The Collegian has seen its share of gossip columns, fashion columns, and currently a history column for its lucky readers, but in the 1920s, the newspaper printed a column that may top them all: The Agony Column.
The Agony Column, published without a byline (adding to the agony: the author never got proper credit for their brilliance), ran weekly in the early 1920s.
Premiering on Nov. 11, 1920, The Agony Column laid out its purpose: “Few realize the unlimited possibilities that lie in our freshman class more than we do. Until we grow tired of it, the Agony Column will be a source of never-ending wealth to this department.”
A column with the sole purpose of pointing out embarrassing moments of freshmen? I could have been a campus celebrity if this was still around two years ago.
From gossip to grievances, this column published it all. It especially excelled in the insult department.
“Tom is the meanest, most hypocritical sneak that ever entered this college. He hasn’t a decent thought in his head. I wouldn’t trust him with a brass nickel,” the column read on March 24, 1921. “If there’s anything crooked going on, you know jolly well that Tom is in it, and if there isn’t anything it keeps you wondering what he’s up to. He’s the biggest liar in Michigan. He’s worthless; I wouldn’t waste the lead it would take to shoot him.”
I’d like to think that the author wrote this soliloquy with a quill pen. It was written in 1921, which exponentially raises my hopes for this majestic occurrence.
Also a platform for poetry, on March 22, 1923 the column read, “It’s wrong for me to go to school, And try to make my prof a fool, but I like to.” Poetic brilliance at its finest.
Another fantastic piece of literature was published on May 7, 1925. The Agony Column read, “Back in the days when men were men, The Agony Column flourished then, for hazing then was not a sin, Flashlights had not invented been.”
Both morals and English grammar took a steep hit in those lines of poetry.
The column also published jokes, or “proofs” as they were referred to by the author. On Nov. 25, 1920 the column read, “A doctor was advertising some medicine on a street corner. Doctor: ‘I have sold these pills for twenty-five years and never heard a complaint. What does that prove?’ Voice from the crowd: ‘That dead men tell no tales.’”
I can only assume that the author of this column was actually a young Jerry Lewis.
In fact, the column was too good for editing. On Oct. 28, 1920, The Collegian published, “President Larson announces that applications will still be considered for entrance to the Cosmopolitan Club. This is a misplaced notice and is not intended for this column.”
More importantly, when did Hillsdale have such a posh club, and can we bring it back?
In addition, The Agony Column delivered some great life tips, including this May 24, 1923 tidbit: “Some people like to eat but this is unnecessary to success.”
Dying from starvation might be more of a success than the way my life is going, so this author is not entirely wrong.
And the column was very well-received. In classic Agony Column fashion, the author asked his readers what they thought of his column — and published only the responses praising him on Jan. 28, 1926.
“A. Jay Moron, ’29 — It keeps me awake during classes.”
“Susie Picklefoot — “The Agony Column is too perfectly thrilling!”
“George Washington down at Marties — ‘They always write up my Banquet Swell and they never lie because they do it with their little hatchet.’”
Ok, that one may have been fake.
Regardless of its credibility, The Agony Column proved successful for over six years and continues to provide laughs to its readers.