MEZCLA: Making Little 500 History

Sketch of Mezcla team logo.

I processed a new accession for the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center (La Casa) records, which doubled the size of the original collection. Since this new accession was much larger in size and scope than the present collection, I was able to rework and alter the entire collection that resulted in the formation of new series, such as Administrative, Correspondence, and Publications,  and consolidating old series to new reimagined ones, such as Associations, Events, Subject Files, and General Files. The newly updated collection now has eight boxes total, and it is my hope that it is better presented for researchers, students, and community members who have an interest in the Latino community in Bloomington and at Indiana University. While processing this collection, I came across a folder titled MEZCLA, as well as several sketches of a bicycle with Mezcla stylized across the top, and I was curious to learn what this was exactly. After looking through the folder and searching online, I learned that Mezcla is a Little 500 team, the first Latino Little 500 team to be exact. A year ago, I had the opportunity to look through and start processing the scrapbooks for the IU Student Foundation Little 500 event, so seeing this team, Mezcla, mentioned in the Latino Cultural Center records really stood out to me. Since the Little 500 race is happening again, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a piece of Little 500 history.

Since 1951, the Little 500 bicycle race has been a treasured student and university event and has seen many changes over the past 70 years. Originally, it was a male student dominated event but in 1988 the first women’s race was held. Starting out as a modest event where the bicycle race was the only attraction, in the decades that followed the Little 500 grew into a weeklong event of activities that included, at times, the Mini 500 tricycle race , concerts, golf tournaments, talent shows, fashion shows, and regattas. Over time, the event would also see historical firsts in terms of increasing the representation of underrepresented students and communities in Bloomington and at Indiana University.

Indiana Daily Student April 22, 1996 newspaper clipping featuring Jerry Gutièrrez.

In 1995, the formation of the first Latino team was a significant step in the diversification of the majority-white  Little 500. The event can be costly for teams without sponsorships, so various letters of sponsorship were sent out to companies starting in winter of 1995. Jerry Gutièrrez, a member of the first Latino team, drafted numerous letters asking for sponsorship well into the summer of the following year. Unfortunately, most companies’ responses were rejection letters, but that did not discourage history being made. Some of the original riders who participated in the first race and interested riders included Jerry Gutièrrez, Ben Abney, Derrick Espades, Gus Chavez, Sergio Magan̂a, and Erik Teter. The 1996 race, the 46th annual race, was the debut race of the Mezcla Little 500 team. The men’s team qualified in this race with a time of 02:41.53.1, with a placement in the 11th row. At the race, Mezcla placed 31st and completed a total of 176 out of 200 laps.

Indiana Daily Student April 17, 1996 newspaper clipping of the design for the Mezcla jersey.

In 1998 Mezcla became a student organization with the purpose of providing an avenue for Latino students to participate in the Little 500 race. For the next three years, Mezcla qualified and raced in the Little 500, with their best race in 1998, wherein they placed 12th and completed 195 out of 200 laps. After 2001, the men’s Mezcla team leading riders had all graduated, and it would not be until 2005 that the men’s Mezcla team would qualify again.

In 1997, a group of female students were ready to carry on the Mezcla legacy as the first women’s Latino Little 500 race team. That year the first women’s Mezcla team placed 23rd with a time of 01:11:08.889 and completed 93 out of 100 laps.

The Herald Times April 22, 2004 newspaper clipping featuring Anette Soto, Barbara Alvarado, and Liliana Cortez.

It was not until 2004 that the women’s Mezcla team would qualify again for the race, though the team would go on to compete in nine additional races through 2014, the last time they qualified. The riders from the 2004 team were Josefa Madrigal, Anette Soto, Liliana Cortez, Monica Reyes, Rosa Bonilla, and Barbara Alvarado. The women’s Mezcla team’s best race time wise was in 2005 with a time of 01:08:50, while their best race lap completion was in 2014 with 97 out of 100 laps completed, placing them 16th.

If not for the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 race would have been the 70th Men’s race and 33rd Women’s race. However, the race was rescheduled and is happening once again on Wednesday, May 26 in the Bill Armstrong Stadium.

For more on this piece of Indiana University history – and more – the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center records can be viewed by appointment with University Archives.

New at the Archives: Kathleen Cavanaugh scrapbooks 1960-1965

Kathleen Cavanaugh as an undergraduate student at Indiana University, circa 1964. C617 Box 3.

