Dancing the Night Away: Student Life in the 1950s

Margaret Albersmeyer Werling graduated with a bachelor’s in Education in 1953, and, according to her personal scrapbook, attended every sporting event, theater show, and dance that she possibly could between 1951 and 1953. While perusing her scrapbook, I discovered many interesting IU student traditions including: the decorating of fraternities for football games, the Law-Med School Boress, the Arbutus Queen Contest, and the Fall Carnival Parade.

Fraternity decorated for Homecoming, 1949

Margaret was an avid attendee of athletic events and saved programs from basketball games, track and field events, and football games. She must have truly enjoyed attending the Old Oaken Bucket games between IU and Purdue because she saved tickets and programs from 1951 and 1952. Although she did get to see IU triumph in football, she watched the Hoosiers clinch the 1953 NCAA Basketball Championship over Kansas and attended campus celebrations.

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Margaret Werling’s ticket for the 1951 Old Oaken Bucket game

I was most intrigued by Margaret’s impressive dance card collection. Dance cards initially became popular in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century and their usage peaked in the early 20th century.  Dance cards were typically small, decorated booklets worn on a woman’s wrist or attached to her dress with a cord. Men carried pencils and wrote their names on lines next to the name of dances in the booklet.

1942 Junior Prom dance card
1942 Junior Prom dance card

Dance cards remained in fashion until the 1960s when dances became less formal affairs.  Common phrases such as “pencil me in,” “my dance card is full,” and “save the last dance for me” are all tied to the dance card culture. Many of Margaret’s dance cards have a decorated cover that reflects the theme of the dance, lists of committee members who sponsored the dance, and details about the entertainment.

Dances were all the rage at IU in the 1950s.  There were plenty of formal and informal dances to keep students busy.  Students could attend the Freshman Frolic, the Freshman Tyronian, the Sophomore Cotillion, the Junior Prom, the annual Blanket Hop hosted by Sigma Delta Chi (the honorary journalistic fraternity), the Senior Siwash, and many more!

Dance at the Union, 1951
Dance at the IU Memorial Union, 1951

A dance that became an annual tradition on campus was the Wellhouse Waltz. The first iteration of this dance was held in 1944 at the Alumni Hall of the Union. Each year, male attendees selected a freshman woman to become “Miss Campus Coed.” It was said that in order for any IU woman to become a “true coed,” her date must take her to the Well House after the Wellhouse Waltz and then kiss her for the full twelve strokes at midnight.

The Junior Prom was the most formal dance of the season and was held in the Men’s Gymnasium with a dedicated theme.  The festivities could last until two o’clock in the morning. Students must have truly enjoyed these dances because they would “end only by force of the 12:30 curfew when dates unwillingly part” (1953 Indiana Arbutus, p. 138). The theme of Margaret’s 1953 prom was “A Star Danced.”

Duke Ellington at the 1952 Dames' Ball
Duke Ellington at the 1952 Dames’ Ball

Well-known artists played at many IU dances.  In 1952, Duke Ellington played at the Dames’ Ball, a dance where women escorted the men.  According to the 1952 Arbutus, “The men reaped the benefits of inverted chivalry that evening as they were called for, paid for, and encumbered with original – and uninhibited – corsages.”  At the end of the night, one man was chosen to be “King of the Dames.”

Students voted on a Queen at both formal and informal dances. At the 1952 Sweater Hop, the Sweater Queen was selected out of twenty-nine candidates. According to the 1953 Arbutus, “each housing unit had the privilege of selecting their candidate for the competition. The list was narrowed down to five girls before the dance by several judges picked from campus dignitaries. The sponsoring housing unit then put on an all-out campus campaign.” Couples attending the dance cast their vote and the winner was presented with a cashmere sweater and roses.

Margaret must have loved her time dancing the night away as an undergraduate at Indiana University because she came back to earn a master’s degree in education eight years later. If you would like to learn more about dances at IU, look at Margaret Werling’s scrapbook, or learn about other IU student traditions, contact the IU Archives.

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.

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.

