Beta Theta Pi
Beta Theta Pi
Psi Chapter
Bethany College
History Site

150th Site


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 and 1950s.

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 bob-tailed dog."

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 Beta brothers.

Dayton Pryor

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Last updated: February 27, 2014