Today, you can often spot a first-year by the lanyard around their necks and eager, wide-eyed expression on their face. (I miss the times where everything in college, even eating cereal and Fro-yo for lunch, was exciting.) However, back in the day, first-years on campus were even more distinguishable — the entire class (the entire, male, class) had to wear a dink until the upperclassmen determined they no longer had to.
What is a dink? It is a brown bucket hat with the class year embroidered on it. The Marching 97 still continues to use them today, but the class-wide dink was in effect until the early 1970s.
Not only were the dinks required, but there were other rules for first-years as well, and they were listed in the handbook.
1. All freshmen shall wear regulation brown dinks on the campus from 8 a.m. Monday to 12 noon Saturday and at all football games during the year.
2. Each freshman shall wear on his dink an identification tag of the approved type bearing his name.
3. All freshmen shall learn the major school songs and cheers.
4. All freshmen shall attend class meetings.
5. All freshmen shall attend pep rallies when called upon by cheerleaders.
6. All freshmen shall be seated in the special freshmen cheering section at athletic games as announced.
7. Freshman regulations shall remain in effect until removed by Cyanide.
The tradition of wearing dinks is cool because it allowed first-years to clearly know who was in their class. But, it is interesting that it is technically hazing on an institutional level and imposes a hierarchy between classes — whether that was merely visual or ran deeper than that, only alums can explain.
I would love if rule No. 3 was still enforced today — while the alma mater is introduced to the first-year class at the rally (unless you are a member of the class of 2015), many students never learn the alma mater or other traditional Lehigh songs like “Lehigh Will Shine” or “Goblet.”
Also, in the 1931 Freshman Handbook, it says that the freshmen could not wear college colors until Founder’s Day, were supposed to wear black socks and ties daily and were not allowed to be on the grass.
Another tradition tied into the wearing of dinks is the Dink Hop — which was an annual dance held for the first-year class sponsored by the sophomore class, class cabinet or Gryphon society, depending on the year. In the days before women were at Lehigh, the purpose of the Dink Hop was to introduce the freshmen class to the women of nearby colleges, like Moravian and Cedar Crest. Couples for the night were paired by height.
Who enforced all of these rules for the freshmen class? It was not the administration — it was Cyanide, a junior class leadership honor society that planned the annual tug-of-war against the Lafayette freshmen class and rivalry week events and enforced the dink wearing and the other rules for freshmen.
The bonfire the Thursday or Friday before the Lafayette game was important for the freshmen class. They had to stand guard at the woodpile so that Lafayette students would not come light it before it was time. Also, if the flames were deemed high enough by Cyanide, the regulations for the class were suspended, including dink wearing.
After the bonfire, the freshmen class would march across the penny bridge (called so because of its one-cent toll — today it is known as the Fahy Bridge or New Street Bridge) in their pajamas to serenade the women of Moravian.
I certainly would not want to have to wear business formal to class every day, but otherwise the freshmen regulations seem fun and a bonding experience for the class. It instilled school spirit and a hatred of Lafayette from the beginning — and who can argue with that?