- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - An outbreak of spring fever struck Stillwater on March 3, 1974. On that balmy Sunday night, one of the first streaking incidents in Oklahoma was reported.

The Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1SjnQRZ ) reports that young people dashed naked through clusters of students spread across various parts of the OSU campus, according to Tulsa World correspondent Mike Ward.

Thus was born Streaker Night, a short-lived but wildly popular tradition among Oklahoma State University students on the eve of Spring Break.

Campus security reported minimal damage, saying that the students were generally good-natured as they milled around, tossed fireworks, yelled and chased the streakers before dispersing around 3 a.m.

The act of streaking - running naked through a public place - has been around for ages, but seems to have peaked in 1974.

That year, streakers were sighted at the University of Tulsa, the University of Oklahoma and other college campuses around the state.

Streakers struck TU the same night as their counterparts in Stillwater. Word spread that streaking would begin at midnight on Harwell Field between sorority and fraternity rows.

“I couldn’t see a thing until the streakers brought out a car with headlights to follow them around the field while they streaked,” said TU student and Tulsa World reporter Rita Sherrow, in a March 5, 1974, story by Yvonne Litchfield.

At OU, naked students did cartwheels and built a human pyramid in the “Passion Pit,” a sunken garden in the South Oval.

The 1974 Academy Awards show was briefly disrupted by a streaker, causing actor David Niven to remark:

“Isn’t it a laugh that the only laugh that man will get in his life will be by stripping off his clothes and showing his shortcomings.”

Theologians and scholars differ on whether streaking involves a moral component or is simply a longing for the innocence of childhood before assuming the trappings of adulthood.

The Rev. Billy Green, pastor of the Harvard Avenue Baptist Church, called streaking a “repulsive thing” that leads to “degeneration of the mind, the heart and the will and it will lead to other immoral acts.”

The Rev. John Wolf, minister at the All Souls Unitarian Church, took the opposite view.

“I’m relieved students on American campuses have recovered their sense of humor and their sense of the absurd. This is a healthy sign,” Wolf told Pearl Wittkopp, of The Tulsa Tribune in 1974.

“This is spring, the time of year when you need to let loose,” Wolf said.

Tulsa youths were also letting loose, with streakers reported at Hale, Memorial and East Central high schools.

Roy Lewis, director of Tulsa high schools, said streaking would not be tolerated. Tulsa police warned that high school streakers would be turned over to Juvenile Court and could be sent to reform school.

Though the fad was widespread, Stillwater was clearly the epicenter in Oklahoma, with a special night being set aside for a decade for those inclined to bare all.

In 1975, about 25 streakers were cheered on by exuberant OSU students who jammed a section of Washington Street known appropriately as “The Strip.” Some observers perched atop businesses, the better to enjoy the view and the beer-fueled atmosphere.

That was also the first year students rolled the Sirloin Stockade bull statue down the street with some streakers riding astride the 2.5-ton beast, and dumped it into Theta Pond. A wrecker service rescued the waterlogged bull around 3 a.m.

As in 1974, student volunteers cleaned the street of litter afterward and it was spotless by dawn, according to news reports.

Through soaking rains, tornado warnings and frigid temperatures, Streaker Night continued. But by 1978, the event was getting out of control. Merchants, university and city officials voiced growing concerns over vandalism and student safety.

The O’Collegian, OSU’s student newspaper, reported that 174 people, mostly out-of-towners, were arrested in 1979 for “outraging public decency” and other offenses. Then, Stillwater banned beer drinking on public streets and raised the drinking age from 18 to 21.

Attendance fell off after that and 1984 was the last year The Strip was barricaded for the event, according to the O’Colly.

Streaker Night may be history at OSU, but its followers continue to cavort at baseball and soccer games, the British Open and other sporting events.

So, anyone offended by public nudity should heed the warning of singer Ray Stevens in his 1974 hit tune, “The Streak.”

“Don’t look, Ethel!”

___

Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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