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First Person

Only at BYU


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During the ’50s and ’60s, BYU coeds could wear slacks only for th eprecommencement jaunt around campus, as shown here in 1954. Dress and grooming standards continue to be a part of BYU’s distinctive culture.

Aside from several references to helping the statue of Brigham Young do the “funky chicken,” the memories alumni shared of encountering BYU’s culture were as varied as they were fun. We hope you will enjoy these stories of BYU’s endearing peculiarities as much as we did.

The Funky Chicken and Hawaii Five-O

Catherine Larsen Beardall, ’90, Layton, Utah

Do you remember when Brigham Young’s statue could do the “funky chicken”? I came to BYU in 1986 from far-away Virginia. For years I had heard stories about the fun traditions that were BYU‘s alone. I was so excited to finally be on campus that I wanted to experience them all the first day! I grabbed my new roommates, and we ran across campus at dusk to see the legs of the Brigham Young statue bump knees. Of course, the light reflecting off the windows behind did the trick! Next we ran to the library and waited for closing so we could dance to Hawaii Five-O tunes. Then we sat down and learned the “Cougar Fight Song” by heart. The next day and every weekend after, we visited the many ward dances on campus, dressed in costumes from either the ’60s or ’70s. And each night we ended our day’s adventures with apartment prayer. Where else would a group of young girls, so full of the excitement of life and learning, kneel together and pray? My memories ofBYU are not at all like the memories of graduates of other colleges. They are singular and specific to the one-of-a-kind culture that exists at BYU. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fun under the Elms

James E. Lewis, ’75, Sylmar, Calif.

From 1972 to 1975 while pursuing my studies at BYU, I had the pleasure of living at the Elms Apartments and attending the BYU 101st Ward. Students in the complex came from all over the country, with a good-sized bunch from Canada, as well. This melting pot blended into the most happy-go-lucky bunch of people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.

We did all kinds of things, from barn dances and hayrides to poolside parties, where the partygoers usually wound up in the pool. We were also the first ward on campus to stage an “American Graffiti” party—the first of many where I played disc jockey, which led to a job on KEYY-AM when it was a rock station. I also started up the Elms low-power pirate radio station, X-101 FM.

There was also a spiritual side of this, and it seemed everyone was there on your side in good times and bad. For me, this was the best of times.


Jennifer Thompson Larsen, ’99, Provo

I think a good example of BYU‘s one-of-a-kind culture is the Police Beat in the Daily Universe. When I went to BYU I used to love to read it every week. (I think it was printed on Thursdays.) Many of the “crimes” were just really funny pranks that only a sober and creative student body like BYU‘s would ever come up with.

I remember being in Police Beat myself (one of my prouder moments as a Cougar). While kissing my boyfriend near the Helaman Hall fields, I was a “victim” of a water balloon ambush. His roommates had dressed up in black and nailed us with water balloons. While I thought it was funny, he was very upset about it—until we convinced him that if he reported the incident, he could possibly make it into Police Beat. Sure enough, the next week we read about the “ambush.” Only at BYUwould incidents such as these be considered crimes to be reported to the police!

A Student from the “Mission Field”

Kay Holley Conley, ’69, Traverse City, Mich.

In the mid-1960s I rode a Greyhound bus for more than 24 hours and ended up in Provo to attend BYU. I had decided to major in microbiology and minor in chemistry, so my very first class on campus was college algebra. In anticipation I arrived a little early. As I sat in that algebra class looking at a girl page through a songbook, another opening a piano to accompany her, and yet another finding someone for the prayer, I was concerned. I knew I was at a Church school, but I really did not expect every class to open with a prayer and a song. I envisioned four years of chemistry classes with opening songs. What kind of songs would they sing for chemistry? Slowly I opened my notebook and checked my schedule once more and suddenly realized I was in the wrong building. I sped off to my real algebra class, arrived just in time, and found no prayer and no opening song. Was I relieved? Very!

On Sundays at church I heard a lot of people talking fervently about the mission field and their great desire to help the poor people there come to a knowledge of the gospel. I had heard about the mission field, too, and had related it to China or maybe to Mexico, where my brothers and father had served. No such luck. To my shock I found their definition was anywhere outside Utah and Idaho. That meant that I had been born and reared in the mission field. I did not feel religiously deprived, but I knew it was a close call by their definition.

BYU is still a great place. This April will mark the fourth graduation of one of my children, and another will begin next fall.

“Man on the Floor!”

Janine Simons Creager, ’88, Farmington, Utah

When I thought about my first experiences with the cultural environment at BYU, many memories came to mind. I remembered trying, in vain, to see Brigham doing the “funky chicken” while running across the plaza south of the administration building. The daily morning pause for the U.S. national anthem also came to mind. (If I was through the tunnel from Helaman Halls, I just might make it to class on time!) But my most vivid memories centered around the dorms themselves.

Having grown up as the only daughter in my family, dorm life (with all those sisters) was a new and exciting adventure. It was, however, the shrill call of “Man on the floor!” that brought my living situation into reality. Even being around my two brothers did not prepare me for that.

It was a dreaded call—and one for which we had to be constantly vigilant. Was this a repairman, a father helping his daughter move in, or just another prank call? You never knew. You just had to be ready and hope you weren’t trying to run from the shower to your room!

Then came Sunday-afternoon “visiting hours.” Doors open, feet on the floor, and one more check in the mirror in case “he” came by. I remember one Sunday in particular when I was quite ill with a bad cold. My brother and a family friend who was like a brother to me stopped by to see how I was doing. And then, to my horror (since I had not done a mirror check), “he” came by. With his roommate! The two had heard of my blight and decided to pay me a “house call.” They were dressed in hospital scrubs, including masks to protect them from my dreaded disease. Laughter was indeed the best medicine that day. And I was never caught without a “mirror check” again!

Related Article: Students on Stage