Through the Airwaves: The Indiana School of the Sky

We all enjoy our podcasts, niche radio shows, and morning news during the drive to work or school, but the history of radio has a far reaching past beyond our modern version of it. For much of the twentieth century, radio was the entertainment and news medium of choice — not television, and radio has a particularly interesting history here at IU!

Class listening to School of the Sky, Archives image no. P0050223

The Indiana School of the Sky radio program of the Indiana University Department of Radio and Television began broadcasting educational radio programs in 1947 and continued through the early 1960s. The program reached schools throughout Indiana and nearby states and led to new course offerings at IU. IU students performed in the radio programs originally intended for children ages 4-8 which aired for 15 minutes during each school day.

Eventually the program’s popularity called for further programming for high-school students, and later adults tuned in as well.  Topics in every subject from history and music to current events and news were covered during the various episodes of the program.

The School of the Sky series discussed possible careers for students, music and literature, how to find a job, dating and growing up, and current events.  In many ways the program’s subjects seemed to help students learn both educational topics and how to be a part of society.  Other episodes focused on the news and events of the time that were likely difficult for students to understand.

To explain the Cold War and Communism to audiences in 1962, as part of the “How It Happened” series the School of the sky performed a skit about West Germany. From the view of an airplane and from the ground, the actors describe West Berlin as an “island surrounded by Communism.”  The narrator and the characters in the show provide listeners with the history and problematic results of World War II.  Students learned, through the vivid description of the show’s script, the differences between East and West Berlin, Check Point Charlie, and the Berlin Wall.  The picture the program paints shows the effects of Communism and the grim reality in Berlin on the other side of the Wall.  On the ground in West Berlin, the narrator explains that East Berliners have a very different life than West Berliners and the listeners in the United States:

President Wells speaking for the opening of the School of the Sky, Archives image no. P0048605

“The Communists, in fear of having everybody run away to freedom, have built a wall to stop them.  This wall is the ugliest thing I have ever seen.  It is also a very sad thing to see, because behind it are people who want freedom, want to live like you and me, but the wall holds them in.  If they try to get over the wall, the Communists shoot them.  Many young students have died trying to get over into West Berlin.”

The Indiana School of the Sky, 1961-1962, How It Happened Series, Volume 3 of 3. Program #10, Aprill 11, 1962, George Strimel, Jr. Page 96.

The program effectively brought a faraway place and the conflict of the Berlin Wall and Cold War home to the listeners in Indiana.

The students here at IU were the radio show’s writers, performers, and producers. The Indiana School of the Sky eventually reached thousands of classrooms and children while also providing college students with invaluable radio experience.

Oscar winners in “School of the Sky”, Archives image no. P0052037

The bound volumes containing the scripts of the program and the teaching manuals found in the IU Archives’ Indiana School of the Sky records offer enlightening insight into the stage management, acting, and preparation that was necessary for each episode.

In 2009, the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI) at IU found numerous lacquer discs containing recordings of The School of the Sky. These are now digitized and available online through Media Collections Online.

“I am going to have a birthday party from two to four o’clock and I want you to come” – One of My Favorite Photographs

From Brad Cook, IU Archives Photographs Curator

While browsing an antique shop near Hanover, New Hampshire, a 1956 graduate of Indiana University came upon the photograph seen here. Recognizing the address found on the back of the image she purchased the image and donated it to the Indiana University Archives.

(Back Row, L to R) Mary Woodburn, Doris Hoffman, Martha Woodburn, Marjorie Davis, Dorothy Cunningham, Mary Louden, and Agnes Joyner. (Middle Row, L to R) Elizabeth Miller, Martha Buskirk, Ruth Dill, Carol Hoffman, Frieda Hershey, and Ruth Cravens. (Front Row, L to R) Margaret Faris, Pauline Reed, Dorothy Clough and Catherine Fletcher.

For a curator of photographs there is no image more appealing than one with a great deal of contextual information (e.g. names and date) and this image certainly fits into that category as the back side of the photograph gives us not only the names of those shown and the date taken, but also the event, the exact location of the event and even the name of the photographer. On top of that, a transcription of the original invitation is also present.

On February 12, 1902 Ruth Ralston Cravens held a birthday party in her home located at 222 East Fourth Street in Bloomington. Her stepmother sent out the following invitation to Ruth’s friends: “I will be four years old Wednesday, February 12, 1902. I am going to have a birthday party from two to four o’clock and I want you to come. I do not want you to bring or send me any presents. I just want you to come and play with me. Ruth Ralston Cravens.”

