole from this year’s Frecs, the Sci ’03s, and ransomed it for an $1800 party in the latest installment of a decades-old rivalry.

“We literally stumbled upon it,” said Scott Snowden, a Sci ’01 who helped orchestrate the heist after the pole was discovered in a storage shed on West Campus three weeks ago. “It was dumb luck.”

The grease pole was once a goalpost at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. Stolen by Queen’s after a football game in 1955, the pole is now an icon in the Engineering Orientation Week pole-climbing event, which takes place tomorrow. First-year Engineering students work with each other and upper-years to retrieve a tam from the top of the pole, which has been greased with lanolin and stands in a pit of water.

After the climbing ceremony, the pole is guarded for the year by the first-year class. They try to hide it in a secure place, safe from upper-years who are eager to steal it, since any upper-year class that retrieves the pole is entitled to demand a ransom. Rumour has it that, in the past, the pole has been hidden at the bottom of Lake Ontario, in the woods of Northern Ontario, and in the cargo hold of a container ship on a round-the-world voyage.

The pole was stolen from the Sci ’01s during Orientation Week of 1997 by a group of Sci ’99s calling themselves the P.O.R.N. Stars (Pole Observation and Retrieval Network). With nine vehicles and a helicopter communicating with radios, the P.O.R.N. Stars tracked the pole from the grease pit to Perth, Ont. where they surrounded the truck, forced it to stop, locked the steering wheel and tires and made off with the pole.

Concerns about road safety prompted the Frec Committee and Queen’s Security to change procedures to ensure that the pole gets back to Queen’s campus safely. After the pole is climbed, members of the Frec Committee wait until the site is cleared of people before driving the pole back to a secure location on Queen’s campus, where it can be picked up and hidden by the first-years at an undisclosed time.

Last year’s secret location was a Physical Plant Services (PPS) storage shed on West Campus. Ray Stratton, the Sci ’03 who was responsible for hiding the pole for the year, did not move it from this supposedly secure location. Stratton could not be reached for comment.

The pole remained hidden there until mid-August, when Dustin Olender, a Sci ’01 who works for PPS, was loading palettes into a back room of the storage shed. Olender said he saw the grease pole lying between some old air compressors and light fixtures. Two weeks later, on Thursday, August 24, Olender heard other PPS staff on his walkie-talkie saying that the pole was to be moved out of the secure room where it had spent the last year into the main part of the building. Queen’s Security would then let Ewen MacKinnon, the Sci ’03 pole event organizer, in to pick it up on Sunday. Olender spread the word to other members of Sci ’01 who began planning the heist.

That Friday, Olender and five other PPS staff moved the pole into the storage shed’s main area. At 4:10 p.m., before the building closed, a Ryder truck pulled up with eight Sci ’01s calling themselves Team Snatch. They were allowed into the building by PPS employee Keith George, loaded the pole onto the truck, took several pictures of the trophy to be posted on the Sci ’01 website, and took it to an undisclosed location on private property north of Kingston.

Later that evening, Snowden signed up for the email address and sent a letter to the Sci ’03 list-serve, informing them that Sci ’01 had the pole and ransom demands would follow.

“We’re so surprised we were able to steal your pole so easily,” he wrote. “Here’s the deal — we really want you to get your pole back but it’s going to cost you. These ‘pole’ things don’t just grow on trees and when you lose them they can be pretty expensive to get back. They cost money. Big money. So you’re going to have to let us feel the fibre of your fabric, see the colour of your money, and, well, make us drunk.” The ransom demands, released to Sci ’03 president Matthew Siscoe in a negotiation session in the JDUC to which The Journal was invited, were for 12 kegs of beer, two Texas mickeys of Vodka, Kool-Aid, chips, pop, pizza, reimbursement for all Team Snatch’s expenses, a receipt for hemorrhoid cream from the Kingston General Hospital pharmacy, a notice at the end of every Sci ’03 ‘This Is For Real’ section of Golden Words saying “Sci ’01 displaced our pole,” and a letter of apology “for being so silly” to appear in the Letters to the Editor section of this Tuesday’s Journal.

Siscoe said he thought the demands were as fair as could be expected.

“I’m not happy with [the demands], but I’m not happy we lost the pole. I can deal with it.” Traditionally, the ransom for the pole has been a case of beer for every member of the class who stole it.

The negotiations were generally cordial, especially after it was agreed that both Sci ’01 and Sci ’03 students would be invited to the keg and Purple Jesus party, which will be held on Wolfe Island. The mood only became tense once when the demand for a photo of Siscoe peeing on the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill was discussed.

Siscoe’s response of, “How about I pee on your crest?” raised the ire of Team Snatch member Chris Hanford, but this demand was dropped, as was the demand for reimbursement.

Engineering Society Vice-President (Finance), Chris Barlosky, confirmed Monday that $1800 had been transferred to the Sci ’01 bank account to cover the costs of the party. Snowden also confirmed he had received the hemorrhoid cream receipt.

The pole will be returned today.

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