What’s Behind a Cookie Shine?
Posted by PiBetaPhiHQ
This post is courtesy of Historian Fran Becque as part of her continuing series on Pi Phi heritage.
Pi Beta Phi was a little more than five years old when one of its most unique traditions was born. The Pi Phi Cookie Shine owes its beginnings to the Richardson sisters and John Fraser, the Chancellor of the University of Kansas.
Sara Richardson from Lawrence, Kansas, became a charter member of Illinois Beta Chapter at Lombard College when it was chartered in April 1872. Sara’s three sisters, Alma, Florence and May, were students at the University of Kansas. Sara heard through the grapevine that a few Kansas men had formed a Beta Theta Pi chapter in the spring of 1873 and she encouraged her sisters to start a chapter of her beloved fraternity. Kansas Alpha was chartered on April 1, 1873. The chapter’s first social event took place several weeks later in June. The party at the Richardson home honored Sara for her help in establishing the chapter. Among the guests was the University’s Chancellor John Fraser, a native of Scotland. When he saw the spread of refreshments, Fraser declared it a “Cookie Shine,” his name for any informal social gathering brought together by accident or design. The name so captured the imaginations of the Pi Phis that they immediately adopted it as their own.
The 1885 Convention also took place in Lawrence and a Cookie Shine was one of its highlights. Grand Treasurer Lucinda Smith Buchan, Kansas Alpha, described the Cookie Shine as “everything from the hot biscuits, veal loaf and chicken, through a long line of scattered chips, olives, pickles, nuts, fruits and cookies, to the most conventionally served ice cream and coffee. The girls sit on the floor, Turk fashion, amid laughter, singing and merrymaking, and time vanishes with the pickles and cake.” An advantage of the Cookie Shine was the ease of cleaning up. “The festive board is quickly cleared by gathering up the four corners of the sheet or cloth, and dispatching the fragments unceremoniously, leaving the room as if by magic clear again.”
Ten years later, at the 1895 Boston Convention, a delegate wrote, “Many of us had never enjoyed this time-honored feast. How the house echoed with our ‘Ring, Ching, Ching,’ as we separated, tired Pi Phis.” Another said, “Let me beg of those who are still in the lamentable clouds of ignorance on the subject of that edifying and intellectual ceremony, the Cookie Shine (as I was before I went to Boston), let me beg you, I say, to call a meeting of your chapter and demand of your delegate ‘What is a Cookie Shine?’ and have one as soon as possible.”
A Cookie Shine was a part of the historical 1910 Swarthmore Convention when the plan for the Settlement School was presented. Since that time, it has been a part of Pi Phi events from chapter installations to alumnae club meetings to chapter retreats. The collegian enjoying a Cookie Shine in 2012 might consider that she is but one in a long line of Pi Phis who have enjoyed this time- honored tradition, and one that is unique to Pi Beta Phi.