The Marching Hundred at the Kentucky Derby

Derby Day is almost upon us! This year, May 6th is the day to place your bets and take a sip of the traditional mint julep served at the track. The Kentucky Derby is not just an occasion for triumphant horse races and rose blankets; it is also a day for celebrating American culture through art, food, and music. This year, attendees of the Derby will get to see Grammy-winning musical artist Harry Connick Jr. perform the National Anthem, as well as the dozens of other influential and famous celebrities who will be walking down the red carpet. But there was a time that the spectacle of the event was IU’s own Marching Hundred, who were asked to perform before the race every year from 1938-1941.

Marching Hundred at the Kentucky Derby, 1940. IU Archives Photograph Collection P0033385

Indiana University was the first state university to be chosen to play at the track on Derby Day, and were so widely praised that Derby officials asked them to come again and again– and again, four years in a row. They were also the first band that was asked to return more than once. Col. Matt J. Winn, the president of Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby is held, had hundreds of letters pouring into his office, all of them asking for IU to return for encore performances. An article in the IDS described the 13-minute drill they would perform, opening with a “clock chimes fanfare” and executing “merry-go-round” turns, counter-marches, and a formation that spells out “Dixie” (below). They also managed to get into the formation of the Derby trademark and ended with the IU monogram.

Marching Hundred at Kentucky Derby, 1939. IU Archives Photograph Collection P0030687

These days, the marching band from the University of Louisville plays the traditional song “My Old Kentucky Home” before the race every year. That, too, was in the 13-minute drill played by the IU Marching Hundred back in their years at the Derby. Lieutenant Frederick E. Green directed the band and Major Roy N. Hagerty was the drill instructor for the group of musicians (which was more than a hundred).

Indiana University President Herman B Wells at the Derby in 1939. IU Archives Photograph Collection P0030683

A lot was different from today’s Derby, but the pressure the musicians felt had to be very similar. Several important people watched from the crowds as the band performed. In 1939, IU president Herman B Wells attended the Derby, pictured to the left with a group of other Derby-goers. In 1940, screen actor Walter Connolly (who died only a few weeks following the Derby that year) passed his compliments onto the band after their performance. Gerald Swope, a multi-millionaire and chairman of the New York racing commission, sent a letter to the band that commended them highly. The IDS article from 1940 that reported these and other compliments stated that the Marching Hundred kept letters like this to be framed and kept as souvenirs of their time at the Derby. I can’t help but wonder what happened to those framed letters.

The Marching Hundred has since gained more national fame for being one of the best university marching bands in the country, playing at all sorts of major events throughout the decades. Like the Kentucky Derby, they’ve held onto a few unique traditions of their own.

IU Archives Photograph Collection P0030655 1939
2011

The John and Hilda Jay Family Papers

Doubtless, you’ve at least once wondered what historians would assume about your historical setting based on something you’ve left behind. Every day, we write something down, we send an e-mail, we file away something important, or we send a quick text to a friend. Our habits of communication–perhaps unknowingly– document specific snapshots of the world at the time of creation. And this has always been the case, although we’re much more digitized in today’s age than we used to be. So imagine you’ve written a letter to your sweetheart every day over a span of quite a few years. You may not realize it, but the subtle trends of history may have been written into your words.

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This is what makes a collection like the John and Hilda Jay family papers so priceless: its ability to provide a series of snapshots through which we can study history, while also revealing the rich, fascinating details of a unique family. The collection, donated to the archives by Ms. Ellen Jay, consists primarily of a series of letters, the bulk of which were written between her parents, John and Hilda Jay, between the years of 1939-1946. John and Hilda were both IU alumni, John graduating in 1941 and Hilda graduating in 1945.  They began their relationship during their time together at school, and married in 1942– a union that was hastened due to the country’s new involvement in World War II and the potential of John being called to duty.

That particular chapter of their story began on December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked by bombing Pearl Harbor. At the time, the couple was separated; Hilda continued her schoolwork at IU, and John was in Connecticut beginning his career at the Remington Arms Company. Their letters suggest that they did, eventually, intend to marry, but more than likely not until after Hilda had completed her degree. Then, the news of the bombing sent waves of media response across the country.

