Saturday, September 1, 2007

Beanies

Beanie tradition
Amy Dalrymple, The Forum
Published Saturday, September 01, 2007

Power Bowl

- Today: Minnesota State Moorhead faces Concordia at Jake Christiansen Stadium, 1:30 p.m.


They say you can always spot a college freshman.

That’s especially true at Concordia College, where the students are marked with bright gold beanies.


Freshman Ann Solyst from La Crosse, Wis., adjusts her new beanie in Memorial Auditorium at Concordia College. Photo by David Samson / The Forum
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Although most other schools have abandoned the ritual, Concordia freshmen this fall participated in the beanie tradition that has stayed strong on the campus for 85 years.

Angela Seewald-Marquardt, the college’s director of first-year involvement, said new students sometimes think the beanies are silly and are reluctant to wear them.

But most choose to participate, knowing it’s a time-honored tradition, Seewald-Marquardt said.

“It’s not just attractive headgear, it’s a symbol,” she said. “We feel it’s a symbol of community and a new beginning at Concordia. It symbolizes they’re now Cobbers.”

Freshmen, as well as transfer students, wore the domes for four days of fall orientation.

After opening convocation Thursday morning, the new students tossed their beanies in the air in a ceremony at Olin Hill.

Students don’t wear the beanies again after that, but most alumni hang on to them as a memento of their college experience, Seewald-Marquardt said.

“Sometimes they don’t realize its meaning until after they’ve graduated,” she said.

North Dakota State University and several Minnesota private colleges also had similar beanie traditions, but they ended in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ernie Mancini, Concordia’s longtime director for alumni relations, said the ritual likely survived at Concordia because students and alumni embraced it.

“I think there’s a tremendous amount of inherent good in the tradition in that it brings together all of those new frosh in a wonderful bond,” said Mancini, who retired last year.

‘Green Cap’ history

Concordia students wore the first beanies in 1922. They were called “Green Caps” because they were made from green felt with a maroon ribbon.

The college abandoned the Green Caps in 1942 because the German-produced green dye could not be obtained.

In 1955, Concordia began giving gold beanies to freshmen and maroon beanies to transfer students, which is still the practice today.

The beanies had a one-year hiatus in 1965.

An article in The Concordian, the college’s student newspaper, said hazing got out of hand across the country and administrators decided to have freshmen wear nametags instead.

That class eventually got beanies during their 20th class reunion.

The beanie tradition resumed in 1966.

Past articles in The Concordian talk of freshmen getting tossed in Prexy’s Pond or taped to a tree for not wearing the beanies.

Students now don’t face retribution or teasing for not wearing their beanies, Seewald-Marquardt said.

Power Bowl targets

Perhaps as long as Cobbers have worn beanies, students at crosstown rival Minnesota State University Moorhead have been scheming to steal them.

“It seems like that’s been going on for about as long as I’ve been around,” said Carroll Engelhardt, history professor emeritus at Concordia. “It became part of the unofficial orientation at MSUM.”

Lynn Thorp of Fargo was a Concordia freshman in 1971, when students were required to wear the beanies until the football team scored a touchdown at the first home game.

Thorp had her beanie stolen by a young girl on a bicycle, who she thinks was hired by a MSUM football player.

Wearing beanies at the Power Bowl, the Concordia-MSUM football game formerly called the Crystal Bowl, could be risky for Cobbers, Mancini said.

“That used to cause a lot of problems because those beanies were targets at that game,” Mancini said. “That tradition has gone by the wayside because there have been incidents that have been violent or at least difficult.”

Attempts to steal beanies still happen today, said Rachel Kohler, a junior, who has witnessed the thefts.

“They’re brutal,” Kohler said. “Whenever you see a kid on a bike, you hold down your beanie.”

Students who lose their beanies can get a replacement, Seewald-Marquardt said.

Jordan Sing, a Concordia junior and student body vice president, said as a freshman he hesitated to wear a beanie, but as he’s gotten older he’s come to appreciate it.

“It makes you proud to be here that we have that tradition and we keep it going,” Sing said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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