This morning I posted a student honors thesis from 1981 to our digital repository. It’s a study of student life at Wofford in the 1960s and 1970s by David Morgan, who went on to a distinguished career as a professor of French at Furman.
The title “The Isle of Tranquility” was apparently coined by President Charles Marsh to describe Wofford’s stability in a tumultuous era, but some students in that era found the concept fairly unexciting.
The honors thesis, which runs about 34 pages, was one of our summer scanning projects, and if you are curious, you can download and read it from ourdigital repository.
It’s a well-known story at Wofford that the Terriers played the first intercollegiate football game in South Carolina, defeating Furman University’s team on December 14, 1889. So, our game against Furman this fall will mark the 125th anniversary of that first meeting, though not the 125th time the two teams have played. I’ll have more to say about that first game later this fall.
Football, as many sports historians know, was a pretty dangerous and violent sport back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Broken bones, severe wounds, and even deaths occurred with some regularity. The Methodist Church was quite critical of football, and the Southern Christian Advocate had this to say in November 1914:
“The papers of last Thursday carried this news item from Columbia: After putting up a stubborn fight, Wofford College was defeated by Newberry College by a score of 36-0. Swanton, left half for Newberry, broke his leg and was rushed to the hospital. Wofford lost the game but apparently did not have any member killed or maimed… We are told that when Wofford played in Greenville some time ago that practically every member of the team carried off bloody faces.” “It is difficult to understand,” the Advocate wrote, “how any parent can give consent for his or her son to engage in games that so often result in death or broken limbs. The fatalities are nearly as great as in war. They call it ‘college spirit!’ Deliver us from such! How long will it be before some mother’s son in South Carolina will be carried from a glorious game of football a mangled corpse to the mother’s embrace?”
In 1896, the Methodist Conference recommended that college authorities entirely prohibit football at Wofford, and from 1897-1899, there was no team. In the fall of 1899, the prohibition was rescinded, with the regulation of football and other sports left in the hands of the trustees and faculty. Wofford played about 9 total intercollegiate games in 1900 and 1901, according to sports records. Then, there was no intercollegiate football for some dozen years. While class football – what we might today call intramural football, flourished, the college did not schedule any games against other colleges.
But, pressure built, from students and alumni alike. President Snyder received communications from alumni who wanted to resume playing, and in 1913, the student body unanimously petitioned the trustees to resume intercollegiate games. And so the trustees gave in on November 26, 1913, with play to resume in the fall of 1914.
It took a few years before the college’s varsity team got some experience, and only in 1917 did they post a winning record. The 1914 Terriers, in fact, put up a 1-6-1 record, scoring 32 points in all of their games together, compared to 219 for their opponents. Their only win was a 7-0 defeat of Presbyterian, and their worst loss was an 88-6 stomping at the hands of Davidson.
So, this fall marks the centennial of the resumption of football as well as the 125th anniversary of football at the college, and I think that’s worth recognizing.
When World War II came to Wofford, it brought major changes to the student body.
As the number of students at Wofford and similar colleges declined rapidly, administrators began to fear for the future of their colleges. How does a college that is heavily dependent on tuition survive when the students go off to war?
The result of this impending crisis, as well as the army’s need for training programs before sending soldiers overseas, was that many colleges saw their facilities taken over by the federal government for various types of military training programs. And that is how, in February 1943, Wofford College became the home of the 40th College Training Division, a training center for aviation students.
Wofford’s remaining students, which numbered fewer than a hundred, and some of the faculty went to either Spartanburg Junior College or Converse College. The dormitories, classrooms, gymnasium, and grounds became the home of a program designed to teach aviation students some of the things they would have learned in a college course of study as they were on their way to flight school and officer candidate school.
The program, which lasted about fifteen months, left a few fingerprints on the college. Occasionally, for fifty years after the war, a former aviation student would pass through the campus with his family to reminisce about his time here in 1943 or 1944. Some photographs from those years are in the archives. The Hugh R. Black Infirmary on campus, which had been a faculty home, became an infirmary during those years, and the college continued to use it for those purposes to this very day. And, interestingly enough, the students produced a newspaper called the Flight Record, and that has remained in the archives.