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On December 7th, 1941, Hilda wrote to her sweetheart: “I hardly know what to write you tonight. Just as we all came out from the concert we were encountered by news boys shouting “Extra-etc.” There was a rush to get the papers, then a grim, determined calmness evident…I wonder what the result of this will be so far as we are concerned.”

And the day after, John responded: “Well, we’re actually in it now. It has happened so fast I can hardly get over the shock. I had begun to feel that we wouldn’t get into war for at least 6 months yet, and possibly a year, when, bingo, the radio flashes word that Japan was bombing Hawaii.…The thing that hurts worst now is what’s going to happen to us. I hope we can pull through it, but gad, what a lot of faith it takes to think about even pulling through it.”

Evidence from their letters suggests that the entire family was trying to approach the question of what to do– postpone the marriage until after the war is over, or hurry it along before John is called away? There were unquestionably thousands of young couples in the same predicament across the country at that time. Plans had to be put on hold or rushed. Hilda’s mother suggested that she wait until “after this is all over.” Hilda, however, confided in a letter to John on December 13th that she didn’t see that happening: “Now as for how I look at it. This thing is going on for years–plenty of them…I’m not sure it would be wise to say ‘after this is all over’ for I think that is never…I think it all depends on what sort of service you get yourself into.” The uncertainty of the situation gripped tightly onto their plans for the future.

As it turns out, they decided to get married in July of 1942. Hilda would give up, or at least postpone, her education for the sake of their new marriage and move to Connecticut with her husband. This situation lasted for about a year before John was enlisted into the U.S. Navy in 1944. They stationed him at the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard, where he remained until boarding the U.S.S. Washington. With her husband off serving, Hilda returned to school at I.U. and was able to complete her degree by 1945.

The letters from John’s time aboard the U.S.S. Washington reveal telling anecdotes about Navy life during World War II. For instance, read below a description that John wrote after finding out about Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s surrender in May 1945:

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This excerpt illustrates John’s personal feelings on the matter, as well as the discourse between Navy men immediately following the announcement.

The Jay family papers has more to offer than just a glimpse at life during World War II; the entirety of the collection spans from the early 20th century to the early 21st century, featuring letters written by several members of the Jay family, including their children, Ellen and Sarah. Ellen and Sarah also attended IU during the 1960s, and much like their parents, maintained correspondence with their own parents during their time apart. This extensive, interesting collection is brimming with both local and global history throughout crucial moments in the past.

Contact the IU Archives, to schedule a visit to view the John and Hilda Jay family papers.

The Crimson Bull and the Purdue Special

Humor has always been a popular approach when discussing collegiate life.  It has a way of fearlessly tackling the array of social and academic topics that confront college students like dating, partying, professors, Greek life, and sports.  Indiana University has a long history of student-published satire/humor magazines such as the Vagabond of the 1920s, The Bored Walk of the 1930s, and The Date from 1946-1947. Another was the Crimson Bull. 

In 1947, the IU chapter of the professional journalism society Sigma Delta Chi launched the Crimson Bull, adopting the name of a former IU student humor publication that was issued in the early 1920s. In post-WWII America, the editors of The Crimson Bull found it necessary to stir backlash against the mainstream propaganda distributed by University officials; they courted censorship, played with taboos, and encouraged criticism along with, of course, laughter, providing a unique yet undeniably relatable glance at IU student life.

c-bull-feb-1949003The IU Archives holds over 30 issues from the racy humor magazine dating from 1947-1956.  During its publication The Crimson Bull released 6 or 8 issues a year, many of which were special issues ranging from the eminent doom of graduation to “the birds and the bees.”  While many of these special issues targeted the typical collegiate themes, the November issues however were often reserved for a distinctly IU problem – Purdue.

Out of all of IU’s Big Ten competitors, our greatest rivalry is with our in-state neighbor, Purdue.  IU and Purdue have been in-state rivals for over a century, and although bitter opponents, the universities have tried to keep it in good spirits. The two universities have constantly fought over who holds the title of the state school, and the editors of The Crimson Bull were quick to inform readers on IU’s clear superiority. The publication dedicated at least three known issues to berating their northern neighbor university, be it through mock exposés, comic illustrations, or simply flaunting snapshots ofc-bull-1952002 IU’s impressively beautiful freshman women.

