beta theta chapter history

1800s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s - present

The Thirties

The traditions of excellence and diversity continued on from the twenties into the thirties. Of course, the depression altered lifestyles somewhat, but an attitude of optimism seemed to prevail despite the financial hard times. Colgate itself was in a period of relative stability after the rapid growth of the late teens and twenties. The psychology department won acclaim with Prof. Estabrook's experiments and the physical sciences continued to gain followers among student ranks. Many will recall the days of Prof. "Precisely" Smith and the careful attention to errant English on campus.

The social scene at the Beta house was of prime importance and it seems the activities and parties there disappointed no one. In the days of "Mother Olny," many brothers felt that cuisine needed some liquid supplement. With 50-55 fellows under the old Beta roof, it was sometimes difficult, if not impossible to get any word done and perhaps this accounts for the readjusted house priorities in favor of less brain-busting and more off campus adventures.

Much social activity revolved around Colgate's greatest gridiron successes as the legendary Andy Kerr led his teams to unparalleled success against nationally ranked foes. Many Betas were members of these fine teams including John Ors '32, Colgate's last All-American.

The Syracuse game rally was a spectacle that would set the hearts of the frosh afire with delight and amazement. And, all of the Beta house would go en masse to see the game played at Archbold Stadium.

Besides following the brothers on such trips, the pledges found numerous things to do. The chapter elders deemed it necessary for them to spend a winter's night in several small forays encircling Lake Moraine. Strict rules were enforced in this most enlightening task and pledges learned the importance of not getting lost. Being a pledge involved more than delight on the out-of-doors. There were also Beta history tests on Sunday morning. Some of the tasks, floor waxing, oven cleaning, and the like, provided important skills for later life.

The house underlined the singing tradition of Beta Theta Pi in 1933 with the establishment of the Beta song contest. Each year, the other fraternities would put up their best voices and the Betas would award their cup to the best quartet. After the award, the Betas, far and away the superior songsters, would prove it to their audience with numerous Beta melodies.

The generous nature of the Betas established an annual Christmas party for the children of Hamilton. This wonderful gesture represented the spirit of the fraternity. The brothers realized they were much better off than many in the lean years of the depression and took time and effort to share their good fortune with kids who had little to look forward to at Christmas. Later, this effort was furthered by cooperation from other fraternity houses that recognized the value of the Beta gesture.

Prohibition ended in 1934, however the house was at its "wettest" in 1936 was flooded due to poor timing on the part of the Hamilton water works. It seems the water was turned off at the mains to repair a leak. While turned off, the upstairs beta spigots were turned on in anticipation of the return of water. Hours passed and the brothers forgot about the open spigots until water was noticed running down the stairs in the small hours of the morning.

The thirties were, all in all, a happy, trouble free time at the Beta house, despite the problems of the world beyond Hamilton. Many athletes and campus leaders called Beta their home during this period preceding the turmoil which would change the world, Colgate, and the Beta Theta chapter in many ways.