Souvenirs Tell Stories — Part 2: My College Beanie:

Jim LaBate
5 min readJan 3, 2018
Photo by Jim LaBate

A while back, I wrote an essay about the first trophy I ever earned (“Souvenirs Tell Stories: Part 1”). Initially, I thought the essay would include three examples: the trophy and two other souvenirs. Once I began writing, however, I realized that the trophy story itself could stand on its own, and the other souvenirs would have to tell their own stories. Thus, this second part in the series (not sure how many parts there will be) focuses on my freshman beanie from my first year of college.

In early September 1969, I arrived at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, to begin studying to become a high-school English teacher. Though my family lived only 30 miles west in Amsterdam, my parents allowed me to live in the dormitories on campus and eat my meals in the nearby dining hall. So after my mother drove me to school and deposited me in Plassman Hall, I met my roommate, Ed. Then, the two of us walked to the gymnasium, Gibbons Hall, where we received our new head gear.

If you’ve never seen one of these beanies before, they are like undersized baseball caps; they barely cover the top of your head, and the small brim in front is only about an inch long. They look like a souvenir cap you might buy for a newborn baby. And that’s exactly the way the upperclassmen treated us on that first day of freshman orientation.

At the time, Siena, a Franciscan college, had just decided to admit females, but the school had made the switch so late in the preceding academic year that only 10 females were admitted, and they all lived off campus. As a result, all the upperclassmen were males, and they eagerly anticipated the initiation set before us.

“You will wear your beanie at all times,” a loud senior instructed us as we donned our green and gold caps, “unless you are in a classroom or in the privacy of your own room in the dormitories. The only other times you are allowed to remove your beanies are when you hear the bells ring from Siena Hall…

Jim LaBate

Jim LaBate works as a writing specialist in The Writing Center at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York.