Bean feeds have been a part of UTEP Miner culture since the early years of the institution. Though the exact date of the very first bean feed is unknown it is quite possible that the feeds began with the ritual of painting the “M” as early as 1923. By the 1940’s bean feeds were incorporated into many of the activities on campus including club meetings, “M” Day/Sadie Hawkins Day, and initiations. Throughout the years the food quality, menus, serving methods, and student participation has varied. By the 1970’s student support of bean feeds and the events attached to feeds began to wane. Today, only the College of Engineering continues the tradition of the bean feed.
Beginning in 1923 College of Mines students, mostly freshmen, began the ritual of painting the iconic white “M” on the side of the mountain. Initially, the whitewashing was reserved for the male students only, but in time the female students began to participate. While the male student were primarily responsible for the hard labor of carrying pails of limestone and then use it whitewash the “M” the females kept the men hydrated and helped to cook the food for the bean feed. In 1938 “M” Day coincided with Sadie Hawkins Day festivities in which the single women chased the single men until they caught a husband for the day. The event became quite popular, so popular, in fact, that in 1946 a new rule was invoked. The rule stated that if they students did not still have dust clinging to their clothing they would not be served at the bean feed. By 1949, the students had to present a student association card to be able to eat beans and drink coffee. The demand for beans continued to increase so much so that in 1954 the college had to hire a catering service to serve the students. Gillespie’s Catering supplied beans, hot dogs, salads, coke, and cakes.
Interest in the “M” Day/Sadie Hawkins Day festivities began to wane by 1957. Only 350 students showed to paint the M, 363 were fed beans, and less than 50 showed up to the dance. The Prospector predicted that “’M’ Day had outlived its usefulness.” Attempts were made to renew interest in the tradition. The day was moved from late October to early September and was included in freshmen orientation activities. The bean feed remained part of the tradition and was followed by a pep rally and dance; Sadie Hawkins was moved to April. The painting of the “M” was still part of freshmen orientation in 1967 but The Prospector indicated that the traditional bean feed would no longer be part of the tradition, as the University was “progressing” to a barbecue.
In 1942 the Sigma Gamma Epsilon’s initiatives leveled the land in the canyon behind Metallurgy (now the parking lot behind Stanlee Rubin Arts Center) in order to bring in a grill to be used for the engineer’s Scientific Club bean feeds. The Scientific Club held monthly bean feeds during the school year which typically featured guest speakers. The feed served their staple of beans and coffee; the menu would sometimes include grilled hot dogs, buns, and potato chips. In 1943 Charles Heid reported that the food served in club’s bean feed was not often appetizing. “The appearance of foreign matter in the chuck has gone unexplained, and we wish to stress at this point that the Scientific Club will assume no responsibilities for the occurrence of rocks and nuggets in the beans, or tadpoles in the coffee.” By 1943 the food had improved, “The food was rare—no other like it. Surprising as it may seem, the beans were not burnt, the coffee was barren of the usual sand, and was altogether palatable.” The Scientific Club tried a new kind of bean feed when they attempted a formal bean feed in 1946. The members dressed in their formal best, except for the traditional barer feet, of course. The feed was noted as being one of the best feeds the club had hosted to date.
In addition to the Scientific Club, the engineers also partook in an annual event which culminated in a bean feed and dance– the initiation of freshmen engineers on or close to St. Patrick’s Day. The initiation involved, among other things, crawling blind-folded through Orogrande while being poked and whipped by the upper classmen and kissing of the blarney stone. Once the freshmen came out of the mine they were treated to a celebratory bean feed. In 1958, the engineers began charging 50 cents to the students who wished to partake in the bean feed prepared by the civil engineers. The tradition had evolved to what was termed a “bean feed and beer bust” by 1973. Though the ritual no longer involves and initiation for freshmen, the College of Engineering with assistance of the Engineering Chapter of the UTEP Alumni Association continue to host an annual bean feed on “TCM Day,” a day the engineers have designated to celebrate UTEP’s history as an engineering and mining school.
Other clubs and organizations also hosted bean feeds. Dorms often hosted bean feeds for their residents. For instance, in 1946 Benedict and Worrell Halls and the barracks held a bean feed for their residents; the menu consisted of hot dogs, beans, potato chips, pickles, doughnuts, and cokes. Beauty pageants often concluded with bean feeds on the tennis courts (now Psychology). In the 1960’s bean feeds became a part of the Homecoming traditions on campus. After the parade bean feeds were offered to students and alumni alike. In 1963 the faculty members of the University were honored a bean feed hosted by the Interfraternity Council. The Outstanding Faculty award winners were presented with $25 gift cards to use to purchase books. The ROTC was also known to throw bean feeds in connection with Military Courts. From the 1920’s to the 1970’s bean feeds were central to the college experience. In fact, bean feeds were listed on an ad in The Prospector. Though the custom of bean feeds having nearly disappeared on campus, it seems fitting that the engineers, who initiated the feeds, have held strong to the tradition.
[Sources: The Prospector, 18 April 1942, 24 October 1942, 12 December 1942, 19 December 1942, 23 October 1943, 12 October 1944, 19 October 1944, 4 May 1946, 5 October 1946, 2 November 1946, 9 November 1946, 25 April 1947, 8 May 1948, 16 October 1947, 26 March 1949, 19 November 1949, 10 February 1951,27 October 1951, 3 November 1951, 26 April 1953, 2 October 1954, 23 October 1954, 7 October 1955, 17 March 1956, 24 October 1956, 13 March 1957, 17 April 1957, 13 September 1957, 22 November 1957, 14 March 1958, 24 April 1958, 15 September 1958, 7 March 1959, 14 September 1959, 19 March 1960, 10 September 1960, 11 March 1961,14 April 1962, 17 March 1962, 6 October 1962, 16 March 1963, 12 October 1963, 2 November 1963, 9 May 1964,12 September 1964, 19 March 1965, 23 September 1966, 4 November 1966, 11 September 1967, 17 September 1968, 14 March 1969, 18 November 1969, 15 March 1973, 7 March 1974, and 16 March 1976. Photos from Flowsheet]
Ashley Swarthout was a student in the Masters of Arts in Teaching English program at UTEP. She graduated in May 2013 and is now teaches dual credit at Chapin High School.