Throughout late March and early April, watermelon planting kicks into high gear in Oklahoma. Designated the official Oklahoma state vegetable in 2007, the juicy watermelon also has an interesting history on the Oklahoma State University campus.
OSU has hosted watermelon feeds dating back to 1899. During the university’s founding days, students forged ahead with activities that were affordable and promoted social interaction. Both then and now, watermelons have served as a staple food for many of these events.
In the 1920s, OSU engineers sponsored four major functions, including a watermelon feed in the fall. For years, there was an intense rivalry between engineering and agricultural students; frequent truces never lasted very long. In 1927, the agriculture students destroyed all the watermelons an hour before the engineers’ scheduled watermelon feed. The engineers got revenge a few weeks later when destroying the apple cider and doughnuts the Agricultural Society was preparing to serve.
All pranks aside, watermelon feeds continued to be a popular social event even through the 1980s. In the 1970s and 1980s, as campus administrators sought to make the first week on campus comfortable for incoming freshmen, the watermelon feed remained an integral part of “Howdy Week.” Former Director of Campus Life Kent Sampson recalled the Residence Hall Association sponsored annual event, “where the deans [were] invited out to the Willard lawn to serve watermelons.”
Eventually events like the annual watermelon feed were replaced with more structured events for freshmen orientation, but the memories surrounding one of Oklahoma’s favorite gourds are recorded in oral histories and university archive collections.
O-State Stories is part of the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at the Edmon Low Library, chronicling the rich history, heritage and traditions of Oklahoma State University. Interviews are available online. Read or listen to more recollections by visiting www.library.okstate.edu/oralhistory/ostate/. For more information, call 405-744-7685.
More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join or call 405-744-5368.
Published in STATE Magazine, Volume 12, Number 3, Spring 2017 by STATE Editor Elizabeth Keys
Uploaded on May 1, 2017