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.
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.
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.
“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 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:
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.
Tucked away in a seemingly innocent folder labelled “Correspondence, 1941-42” in the Training Course for Social Work collection is a reminder of a dark time in the history of Indiana University. Amid memos detailing billing statements and curriculum plans is a notice from the Office of Admissions to various deans and directors, including the Director of the Training Course for Social Work. The letter is dated June 12, 1942 and begins with, “In view of the present uncertain military status of the southern Indiana geographical zone in which Indiana University is located, the trustees of this University have decided that Japanese students should not be admitted to Indiana University at the present time.”
In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which led to the relocation and internment of thousands of Japanese Americans living in established military zones. In compliance with this legislation, universities along the West Coast discharged all students of Japanese descent. Church leaders, university officials, and the YMCA-YWCA responded by establishing the National Japanese Student Relocation Council. The organization assisted displaced students in applying to inland universities and finding housing in potentially hostile environments.
On April 26, 1942, the University of Minnesota set a precedent in the Midwest by refusing to accept relocated Japanese-American students. The president of the University of Minnesota, W.C. Coffey, wrote to his peers to express his hesitancy in admitting Japanese students until the US government could address the issue and outline a clear course of action. The admission question came to a head at IU on May 2, 1942 when the Department of Botany and Bacteriology received a request from UC Berkeley to admit two Japanese-American graduate students.
One week later, on May 9, 1942, President Herman B Wells addressed the Board of Trustees: “There is this to be said about the situation–when the casualty lists begin to come in–even though they might be loyal Americans as anybody, feeling is going to mount very high and you might have disturbances on the campus.” One Board member responded by stating his fear that Japanese students “would get into subversive activity whenever he would have a chance.” The Board swiftly disapproved the admission of Japanese students.
The Board’s decision did not end the debate. The director of the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council sent a letter on August 14, 1942 to Frank O. Beck, Executive Secretary of the IU Committee on Religion with information about the program stating that “among the evacuees are approximately twenty-five hundred American-born Japanese students, who were enrolled in college. These young people are not ‘aliens,’ but Americans by birthright, brought up in our American schools, eager to demonstrate their loyalty to American ideals, and go on with their education in preparation for useful service and still fuller assimilation into our national life.” Officials at IU argued that they could not admit Japanese students based on overcrowding of native Indiana students, “important laboratory research on war problems,” and the proximity of the Naval Depot for the Atlantic fleet.
In October 1942, Bloomington residents and IU students held a Town Hall to discuss the question “Should an American citizen of Japanese ancestry be deprived of his university education?” The responses to this question were mixed and included the following:
“Bring ’em here – they’re just as much American citizens as I am.”
“Can’t tell about loyalty even tho FBI investigated them.”
“Can’t be done – this is war!”
“A university education does not have anything to do with Japan’s policies.”
“I wouldn’t want to room with a Japanese but it’s all right with me if they come here to school.”
“Ought to lock them all up”
“Essential that it be done to show the practicality of democracy even in war time.”
You can read all of the responses here. A writer at the Indiana Daily Student offered some wise words in response to the chaos: “We mustn’t lose our heads in the case of hating our enemies. We should not exclude a chosen few from the periphery of the Japanese and condemn all that has any part of Japanese of any other aliens just because we happen to be warring with their patterns of living.”
A year after the town hall meeting, in October 1943, a 19-year-old Japanese-American woman wrote to Kate Mueller, IU’s Dean of Women. She explains, “I am…greatly interested in applying for entrance into Indiana University for a year or so to take up a Pre-nursing Course. At the present, I am employed at the Medical Center, Robert Long Hospital in the Nursing Division. I am one of the millions of people who are engaged in an essential war industry and realize that I am contributing towards the welfare on the homefront. However, I feel as though I could do more if I could become trained for the profession that is so vital at this time. My parents are still at a War Relocation Authority Camp in Hunt, Idaho but are all for this plan of mine….I hope and trust in God that you will aid me in every way possible.” Although, the Dean of Women passed along the letter with a plea to President Wells, she was forced to comply with university policies and reject the application.
Three honorably discharged veterans managed to change the prevailing attitude of university officials. In late 1944, the Japanese-American veterans submitted letters to the Office of Admissions to request enrollment at the University. The Board of Trustees revisited the issue of Japanese enrollment on December 13, 1944. After reviewing the veterans’ qualifications and patriotism, the Board “approved the recommendation of President Wells for the admission of honorably discharged veterans of Japanese-American ancestry on the same basis as American citizens of any other ancestry.” In the same meeting, they also approved the admission of Japanese-American students from the state of Indiana.
Victory in Japan was celebrated on August 15, 1945 with a formal surrender ceremony following on September 2. The Board of Trustees finally repealed the decision to deny Japanese students admission to the University on September 21, 1945. However, reminders of such grim wartime decisions continue to haunt many of IU’s collections.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, the Dance Major Program is supported by 16 faculty and staff members. The program is based in modern dance, but students
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.