The Flight Record’s staff, which rotated as new students came and others left, published some 22 issues between June 1943 and April 1944. In the past year, I’ve had my student assistants scan the issues, and after doing some post-processing work, I have published them in Wofford’s digital repository.
The Wofford Fitting School is one of those mysterious entities that causes an occasional question.
The Fitting School was a preparatory school that operated on the Wofford Campus and on a nearby campus for a number of years. It closed in 1924, but before then, it was designed to prepare, or fit, students for entry into Wofford’s freshman class.
The idea of a prep school or fitting school makes sense in an era where not every city or town has a good public high school and the college wants to be certain it has a good supply of potential first-year students.
This photo could count as a throwback Thursday photo if today weren’t Friday. But in the archives, maybe every day is Throwback Thursday.
The archives holds an interesting collection of t-shirts from the 1970s to the 2010s.
Some t-shirts come from student groups, some from Homecoming or Spring Weekend events, and others are tributes to professors, or even presidents.
But why do we collect them? I think t-shirts are a good way of documenting student life. They give people who attended an event or took part in a group a way of remembering the event. I’m sure that recent college graduates have drawers or boxes full of them by the time they graduate.
If you have a favorite t-shirt, tell me about it, or share a picture of it on the Facebook page.
We couldn’t feature all of these t-shirts in Wofford Today, so here are a few of my favorites:
Hotel Carlisle – a tribute to an old residence hall that was the early home to Wofford Theatre.
SUTWAK, or Students United to Win a Keg, was a group of non-Greek students who played intramurals together (I think). The back of the shirt is below.
Sometimes shirts honored faculty members, such as historian Lewis P. Jones, above, or President Benjamin B. Dunlap, below.
This might be a tad unfair, but I did have that thought when I read this letter, from the mother of an entering first-year student to Wofford’s President, Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder, in the fall of 1919.
The mother, Mrs. D. G. Dantzler of Vance, SC, was writing to make sure someone would meet her son at the Spartanburg train station on the Saturday before entrance exams. She also expressed some wishes that she had for him – that he might enter the officer’s training corps, but also that he become a good citizen and Christian gentleman. She also noted that he wasn’t going to know anybody at the college when he got there, and so she was nervous about his
And of course, parents are always nervous about the unknowns that their sons and daughters will face when they go to college. It was as true in 1919 as it is today. Incidentally, R. M. Dantzler graduated from Wofford in 1923.
The letter is below. You may click for a larger image.
Today I got around to processing a small collection we received last summer. The materials related to a member of Wofford’s Class of 1870 named Wellborn Davies Kirkland. Rev. Kirkland, who became a Methodist minister, served in a number of significant positions in the Methodist Church in South Carolina, edited the Southern Christian Advocate, and was the editor of the churchwide Sunday School magazine when he died at a fairly young age in 1896.
His papers included a number of speeches he gave as a student – his 1870 graduation speech, his valedictory to his literary society, and a few other ones. They also included some family history materials and, believe it or not, a lock of his hair that appears to have been cut after his death.
His papers included some photos of both him and his wife, and there was also a composite photo of Wofford’s 1870 graduating class.
In years past, I’ve put up blog posts about the early years of coeducation at Wofford – the time that the college went from being a college for men only (or mostly) to one that had both male and female students enrolled and living on campus. This month, we’ve put a display of some pictures and clippings in the entry area of the library for Women’s History Month.
Although Wofford had women students on an occasional basis from 1897 to 1970, only in the spring of 1971 did the college announce that it would admit women as regular students. For the next five years, the college did not provide housing, but in the fall of 1975, the Board of Trustees voted to move to full residential coeducation beginning in the fall of 1976. These clippings, photographs, and documents from the College Archives tell something about these early years of coeducation at Wofford.