In response to the invitation, and according to a note written on the back of the image, sixteen girls attended the party and “…had a delightful time. Prof. John A. Stoneking, on Indiana University, took a photograph and each one of the guests received one as a souvenir of the occasion.”

The birthday girl was born on February 12, 1898 (her mother died eight days later). Ruth was graduated from IU in 1920 with a degree in English. From 1942-1956 she worked as an administrative assistant to IU President Herman B Wells. Ruth never married. She died January 20, 1982.

Ruth’s stepmother, Emma Lucille Krueger Cravens, worked in the IU Library and then as a secretary for IU President William Lowe Bryan.

Ruth’s father, John W. Cravens, graduated from IU in 1897. For many years he served as IU Registrar and Secretary to the IU Board of Trustees.

The photographer, John A. Stoneking, was graduated from Indiana University in 1898 with a degree in physics, he subsequently received his master’s degree from Indiana University in 1901 and from 1901-1905 he was an instructor in physics here before moving to Illinois where he died in 1923.

Others in the photograph known to have graduated from Indiana University are Mary Louden (AB 1919) and Frieda Hershey (AB 1921).

Behind the Curtain: Julia Kilgore, Bicentennial Oral History Intern

Behind the Curtain is a series highlighting IU Archives staff, partners from various departments of the IU Libraries, and students who make all of our work possible. Continue to follow over the coming months to read how and who make the magic happen!

Role: Bicentennial Oral History Intern

Educational Background: BA in History, BA in Art from Hillsdale College; Current MLS student with a specialization in archives and records management.

How she got here: Julia started working in archives as an undergraduate at Hillsdale College. At the College, she mainly worked in special collections as the caretaker of the campus Library’s coin collection, but she occasionally helped the college Archivist with various projects. One particular project she enjoyed was helping to rearrange documents from the Winston Churchill Project.  She also had the pleasure of working with and organizing an entire archives collection at a local historic house, the Grosvenor House Museum.

When Julia volunteered for the Grosvenor House Museum, she never knew what to expect.  It was like Christmas every day! One afternoon she would be flipping through a pile of graduation announcements from the local schools and the next she would be trying to identify individuals in a stack of nameless photos. There were old maps, rail road tickets, letters, articles on local war heroes…one time she and a friend found a military commission from King George III for a local townsman with its wax seal still intact! Meanwhile at the College, Julia would sift through and rehouse tons of letters between Winston Churchill and his wife, secretary notes from meetings, letters to dignitaries from around the world, and other great documents. After working with these collections, Julia knew that she wanted to work in an environment where she could interact with archives and special collections in some way, whether it be in a library, museum, or a similar institution.

Julia began her dual MLS/Art History degree in the fall of 2015 and found work as a Public Services Assistant in Wells Library. In the spring of 2016, she began processing collections for the IU Archives and transitioned into her current position as Bicentennial Oral History Intern the following semester.

Favorite item in the collection: One of Julia’s favorite items in the archives is Volume 5 of the Sycamore Logbook from 1944-1945 from the IU Women’s Residence Halls scrapbooks (see more info about the scrapbooks in her posts titled “Snippets from Dorm Life” and “Mail Call“). She was reordering all of IU’s women’s dorm scrapbooks when she decided to flip through a few to get an idea of what these ladies were like. As she turned page after page of unidentified photographs, she wondered if she would find anything that would tell her their names or what their lives were like at IU. She turned a page and saw the headline “Mail Call.” She was immediately drawn to it because she knew the book was from around the end of World War II, meaning it had to be something about soldiers during the war.

It turned out to be a really great piece describing a typical morning in Sycamore Hall where the ladies would dash downstairs immediately after waking up to see if there was news from the front lines. It really struck a chord with Julia and reminded her yet again the amazing things you get to discover while working in archives (and purely by accident too!).

Current project: Julia interviews staff and alumni for the Oral History Project about their time here at IU.

Favorite experience in the IU Archives: Julia loves when she is interviewing someone for the Oral History project and they talk about old student hangouts or past events.  It’s really great because she can research these places and events after the interview and she always finds great things in our collections on them.  Sitting there listening to them talk about these things really helps her to connect with our collections on a different level.  It makes it all the more real to her.

What she’s learned from working here: Restaurants, bookstores, and other places downtown have such a rich and wonderful history that are so interconnected to IU and its students. The best thing about it? Many of them still exist.  It is wonderful to go into places Nick’s or the Gables after hearing about all of these different experiences and think about what it was like then versus now.

