Altiora Archives: The Scavenger Hunt of 1991

Eighty-one students; twenty-six years ago.


I wrote, a while back, about some of the scandals that have happened at Elder.  Some of those were pretty extreme, such as the “Hairpins” scandal, which led to students getting arrested and major trouble in the long run.

As I was scrolling through some archives, I found news of a story that would put our 21st century controversies to shame.  Better yet, it is from 26 years ago: a timeless illustration of the grit of Elder men.

Dec. 14, 1991 10:08 PM ET

CINCINNATI (AP)  Eighty-one high school students were arrested for stealing road signs, realty signs and Christmas decorations as part of a scavenger hunt.

”Half the police department was down here processing children,” Delhi Township police Sgt. Robert Chetwood said. ”The parents weren’t amused. They were quite concerned that their kids were out stealing.”

Students at Elder High School organized the scavenger hunt. They planned to collect a $6 entry fee for each car, with the winner taking the total, police said.

After receiving a tip about the scavenger hunt, police pulled over a car with four teenagers and a large plastic Santa Claus.

”Those kinds of things stick out like a sore thumb,” Chetwood said.

He said those youths cooperated with police, who arrested 43 others Thursday night. The remainder were arrested Friday.

They were charged with juvenile delinquency for receiving stolen property. Hearings were scheduled for next month. Such cases often result in community service sentences, Juvenile Court Judge John O’Connor said.


This makes me smile, in all honesty.  Not because the thought of Elder men getting arrested makes me happy, but because I think back to the night when I heard that our Panthers had been apprehended on the hairpins.  That may have been against the law, but to clarify, it was a display of school pride, unity, and a bit of recreation on the side.

Take this scavenger hunt from 1991, and juxtapose the incident with the hairpins.  Against the law? Yes.  Eighty-one men of Elder all apprehended and punished.  However, just like the hairpins, this was also a symbol of unity and brotherhood.

Think about the last time that more than eighty Elder guys were all out on the weekend, all together, all doing the same thing.  I’ve attended a few get-togethers in my time, but I can’t confidently say that I’ve been to an Elder gathering more than 80 strong.  The guys who put this together did an unreal job at getting the boys together, and to read about it more than a quarter century later is exciting.

Coach Bengel ’01 told me that he remembers the news and the publicity of this event.  “I was in grade school at the time, but I remember there being a lot of negative coverage of it.”

Is that surprising? Nah.  The hairpins got the same negative publicity that this did, and it is only to be expected.  As the old saying goes, however, boys will be boys.

Imagine yourself being an 18 year old guy in December of ’91.  I’m no history expert but I’m assuming that during that era kids only had rocks and sticks to play with.  What else is there to do besides usurp the holiday decorations from the yards of the locals?  I’m guessing not too much.  Don’t blame the guys.

I talked to a student who’s father was involved in this grand scheme.  I won’t give up the student’s name, or his dad’s for that matter; nonetheless, this is what he told me:

Pullquote Photo

“My dad was a sophomore at the time, and he was driving one of the cars. He took some guys to grab some scavenger hunt materials and didn’t end up getting caught. At school though, they decided to turn themselves in as to avoid even further punishment. They ended up getting suspended.”

— -Anonymous student

Man.  So close.  Didn’t even get caught but still had to go to the police station because their friends were caught.  That sounds a bit familiar to the hairpins fiasco, but that is neither here nor there.

I did some deeper digging into the Elder Archives and found some men here who happened to be students at the time of this incident. One of them raises some questions, given his current position in the school.  That man is none other than our current Dean of Students, Mr. Brian Flahrety ’92.

According to my calculations, a student graduating in 1992 would have been a senior during December of ’91.  Is it possible that Flahrety was one of the facilitators of this scavenger hunt? Was he by chance one of the legends who found themselves at the Green Township Police Department?  Now I’m not positive about that and I don’t want to ask him, but we can leave that up to your own judgement.

Perhaps Mr. Flahrety was one of the dudes being bros back in the glory days of the 90s.  Still, it is possible that even back then he was enforcing rules.  No one knows for sure, but maybe you can ask him if you see him around.  I think I will.