The magazine often refers to Purdue as COW College, stereotyped as the agriculture school that uses its engineering program as a front to disguised its crude, crumbling infrastructure.  Purdue is often framed as a true architectural horror with a dismal 6:1 male to female student ratio and embarrassingly subpar literacy standards. These magazine issues include articles set from the perspective of an “undercover” student journalist who bravely ventured to probe the Purdue campus along with interviews from phony “former” Purdue students who had supposedly escaped and transferred to IU, recounting many horrors.  The flagrantly false allegations made towards Purdue would have surely gotten a laugh out of any IU student – a scoff and maybe even a chuckle from a Purdue student.

c-bull-1949001“The Purdue Special” of November 1949 contains a particularly interesting article titled “Our Bucket” that investigates the origin and other historical moments from past Oaken Bucket Games (You can read more about the origins and history of the Old Oaken Bucket in this post from last week.)  The competition began in 1925 after the first Oaken Bucket Game ended in a deadlock tie, forcing the trophy to be shared between the two campuses – Purdue having the trophy for the first six months, IU for the latter.

As an IU alumnus myself, I especially enjoyed reading about the particularly rattling upset of 1930, where the IU underdogs defeated the Boilermakers at home.  It is rumored that the upset was so unexpected that the officials had only bothered to print a “P” link that year. After returning to Bloomington, accompanied by a band of celebration, the IU football team and fans were stunned to realize that the Old Oaken Bucket trophy had been stolen en route by a band of disgruntled Purdue students disguised in the IU cream and crimson.  An investigation pursued for the missing trophy and ten days later the Old Oaken Bucket was discovered unharmed on a loading platform in the middle of Lafayette.  The theft caused quite a scandal and further solidified a rivalry that to this day continues to divide Indiana homes.

What I enjoy most about The Crimson Bull is that although these magazines were written over sixty-five years ago, as an IU alum, one cannot help but appreciate the long standing tradition of the two universities’ love-hate relationship.

Contact the IU Archives to see the full collection.

 

Carolyn Fink: Wife, Student, Cat Owner

Like many young couples at IU after World War II, Carolyn and John Fink took advantage of the G.I. Bill and lived at I.U. while earning their degrees. Their life is recorded through Carolyn’s memoir, “Nightingales in the Branches” from 1955 which offers the reader glimpses into the life of married veterans and their wives at Indiana University. Carolyn covers everything from illicit hot plates in the married dorms to saying hello to Nick at Nick’s Olde English Hut.

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Trailer Court – the trailer park where the Finks lived during their “Cat Era”

Although Fink’s narrative touches upon the stress and trials of married life in small quarters, it also offers delightful tidbits that make her memoir relevant even to modern readers. Like many animal-lovers, Carolyn likes to talk about the furry roommates she and her husband acquired during their time living in a trailer near campus. In fact, she dedicates all of Chapter 10 and 11 to their “Cat Era,” which included four cats named Eightball, Fluffy, Charlie, and Orange. She tells of how Eightball only went to the bathroom in ashtrays when they left him inside, and how sickly little Charlie seemed to the rest of them. She tells of how they finally discovered that the prissy, feminine Fluffy was actually a tomcat and how Orange seemed to care little about their welfare.

Photo 1 (002)While the whole memoir is interesting and made me feel like Carolyn and John’s close personal friend, the “Cat Era” chapter endeared me to them forever. I, too, like to tell everyone about my cat, Daffy, and was thinking “Daffy does that too!” all through the chapter. For instance, like Eightball, he answers all my questions directed at him with a mew and, like Orange, I am pretty sure he could not care less if I almost kill myself trying to avoid stepping on him as long as he is fed.

If you are interested in married life at IU, the G.I. bill, or just like to read stories about cats, “Nightingales in the Branches” is an excellent read.

