When "Beanie Royalty" ruled the freshman class

Lisa Geiger
October 27, 2016

Have you cast your vote for Beanie King? For 50 years, the Freshman Frolic kicked off DePaul's social season. Freshmen selected their class king and queen, and upperclassmen formally welcomed the new cohort. As the first major dance of the academic year, the Frolic introduced new students to their peers as well as to DePaul faculty and staff.

The Freshman Frolic was typically held in late October and capped Freshmen Week activities that pitted the new students against upperclassmen, often led by the Wranglers, a Lincoln Park campus social club. The Wranglers helped enforce the beanie system, which required freshmen men and women to don the iconic green headwear while on campus or suffer trial and punishment at "kangaroo kourt."

Freshmen, 1949

Freshmen sport green beanies in the fall of 1948. DePaulia Yearbook 1949. (DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives)

Football matches were popular Frolic preludes, usually between DePaul and Loyola freshmen or DePaul freshmen and sophomore players. The major pre-Frolic affair was the annual Pushball tournament: freshmen played upperclassmen in a muddy battle to score points pushing an eight-foot inflated ball. A freshman victory earned them the right to remove their beanies beginning the night of the Freshman Frolic. A loss meant freshmen continued to wear beanies until Homecoming in November. 

The Frolic, held at least as early as 1924, opened the social calendar in style. The dance was typically held in an upscale lounge or hotel, or at the school gymnasium decked out in green and white freshmen colors. A live orchestra performed, and students and staff alike stepped to the sounds of Ernie Stauber's Red Racketeers, "Tweet" Hogan's Rhythm Kings, or Pete Petan and the Rhythmaries. The school newspaper, campus sororities, and the freshman dance committee sold bid books for the event in which ladies recorded the names of their dance partners.

The crowning of Lord and Lady Beanie, sometimes called the Beanie King and Queen, capped the Frolic. The beanie court campaign was no joke, as the College of Commerce, College of Liberal Arts, Physical Education campus, and the School of Music each elected their own set of candidates in the weeks leading up to the dance. Frolic attendees cast the final round of ballots, and the previous year's winners crowned the new court in a ceremony after midnight.

The Frolic became known as the Beanie Bounce in the 1950s, and it continued to be the capstone to orientation events into the 1970s, known as the Pushball Dance. By the mid-1970s, as enrollment approached 8,000 undergraduates, beanies and kangaroo kourt had fallen out of practice. A leak metaphorically and physically destroyed the pushball in 1975, as interest in a formal freshman dance appears to have deflated as well. New activities, however, have sprung up to help freshmen meet their peers and explore the city, including the Premiere DePaul summer orientation, Welcome Week activities, New Student Service Day, and the Chicago Quarter program - formal wear (and beanies) not required. 

Left: 1944 Freshman Frolic Ticket. Right: Undated Dance Bid Book. (DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives)