Grease pole comes home

Here to stay: the grease pole made its long-awaited return to Queen’s campus yesterday morning.
Here to stay: the grease pole made its long-awaited return to Queen’s campus yesterday morning.
Joseph Brean
The grease pole was stolen September 9, immediately following the annual frosh week climb
The grease pole was stolen September 9, immediately following the annual frosh week climb
Journal File Photo
The faceless Mario Baker and his committee are the infamous grease pole thieves.
The faceless Mario Baker and his committee are the infamous grease pole thieves.
Journal File Photo

Engineers can sleep a little easier tonight, knowing that their beloved grease pole has been safely and peacefully returned to Queen’s.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, roughly thirty Queen’s engineers re-captured the pole from the University of Toronto without incident.

Peter Carr, Sci ’02, getaway driver and heist organizer, explained that he first heard of the pole’s location Monday afternoon.

“I had heard through a connection that the pole was on display at the Sir Sanford Fleming building, which is the main engineering building for Toronto, and one of my friends, Phil Smith, who’s been doing a lot of the pole research as well, had the full story and a report that it was the actual grease pole and that it was there,” he said.

The pole, which was originally a goal post at University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium, was stolen by Queen’s after a homecoming game on October 8, 1955. Since then, it has been at the center of engineering’s frosh week celebrations, in which students must cooperate to construct a human pyramid high enough to rescue a tam from its slippery perch.

It became the center of controversy after members of the Brute Force Committee, an unofficial group of U of T engineers, stole the pole from a building on West Campus last September. Nearly four weeks later, the BFC distributed a newspaper on Queen’s campus called Stolen Words, in which they documented the theft and published their ransom demands.

The pole was on display, as it turned out, as part of U of T’s engineering celebration, Godiva Week.

By late Monday night Phil Smith had confirmed through a former Queen’s student that the pole was there and plans to organize the heist began early Tuesday morning.

Carr and other organizers remained skeptical, however, and went on an advanced scouting mission, disguised as U of T students enjoying the celebrations, to confirm the pole’s location and the tools they would need to free their treasured icon.

Although they had trouble getting close to the pole, they were able to observe that the infamous pole was bound by a series of high-tension cables, which could be easily cut. They gathered at midnight for the recovery mission, but first they needed a way into the building.

“One of the master’s students at U of T was a Sci ’99 from Queen’s, and we knew that was our connection to get into the building,” Carr explained.

Gaining entrance to the building proved easier than expected, because there was an open door that graduate students used to get into the building late at night.

“I am not sure if the door is locked or not, but if you tugged at it hard enough, it opened easily,” Carr observed.

Suspecting the pole would be guarded, the bandits moved quietly into position, only to realize that it had been left unattended.

“Eventually they realized that there was no one here and they had the place to themselves, so they began to cut all the cables out right away and had the pole right to the door, at which point they realize we were going to have to cut off one the legs, as it was not going to fit through,” Carr explained.

The engineers had foreseen such a problem, however, and they had brought an industrial-strength grinder to slice through the pole’s legs and slip it through the door.

They were then taken by surprise when four U of T students, who should have been guarding the pole, entered the room.

“One of them [U of T student] started shouting, ‘Oh my God they’re here, I have to go get my friends.’ But about three or four of us chased after him, caught him, and said, ‘Look, we’re taking it, you’re not going after anyone. Just come on in, you can talk to us, you can watch, but you’re not getting your friends.”

The four U of T students sat passively documenting the final stages of the heist and even congratulated the bandits with a farewell handshake as the pole embarked on its historic trip back to Kingston.

Engineering Society President Victoria Creighton was delighted that the mission had gone so peacefully and smoothly.

“Of all the possibilities of how it could have been solved, this is my absolute favourite one. This would be my ideal,” she said.

Creighton did add, however, that the nature of the celebration indicated that the administration at U of T knew something about the pole and must have passively approved it, but said she harboured no hard feelings, and was glad to see the rivalry take a new dimension.

“I was pretty proud,” Creighton continued. “This is how it was supposed to end. It’s the full circle. We didn’t have to use the administration, we didn’t have to give into ransom demands, we just went in and took our pole back.”

Creighton and Carr both agreed that the re-claiming of the pole had solidified a rivalry between the two schools and that the engineering society would now take responsibility for hiding the pole from any potential retaliation.

The grease pole was triumphantly displayed yesterday morning in front of Stauffer Library for all to see. —With files from Carly Weeks

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