Tidbit: A Hairy Affair

Jeff Sauve Assoc. College Archivist Shaw-Olson Center for College History

“Hear ye! Hear ye! All males of the realm will be banished if found with a razor in their possession after the Yuletide Holiday.It takes a heap of growin’ to make whiskers into beards,” stated the Manitou Messenger in 1948. A mostly forgotten student activity from the late 1940s through the 1950s was the beard-growing contest for the annual Winter Sports Day (typically held in mid-February).

The weeks leading up to Winter Sports Day witnessed Ole men sometimes struggling to grow worthy whiskers. Men were warned that head-starts would be penalized by one inch. These hairy Oles faced relentless itching [guessing as I’ve never attempted a beard] and a fine of fifty cents if caught shaving.

But there were rewards to consider if a beard was a success. A Messenger editorial extolled that Viking manhood was at stake as well as the coveted $10 awarded in each of the following categories:

Store Olav award (greatest growth)
Erik den Rode award (the reddest)
Svart og Stygg award (black and dirty)
Nesten Ingen award (he tried)
Herald Haarfagre award (most unique beard)

In 1947 the beard-growing judges stole the show with their antics. After the basketball game and a few songs provided by John Sibole’s ’49 barbershop quartet, the judges consisting of Profs Art Paulson, Hjalmar Lokensgaard, Harold Ditmanson, and Dean Martin Cole appeared wearing fake beards.

The student audience was stunned, as each of the judges had grown a beard in less than thirty minutes. The judges awarded prizes among themselves in a “Mutual Admiration Society” gesture. The Messenger reported, “The winning judges graciously declined to accept the prizes, and the student winners were announced.”

One of the student winners was Elsworth Buskirk ’50 who won most unique beard with his beard cut in the letters to spell St. Olaf. Buskirk would later receive his physiology PhD and serve on the faculty at Pennsylvania State University.

Jeff Sauve
Assoc. College Archivist
Feb. 1, 2006