Details of Events
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Memorable Events in the History of the Greasepole

Timeline Legend

Pictures These climbs are immortalized in film. Can you recognize any of the people in these photos?
Newsflash! From famous firsts to enduring records to major changes in the way the Pole was run, these years were noteworthy.
Stories & Memories Say what? Read how the Greasepole was described by students of the day.
Rules & Hazards Lanolin or axle grease? The Greasepole event has changed markedly. Check out the climbing conditions that correlate to the times of ascent.
Bad Move! Sometimes things don’t go as planned. From thefts to falls, these embarrassing and notorious events mark the less grand parts of the Pole.


Sci. ’60

Sci. ’60 becomes the first year to climb a greased pole as Frosh. Using the steel goalpost stolen from U of T the year before, they began an annual event that has continued unbroken to the present day.

   In the ‘50s, an interesting counting system was used to name the years. As a takeoff of the popular product Heinz ’57, Sci. ‘ 57 became known as "Heinz" and all years nearby described using a plus or minus sign. Therefore, Heinz-minus-one is credited with stealing the Pole, Heinz-plus-three were the first to climb it and Heinz-plus-two were the current FRECs responsible for the initiation that year.

   The first Pole had little resemblance to today’s event. There was no Pit, the tam was not nailed to the top and no projectiles were thrown. Pictures of the event place it in a field with no more than 20 Frosh climbing it.

   If the frosh could remove the tam from the pole in less than 2 minutes, the wearing of the tam would have been discontinued for that year.

It took the Frosh 8 minutes, 10 seconds to retrieve the tam and hence they continued to wear tams until after Christmas.

Sci. ’64

Lost their Pole as FRECs. Arts ’65 & ’64 and Meds ’66 stole the Pole before (or during) Frosh Week and dumped it in the lake for a "much needed bath". The Pole was recovered and climbed that year (by Sci. ’65).

Sci. ’67

Wirecutters were used to get the tam off. Some crowd members bemoaned the absence of rotten tomatoes and eggs that year.

Sci. ’68

Frosh only had to contend with mud and grease. No mention of projectiles is made.

By this time, the Greasepole is referred to as an "annual" event marking the climax of ‘Hell Week’.

Sci. ’72

Lost the Pole, but when they were FRECs (1969)! Arts ’70 stole it. Reports are sketchy as, "Sci. ’72 can fake it good."

Sci. ’72 has the unique distinction of taking the longest time ever to retrieve the tam from the Pole – they were so slow, it eventually got dark and they had to return the next day!

"The procedure is the simple (!?) task of removing a tam from the erect majesty of the Grease-Pole. Sci. ’72 enjoyed their venture into the Pit to such an extent, that they begged to return the next day…"

"Ingredients for the Pit – buckets of grease, gallons of water, bushel baskets of soil, 500 soft tomatoes, 1 dozen fresh eggs and oodles & oodles of horse sh*t."

Sci. ’73

Street signs, buckets, tomatoes, and other paraphernalia were used for Thundermugs and the Greasepole.

"The birth of a plumber." Sci. ’73 credited with a record time at 54 minutes.

"LOST: Greasepole (35 steel)

A recent exercise in futility cost a certain group of Arts frosh $44. They decided to steal the grease pole, rented a truck, and did it. Much to their dismay, however, they discovered that a new cooperation exists between Gaels and FRECs. The FRECs were given back the Pole only a few hours after it was taken, the net result being that several Artsmen were now $44 poorer. Dumb Artsmen!"

-- Golden Words, Sept., 1969

Sci. ’75

Sci. ’75 had good, well-organised defenses from tomatoes. Boxes were worn on heads and a human shield was erected around the climbers. These battle tactics were commonplace and legal.

"The tam was hammered on so well and shoved so far into the Pole that the pom-pom didn’t even show. As a result, they didn’t even get the tam that afternoon. Somewhat disillusioned, they returned the night and ripped the damn thing off. No one handed it to them on a platter."

