beta theta chapter history

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

The Fifties

The Beta house enjoyed a unique style all its own through the '50s. The emphasis was on style and “smooth operation” rather than particular sports, class distinctions, or other “labels”. As ever, our strength was in providing an atmosphere for individual excellence as well as social purpose. Surely, the fifties found the social life at Beta unparalleled.

The brothers had a fine flair for parties and other extracurricular affairs and were popular around the college. Some have dismissed the image as "preppy," but then, they were probably disappointed in rush. Those who really knew the brotherhood saw the good fellowship, spirit, and pride that were basic to a Beta in the 1950's. Surely, the social life surrounding an organization is important to its atmosphere and image, but it is the day to day lifestyles and long lasting relationships and principles which are retained long after the times at the “Sally Club” are forgotten. In this way, the members of the Beta house during the 50's are well remembered for social activities, but their contribution to the special style and character of the Beta house today goes beyond that.

Singing at the Beta house was at its best in these years and, sporting a new/used piano, the house was often filled with songs after dinner. Dinner was a jacket and tie event, in long-standing fashion. Often, members were found in the card room playing bridge or poker for long periods of time.

The brothers made and effort through the fifties to bring the academic standing of the house up to the all-men's average and from '57-'59 showed steady improvement. What the simple statistics fail to show, however, is the depth of involvement of all the brothers in many other areas which should also be considered a measure of their talent. They organized all-campus concerts, sponsored programs for the village children, took part in the leadership of campus organizations such as the Maroon, Salmagundi, senate, interfraternity council, and music clubs, to mention a few.

Chapter meetings were sometimes held in the chapter room. Much discussion centered on finances, parties, rushing, and pledge training and that ever elusive all-men's average. Though the house often looked the worse for wear on Sunday morning, the brothers always made sure it was presentable by lunch time. Long time chef "Rip" Ripley usually produced the best food on the row, budget permitting. And Katie made the place presentable by cleaning up until her retirement in 1961. All in all, the brothers had enjoyable living arrangements albeit a bit crowded at times.

Pledge activities often included the Dorg Ceremony and a revised and somewhat different version of the pledge walk, which found pledges wandering about in the wilds of Chenango and Madison Counties at odd times of the night. The usual pledge tasks: painting, washing windows, cleaning the oven and waxing the floors were assigned and doing assorted personal chores for brothers in order to work off “black marks” given during “chair sessions”, meal times and other opportunities provided to the brothers. The pledge banquet, a long standing tradition, remained the highlight of the pledging period.

By the beginning of the sixties, Beta was in a respected place at Colgate, after the difficult rebuilding years followed by World War II. The house exuded friendliness and a style all its own. The fifties brought about the beginning of trends and lifestyles that were to reach their peak in the sixties and set about the process of reexamination of fraternity values which characterizes the present view of fraternities at Colgate. In many ways, the late forties and fifties were like a second beginning for the chapter as they were for the college, following the interruption of WWII.