Former ISU President Hilton part of ’53 Veishea celebration
—by Bill Haglund
I’ve watched, as a semi-interested observer, what was once an annual Springtime Iowa State University tradition fall by the wayside.
Of course, I’m talking of Veishea – a celebration that was, for decades, as much a part of Iowa State University as the annual Homecoming.
Some say Veishea out-lived its purpose. When it comes right down to it, however, Veishea was destroyed by students. Rather than celebrate the annual event, many students used it as an excuse to overdo just about everything students overdo on occasion.
While the vast majority of Iowa State students celebrated responsibly, it was a relative handful that ruined things for the majority with drunkenness spilling over into the streets of Campus Town, fights breaking out and just general rowdiness being displayed for all to see.
It left university officials with few choices and it came as no surprise that Veishea, in the form it had become known and celebrated, was ended.
When describing the students responsible for the ruination of Veishea, I’ve heard the word “idiots” bantered about. Perhaps that’s a strong term, but perhaps it was the alcohol that turned students into “idiots” if that term is to be used.
Hidden away among many boxes of “important” things I’ve saved for years are several from Iowa State. Included is an old basketball program from more than half-a-century ago. I found that program last week and, voila, packed away with the program was a program for a Veishea celebration. The program was titled “Idiotic Interlude.”
Wow. Here’s a program from 1953 and some students were proud to put on a program called “Idiotic Interlude.”
No, it wasn’t about parties, nor binge drinking, nor tipping over cars, nor taunting law enforcement. It was a real program, put on by students whom, I would assume at least, remained sober throughout.
It was billed as “Veishea Vodvil” and featured four different skits by Greek chapters at Iowa State. Among those were Alpha Gamma Delta (“Scandinavian Scampers”), Delta Tau Delta (“The Royal Flush”), Kappa Kappa Gamma (“Dark Horse Reigns”) and Chi Omega (“Syncopated Curriculum”).
The program included photos from each skit and it was certainly reminiscent of colleges and universities from more than half-a-century ago … beanies, top hats, white shirts and trousers, girls wearing skirts and dresses (yes, girls used to wear dresses to school every day). Boys, most of them, had their hair trimmed short, many of them the old flat-top style, and girls, of course, had their hair in 1950s style.
Each skit was outlined in a synopsis.
“Scandinavian Scampers” told the tale of a “gala celebration of forthcoming marriage of Oola (Norwegian girl) to Iowa State Engineer. Father refused to permit marriage till he founds out the engineer’s name is Olson. Father consents and they all toast Oola.”
The “Royal Flush” tells of “a plot by the Queen of Spades to get her weakling son married off to the Queen of Hearts and also gain power in the Heart Kingdom. The Jack of Clubs, who is the queen’s real lover, rescues her at the crucial point and denounces the bad queen.”
“Dark Horse Reigns” told “the story of a presidential convention at Iowa State. The ‘dark horse’ represents what the students want and is chosen president. Also represents our new prexy Hilton.” (Oh, the Hilton name is pretty prominent at Iowa State today!).
Finally, “Syncopated Curriculum” tells of a “coed who is sick of taking home economics. The different divisions Applied Art, Child Development, Foods and Nutrition, and Textiles and Clothing, come in and tell the merits of their departments. The coed is convinced and decides to stay in Home Ec.”
Sounds like a pretty off-the-wall program to me.
Perhaps, if more of that was still around 50 years later, we’d still be celebrating Veishea at Iowa State Univeristy.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and the Dallas County News. He can be reached at email@example.com