The 1957 Homecoming Queen, Nancy Jensen, and her attendants in the homecoming parade.
Happy Homecoming, Cobbers!
Though Concordia has long held homecoming celebrations, many of the familiar traditions of today did not start until around the 1920s. In 1921, the first homecoming bonfire was held. At that time, the freshmen participated in an activity called “the gathering of the leaves,” which served a dual purpose: kindling was collected for the fire, and campus was cleaned up in preparation for returning alumni. The kindling was then guarded around the clock by two male upperclassmen in order to prevent raids from neighboring schools. But in 1937, the bonfire was banned by the Moorhead Fire Department due to safety reasons. Luckily, it returned in 1946, and continues to this day.
The homecoming parade is still a beloved tradition, but it has changed dramatically over the course of Concordia’s history. In 1936, there was no parade in order to cut costs during the Great Depression. Various campus organizations would decorate ornate, over-the-top floats, putting in a great amount of detail and creativity. At the end of the parade, the homecoming queen and her court would award a prize to the float that they deemed the best one.
Concordia’s first homecoming queen, Valborg Bjornson, was crowned in 1926. From then until 1974, it was only a queen that was crowned. In 1974, it was decided that the competition was sexist and the Don Awards were introduced. The Don Awards were presented on “Collegiate Night” to six male and six female students who were recognized for their participation and achievements within the school. The awards continued until 1976, and in 1977, both a homecoming king and queen were crowned. The tradition has continued to this day, and Concordia has honored a king and queen ever since.
While the present-day Johnny Holm dance is always a well-attended event, dancing was not even allowed on campus until 1969. In 1974, the first homecoming dance was held, though it was hosted off-campus at a local hotel. In 1979, the dance was held from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. in Memorial Auditorium on the Friday of homecoming weekend.
In an interview for the Concordian last year, 2017 Homecoming Chair and Homecoming Queen Corinne Burrell offered her perspective on the changes to traditions over the years.
“I think it’s really important that we respect and honor those traditions. Even if they don’t go all the way back to 1891, every step of the way was still formative. It’s important that we respect them as a way to celebrate what we’ve gone through together and how far we’ve come.”
Though the various homecoming traditions have undergone many changes, they are still beloved by many past and present Cobbers, and pave the way for the future.
In April, 1899, just eight short years after Concordia's founding, an epidemic broke out at the school. When the sickness was confirmed to be Typhoid fever, Concordia's staff sought out the cause, knowing it was usually spread through food or drink. They discovered a broken sewer pipe that ran underground between the kitchen and dining hall. Because of the pipe's fractured state, kitchen slop water had been running under the dining room floor and the staff deemed this to be the cause of the Typhoid fever breakout. After consulting the Moorhead board of health, Concordia was deemed safe enough to remain open, but the boarding department was required to close. To help alleviate rooming issues, Mr. and Mrs. Rasmus Bogstad opened their home's doors to Ms. Helga Fjelstad and her boarders. This situation worked smoothly for a few weeks, until Rasmus Bogstad came down with the fever. The family had been careful to not bring contaminated food into the house from the school, but it was discovered that a jar of butter was the cause of the second breakout. Professor Bogstad became very ill and contracted pneumonia in addition to typhoid fever; he was in and out of consciousness for weeks. The youngest Bogstad son was sent away to avoid contamination, but daughter Huldah Johanne Marie was less fortunate. She fell ill to the fever and both Bogstad family members spent weeks convalescing in their rooms. The pair recovered by mid-summer and spent the rest of their vacation in Ashby, Minnesota, soaking in the sun and gaining their strength.
Family Weekend is an exciting and joyful event that occurs every fall here at Concordia. Mothers, fathers, siblings, and other relatives are welcomed onto campus with open arms and lots of activities to entertain them. This tradition goes way back to May 1935 when Concordia celebrated its first Parents' Day. The pioneer Parents' Day was organized by the Student Forum and comprised of a program and tea. The affair slowly grew into a weekend long celebration and events such as concerts and worship services were added to the lineup. Disappointingly, Parents' Weekend was discontinued during World War II along with Homecoming events and both the Cobber beanie and ring. In 1962, Parents' Weekend was gladly reinstated. About a decade and a half later, the event underwent a name change to Family Weekend. This title was more encompassing of the siblings and other relatives in attendance. Since then, the goal of Family Weekend has burgeoned into featuring the vibrant religious, academic, and social life experienced at Concordia. In order to give families a glimpse of the Concordia lifestyle, class visitations, dormitory open houses, football games, and talent showcases have all become regular features of Family Weekend. A highly popular event is the ice cream social which was introduced in 1981. Not only does Family Weekend celebrate the family that Cobbers grew up with, but also the family that they are developing at their second home: Concordia.