Fabulous two-page spread in the yearbook.

Sci. ’76

"Their first strives were in vain and they were getting tired, cold and dejected, but they still laboured on."

Sci. ’77

"The Frosh were organised and efficient and they deserved the credit they received."

Sci ’77 claims the title of fastest ascent of the Greasepole (not including that first climb) with only 17 minutes. Later years challenged the validity of their record claiming that Sci. ’77 tipped the Pole over in order to get the tam, a move that way very illegal in later years.

It is claimed that Sci. ’77 tipped their Pole over, but it may not have been recognized as an illegal move at that time.

Sci. ’78

Tipped their Pole to get the tam. According to a scathing article in Golden Words in September of ‘74, Sci. ’78 did not get their tam! After 54 minutes and three attempts at ripping the two apart, the officiating members of the Eng. Soc. gave them the prize. Quoting the longer times and more intense struggles in previous years, the writer suggests that allowing the Frosh the easy road was premature.

Sci. ’79

It was regulation for there to be 3 nails to hold the tam into the Greasepole. Frosh were all wearing blade skirts (kilt-like article of clothing). It was still common to find numerous dead animals such as pig heads in the Pit among other disgusting things.

Sci. ’79 was in the Pit longer than any other year that got the tam, legally, within the last 9 years – the other years that reached the 3-figure mark had come back with ladders or rope to get the tam.

"Obviously everyone can’t fit into the pit at once, but their somewhat futile attempt to find clean shirts among the group demonstrates the importance of having the largest turnout possible. Congratulations Sci. ’79, you are no longer Frosh, you are Freshmen."

Sci. ’80

Women are still forbidden from participating in the Greasepole event due to health reasons.

By this time, cattle carcasses and heads, rib cages, and other bloodied animal parts were added to the melange in the Pit.

For the first time, three Engineering "freshettes" (female frosh) slip by unnoticed and take part in the Greasepole event. Lori Baird was 2nd from the top when the tam was grabbed and a picture of her climbing the Pole made the front page of the Journal on September 21, 1976.

Sci. ‘82

Greasepole still being held in Vivarium field, an area of land owned by Queen’s north on highway 15. Since it was Queen’s property and not private, any students could come to watch…and to abuse the Frosh during their climb.

Sci. ‘83

Frosh set a record (for this era) for fastest time with 49 minutes. They would be eventually beaten by one minute by Sci. ’87.

"The Grease Pole is the ultimate challenge for a prospective engineering year. Undaunted by the horrors of THE PIT, the courageous young men & women of Sci. ’83 defy the elements and triumph!" --- Taken from the Science ’83 Yearbook


Sci. ’84

Tomatoes still the projectile of choice, being fired from slingshots or a more powerful device called a ‘funnelator’.

Sci. ‘85

  Spectator injured after being hit in the throat by a tomato, probably from ‘Funnelator’ (a powerful type of slingshot)

Whether mandatory or just a good idea, the Frosh of Sci. ’85 followed the example of many years and wore bathing caps into the Pit.

"The picture of Science 85’s conquest of the Greasepole hardly portrays the effort and determination that was needed in the freshmen’s battle to become an engineering year. Twenty-six feet below the tam stands the remainder of Science ’85, many waist deep in oil, stained and bruised from abuse with tomatoes of doubtful quality. Congratulations, frosh! You are Queen’s Engineers now…and that is something to be proud of."

-- Reprinted from Golden Words, Sept., 1981

Rumour circulated about no grease in pit because buses could not be soiled:

"We loaded the frosh into buses on campus, and drove to Fort Henry, where we staged a kidnapping, and took them the rest of the way in trucks. On the way back we put the clean ones on the buses and the dirty ones in the trucks." --- Rick Brook, Chairman of FREC Committee, 1981

Sci. ’86

That day of grime and grunge is here again – the infamous grease pole climb. With anxious trepidation, first year engineers gather at the pit to be greeted with inanimate and alive objects beyond one’s comprehension.

