Sticking to the Dance Card: Student Socials and Dancing to the Music of Louis Armstrong and Hoagy Carmichael at IU

In the early to mid-twentieth century, students didn’t make friends on social media or find a date through an app.  They went to student sponsored socials and dances, with chaperones and live bands.  The women were asked to dance by a different male student for almost every song, and they needed cards to avoid scheduling one dance with two different boys. They knew how to have fun and even got to hear some great music! Who wouldn’t want to hear Hoagy Carmichael or Louis Armstrong?

Junior Prom with Count Basie Orchestra, Alumni Hall, 1946

The Myra Montgomery Arthur Dance Card Collection and the Indiana University Archives Dance Card Collection hold numerous examples of inventive miniature booklets once used by female students to schedule their dance partners when at a social event.  The two collections together contain over 50 different dance cards from dances and parties held at IU for students between 1900 and 1955.  The ‘cards’ are often about the size of a person’s hand or smaller, with several pages provided for listing names.  Some are in different shapes, such as a clover for a St. Patrick’s Day dance, or a football for the Foot-Ball Dance, held on the eve of the Syracuse-Indiana game in 1925.  Others are attractive metal or leather booklets with a ribbon or string for a young lady to loop around her wrist while dancing.  Parties and dances were sponsored by sororities, fraternities, and other student clubs and groups such as the Boosters Club, and there were always annual dances like the Annual Senior Siwash or the Junior Prom.  There were so many dances, sock hops, and events to attend, a student could not only have a full dance card each night, but also a full schedule for the week!

The “Jonquil Jump” held on April 14, 1928 was a dance sponsored by the AWS. Hoagie Carmichael performed.

Inside the inventive and colorful covers of a dance card was a lady’s promised dances, but also a list of chaperones, the name of the student organization sponsoring the dance, and who performed the live music. Many of the performers were local or college bands that played at IU often, but some were upcoming or established stars of the jazz and big band era! It turns out Hoagie Carmichael and Carmichael’s Collegians performed at a few of the student dances between 1924 and 1925 as his career was beginning.  The students who planned The 1939 Junior Prom even somehow found a way to book Louis Armstrong!

Carmichael's Collegians. This image scanned from page 117 of the 1924 Arbutus yearbook. (Clockwise starting at bottom with Carmichael at piano) Howard Hoagland "Hoagy" Carmichael, Unknown, Howard Warren "Wad" Allen, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown.
Carmichael’s Collegians. This image scanned from page 117 of the 1924 Arbutus yearbook.
(Clockwise starting at bottom with Carmichael at piano) Howard Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael, Unknown, Howard Warren “Wad” Allen, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown.

Hoagy Carmichael was a Bloomington native who, after graduating from IU with a bachelor’s degree and law degree in 1925 and 1926, went on to become one of the most significant composers and musicians of his time.  Famous for writing well known hits like “Georgia on My Mind” and “Stardust” among others, Carmichael is an icon of the jazz and big-band eras.  He worked with Johnny Mercer on a number of projects including collaborating with him on “Skylark” in 1942, and his songs were performed by many famous singers including Louis Armstrong.

This dance card from May 5, 1939 has a metal casing and shows Louis Armstrong performed at the dance sponsored by The 1939 Junior Class of IU.
The dance card for the Indiana University Junior Prom 1939, held on May 5, 1939, has a metal casing and a page at the end shows Louis Armstrong performed at the dance sponsored by The 1939 Junior Class of IU.

The young men and women who were lucky enough to attend a student dance where Hoagy Carmichael or Louis Armstrong were performing during the 1920s and 1930s not only had the chance to fill their dance cards, but also to see some of the era’s most famous musicians!

To learn more about the Myra Montgomery Arthur Dance Cards Collection or the Indiana University Archives Dance Card Collection, or see them for yourself, contact the IU Archives.

Sincerely Yours: The Origins of the Old Oaken Bucket

This month’s Sincerely Yours post is brought to you by the Archives Photographs Curator, Brad Cook! 