If you are at all familiar with Concordia College, you are probably aware of the Cobber Beanie. However, you may be unfamiliar with its history. The very first beanies were known as Green Caps and were introduced in the fall of 1922. The Green Caps were made of green felt and were decorated with a maroon ribbon. During World War II, the German-produced dye became inaccessible and thus signaled the end of the Green Cap era in 1942. Fortunately, beanies would return some years later new and improved. In 1954, first-year orientation clubs were born and beanies were reintroduced in 1955. The new beanies were gold with a maroon C, which is the same style used today (transfer students receive a maroon beanie with a gold C). The beanie tradition has been going strong ever since with the exception of the 1965 hiatus when the freshmen refused to don their beanies. The duration of which freshmen are expected to wear their beanies has fluctuated with the times. In their early years, beanies were to be worn through the entirety of Homecoming. As the years passed, beanies were donned until the first Cobber touchdown in the fall football season. Later it was changed to the first pep rally of the year. In 1996 the Beanie Toss was introduced, which is the tradition followed by students today. The Beanie Toss follows Opening Convocation and the freshmen gather on Olin Hill to free themselves of their beanies signaling the end of Orientation. Beanies are a rite of passage and freshmen should wear them proudly, for it keeps the Cobber spirit and tradition alive and well. One only must be careful to not let a Dragon snatch it!
Corn Feeds are a special time to gather with fellow Cobbers and to bond over a meal of Concordia's mascot... corn on the cob. The following is the proposal used for the 1985 Corn Feeds:
"April 23, 1985
Cobber Corn Feeds were initiated in 1973 with events in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Fargo/Moorhead. Although it began solely as an alumni event, the Corn Feed purpose has expanded to strengthening the relationships between Alumni, parents, students, and friends at Concordia. Corn Feeds are expensive, however their importance is as follows:
I. Corn Feeds allow over 3,000 people to gather and re-connect themselves with Concordia and its mission. (approximately 16.6% of our constituency)
II. Corn Feeds allow Alumni, parents, friends, and students to renew their relationships with each other, strengthening Concordia's 'family.'
III. Corn Feeds are a tradition. Our constituency have begun to expect them. Cutting the number would inspire negative feelings among much of our constituency.
IV. Corn Feeds are recognized nationally. Concordia's reputation outside of our constituency is strengthened due to the Corn Feeds' uniqueness.
V. Corn Feeds help to increase Alumni giving through the 'warming up with an event' approach."
There will be a Corn Feed tonight, August 19th, on Bishop Whipple Lawn at 5:30 PM.
The 1929 Concordia yearbook, The Scout, features an interesting extra-curricular: the Konkordia Kookoo Klub. At first I feared it was some sort of division of the KKK, but fortunately, it was not. The Konkordia Kookoo Klub had a mission to "instill a little bit of 'kookooness' into the mind of every Cobber and friend of Concordia, thus enriching life--and making it more worthwhile." Their motto was "life is just one kick in the pants after another!" Even more amusing was their application. Here are some highlights...
"Application to the Konkordia Kookoo Klub
Information: Remember, every word will be held against you so answer carefully. Do not answer with invisible ink. Please answer these questions in alphabetical order.
1. What is your name? (No aliases accepted)
2. Do you think? If so, why? When?
3. Do you smoke, drink, go stepping, indulge in ski-jumping, or partake in any such form of dissipation?
4. Do you ever actually study?
5. Have any of your ancestors ever had any dangerous contagious diseases such as dandruff, halitosis, B.O.?
6. Do you always get up for breakfast?
a. Do you brush your teeth before or while eating?
b. Do you ever come late for meals?
7. Can you sing, dance, play music, basketball, or tag?
a. If so, who said you could?
8. When did you first feel the conversion to Kookooness coming on?
a. How did it affect you? b. Where?
9. If admitted, into this austere secret and exalted organization would you live up to its laws? Its by-laws? Tri-laws?
11. Are you sure?
12. Do you chew and masticate thoroughly your finger nails? (Justify your answer by means of the Epicurean philosophy.)
13. Honestly now, have you sworn off slapping prexy on the back?
14. Do you go to the bookstore for your mail or your female?
15. Are you kookoo? (Maybe, perhaps, and no are acceptable as answers)
16. Do you believe in letting your studies interfere with your extra-curricular activities? (Shame on you)
17. Are you a junior, senior, or a Norwegian? (If so, what part?)
18. Do you read, write, or wrong?
19. Define IT. (No other case of this pronoun permitted)
20. Has anyone ever viciously accused you of thinking? Cite one instance."
Current students and alumni can all agree that Concordia has an unparalleled sense of community. Concordia acts as a second home for many and the bonds built here are analogous to familial ties. This deep-rooted sense of care dates back to Concordia's early years. An iconic figure who helped to instill this sense of family was Helga Fjelstad. She was hired in 1895 to be the matron of the school. As head matron, Fjelstad's duties included feeding the students (which she did on a very small budget) and overseeing all the activity pertaining to the dining hall. She took this task seriously and was known to teach students proper etiquette because some did not even know how to use a fork. Fjelstad was also admired for her comforting presence. She would often invite students into her kitchen for some hot coffee and free advice. Students who were close to her recalled how Fjelstad "always gave us kindly advice and comfort when it was most needed and did it in a way... that reminded us of mother." Expanding the family to also include sisters, the Big Sister program was established in 1922. Similar to the current Peer Mentor system, new students were assigned to upper-class women who helped them acclimate to college life. Big Sisters met incoming Cobbers at the train station, brought them to their dorms, helped them to register, and gave them tips and tricks to being a successful college student. To symbolize these strong connections post-graduation, the official college ring was introduced in 1920. It was designed by Concordia alumnus and jeweler Oscar Martinson. The Cobber Ring has become a widely recognized, trademark symbol of Concordia College and connects the Cobber family from all corners of the world.
