Washington's Birthday Dinner

Extinct Tradition

Among Cottey's earliest traditions is the celebration of George Washington's birthday each February. It was begun by Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard, who gave colonial parties for day students and their families around Washington's birthday.1 By 1915, the celebration included boarding students as well.2 The occasion involved dinner and dancing in Main Hall parlors ― all while dressed as "Stately colonial ladies and dignified, befrilled and bewigged gentlemen."2

Some of the early Washington celebrations included a Grand March, the traditional way to begin a formal ball by dancing through the parlors. There was a golden rule for participating in the Grand March of 1915: If you were not dressed in colonial style, Miss Rye saw to it that you were not in the march. That year, a prize was given to the best dancers: "Miss Boddie was the judge and the prize was awarded to the Misses Lindley and Schreckengast."2 The celebration ended at four o'clock, when dinner was served in the parlors.

The Washington dinner changed in later years. The Magnoperian and Emerson societies took charge of it, as they did other social events. The Grand March was replaced with a minuet, which was performed by students dressed as George and Martha Washington. George and Martha were chosen by popular vote each year ― and were sometimes the same women later voted to be Cottey Queens. In 1949, George Washington was played by Athletic Queen Barbara Moore, and Martha was portrayed by Beauty Queen Sharon Langohr.4 Other Cottey students dressed up as well and joined the Washingtons in a dance after dinner.

Washington's birthday party seems to have disappeared by the 1950s, likely overtaken by the society-sponsored Valentine's Day dinner.

Main Hall parlors, c. 1940
Main Hall parlors, where Washington's birthday party took place, c. 1940.5
Washington birthday party, 1938
"George Washington (Mable Croonquist), Martha Washington (Mary Frances Reid) and their colonial friends pause at the termination of the stately minuet," 1938.3

Works Cited:

  1. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  2. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1915. Print.
  3. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1938. Print.
  4. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1949. Print.
  5. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1940. Print.
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