Over the years, the Indiana University Archives has steadily been acquiring an impressive assortment of photo albums and scrapbooks (see Catherine Ruby Force’s scrapbook, 1915-1920; the Margaret Werling scrapbook 1951-1953; and the Delmus E. Aldridge wrestling scrapbook 1929-1979, just to name a few!)

Scrapbooks and other handmade memory books are a valuable part of our collections, especially when they are created by students to document their experiences at Indiana University at various points in the University’s history. We are happy to share one of our most recent acquisitions, the Kathleen Cavanaugh scrapbooks 1960-1965 (C617), as a testament to the scrapbook as a fun, creative, and uniquely personal document of the student experience at IU!

Kathleen Cavanaugh (1942-2016) was born on November 9, 1942 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Martha and Harry Cavanaugh of Salem, Indiana. After graduating from Salem High School, Cavanaugh attended Indiana University Bloomington as an undergraduate student from 1960-1964, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Zoology. During her time as an undergraduate, she was a very active member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, continuing to hold several leadership roles in the sorority even after she graduated. An enthusiastic participant in campus life, she was also a member of the Association for Women Students and the Young Women’s Christian Association. Cavanaugh later re-enrolled at Indiana University as a graduate student, earning her M.A. in Biology in 1970.

Freshman Camp 1960: the “neatest way to start college!” C617 Box 1.

This collection contains three scrapbooks compiled by Cavanaugh during her time as an undergraduate student in the early 1960s. Each is filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, and other mementos that Cavanaugh saved to document the various social activities that she participated in, starting with Freshman Camp in the fall of 1960, which she described as “the neatest way to start college.” She saved many items related to her Gamma Phi Beta sorority, including rush schedules, group photos, and clippings from times when her sorority sisters made the newspaper. Cavanaugh loved attending sporting events on campus, and she dedicated spreads in two of her scrapbooks to the Little 500 bicycle race events in 1962 and 1963.

Pages containing mementos from one of the numerous dances that Cavanaugh attended as an undergraduate student. C617 Box 1.

Cavanaugh enjoyed collecting various knick knacks, saving things like coasters and matchbooks from her favorite restaurants on campus, and funny cards that she received from friends and family for her birthday and Valentine’s Day. One page contains a sparkly blue lei and a colorful corsage from one of the many dances that she attended over the years. In addition, Cavanaugh used these scrapbooks to document some of the big changes and exciting events that were going on around campus at the time, including the 1962 retirement of Herman B Wells as president of the university and famous comedian Bob Hope opening the Little 500 Variety Show in 1964.

Flipping through the scrapbooks that Cavanaugh compiled is a special opportunity to get an idea of what it was like to be a student at Indiana University in the early 1960s, from the perspective of someone who embraced the student life and participated in as many events and activities as she could, documenting her adventures along the way.

Cavanaugh’s scrapbooks contain memories from many sporting events, including the Little 500 bicycle races in 1962 and 1963. C617 Boxes 1 and 2.

If you would like to see the Kathleen Cavanaugh scrapbooks for yourself, please feel free to contact the IU Archives to set up an appointment.

In 1988 “The World’s Greatest College Weekend” Got Even Better

Little 500, May 12, 1951. IU Archives image no. P0057566

The Little 500 began in 1951 and students throughout campus were involved from the beginning. Women, however, were excluded from full participation for nearly 40 years. While they could participate in the Mini 500 trike race, women wanted an equal spotlight during “The World’s Greatest College Weekend.” In early 1980s, then-Dean of Women’s Affairs, Phyllis Klotman, proposed a separate women’s race after hearing talk of female students being unhappy because they felt like they were not a true part of Little 500. After Dean Klotman’s proposal, the planning took six years, but with a lot of persistence, the first race finally happened in 1988.

“We want women to know that if they have the motivation to do it, the opportunity and support is here for them.”

The rules for team building were the same as the men’s race: Only one Greek team per house, and the residence halls can have multiple teams, but they must be from different floors. The women’s race was half the length of the men’s: 100 laps (25 miles) as compared to the men’s 200 laps. And just to keep things fair, men were introduced to the Mini 500, which had been intended strictly for women.

For that first year, 37 teams were interested, but rules stated 33 teams were the maximum number allowed to race. It all worked out, as on race day, 30 women’s teams ended up competing. More than 11,000 spectators turned out to see the first-ever women’s race, a much larger turnout than projected. The top five finishing teams that year were:

  1. Willkie Sprint
  2. Kappa Alpha Theta
  3. Delta Delta Delta
  4. Alpha Epsilon Phi
  5. Notorious

The winning women’s team in 1988, Willkie Sprint, finished with a time of 1 hour, 10 minutes, 52 seconds, which averages out to a speed of 21.57 mph.