Among the items in the display are some yearbook photos of the first women’s sports teams, the 1981 volleyball and basketball teams. This clipping, below, talks about the organization of Zeta Tau Alpha, the first fraternity for women on campus. Please drop by if you’re on campus to see all of the items in the display.
You know, this is only the third time Wofford has cancelled classes ever – and one of those times was for the Civil War?
Urban legends on college campuses – you do have to love them. It’s not hard to figure out how they get started – after all, the individual student’s direct memory of life on campus rarely exceeds three years.
It’s true, though that cancelling classes at Wofford is pretty rare. For a residential campus, unless the weather is dangerously bad, there’s usually not much reason to suspend classes. The area school districts now cancel classes for a whiff of snow, but even when most of the other colleges in the area have suspended operations, Wofford generally keeps going. Apparently, back in the day, the college would send members of the maintenance staff out in 4-wheel drive trucks to pick up the professors, though to me, that has its own risks!
So it was a little bit of a shock when we cancelled classes on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. And it didn’t take long before people started asking me, via Facebook, how many times we had been forced by snow to cancel classes. Most of the questions came early enough Wednesday that I didn’t really want to think about them too much.
It hasn’t actually been that long since we had a cancellation – we had a similar situation on Jan. 10-11, 2011, when a combination of heavy snow and ice forced the college to close. Before that, we had a cancellation on Friday, Feb. 27, 2004, though personally, I remember coming to work that day even though we didn’t have classes. Those archives don’t process themselves!
Before that, I have to rely on the memories of others. In my time as a student and a faculty member, those are the only three times we’ve had to cancel. However, we have to rely on the hive mind to pick up some other times. And the hive came up with three.
Dean of Students Roberta Bigger remembered suspending classes during Interim 1996 – which would have been her first year as dean of students – because of heavy snow. And I remember having a heavy snowfall in early January 1996.
Dr. Carol Wilson remembered a cancellation in January 1988 – and since we got a foot of snow in Spartanburg on January 7, 1988, it’s hard to imagine that we weren’t out for a few days. She also remembers missing a day when she was a student – which would have been in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
That’s about as exact as I can get right now. That’s six times since 1977, which is more than three times since the place opened.
Oh, and we didn’t close for the Civil War, either. Well, maybe we closed the day the Union Army occupied the campus, but we remained open for most of that particular war.
Whenever I get a reference question that causes me to pull an old volume of the Old Gold and Black from the shelf, I know I’ll find something interesting or funny to write about. Today I was looking up a sports score from 1942 (as an aside, it was not a good season for Terrier football that year, as evidenced by the lead sentence “Coach Petoskey’s victory-starved Terriers will make their fourth bid for their first gridiron triumph of the season…”) when I came across an amusing article complaining about something.
Yeah, I know, students complaining about something at the college in the page of the student newspaper. That never happens.
In this case, they were complaining about the laundry service on campus. Yes, laundry service.
I quote from the article:
“Seeking to secure campus opinion on some subject of current interest, the Old Gold and Black sent out a writer to interview a representative number of boarding students on the following question: “What is your opinion of the present laundry system?”
“The current laundry system is a drastic change from that of last year in which more than one laundry was represented in the halls by students. This year the entire business has been centralized and placed under the management of one student, with full .and obstructed rights to all laundry and dry-cleaning business collected in the halls.”
Of the students polled, 76% were opposed, 19% were indifferent, and 5% were in favor. Opposition centered on the creation of a monopoly for one service, and some suggested this had actually reduced the quality of service. Some students said that it was “a one day service last year and a one week service this year.” Others thought the service was no different or even better. Some of those who supported the change thought that the lack of transportation around the city (this was the first year of World War II) made consolidating the service understandable.
What do we make of this? First, remember, this is the 1940s and I’m guessing a lot of people had to send their clothes out to be laundered. The campus dorms would not have had washing machines. Also, people didn’t have closets full of clothes at this point, so being without a large chunk of your wardrobe for several days could be a bigger problem than you might think. And finally, and maybe most importantly: students don’t like change.