Risks and Rewards

What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken? How old were you when you chose to take this risk? For pianist and Indiana University professor Menahem Pressler, one might argue that flying around the world to compete in an international piano competition was one of his greatest risks. From a young age Pressler was a natural player and chose to hone his skills as he grew older by attending the Tel Aviv Conservatory in Israel, where he and his family had emigrated to in 1939 from Germany to escape Nazi sentiments. After taking years of piano classes, Pressler decided he would enter into the Debussy International Piano Competition hosted in San Francisco, California. Luckily for him, his knowledge and talents supported him through the competition and Pressler won, marking his place in the world as a pianist and artist from that moment forward.

A young Menahem Pressler playing piano
A young Menahem Pressler playing piano

Menahem Pressler made his debut as a classical solo artist with the Philadelphia Orchestra only a few short weeks after winning the Debussy Competition. From there he has traveled the world performing solo, with his classical music ensemble the Beaux Arts Trio, and with other musicians and musical groups for over sixty-five years.

In 1955, Pressler accepted a position as a professor at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. That same year, he performed with the Beaux Arts Trio for the first time, a classical chamber music group he co-founded with violinist Daniel Guilet and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. The Trio played their first concert at the Berkshire Music Festival (now known as Tanglewood) in Lenox, Massachusetts and continued to play together in different configurations with Pressler at the helm until 2008.

The Beaux Arts Trio, c.1962
The Beaux Arts Trio, c.1962

With a career as illustrious as Menahem Pressler’s, it comes as no surprise that the materials documenting his career is voluminous. Processing Professor Pressler’s collection was interesting for me as it helped me fully understand the breadth of his life and career, and how much of both he had dedicated to engaging the public with his talents.

The Beaux Arts Trio 1960 Itinerary
The Beaux Arts Trio 1960 Itinerary

Although I knew Pressler was constantly in motion with either travel or teaching, I was delighted to come across an itinerary from 1960 that delineated the places and time spans of each concert he had that year. From Indianapolis to New York, London to Jerusalem, Pressler’s influence spanned the entire world twice over. Program booklets and clippings match up with the itinerary dates and show which selections the Trio and Pressler focused on during this time period.

Beaux Arts Trio, Program Booklets, 1960
Beaux Arts Trio, Program Booklets, 1960

One of the first concerts of the year took place on January 27 in Miami, Florida. The trio played a classic Haydn’s Trio No. 3 in C major before moving on to a more contemporary piece by Aaron Copland entitled Trio on Jewish Themes (“Vitebsk”). One of the group’s last concerts took place at The Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium where they played pieces from Joseph Haydn, Georg Friedrich Händel, Maurice Ravel, and Hermann Zilcher.

The Scotsman, September 5, 1960
The Scotsman, September 5, 1960

An article published by The Scotsman on September 5, 1960 stated that, “If the old Italian craftsman [Stradivarius] could claim some credit for the refined yet ample tone which flowed from [their] instruments he would have rejoiced at finding his instruments in the hands of such masters, for each is a soloist in his own right.” Another article published just a few days later on September 7, 1960 by the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post stated, “The pivotal point is the pianist, Menahem Pressler. His greatest technical asset is his touch, which, at the command of intense musical understanding produces not only runs of unusual fluency and the realization of hypersensitive phrasing, but the power to hold clearly the shifting balance of the music between the instruments with never any loss of control or tone.”

Menahem Pressler
Menahem Pressler

Accolades such as these continue up until this very day for the now 90 year old musician. Mr. Pressler has been the recipient of many influential and important awards such as the German President’s Cross of Merit, First Class (2005), France’s Order of the Arts and Letters (2005), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Edison Foundation (2009). None of these accomplishments could have been achieved without the daring choice to take a risk (an instructive example to us all).

The Pressler papers document his career as an artist and professor at Indiana University and are now processed with a finding aid available through the Archives. Contact the Archives for more information or to gain access to the papers! Additional information about Menahem Pressler may be found on his official website: http://menahempressler.org

Resources:
R., J. W. “Instruments in Master’s Hands.” The Scotsman [Edinburgh] 5 Sept. 1960: 5-6. Print. Edinburgh Festival
Warrack, John. “Edinburgh Festivial-Exciting Trios.” Daily Telegraph and Morning Post [London] 7 Sept. 1960: 9-12. Print.