One of the most popular Indiana University-Purdue University traditions began with this:

On October 23, 1925 IU Athletic Director Zora Clevenger replied to Frederick E. Bryan (IU Law, 1905),“Have scouts trying to land oaken bucket immediately.”

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In 1936, J. Frank Lindsay (IU 1913) recounted the origins behind the trophy in a letter to then IU President William Lowe Bryan. He noted that Wiley J. Huddle (IU 1901) had the idea that a group should undertake a “worthy joint enterprises on behalf of the two schools.” Thus, a joint committee of IU and Purdue alumni first met on August 31, 1925 and Dr. Clarence K. Jones (IU Medicine, 1914) “proposed the creation of a traditional football trophy…at a later meeting this committee recommended an old oaken bucket as the most typically Hoosier form of a trophy…”

It is said the bucket was found on the Bruner farm between the towns of Kent and Hanover, Indiana and that Confederate General John Morgan (of Morgan’s Raiders fame) drank from the bucket during his incursion into Indiana during the summer of 1863. Another story traces the origins of the bucket to Illinois, where it was first repaired at the American Steel Foundries of Granite City, Illinois and given an “antiquated” look by H. Raymond McCoy of the same company.

Presentation of Old Oaken Bucket, November 21, 1925. Archives Image no. p0023404
Presentation of Old Oaken Bucket, November 21, 1925. Archives Image no. p0023404

The bucket was unveiled at halftime on November 21, 1925 with writer and columnist George Ade (Purdue 1887) and Monon Railroad president Harrie Kurrie (IU Law, 1895) presenting. The symbol of supremacy for the friendly rivalry was cemented in place.“I” or “P” links made of brass were to be added to the bucket each year depending on which team won the tilt. The problem that first year was that the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Thus, Zora Clevenger announced that the bucket would be kept at IU until Purdue won a game. Soon after, a combined “IP” link was created to symbolize a tie. It is this very link that hangs from the handle of the bucket today and from which the remainder of the links are attached. Each is engraved with the date and score of the game.

Over the years the trophy has been: kidnapped on several occasions, escorted by the IU ROTC in 1945 from the IU p0054258Archives to the Auditorium for a football convocation, displayed on the third floor of L.S. Ayres in Indianapolis in 1950, and filled with beer after IU students “liberated” it from a Purdue trophy case in 1953. After speaking on the phone to former IU football coach Lee Corso, I was able to confirm that he and his wife did indeed take the bucket to bed when he first won the trophy in 1976. He was also able to confirm that he and his family placed flowers in the bucket and used it as a centerpiece on their Thanksgiving day table whenever it was in IU’s possession.

In a state built for basketball, there is no more prized possession between IU and Purdue than this football trophy and its ever-lengthening chain. Even during those seasons where one’s team has done poorly it is always felt the season can be salvaged if “we can just win the Old Oaken Bucket.”

As of the end of 2015, Purdue leads the overall series between the teams 72-40-6. Purdue also leads the trophy game series 58-30-3 – LET’S ADD ONE MORE WIN FOR IU HERE IN 2016!

IU’s Contemporary Dance Program

groupdancers
The Terpsichoreans, n.d.

Indiana University’s Contemporary Dance Program dates back to 1927. Dancer Jane Fox, a graduate of Columbia University (NY), came to the IU campus as a faculty member with the intention of introducing “natural dance” to students. Though we know it to be its own department today, the Program first began as a part of the Women’s Physical Education department, under the supervision of the School of Education, which supported and funded it. Classes were held in the Student Building and in 1935, the first modern dance performing group, the Terpsichoreans, was organized. This group later evolved into the Modern Dance Workshop.

