A Historical Perspective
Dayton Pryor '52 #668
April 12, 2007
Bethany students today would find it hard to believe, but half a
century ago there was no break at Thanksgiving. Classes were suspended
for the day, but resumed on Friday, and continued on Saturday morning!
(Those of us who were in college then remember that on Saturdays
students were permitted to wear jeans on campus).
Since there were no
classes that Thursday, college rules would have permitted a dance on
Wednesday evening. But there were classes that day, and hence no time to
prepare for it. The Betas dealt with this situation creatively by
devising an event that started at midnight and ended with breakfast.
Called the Dawn Dance, it was an important social occasion in the 1940s
In those days women students had to be in their dormitory or
sorority house by 9 PM on week-day nights. However, perhaps motivated by
holiday spirit, the Dean of Women allowed girls who were invited to the
dance to leave their residences just as the new day began. Exactly at
midnight, rockets were fired from Pendleton Heights as a signal that
they could depart for the dance, held in the Irwin Gymnasium (now the
Arts Building) or in the "new" (1950) Beta house.
The Dawn Dance was
tremendous fun for participants, but also had other significance. For
one thing, it was a unique campus event: all of the fraternities and
sororities had their own dances, but none was as distinctively
associated with its organization as the Dawn Dance was with Beta Theta
Pi. More importantly, it was one of several traditions that served to
cement relationships among the brothers and pledges (and, not
incidentally, of their Beta girls).
There were many customs and
practices that gave meaning to the phrase "I'm glad I'm a Beta." Perhaps
the strongest bond of fellowship was singing together at parties and
serenades -- from Gemma Nostra to the Froggy Song. In his 1928 poem "At
the Beta House," F. H. Kirkpatrick expressed it this way:
We can add to all our gladness
If we sing a Beta song,
For we know there is no sadness
When we, singing, march along.
Other traditions included the showing of
approval by snapping fingers, rather than by palm-to-palm applause, and
the cheer with which we honored some member:
What's the matter with Brother Knox? He's all right! He's a la-la, he's a loo-loo, he gets
there on time. Let's all evoke a facial ripple. H A. H A. Ha ha!
We well remember the passing of the Loving Cup, and that "Wooglin had a
The reconstituted chapter is already building on the
past traditions of the chapter and of the fraternity. We are confident
that it will continue to do so by initiating novel and distinguishing
events, suited to the culture of the times they live in. These will
serve both to characterize the chapter favorably to other people on
campus, and to reinforce the spirit of friendship and fidelity among