Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: Helen Keller

William Lowe Bryan – Indiana University alumnus, professor, vice president, president, and finally, president emeritus – had a dazzling array of correspondents over the years. Included on the roster were presidents, entertainers, writers, scientists….the list goes on. They are all fascinating but when I first stumbled across the below in his presidential correspondence a few years ago, the writer’s evident pain rather took my breath away:

Helen Keller to William Lowe Bryan, December 31, 1936

Most American schoolchildren learn the story of Helen Keller but just a recap: as a toddler, Keller fell ill and once recovered, had lost both her hearing and vision. As she grew, she developed a method of communicating with her family but in 1886 her parents sought additional help for their daughter and found themselves at the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The school’s director asked 20-year old teacher Anne Sullivan, who had herself become visually impaired due to a childhood illness, to work with young Helen. Thus began a lifelong friendship between the two. In October 1936, Anne suffered a heart attack and died five days later at the home she shared with Helen.

Sincerely Yours – Letters from the Archives: A Viennese Jewish Refugee of WWII, Charlotte (Lotte) Lederer

Born in Zistersdorf, Austria on September 7, 1919, Charlotte (Lotte) Lederer arrived in New York, New York on August 28, 1939 via the S. S. Bremen through Southampton, England. The recipient of one of three refugee scholarships from the Indiana University Board of Trustees that covered her tuition in full, she enrolled at Indiana University that fall while student organizations such as the Student Refugee Committee organized benefit dances and raffles to cover room and board. After a year at IU, Lotte penned this note of gratitude:


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While at Indiana University, Charlotte met and subsequently married fellow student Hugh Grant Freeland on April 24, 1941. The pair graduated in May 1942; Charlotte with a B.A. in Psychology and Hugh with his LL.B.

While the details of their life after graduation are a little hazy, we know that the Freelands immediately moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Charlotte initially took a job at the University of Louisville in the office of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts while Hugh worked as an attorney for Seagrams. She wrote her mentor Frank Beck back at IU that “I really had first planned on doing something in connection with the war-effort. But I was not able to find the right thing…. I feel all at home here – as you know I have always been crazy about university-atmosphere, etc.” She later took a position doing “personnel research work” at Seagrams. On January 21, 1944 she became a naturalized United States citizen. By that point Lt. Hugh G. Freeland of the US Naval Reserve was stationed in the Pacific, and she had relocated to Washington D.C. in 1945 where she was working as a Classification Analyst in the Personnel Division of the Office of the Secretary of War. She wrote the IU Alumni Association on October 27, 1945 that “It’s a swell and very interesting job. There are many I.U. grads in the Pentagon, and we are all enjoying the good news of our Football Team this year.” Following the war the couple moved to Beaumont, Texas where Charlotte taught German at a Beaumont high school and Hugh began a law practice specializing in corporate law.

To learn more about other refugees who came to IU during WWII, contact the IU Archives. The above letter is currently on view as part of the exhibit “‘Here I met my first true radicals'”: Student Reform Movements at Indiana University.”

The above letter is located in C213 President’s Office records – Herman B Wells.

IU’s Contemporary Dance Program

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

The Bored Walk

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Self-described as “the humerous publication of Indiana U.” the Bored Walk was a humorous college magazine published by students at Indiana University from around 1931 until 1942.  The publication featured jokes, cartoons, and campus gossip and news. Cover art was unique and often featured student artwork.

October 1935The 1931 Arbutus described the Bored Walk‘s scandal page, “Borings,” as one of its most interesting features, though the content was usually related to campus happenings and may be difficult for today’s reader to fully understand. For example, a “scandal” tidbit from the 1934 remarked that, “Maybe the coeducational system has its good points after all. Fygam Flowers had intended to deny our almy mammy the pleasure of his Feb1934presence this semester. But he met Trydelt Prentice and changed his mind.”  A 1942 Borings report similarly states that, “S.A.E. ex-rod man Neal Gilliatt recently placed his badge for safe keeping in the care of Theta Mary Rees.  If she keeps it as safely as she does her scholastic average, Neal will never more wear his frat pin.”

As is the case with many magazines of this time period, BoredWalk004it is also particularly striking that nearly every back cover features a large, colored cigarette ad.  Yet interestingly, in a letter to President William Lowe Bryan, the magazine’s 1935 general manager comments that “A high standard of advertising has been maintained although it has meant the rejection of lucrative contracts for beer and liquor advertising.”  Apparently alcohol was not appropriate for students, but cigarettes were!

The Bored Walk student staff members believed their privately owned and operated publication to be highly circulated, widely read, and much enjoyed.  In 1932, the staff attempted to hand it over to the University in order to ensure its continued publication citing a circulation of 2,000 copies and that subscriptions were not merely for IU students. Subscribers included folks outside the state of Indiana, and that a number of readers were potential IU students and extension students. The Board of Trustees considered the matter, but declined.

In 1942 student owner Meredith Bratton once again tried to sell the publication before he joined the military but IU News Bureau Director E. Ross Bartley opposed the proposition saying, “The parents of our students would not understand how the University would permit some of the things that have been published in the last two years.” Bratton replied that he did not want to hand over management of the Bored Walk, but simply wanted University backing in order to more easily obtain advertising and gain recognition from the merchants bureau of Indianapolis.

Eventually, two students by the names of Bob Anderson and Nat Hill leased the Bored Walk from Bratton. The magazine, however, went into a steady decline following a series of complaints from the Dean of Women, local church officials, administrators, and Bloomington residents over the magazine’s content. The IU Bookstore and Union both cancelled their subscriptions. The October 1942 issue sealed the Bored Walk‘s fate. According to a letter written by Bartley, the offending issue contained several jokes of a sexual nature, some of which included rude remarks against the Catholic Church. Furthermore, a local priest had felt it necessary to report the magazine to higher church officials as material not suitable for Catholics to read. Anderson and Hill shouldered the blame and requested that the University order the cessation of the publication.

IU Comptroller W. G. Biddle wrote to Meredith Bratton at naval training to tell him the news of the publication’s end stating, “It was no longer decent enough to distributed as a product of Indiana University students.” Unfortunately, no copies of the issue in question exist in our collection, so we can’t see the offending articles for ourselves.

Interested in learning more about the Bored Walk? Contact the staff at the Archives!

A different sort of Commencement

Crowd in front of the Book Nook, owner/manager Peter Costas standing at podium. Herman Wells seated to the left.
Herman B Wells, wearing a white suit, is sitting to the left of the podium at the front of the stage. Peter Costas is wearing a suit and standing at the podium, June 2, 1931. IU Archives P0022416

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.”

Book Nook program, 1931; IU Archives P0020972

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 crowd in front of Book Nook, 1928
Book Nook commencement group, 1928; IU Archives P0020645