"Workshop" large
“Modern Dance Workshop…” Indiana Daily Student, 21 Sep 1960

Jane Fox was not only a staunch defender of dance education but also worked to validate the art of dance to the campus in general. In her quest to gain a wide acceptance of modern dance as a legitimate art form and academic discipline, Fox garnered campus, community, and national support. She immersed herself not only into IU’s culture, but also became the Chair and Secretary of the Dance Section of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (AAHPER), the head of the National Committee on Standards in Teacher Education in Dance, and frequently contributed scholarly writings to the Journal of AAHPER and The Dance Observer. Fox continued to defend the validity of the art form during her time at Indiana University, and soon the medium was well respected on campus.

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“Sports healthy for women” Indiana Daily Student, 14 Nov 1967

In 1949, the Dance Major Program was formed, and with continued support from Fox, as well as increased student enrollment, modern dance was soon seen as a legitimate part of the campus community and a respected academic discipline.

The Dance Major Program experienced tremendous growth in both enrollment and reputation from this time until the late 1980s, and had a successive number of coordinators to direct the Program including Dr. Jacqueline Clifford, Fran Snygg, Bill Evans, Vera Orlock, Gwen Hamm, and Dr. John Shea.

Despite their best efforts to keep students enrolled during 1988-1991, the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation administration decided that a moratorium would be placed on the Dance program, effective May 1991. Students would be allowed to complete their Bachelor’s degrees in dance, but no new students would be accepted into the Dance Major Program.

Program Booklets, 1980s
Department of Dance, Program Booklets, 1980s

Despite this massive change, the professors and staff members committed to the role and mission of the program spent the next ten years (1991-2001) attempting to salvage the work they, Fox, and others had put forth during the last 60 years. 1991-2001 saw an increase in the number of students enrolled in the Elective Dance Program, which gave them hope for the future. Courses were expanded, students were surveyed, and the administration began to discuss the possibility of reinstating the Dance Major in 2004. Once all of the reinstatement procedures were determined and the curriculum revision had taken place, the fall of 2005 saw the first audition and admission of students to the Dance Major since 1991.

modern dancers to compete, zoom
“Modern Dancers to Compete…” Indiana Daily Student, 15 May 1951

Today, the Dance Major Program is supported by 16 faculty and staff members. The program is based in modern dance, but students

"Spring Performers" 30 Mar 1967
“Spring Performers” Indiana Daily Student, 30 Mar 1967

also study ballet and world dance forms, and can elect to study musical theatre, tap, and jazz. The Program boasts over 50 Dance Majors and 100 Dance Minors.

To learn more visit the IU Contemporary Dance Program’s website, or visit the IU Archives to view the Jane Fox papers or the Dance Program records.

A different sort of Commencement

Book Nook Commencement, 1931. Herman B Wells, then an instructor in economics and sociology, sits on the stage to the left of the podium, in a white suit.
Book Nook Commencement, 1931. Herman B Wells, then an instructor in economics and sociology, sits on the stage to the left of the podium, in a white suit.

The Book Nook Commencement was a mock commencement ceremony that took place at the Book Nook, a popular student hangout in the 1920s located at Indiana and Kirkwood Avenue. A combination soda fountain and bookstore, the Book Nook was known for its music and the sometimes rowdy behavior of its customers. For many years the Book Nook played a significant role in Indiana University student culture. The 1924 Arbutus humorously makes this clear in their account of the University’s founding: “The university was founded on Foundation Day in the year 1820, by a band of pioneers who stopped their covered wagons in front of the Book Nook. Upon learning that it was Foundation Day and a holiday, the decided to celebrate and found a university. Where they found it no one knows.”

