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!

IU Baseball goes to…Japan! Part II

Sadly, the Hoosiers did not go forward to win the College World Series, but this in no way takes any of the shine off of their terrific season. Great job, guys!

_____________________________________

So, would you like to hear more about the 1922 baseball trip to Japan?

The team arrived in Japan on Friday, April 14. They went through Customs, where the only problems they ran into was with the tobacco they were carrying. But these college men knew how to get around it — they passed off some of their cigarettes and cigars to the non-smokers of the group and stuffed their pockets with what they thought they could sneak in.

They made their way to the hotel via rikishas and settled in for the night. The next morning, after a  hearty American-style breakfast, they stopped for a quick picture in front of the hotel before heading off to see the Waseda team in a game. “Ruck” reported in his diary that there was a crowd of about 7,000 at the game and when they arrived they were cheered by the crowd. “After the game we waited for the crowd to leave the park…but instead of leaving about 3,000 people surrounded us.” Baseball must have been huge in Japan at this time, as he reports the same numbers at their first practice the following day (as well as the same reception!)

The first game took place on April 22 in front of a large enthusiastic crowd but home team luck prevailed and Waseda won. The final record of the Waseda series: One victory, one tie, and five defeats. They lost all three games they played against Keio University but soundly defeated the semiprofessional Osaka All-Star team, 9-4.

 Mr. Abé and the IU alumni served as excellent hosts for the team, ensuring they did some sightseeing and experienced Japanese traditions, such as the Japanese tea house. On May 10, Ruck reported they visited the largest temple in Japan, they toured five Imperial Palaces, saw the famous Cherry Dance, and walked by the base of Mount Fuji. To complete the trip, Japan scheduled a large earthquake during their stay. Edna Edmondson wrote about this experience in a series of articles she contributed about the trip to the The Arrow of Pi Beta Phi:

Tokyo even staged for us an earthquake, officially said to be the most severe in that city since 1894. We had already experienced several slight quakes since our arrival and when the first little shake came on this day we looked across the table at each other and smiled making mental note of one more experience to “tell the folks back home.” In a moment, however, this slight shaking increased to a violent jerking. This jerking gave way to a whipping motion as the earth rocked up and down, east and west, and north and south, accompanied by terrifying grinding, and groaning sounds as though the earth itself were writhing in agony.

Want to know more about this amazing trip? We have recently scanned the entirety of the IU administrative correspondence, but recent donations from the family of team member Leonard Ruckelshaus and Edna Edmondson have provided us with a tremendous amount of detail about the trip. Ruck’s diary begins on the day of departure and was faithfully written in through May 27. The donation also included a beautiful scrapbook full of photographs and memorabilia, and many of the photos have been scanned and added to the Archives Photographs Database. And as always, feel free to contact us to schedule a visit to look through materials yourself!

Leonard “Ruck” Ruckelshaus on IU’s Jordan Field, circa 1922.

 

IU Baseball goes to…Japan! Part 1

It has been such an exciting time for IU baseball, what a terrific season! This – along with a recent donation – has prompted me to share a story about another exciting time in IU baseball history.

In December 1921, IU’s baseball coach George Levis received the following letter and proposition from Waseda University’s Iso Abé, Professor of Economics and Sociology:

waseda

The accompanying agreement stated Waseda would pay $11,500 towards the IU team’s traveling expenses, as well as hotel and transportation costs associated with traveling to and from the hotel and ball field! In exchange, Abé proposed IU pay the Waseda baseball team $1,300 when they in turn visited in 1925, as well as the hotel costs for one night in Bloomington. Not a bad deal, right? Right. So university administrators made quick work of figuring out the logistics of such a trip, lining up transportation, securing passports, chaperones, etc.

On March 28, the baseball team began their journey, departing Bloomington via the Monon at 11:30 AM.

IU Baseball heads to the Far East! At the Bloomington train station, March 28, 1922. (Back Row, L to R) Joseph Sloate, Emmons Clay, Clarence E. Edmondson, Mrs. Clarence E. Edmondson, William Lowe Bryan, Mrs. George Levis, Coach George Levis, Leonard Conrad Ruckelshaus, Walter Wichterman, Ward Gilbert, and Robert Kidd. (Front Row, L to R) Rankin Denny, Assistant Coach Roscoe “Cow” Minton, Harry Gause, Leland Macer, Harold Lynch, and Dorsey Kight. Captain James Walker is not pictured.

They traveled across country as minor celebrities to their destination, Seattle, where they would depart for Japan on the SS Keystone State on April 1 to the University of Washington baseball team’s crooning of farewell songs.

diary005

So they were off. The baseball team, chaperones, and then these fellas, “Four I.U. ‘Bums'”. Recognize any of those names? How about #2, the “Chief Bell Boy” of the ship?

