Celebrating Sadie Hawkins Day in Albert Lea

Published 9:04 am Friday, February 12, 2010

In last week’s column we explained that the Sadie Hawkins part of American life started in 1937 with Al Capp’s newspaper comic strip, “Li’l Abner.” And, as I indicated, the Sadie Hawkins concept where the woman pays all the expenses was used for an old time dance at Austin’s Terp Ballroom in late December 1949. By this time this special day when girls and young women firmly ruled the dating game for at least one day became a very popular part of life in both the U.S. and Canada.

However, the dance over in Austin wasn’t the first area event using the Sadie Hawkins concept. During one of my research projects with older Tiger Yearbooks in the library of the Freeborn County Historical Museum I found out this particular caper became a part of student life at Albert Lea High School in the fall of 1948. Yet, the first real mention of Sadie Hawkins Day in a Tiger Yearbook was in the 1958 edition. It said:

“Sadie Hawkins began at noon with girls receiving tags with which they could tag any boy. Because the boys were suddenly sporting ‘no hunting’ signs, unusual tactics were used to catch them.

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“After being tagged, the girls had to drag their catches down to the bookroom to buy a marriage license which was their admittance to the dance that evening.

“Comic strips from papers lined the walls, corn covered the floor and tattered streamers hung from the ceiling. Appropriate costumes were worn.”

As a digression, I thought the “no hunting” gimmick used by those boys was rather interesting.

There seems to have been some confusion regarding those costumes or whatever. Sadie Hawkins was a mythical resident of a hillbilly locality named Dogpatch somewhere down south in Kentucky, Tennessee or the Carolinas, according to the comic strip. Thus, the students taking part in the Sadie Hawkins events should have been dressed like mountain williams (hillbillies). This would involve overalls, somewhat tattered shirts and skirts and maybe fake pipes for the boys. Yet, the Tiger Yearbook entries for those years indicated hobo or tramp clothing was more popular for the festivities on those special school days.

Here’s an another explanation for Sadie Hawkins Day I found in the 1963 Tiger Yearbook:

“A reverse in the dating system is experienced on Sadie Hawkins Day when every girl is allowed to date any boy she can outrun. Under the sponsorship of Hi-Teens and Student Council, the event was held Nov. 16 (1962), regulated by the following stipulations:

1. Girl must not secure dates before 12:15 p.m. on the Friday of the chase.

2. Game limit is one boy per girl.

3. Bachelor teachers are fair game.

4. If boy survives chase for 5 1/4 full hall lengths or 15 city blocks, he is no longer free game.

5. Girls must mend torn shirts and replace stretched sweaters.

6. A boy is considered tagged when forward motion is stopped.

7. Girl must not injure boy; however, if she does, she must apply first-aid.

8. No pursuit is allowed during class time.

9. Marriage license, to be purchased with boy in tow, costs the female one dollar.

10. A $5 prize is awarded for the capture of the Most Eligible Bachelor.

11. Girls must provide transportation or pay ten cents per mile.

“A sock hop in the girls’ gym, decorated with clotheslines, beer can mobiles and garbage can props, was held for those who took advantage of the situation.”

In next week’s column we’ll have more information about how Sadie Hawkins Day was really observed at Albert Lea High School and why it faded away, plus another February student event called Twirp Week.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.