Mail Call: Correspondence at IU during WWII

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.” — Sir Winston Churchill in My Early Life: A Roving Commission

War is never easy, especially for those serving in the armed forces and those they leave behind. Throughout the various wars in our short history, our military members and their loved ones have made countless sacrifices in order to defend our country and protect the freedoms which we all enjoy so dearly. Separation from our loved ones can be a particularly difficult thing to bear during these times of conflict.

But whereas we now have email, skype, and various other methods of communication to keep in touch with those on the battlefield, there were no such luxuries in the Second World War.  People relied on snail

“Mail Call” from the 1944-1945 Sycamore Logbook

-mail to receive news from the frontlines which, in some areas, could be less than frequent. Letters could easily be lost in the mail as well.

Letters to and from the front lines were a lifeline for service men and women fighting in WWII. One can imagine these soldiers clinging desperately to photos of their loved ones and sitting in their shelters or in the trenches reading and rereading those letters from home dozens of times over. All the while sitting. Waiting. Hoping for the end of hostilities so that they can once again return to their former lives.

It was no different for those at home. One can be sure that many individuals sat by the mail box waiting with bated breath as the postman came up to deliver the mail, hoping to hear some news from the front. Students at Indiana University seem to have been no exception to this rule. While I was processing a set of scrapbooks from Sycamore Hall (when it acted as a women’s residence hall), I stumbled upon this little gem embedded in Volume 5 of the Sycamore Logbook from the 1944-1945 academic year whose faded pages revealed what was going through many a young woman’s mind here at IU when it came time to receive the mail during WWII.

The following is a transcription of an account written by one of the copy editors of the Sycamore Hall dorm logbook:

Residents of Sycamore Hall, 1945 Archives image no: P0044228
Residents of Sycamore Hall, 1945
Archives image no: P0044228

Mail Call

Mail Call is the most important event in the day for almost all of us girls at the University. Even on days when we could sleep late, our alarm clocks will usually be set for ten a.m.

We jump out of bed, dress in a flash, and dash downstairs. In each of our hearts there is a solemn prayer that, maybe, today is the day a letter will come from the most important man in the Army, Navy or Marines.

Each of us goes downstairs with a happy look of expectancy written on her face. Some of us come away smiling and happy; others leave the mail boxes depressed and sad.

The conversation each morning rambles on something like this:

 “Hi, Kelly, is that a letter from Bob?”

“Yes, he got his wings yesterday, and he’ll be home next week. Barbs, you had better dust off the Wedding March because we are going to be needing that song.”

“That is grand, Kelly,” comes in a chorus from the girls.

There is a scream of delight as Kay rushes for her mail box, which is packed full of letters. She stands there laughing and crying at the same time, as she counts twelve letters from her Bill. Bill is a Navy flier, and he is in the South Pacific; mail from him comes only every six or eight weeks.

Cluching [sic] the letters as though her life depended on them, Kay dashes for the big chair in the living room. Incoherent phrases tumble from her lips.

“Jeepers, and gee, he is still my man! Oh, his is wonderful – – twelve letters!  Happy day, oh happy day!”

 “Darn! Just a letter from Carol,” comes the disgusted words from Ruthann.

“That’s my luck, too,” replies Donna.

“I know Dick is busy, but – -“

“Cut it, Ruthann; there is Janie, and she did not get a letter again today.”

No, I must not forget to tell about Janie. She is a little thing and pretty as a doll. She is the pet of every girl in the house. Her Marine is in the Philippines, and she has not heard from him since Manila was taken. Janie does not say anything about not hearing from him, but we know how worried she is; we sense the heartbreak she feels when she looks at her empty mail box. I guess she realizes we would all “crack up” if we put our feelings into words.

She saw us looking at her and smiled.

 “Everything is all right, chums; Jack is all right, and there is always tomorrow.”

Julia Ann Bookout

Little did these ladies know that they did not have long to wait for their loved ones to return. The war would soon come to an end with the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945 with the formal surrender to follow on September 2nd (which is known today in the US as V-J Day). We can only hope that Jack returned with the rest of his brothers in arms to US shores to celebrate the Allied victory with Janie and the rest of his family and friends.