  Lost the pole, but regained it after paying a ransom!

Sci. ‘87

Broke record set by Sci. ’83 to give them the fastest ascent under recent regulations. They share glory with Sci. ’77 and Sci. ’98 as being the best climbers of their respective eras.

This year there was a ban placed on catapults and funnelators, a device similar to a large slingshot, used to aim water balloons and tomatoes in past years. Kingston police and the AMS were treating funnelators as weapons. Projectiles were still thrown in large quantities though. Bathing caps still being worn into Pit.

Interestingly, the Frosh who got the tam this year, Andy Fisher, is the brother of Richard, the climber who got the tam for Sci. ’83.

Artscis "attacked" after climb to try to get the Pole, but Sci. ’87 were successful in defending and hiding it.

  One Frosh was helped from the Pit and taken to the ambulances due to breathing difficulty – he had been in the pit too long.

Sci. ‘88

  Worst Greasepole ever for number of injuries: 25 – 40 people eventually sent to hospital! Suspected injuries: a broken foot, a broken ankle, a foot puncture, several concussions, a lot of hypothermia, a broken nose, and chest and breathing problems. Event tied up all of Kingston’s ambulances as well as several regional ones.

  After 62 minutes, the EngSoc exec ordered the frosh to topple the pole. Twice the frosh refused to quit, but the third time the exec insisted.

Worst abuse ever: projectiles include hard tomatoes, potatoes, beer bottles, melons, and apples.

EngSoc Prez Sean Guest got in the pit after about an hour to encourage frosh. "I was amazed when I was in the pit by the spirit and enthusiasm of the frosh … Their spirits were really high even though they were in trouble physically." --- Sean Guest

The thing you notice most is the cold.

"By the end of the pole climb, there must have been a half a dozen upper years in the pit with the frosh" --- Scott Gilbey (VP Ops EngSoc exec)

Sci. ’88 claimed this to be the last real Greasepole.

Sci. ’89

Greasepole climb ’85: the beginning of a new era. Many new regulations were introduced to increase safety. Many criticize the move as "jumping on the bandwagon" or "a farce". Opinions obviously shift over the next decade.

Without the filth in the Pit, women could not [legally] join the Greasepole event.

  Due to the huge problems the year before, all projectiles, including tomatoes, were banned from the event. And the pit was filled with Mr. Bubble rather than the assortment of debris, which had left cuts infected and clothes ruined in previous years. Barricaded crowd threw marshmallows rather than their usual stock. Students also not allowed to drive to the site – strict site control enforced.

"The Greasepole climb is a rallying point." ---Bob Mallete, Science ’61

The tradition was never to create a situation where people would be hurt.

Sci. ’90

Apparently tam was nailed on upside-down, adding to the challenge and time-length of the climb.

The climb was hampered by a long delay when the Pole started to tip. Engineering ingenuity was put to the test as the Frosh tried to find a way to straighten it.

There were the same rules as the year before – bubble bath only in the pit and only projectiles the occasional marshmallow.

For the first time, the FRECs joined the Frosh in the Pit. "I thought the FRECs had been real assholes all week, but when they joined us in the Pit, they were good guys." --- Jim Ferguson, Science ‘90

  Many frosh abandoned the pit and were keeping warm around a fire when the tam was finally snatched. "It’s just not the big, bad event it used to be." ---Mary Anne Turke

Sci. ’91

OARB looks very seriously at Frosh Week. Every faculty is charged to clean up their acts.

  Sci. ’91 was reproached for the mistake of pulling tam off rather than biting it off as was tradition. Two Frosh hospitalized for minor injuries.

  When they were FRECs, the tam arrived late and the Pole was dropped while they tried to hoist it. Sci. ’90 chanted, "Still our Frosh!"

Dry ice used in Pit to cool the water down.

Sci. ’92

Pole moved to new site owned by EngSoc. Lanolin used for grease rather than traditional axle grease.

