A Toast to Traditions

Below are just a few of the traditions that have struck a chord with successive generations of UNC students over the past 122 years

By Mark Anderson, UNC reference librarian, associate professor of University Libraries and photos courtsey of UNC Archives

Oldest current traditions

Normal: The word, referring to our original name, the Colorado State Normal School, is still on some UNC-licensed clothing and other paraphernalia.

School song: “Ah! Well I Remember,” was created by James De Forest Cline, a prolific composer who led the Music division from 1923 until his retirement in 1949. He claimed the piece, which he composed in 1937, came to him in a dream. The lyrics are:

Ah! Well I Remember, Friends of “Purple and Gold.”
Friends met in September, Pledging their Faith to hold.
Gone, Friends of September, Gone dear friends of old.
Time never shall sever, Friends of “Purple and Gold.”
Time never shall sever, Friends of “Purple and Gold.”

Northern VisionDa Teachers: Until 1925, the official name of athletic teams was the Teachers. Since then, we have been called the Bears, unofficially for the bear carving atop an Alaskan Tlingit Indian totem pole donated to the school in 1914. Nicknamed Totem Teddy, it served as a school symbol until 2003, when it was returned to the Tlingits under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. A bronze-bear sculpture, Northern Vision (left), took its place and resides on the north side of the University Center.

Homecoming: The first Homecoming game on the Greeley campus was in 1923. A parade with floats and marching bands was added in 1926. Gradually, Homecoming evolved into a weeklong celebration with a variety of events.

On stage: In 1934, Little Theatre of the Rockies began as summer stock, under the direction of Helen Langworthy, with the production of “The First Mrs. Frasier.” It’s the state’s oldest theater company.

Convocation: Over the years, these events have been held irregularly, at different times of the year and for different purposes. The 1915 spring commencement program refers to the upcoming event as “The Twenty-Fifth Annual Commencement and Convocation.” The current convocation, an annual fall event to launch the academic year, was revived by President Kay Norton on Sept. 19, 2006, after a 17-year hiatus.

Welcome Week: There have always been organized social and student orientation events designed to welcome new students to campus. In the early 1900s, the “Freshman Dinner” was held the first Saturday after the beginning of fall classes. Later, in the 1920s, when dancing became acceptable social behavior for young people, the “Freshman Dinner” became the “Freshman Frisk.” For several decades, the first week of classes was designated “Hello Week.” According to the 1928–29 Student Handbook, during “Hello Week,” in addition to all the organized activities, “every student says ‘hello’ at all chance meetings wherever they may be.”

Strangest/Funniest/Past Traditions

Blue and gold: Ever wonder why the school colors changed from purple and gold to blue and gold? In 1922, the purple dye on the new football uniforms faded after one washing, and it was impossible to find purple dye of a more permanent quality.

DunkDunking freshmen in the reflecting pond: The pool, which existed on the north side of Carter Hall (former library) between 1911 and 1938, was about 3-feet deep, so the practice could only be considered dangerous during cold weather. The 1927 yearbook reports that George Frasier, who was only 33 when he was appointed president, was once mistaken for a freshman and dunked. When Carter Hall was expanded in 1938, the reflecting pool was filled in and covered. But for several years after, freshmen continued to get dunked in the lake at Glenmere Park or in the irrigation ditch near Jackson Field.

DinkieDinkie: The freshman beanie, or dinkie, was introduced onto campus in 1923. School rules at the time required that all freshmen wear dinkies on campus and to all athletic events. Violators were subject to consequences handed down by upperclassmen. For example, they could be ordered to sing the school fight song with their index finger on the button of their dinkie. Homecoming marked the traditional ending of the dinkie-wearing period.

The Minute Man (aka the Pioneer): A gift of the class of 1911, the statue was located at the edge of the garden and reflecting pool. At one time the Minute Man was a school symbol with a weekly gossip column in the The Mirror carrying its byline in the 1920s. When Carter Hall was expanded and remodeled in 1938, the Minute Man disappeared, and its ultimate fate is unknown.

Hayes Picnic: The longest-running tradition unique to UNC may have been the Hayes Picnic, which was first held in 1916. Legend has it that Vice President James Hayes, serving as acting president following the death of President Snyder, called for a break from classes after a particularly hard winter. A picnic was held on campus at which the faculty cooked and served food to the students. Eventually the Hayes Picnic was moved to Jackson Field. Athletic and other types of events were added, and the Hayes Picnic an all-day celebration of spring that survived until the mid-’60s. NV


Then and Now
Students join the procession at Cranford Park for the time-honored tradition of fall convocation (pictured left). Convocation marks the start of the new academic year. The ceremony recognizes the beginning of students’ academic careers, much like commencement recognizes their completion, and allows students to learn about academic and UNC traditions as they arrive. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 2,000 attended. Note the line winding around Cranford Park back 10th Avenue to Gunter Hall. While faculty wear regalia at Convocation, students take a more informal approach than their predecessors at past formal academic events, such as Insignia Day (above) in 1913.

View the archive of UNC's “Then and Now” photos.