“Beanie-Bearers” of High Point College, Part 1: The Early Days, 1924-1929

A case in Smith Library holds several artifacts from the earliest days of our campus. Hidden among iconic artifacts including our university seal and mace is a small striped felt hat, sometimes known as a “dink.” These hats were once worn by freshmen when they entered HPU, then High Point College, to form a sense of community and to differentiate newcomers from upperclassmen. The “rat caps”, however, were not without controversy. Read on for an illustrated history of the High Point College Beanie.

 

The Early Days, 1924-1928

Dinks, also called beanies, were popular in colleges across the country in the 20th century. At HPU, it appears that the ‘beanie tradition’ began with the founding of the college in 1924. While we don’t see any mention of them in the college’s founding document, a 1928 article from the Hi-Po bemoans freshman wearing their ‘caps’ only when they want to, rather than as required in the ‘blue book’–presumably a student code of conduct. The article reads:

“Freshmen–a Problem

Now that the law-breaking sophomores, who paddled a couple of freshmen, have departed from the campus; now that justice has been done, a policy has been laid down, and the yearling sit on the protected throne, a question arises. Who is going to be responsible for the actions of some of these youngsters who have not earned the high place they hold by virtue, but who had it handed to them on the proverbial silver platter?

Much discussion has been held regarding this very question. The upperclassmen are not at all pleased with the attitude of many of the newcomers. They are haughty, they are proud, yet no one knows why they should be. In classrooms, in halls, in the dining room, they take their places first. Is this a desirable state of affairs? Is this the price we must all pay for the passing of the student organizations which formerly handled these problems efficiently? The “blue book” says that freshman shall wear caps. Do they do it? Yes–when they want to. Are they, as a class, courteous? The above citations don’t prove it. The way the upperclassmen feel about it is that the policy will not lead to harmony and spirit. It seems like a parent keeping her child away from the other children and consequently bringing him up to be a sissy. And by the way, the word “sissy” doesn’t look very good along with “panther.”

The question evolves itself, therefore, into this one. Are we going to make pampered children out of our freshmen, or are we going to make them real, honest-to-goodness Panthers? Since the new regime is in power, teach the freshmen to speak, to be courteous, to be Panthers.”

–Article from page two of the Fall 1928 issue of the Hi-Po.

The image to the right, which originally illustrated the introduction to the “Freshman” section of the 1927 Zenith Yearbook, depicts a scene much like the one described above, with two students–one freshman wearing the dink and one not–pausing at the formidable entrance to the “Sophomore Court,” where their beanie transgressions were mercilessly tried and punished.

As freshmen grew more and more resentful of the tradition, administration began debating whether or not the treatment of non-beanie-wearing freshmen qualified as hazing–a practice which had been recently prohibited by state law, as shown in the 1913 legal document below:

“It shall be unlawful for any student or students in any college or school in this State to engage in what is known as hazing .

That for the purposes of this act hazing shall be defined to be “to annoy by playing abusive or ridiculous tricks upon any student, to frighten, scold, beat or harass him, or to subject him to personal indignity.”

-North Carolina General Assembly

March 12, 1913

1929: Cap Regulations Suspended

At this time, freshmen were required to wear the caps from Fall orientation until Easter. The following semester, in January 1929, the Dean of Men announced (as shown in the headline to the left) that students would be able to discard their caps immediately following the article’s publishing. The caps, which had been worn daily for months, were frayed and damaged by this point in the academic year. In another article from this edition, the Dean of Men is referenced saying that freshmen will likely not be required to wear the beanies during the following school year.

Although the resistance was not particularly strong, one student Hi-Po writer opposed this change, writing:

“Probably the freshman would have a more marked respect for upperclassmen if they were made more conscious of their inferiority. There should be some distinction made between the freshmen and the more mature students. The custom of compelling the freshmen to wear the freshmen caps should not be abolished.”

–Article from page two of the January 24, 1929 issue of the Hi-Po.

The Hi-Po’s prediction came true, and the following year beanies were absent from freshman traditions. Anti-hazing movements led more colleges to abandon the dinks. HPC’s Dean of Men, Professor Johnson, gave an interview with the Associated Press calling the practice ‘anti-democratic’ and stating that it may lead to ‘antisocial tendency’. Following this decision, dinks disappeared from campus for decades.

After this announcement, the caps disappeared from campus for the next 26 years. Part 2 of this series will explore the resurgence of the HPU dinks in 1955 and the events that occurred thereafter.

-Blog post by Laura Silva, Archives