Notable IU alum musician and composer Hoagy Carmichael was a frequent patron, and it is said he composed his most famous songs, Stardust, at one of the Book Nook booths. In his autobiography, Sometimes I Wonder (1965), Carmichael described the Book Nook as, “a randy temple smelling of socks, wet slickers, vanilla flavoring, face powder, and unread books. Its dim lights, its scarred walls, its marked up booths, and unsteady tables made campus history.” (54) Herman B Wells described a slightly less raucous establishment in his autobiography, Being Lucky (1980): “since there was not yet a union building or its equivalent, extracurricular activities centered in a campus hangout known as the Book Nook, later called the Gables. In my day it was the hub of all student activity; here student political action was plotted, organizations were formed, ideas and theories were exchanged among students from various disciplines and from different sections of the campus. For most of this period the Book Nook was presided over by something of a genius, Peter Costas, a young Greek immigrant who transformed a campus hangout into a remarkably  fertile cultural and political breeding place in the manner of the famous English coffee houses. All in all it was a lively, exhilarating place.”

The first Book Nook Commencement was held in 1927 for William Moenkhaus, a contemporary and friend of Carmichael. Moenkhaus was a leader of a group of students who called themselves the “Bent Eagles,” known to spend a lot of time at the Book Nook. Carmichael was also a member of the “Bent Eagles,”; others included Bix Beiderbecke (cornetist), “Wad” Allen, Charles Bud Dant, and Ed Wolfe. Moenkhaus was often referred to as the “poet of Indiana Avenue” and was known to perform Dada poetry. When Moenkhaus was denied his diploma due to his refusal to take a required course on hygiene, the owners of the Book Nook George and Peter Costas worked with the Bent Eagles to put together the mock commencement. The Book Nook Commencement was certainly infused with the spirit of Dada; Moenkhaus delivered his speech wearing a bathrobe and holding a dead fish. “President” Peter Costas handed out degrees from the “College of Arts and Appliances.”

The Book Nook Commencements were increasingly elaborate productions, involving a parade from fraternity house to the Nook, absurd speeches, music, the conferring of fake degrees and diplomas, and “noise” by the “Book Nook Symphony Orchestra,” and “additional noise” by the “Concert Ya Book Nook Orchestra.” Students arrived attired in cone shaped hats and bathrobes. Some of the nonsensical degrees handed out included: Master of Hearts, Doctor of Physique, Doctor of Yell, Vociferatissimus, and Lord Mare of Hearts, Eroticus, Cum Laude. During the last Book Nook Commencement, Herman B Wells, then an instructor in economics, was presented with the degree “Doctor of Nookology.” Four Book Nook Commencement ceremonies were held, three between 1927-1929, and the last in 1931. In 1930, the Depression caused many students to drop out, and the mock commencement was cancelled. Although it was revived the next year, soon after the 1931 commencement the Depression again put a stop to the production.

Book Nook Commencement, 1928
Book Nook Commencement, 1928

Throwback Thursday: Ralph Garriott

Today I thought I would join in on the interwebs Throwback Thursday and share a little something from our collections!

Hoosier native Ralph Garriott entered Indiana University in 1923. For the entirety of his freshman year, Ralph maintained a diary of his activities here on campus.  Devoted to his journal, Ralph wrote daily with entries detailing his classes, friends, happenings outside of class, as well as news from home and elsewhere. Ralph seemed to be interested in many of the popular happenings on campus, so in addition to talk about his classes, there are entries about athletic events (IU-Purdue football and burial of Jawn Purdue), dances (“Blanket Hop”), freshman-sophomore scraps, serenades, and popular movies (“My Wild Irish Rose”).

Below is his entry written 90 years ago today:

LARGE

 

Wednesday, October 3, 1923

Attended classes as usual. This was convocation day. Heard Winifred Merrill from New York give a violin recital accompanied by Axel Skjerne a Norweigan [sic] pianist. Breakfast and dinner at cafeteria, supper at Mefford’s. Witnessed varsity-“rhinie” scrimmage after school. Saw Jack Risk and wife and Richard Collins from Knightstown in the bleachers. Worked Algebra, studied Spanish and English tonight from 5:45 until 11:30. (Lights Out) Kenneth Ward left us today. He is expecting to attend Indiana Business College at Indianapolis. 

 

Would you like to read more about Ralph’s experience at IU? The full diary has been digitized and is available via the finding aid!