The trip took over 2 weeks. Several of the landlubbing Hoosiers suffered terribly from seasickness. Player Leonard “Ruck” Ruckelshaus recorded in his diary, “[Emmons] Clay, Mr. and Mrs. Levis, Mrs. Edmondson, Joe Sloate, and Doresey Kight were very sick. Clay… said he would not cross the ocean again if they made him the Ambassador of England.” But they made it…minus one poor sailor who had a fatal accident and the boys stood by as witnesses to his sea burial.

IU Baseball in Japan...continued! 

The People Behind The Vagabond

This week, we offer a guest post from SLIS student & Digital Library Program intern Nancy!

This semester, I am interning with the Digital Library Program.  The project that I am working on is for the Archives and consists of creating a digital version of The Vagabond, which is a satirical student literary magazine from the 1920s and 1930s.  This magazine has essays, poetry, visual art, short stories, criticism, and humor, which often target Indiana University undergraduates, alumni, and faculty.  Reading this magazine has been an interesting look into the past.  I would highly recommend reading this magazine when we finish the project, but before you do that, it might interesting to look at the people behind the publication.

Getting to know the people behind The Vagabond and connecting those people to the articles that they wrote is a slight challenge due to the fact that many of the writers used pseudonyms.  Yet, not all the writers used pseudonyms and some that did, made the pseudonym very obvious.  For this post, I thought that it would be nice to have pictures to go with the writers, so I went to the Arbutus.  There, I found pictures of some of the members of The Vagabond.  The pictures list some of the members, but not what pseudonym they used, making it difficult to tie the person to his or her work.  For this post, I am only going to focus on people whose articles can be identified, though this will not be a comprehensive listing.

 Let’s start with Philip Blair Rice. He was part of the original team (some even called it his “brain-child”) that started The Vagabond. He wrote off and on during its span, writing a variety of works including poems, plays, and stories. While at Indiana University he studied philosophy.  In 1925, he became IU’s 4th Rhodes Scholar and went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford.  He taught at different colleges until he accepted a position at Kenyon College in their English department.  Some of his achievements include becoming president of the American Philosophical Association, being awarded the Guggeheim Fellowship and the Bollingen Fellowship.  He also wrote a book titled On the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is available from the IU Libraries, and many articles.  To read some of these articles, do an Author Search in JSTOR for “Philip Blair Rice.” He died in February 1956.

Next to P.B. Rice, William Ernest Moenkhaus was probably one of the most well-known Vagabond writers, even though he always wrote under a pseudonym.  The name he used most often was Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus, but he also wrote under the names Lena Gedunkhaus, Oscar Humidor Martin, and Roland McFeeters.  To his friends he was Monk.  He led a rather interesting, though short life.  He was born in Bloomington, Indiana on June 30, 1902.  He spent some years in Switzerland and it was only due to World War I that he returned to the United States.  He was known for playing the piano and cello and could write music as well as he could write literature.  This ability with music led to a close friendship with Hoagy Carmichael.  In The Vagabond, he wrote plays, poems, and other works that inspired others to look at the everyday in a different light.  He graduated in 1929, with a Bachelor of Music, but he would have little chance to use this degree as he died on January 17, 1931.  To read more about his life, check out Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, which has a chapter titled “Monk”.

 Another friend of Hoagy Carmichael’s that wrote for The Vagabond was Howard Warren “Wad” Allen.  Wad Allen was musically inclined, but also wrote poems, essays, and stories often under pseudonyms such as Sir Polonius Panurge and Tod Owlin.  He graduated in 1926 with a Bachelor of English.  After graduating, he became a reporter for the Anderson Herald, before moving on to work at the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company doing advertising.  He would later become the Vice President and Chief of Public Relations for Johns-Manville Corporation.  To hear about his retirement from the company check out “Wad Allen [sound recording] : retirement tape” available from IU’s Archives of Traditional Music. He also was interviewed on January 18, 1973.   In this interview, he discusses many topics relating to Indiana University, including The Vagabond.

Another writer for The Vagabond was Robert Fink. He was editor of The Vagabond for the school year of 1929-1930, which was after The Vagabond had a two year period of only being published once each year.  His leadership brought the publication back to its previous level of publishing, with 4 editions that year.  He wrote poems and also did translations for The Vagabond.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1930.  He continued his education going on to receive a Master of Arts from Cornell and a Ph.D. in Classics from Yale University in 1934.  He taught at a variety of colleges and universities including Kenyon College and State University of New York.  He wrote three books, which are all available through IUCAT, though his first, The Feriale Duranum, is not available for checkout but may be read in the library. He died in December 1988. Check out “In Memoriam Robert O. Fink” by William E. McCulloch, available through JSTOR, for his obituary.

These are just a few of the writers from The Vagabond, but as you can see these writers were outgoing, intelligent people, who felt the need to inspire change in others.  For more information about the people who wrote, check out resources such as the Arbutus and The Vagabond itself, which are both available in the University Archives.