Snippets from Dorm Life: The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks

Memorial Hall, Sinclair Studio, 1931

In 1925 Memorial Hall Indiana University’s first owned and operated women’s dormitory opened, followed shortly thereafter by Forest Hall in 1937 (later renamed Goodbody Hall), Beech Hall in 1940 (renamed Morrison Hall in 1942 in honor of IU’s first female graduate Sarah Parke Morrison) and Sycamore Hall in 1940.

May Day Festival participants, “The Towers”, 1937

Each of these residence halls making up what we now know as the Agnes E. Wells Quadrangle had a long-standing tradition of making a scrapbook to document prominent activities and events that occurred either in the dorm or with its residents during that year.

The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks collection consists of 81 scrapbooks produced by the residents with volumes dating from 1925 to 1959. These scrapbooks typically contain individual and group photographs of dormitory residents and residential counselors, usually with accompanying textual information. They also often contain interior or exterior photographs of the buildings of Wells Quadrangle, as well as other sites on campus, such as the Indiana Memorial Union

Two residents of Memorial Hall East, “The Towers,” 1936 or 1937

and the Student Building. Besides formal photographs, there are images of everyday dormitory life, such as students studying, dining, or participating in athletics and other activities.

Many scrapbooks also contain memorabilia and ephemera such as dance cards, invitations, correspondence, event programs, sports schedules, newspaper clippings and similar items related to campus events and activities that were either sponsored or hosted by the dormitories or attended by their residents. Events frequently represented in these volumes include Homecoming, the Little 500, seasonal formals, and celebrations of holidays such as May Day and Christmas.

Most of the scrapbooks followed some sort of visual theme which allowed the dorm’s more artistic members to have a little fun:

Selected illustrations from the Sycamore 1951-1952 Log

Here’s one with involving a theme based on Dante’s Inferno:

Inferno-Theme
Selected illustrations from the 1928-1929 Castle Chronicle

These scrapbooks often also include little tidbits that give modern readers insight into the relationships that these women had with each other and how the outside world impacted their daily life. For example in a previous post from last year Mail Call: Correspondence at IU during WWII, our readers learned about how ladies at IU were affected by WWII.

Seniors Crop
Illustration from the 1930 Castle Chronicle

Many a scrapbook regale the reader with descriptions of pajama parties, teas, dances, and social coffee hours. Others may include more personal notes such as a congratulatory message from the dorm to one of the ladies on her engagement, a retelling of a special moment during the year, or perhaps an inside joke known only to that particular community. Each scrapbook will also often include sections on the academic triumphs of the residents and a section dedicated to seniors which recount many fond memories of their lives at IU as well as advice for underclassmen moving forward.

If you’re interested in these or other scrapbooks contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.

Lawrence M. Langer: IU Physicist and Manhattan Project Scientist

While Lawrence M. Langer made an impact at Indiana University’s physics department, his contributions to society go beyond his work as a physics professor at IU. Dr. Langer’s role with the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb that hit the town of Hiroshima during World War II, played a pivotal point for the Allied powers.

Langer with three other physic professors in 1940 (from left to right, Langer is the third person) helped create the first cyclotron at Indiana University. P0032291

Lawrence M. Langer was born in New York in 1913. He received his B.S.(1934) and PhD (1938), both from NYU in physics. In 1938, Langer joined the Indiana University faculty in the physics department where he helped create IU’s first cyclotron. As WWII progressed, Langer was excused from his duties at IU to join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology radar project in 1941, then moving on to to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1943 to participate in the atomic bomb project. He served as the group leader and was the first of IU’s faculty to be recruited for the project.

1945 may have marked one of the most important years of Langer’s life. Langer supervised the trial drops of dummy bombs by Enola Grey (the plane used to drop the atomic bomb at Hiroshima) at Saipan. He also trained an Army officer for the mission, because the military would not permit a civilian to carry out the mission.

On the night before the Enola Grey mission, Langer wanted to make sure that everything stayed in place. He had feared that the military police and possibly others would become curious and cause problems for the bomb. For this reason, he stayed on the plane, and guarded the bomb on the evening before the mission was to take place. Eventually as Langer became tired, he slept on top of the bomb. In the morning everything was properly intact.

Following the Hiroshima misson, Langer returned to Bloomington and served as faculty member in the physics department until 1979. During his time there, he published many works and inspired his students in the field of science. Langer resided in Bloomington until his death in 2000.

Langer was a beloved faculty member at Indiana University, but many outside of the school community, remember him for his contributions to the Allies during WWII.

If you would like to learn more about Langer, contact the IU Archives to make an appointment to view the Lawrence Langer papers. There is a plethora of materials including WWII military documents, newspaper clippings, and Langer’s academic work.