States Dinner

Extinct Tradition

The States Dinner was among the most colorful of Cottey traditions, when students dressed to represent their state while entertaining each other with skits, songs, and poetry. Members of each state or region sat together in Main Hall's dining room. Missourians, being the largest group, always gathered at the long central table.1 The festive dinner evolved out of the State Clubs, which were organized early in Cottey's history to stimulate enrollment.5 The dinner was also an outgrowth of the states-themed masquerade party held in Neale Hall in 1922.2 The States Dinner was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s, and became an annual tradition by 1935.1

At the dinner, each state or group of states "planned table decorations and a skit to typify their state."5 They performed these skits for their fellow classmates while members of the faculty waited tables. Awards were given for the best skit, costumes, and table décor. The loving cup ― a special award ― was given to the state with the highest percentage increase in enrollment since the previous year.4 Above all else, the States Dinner was full of good-humor and friendly competition. The 1949 Cottey annual staff put it succinctly when they remarked, "Of course each state is the best―but listen to us argue it out."3

1950 States Dinner
States Dinner, c. 1950
A dining room full of colorful characters.5
A States Dinner skit, c. 1950
The winning States Dinner stunt, performed by the Eastern states and students from outside the U.S.5
1938 States Dinner
States Dinner, 1938
"Catherine Gates [left] presided as toastmistress at the annual States Dinner, March 8."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Marjorie Sawin and Lillian Mills―a section of the Kansas table, the dust bowl."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Mary Frances Reid and Catherine Gates of Illinois collaborated with the Hossierite [sic Hoosierite], Martha Ellen Wiesman, in presenting a skit of Marquette and Joliet [sic Jolliet]."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Missouri, feudin' hillbillies, held sway at a long table in the center of the dining room."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Mary Eunice Layson [left] impersonated Bob Burns from her native Arkansas."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Iowa depicted a Middle-western newspaper office with Dale Russell as the industrious editor and Irma Beals, his typist. Nebraska's historical events were the theme of Clarice Purdy's poetry [on right]."4
States Dinner, 1938
"South Dakota came―big, bad Injuns."4
States Dinner, 1938
"North Dakotans were the pale faces at the same table."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Dorothy Searles of Washington sang 'Out Where the West Begins.'"4
States Dinner, 1938
"Marie Vigil brought the atmosphere of New Mexico in Mexican song."4
States Dinner, 1938
"The Texas group were lovely Southern belles seated about the plantation table."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Colorado proclaimed its vigorous climate and varied industries in a pantomime skit read by Edna Mae Dansdill."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Paul Bunyan lived again the persons of the Minnesota trio, Rosendahl, Langager, and Herrmann."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Wyoming and Montana joined in recounting the wonders of Yellowstone as seen by tourists and the native ranger."4
States Dinner, 1938
"Elizabeth Walker [left], from Washington, D.C., represented Uncle Sam."4
  States Dinner, 1938
"Dr. [Orpha] Stockard presented Kansas with the loving cup for the greatest percentage increase in enrollment."4

Works Cited:

  1. Stockard, Dr. Orpha. Cottey College: The First 75 Years. Joplin, MO: Joplin Printing Co., 1961. Print.
  2. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. The Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  3. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1949. Print.
  4. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1938. Print.
  5. Thompson, Joyce. "Cottey Junior College: Cottey Tradition." The P.E.O. Record. Feb. 1951: 16-17. Print.
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