  A group of ‘90s mounted a well-organised chase involving seven cars, three motorcycles, three 4x4 pickups and an airplane, all connected with two-way radios. They had the Pole surrounded, but somehow the ‘92s managed to escape.

Due to lack of permits to dispose of the axle grease, an industrial waste, a biodegradable substitute was needed. Lanolin was used, giving the interesting side effect of being significantly more slippery than the previous grease. This made the event harder, adding life back into the Greasepole as a challenging and exciting event even though projectiles and filth were no longer present.

"We eventually decided on lanolin for a number of reasons. It cleans the Frosh and makes them soft and pleasant-smelling, its biodegradable, its gold, and it comes from sheep." --- Joe Thwaites, EngSoc Prez

Sci. ’93

Sci. ’92 has the distinction of taking the longest time in the Pit to reach the tam, superseding Sci. ’79 for that ‘honour’.

One hundred kilograms of lanolin were applied to the 28-foot pole on the Engineering Society’s land, nicknamed "Greaseland".

The lanolin times are not commensurable with the axle grease times.

Sci. ’97

By this time, it is established that all 4 years enter the Pit eventually to help the Frosh get the tam as a whole Society. N.B. The Pole is listed in the Journal as 33 feet tall now.

A new alcohol ban was introduced.

When asked why someone would wade in waist-deep muddy water only a wrap themselves around a disgusting, slimy, sold metal pole for 186 minutes, the engineers replied, "it’s a bonding experience all about cooperation." The Frosh need to "prove themselves as engineers."

Sci. ’98

Sci. ’98 makes the fastest ascent since the introduction of lanolin.

Sci. ’99

  Frosh had to stop their climb for 2 hours for an ambulance to return after a Frosh fell from the 2nd level, injuring his neck.

  Sci. ‘99 had to cut a deal with a well-organised group of Sci. ‘97s in order to end a stalemate chase for their Pole after the climb. They threw a joint keg party and were able to safely hide their Pole.

The Principal was in attendance for the Greasepole and despite (or perhaps because of) one person getting hurt, the event was heralded as being the best run ever.

Water was tested for bacteria prior to event. Pole more stable now due to its positioning on bedrock rather than sand. Frosh now taught during Frosh Week, the basic principles of Pole climbing to avoid "stupid schemes". These measures do not significantly reduce the challenge or the time of the climb.

A Sci. ’71 described the event as "wimpy", but most engineers of the day focus on the teamwork required to climb the Pole.

"The bond created at the Pit transcends the traditional division of class or year, and extends to the entire faculty of Applied Science" --- Nicole Baker, Science ’98

"It was even more incredible when my Frosh got the tam than when my year did." --- Holly Witteman, Chief FREC

Sci. ’00

Continuing the rules of Upper Years assisting the Frosh in getting the tam, the 4th years are allowed in 1 hour in, the 3rd years after an hour and a quarter and the FRECs join the chaos after an hour and a half. For the remainder of the time, it is the entirety of Engineering that is working together for the sole purpose of overcoming this tall, slippery obstacle.

"They took a while to get going, but then they just skyrocketed." -- Mike Conrad

Sci. ’01

The event was delayed when the ambulance arrived 30 minutes late. This gave the upper years the opportunity to harass the waiting Frosh by rocking some of the Sci. ’01 buses back and forth.

By the time they got their tam, all the engineering classes were in the Pit, the mud was flowing and everyone was moshing to the chant "Sci. ‘ 01!"

A few hours before the Frosh started climbing, there were already third and fourth year students surrounding the Grease Pit, moshing to alternative tunes pumping out of the speakers, each class getting louder and rowdier as their class song was played.

   Sci. ’01 lost their Pole after a harried chase by a group of Sci. ‘99s with a few ‘98s. Once the truck was stopped, the wheels were blocked and the steering wheel was locked with a truck club. The Pole was ransomed back for a large keg party and the successful completion of a "ransom list".

See also the Times of Ascent.

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Legend of the Greasepole Website maintained by Rob Burke. Last updated October 2004.