When Concordia College first opened its doors on October 15th, 1891, there were twelve students in attendance with three professors to teach them. Ingebrikt F. Grose acted as principal and also taught English literature and religion. Elmer D. Busby was given the subjects math, natural sciences, and religion to teach. Busby's wife filled the role of dean of women. The final teacher was Caroline Finseth and she taught piano. Although an enrollment of twelve students seems bleak today, Principal Grose was encouraged by this number. Surrounding schools commenced with fewer students than twelve. As per usual of the time and place, the weather and agricultural activity played a large role in the number of students at Concordia. By January 1892, when the fields were bare and frozen, more than 200 students deluged the school. An enrollment of 200 was unprecedented at the time. Surrounding and competing schools considered 125 students to be plentiful and some schools even lost pupils to Concordia. The first crop of students (1891-1892) received room, board (with fully equipped facilities), and tuition for the whole year for $114.75. While this may seem astonishingly low today, the expenses were difficult to meet: at the time, Moorhead was a poor, dirty, pioneer community. The Christian Academy aspect of Concordia was not taken lightly. Students were only allowed to partake and visit places of amusement approved by the faculty. Tobacco, alcohol, and saloons were absolutely out of the question. By 1901 dancing and card playing were added to the list of prohibited activities. Students were required to attend chapel and recitations unless excused. Furthermore, pupils were mandated to stay in their rooms during study hours, which started at 7:00 pm. At 10:00 pm on the dot, wooden sidewalks were retracted, doors were locked up, and the kerosene lamps were extinguished. Students who were not tucked away by curfew time might have faced expulsion or a loss of funds paid. These constraints weren't altogether disliked, as they may be today. Rather, some appreciated the regulations. An 1893 class member once said "us plow boys... learned to have better manners."
In the mid-1970s, Cobbers felt cramped and irritation was on the rise. Students were housed in the Cobber Motel (located opposite of the athletic field), in a block of rooms at the Ramada Inn, and in study rooms. In 1976, the Bogstad Manor apartments were built to provide more on campus housing. 1980 welcomed the new science building which would house the biology and home economics departments; both departments had been lacking a permanent facility for decades. In 1987, Cobbers still felt crowded. The library was often too full and loud, post office boxes were shared, and parking spaces were a rarity to come across. The only way to expand was to keep moving along Eighth Street. Concordia slowly acquired property from complying sellers. The college put forth a great effort to be a good neighbor, and vice presidents made personal calls to civilians and school officials to ensure that Concordia's projects would improve the property. One heartbreaking procurement resulted in the loss of the dearly beloved Tastee Freez on the corner of Eighth Street and Twelfth Avenue. However, this was a necessity in order to build the Outreach Center which dealt with community programs. In 1986, the Olin Art and Communications Center was constructed and was connected by skyway to the Frances Frazier Comstock Theatre. Another apartment complex, Bogstad East, was constructed and opened in 1988. The following year, the new maintenance and office buildings were completed. However, President Dovre didn't only expand; he also worked to maintain and beautify what was already on campus. Old Main, Grose Hall, Academy Hall, Bishop Whipple Hall, Brown Hall, Fjelstad Hall, and the dining hall all underwent renovation and remodeling during his term. The first full-time groundskeeper, Arden Toso, said "kids need beauty too!" in regards to the President Dovre's mission to give the grounds a park-like feeling.
The construction of East Complex signaled a radical change for Concordia. In October 1965, it was approved that a men's and women's dorm would be built on the sixty-five acre area where previously only athletic fields had been. The facility would house 462 students and would have an attached food service. The reason why this was a progressive move was that it was a divergence from tradition. Like many other American colleges, Concordia had previously separated the male and female dorms to different locations. Women living in dormitories used to be constricted by a curfew of 7:30 PM on weeknights and 10 PM on weekends. In 1951, President Knutson extended curfews to later hours and in 1973, the student affairs committee fought to drop all curfews, a battle which they won. With the construction of East Complex, men and women would be living in the same structure, but in different wings. The project was finished in 1968 and cost 2.6 million dollars. It was financed largely by a federal loan from the Housing and Home Finance Agency. Each component received a namesake from generous donors: the two four-story dormitories were dubbed Hallett and Erickson Hall and were connected by Grant Commons.