The way it was … Maryville College has a moonshining past

If one is ever to find themselves flipping through the school’s old Chilhowean yearbooks, they’ll make a curious discovery when they read the 1920 edition. 

On page 218, one can see a dedication to the “perpetual moonshiners” of Maryville College along with several more pages committed to the act under titles like “When the moon shines” and “Moon, moon – pretty silvery moon, won’t you shine down on me?” all accompanied by photographs of Maryville’s most notorious moonshiners. 

However, not all is what it may seem. During this time at Maryville College, “moonshining” actually meant to go on dates around campus, unchaperoned. Schedules were very strict then with men and women being separated for the majority of the time outside of class, making it hard for couples to find time to spend together. 

Their meetings primarily took place in the evenings because of this, hence the term “moonshining.” The word also came about prior to the widespread use of electric lighting, only adding to its antiquity.

With all the moonshining going on, the college came to feel it wasn’t beneficial to the development of students’ character and President Wilson, with others, decided to strengthen the rules against the practice. 

However, that did not deter the students in the least. Moonshining continued to be a popular past time on campus despite the looming threat of their “privileges being revoked.” The practice was eventually allowed later in the decade. 

Unfortunately, it was accompanied by many restrictions such as it being limited to “… center campus and open spaces. They were also not allowed to “… walk behind Thaw Hall or go inside any of the buildings.” Nor could they “… attend movies together or walk in the woods without a chaperon,” according to the book “By Faith Endowed” by Drs. Carolyn Blair and Arda Walker.

“Moonshining” would experience another shift in the 1930s under the leadership of President Lloyd. He himself was not a fan of the moonshining occurring around campus and declined any sort of furthering of the conditions for moonshining despite the strong student support for a Sunday addition. 

The student body was so passionate that a poll was conducted in which the vast majority voted in favor of the extension, yet their efforts were fruitless. 

“Anything that was doing away with rules would gain the support of the students,” Lloyd said. The college’s only allowance was that moonshining would be permitted on Baccalaureate Sunday after three o’clock and on Easter Sunday. 

The true end of moonshining occurred towards the start of the 1940s, as “dating” became the new rage and the apprehensions held by the college began to slowly dissipate. 

Still, it wouldn’t be until much later in the college’s history that men and women would be allowed to freely date around campus without any such restrictions.

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