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2015 Fall Issue 1 (September 25, 2015)

A Knight’s Tale: Part 1

September 25, 2015
By Tucker Nelson

This feature is the third incarnation of a column created by Mark A. Greene, Carleton Archivist from 1985 to 1989. Greene’s column, an update of an earlier feature called “The Carletonian Then” ran in 46 issues, mostly covering humorous or intriguing stories from past issues of the ‘Tonian. Staff writer Anne Feeney took over the column for seven issues in 1990 and 1991. I’m taking my turn at raiding the archives to share the heritage of our great institution. It’s the sort of thing that gives me the warm fuzzies. For my first column, I’d like to answer a question some of my fellow freshmen and I asked during New Student Week: “Why are we called the Carleton Knights?”

The 1922 homecoming parade to Laird Field was led by Marvel Dundas, riding a black horse while “clad in steel-linked jacket and armor, equipped with spear and shield.” A Carletonian headline called him the Carleto-Nite, and the tradition of an official Homecoming Knight began in 1924. Originally a figurehead for the pre-football game parade, the Knight evolved into Carleton’s version of the Homecoming King. The Knight was elected from the senior class and represented “the fighting spirit of Carleton, exemplified in his athletic endeavor and participation in activities.” Joining the Knight in 1936 was the Homecoming Queen, a sophomore chosen for “beauty, popularity, campus activity, and for her interest in and support of athletic teams.” In 1943, Blue Jean Joe and Dungaree Daisy presided over homecoming, followed by three years of a king and queen. The Knight was restored in 1947 to bolster post-war spirit among students. The tradition died out by the late 1970s, but “Sir Carl” in Upper Sayles is a lasting reminder of what used to be.

The Carleton student body originally called themselves “Carletonites” and later the familiar “Carls,” names that were applied to athletic teams. The September 30, 1950 issue of The Carletonian reported that when a homecoming committee member asked what the football team was actually called, newspaper staff “blushed to admit that the reason he could not remember their nickname was because they have never had one.” Although “Carls” remains a sufficient nickname for students in general, it did not evoke a strong enough sense of pride for sporting contests. In a 1938 Carletonian bit prefaced “I’d Like to See...” one response was “a Carleton mascot,” so the notion was nothing new. In response to this conundrum, the paper sponsored a contest to choose a permanent nickname. The most popular submissions were Cannonneers, Caravan, Cavaliers, Cobras, Cougars, Crusaders, and—well, I shouldn’t even have to mention the last one. In a blatant protest of all things alliterate, but mostly as a tribute to the decades-old homecoming tradition, the new nickname was announced October 21, 1950, and we’ve been the Knights ever since. Alex Fremling and Thomas Thorsen (class of ‘53) received $5 for their winning entry to The Carletonian’s contest. In the next edition of “Raiders,” I’ll discuss why some students have wanted to say “Goodnight” to the Knight nickname.

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