The Women’s council president for the 1988 Women’s 500, Sandi Miller, had some encouraging words for the women involved in the race, “We want women to know that if they have the motivation to do it, the opportunity and support is here for them.”

 

Women’s Little 500 is still as popular as ever and while there has been an annual race since 1988, Willkie Sprint’s time remains the fourth highest recorded. Today at 4:30 history will record the 30th Women’s Little 500.

Contact the IU Archives to learn more about the history of the Little 500, and view photographs of past women’s races here in the Archives Photograph Collection. We have also partnered with our colleagues in the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive to begin digitization of Little 500 films in our holdings! Visit Media Collections Online to see what is currently available and stay tuned for more!

Little 500: Entertainers of the Past

There’s a little event going on in town this week.

Victorious Little 500 riders, 1964

Yep, it’s time for Little 500 at Indiana University, for many years called the World’s Greatest College Weekend.

The race was the brainchild of Howard “Howdy” Wilcox. Wilcox, Director of the IU Foundation (IUF), established the IU Student Foundation Committee in 1950 in order to raise awareness of the Foundation and its purpose. He saw the race as an opportunity to publicize the IU Student Foundation and raise scholarship money for students working their way through school. The bike race, modeled after the Indianapolis 500, was first run in 1951. The first years featured only the race but before long a Variety Show was added and in subsequent years additional entertainment and events were developed, including the Golf Jamboree (1958), the Cream and Crimson intra-squad football game (1963), and the Style Show (1969).

This year there has been a tremendous amount of excitement over the headliner Lil Wayne and I thought there might be some interest in learning a bit about the past acts that have come for Little 500. In 1953, IUF Director Bill Armstrong decided to add a little celebrity luster and brought in the first Little 500 Sweetheart, actress and singer Lu Ann Simms. Simms was given every photo op possible throughout the weekend.

Actress and singer Lu Ann Simms served as the first Little 500 Sweetheart in 1953.
Actress and singer Lu Ann Simms served as the first Little 500 Sweetheart in 1953.

With the crowds the race began to draw, Armstrong harbored concerns about what folks could do in town post-race, so two years later he added a Variety Show. The headliner that year was Horace Heidt and his 50-person “Swift Show Wagon.” The group performed at the Auditorium and a new tradition was born. Feeling there could still be more, in 1960 Armstrong launched the Friday night concert, the Little 500 Extravaganza. The first performers were The Four Lads, who entertained crowds from the Woodlawn tennis courts.

In his book, The Little 500: The Story of the World’s Greatest College Weekend, author John Schwarb relays the story of Armstrong’s greatest celebrity coup, Bob Hope. Schwarb writes, “Making a personal crusade out of landing the big act of the day, he traveled to Hope’s North Hollywood, California, home in early 1963 to personally ask for the star’s attendance. Initially Hope rebuffed Armstrong’s request, saying that IU couldn’t be anywhere near as great as advertised, and that the school up the road in West Lafayette was better.” [this archivist’s response: *gasp*] Armstrong continued to pursue Hope and he agreed to come in 1964. That year, Little 500 set an attendance record of 23,790 and Hope delivered with four shows to accommodate the deluge of ticket sales. But when Armstrong in turn delivered his $30,000 check, Hope tore it up. Turned out he had such a great time that he asked to return the next year and did so again in 1967, 1971, and 1975, donating his fees to a scholarship fund in his name. (Interested in applying? Check out http://iufoundation.iu.edu/students/scholarships.html.)

The McGuire Sisters were 1954's Little 500 Sweethearts.
The McGuire Sisters were 1954's Little 500 Sweethearts.

So, there have been a lot of celebrities connected to Little 500. Some other names of the past:

  • 1955: Horace Heidt’s Swift Show Wagon
  • 1958: headliners Don Cherry & Tina Robin; Popoff Teddy Family, and Al Cobine
  • 1965: The Kingsmen
  • 1969: Tony Bennett, George Kirby, and the Sandpipers
  • 1970: Chicago
  • 1978: Lou Rawls
  • 1983: Barbara Mandrell & the Do-Rites
  • 1988: Innuendo, the Cones, & Voyage
  • 1992: Larry Crane, Henry Lee Summer, and John Mellencamp
  • 1993: The BoDeans (openers were Material Issue & The Why Store)
  • 2001: Nelly
  • 2005: The Roots
IU alums, what were some of your favorite Little 500 shows?