Advocating for support for student veterans – the American Veterans Committee Scrapbook

While the IU Archives remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 crisis, I have been digging into the collections available digitally through Archives Online to discover and highlight some of the great artifacts the IU community can explore from the comfort of their homes. I came across a scrapbook put together by a veteran’s group for IU students that was active during and directly following WWII that allowed me a fascinating glimpse into veteran student issues.

The Second World War transformed life at Indiana University in many ways, and these transformations extended into the postwar time as many men came back to attend college and start the next chapter of their lives. Many organizations were established to help veterans make their transformation from soldier to civilian, including a newly formed progressive veterans committee called the American Veterans Committee (AVC), originally formed as an alternative option to what some considered the more conservative veterans groups like the American Legion. The American Veterans Committee, formed at the national level in 1943 and disbanded in 2008, pledged to support veterans of all races and creeds and was notably offering racially integrated committees across the country when other veterans groups were not. Their political agenda included petitioning the local and state government to start or support legislation related to improving veteran support in all facets of life and supporting advocate groups like the NAACP that fought for civil rights and racial equality.

Scrabook page for the 1946-47 school year which includes a resolution concerning AVC policies. The resolution reads: l. As progressive citizens we pledge our active support to any reforms which in our opinion broaden the benefits and security of all people. 2. As progressive citizens we pledge our ative support to help fight bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination against any minority group. 3. As progressive citzens we pledge our active support to fight against all organizations which menace the liberties of the people. 4. We do not identify ourselves with any party, nor do we place ourselves at any point on a political line from left to right. To determine our policy on any issue we will consider that issue and vote our descision in a democratic manner. 5. As student citizens of Indiana University we support the furtherance of academic freedom and building a yet better institution of higher knowledge. We pledge our aid to the University administration to improve in any manner possible the scholastic, and social program of the University.
American Veterans Committee’s Resolution concerning AVC policies for the 1946-1947 school year, AVC Scrapbook, 1946-1949.

The AVC Bloomington chapter offered support to veterans on IU’s campus and in the Bloomington community as a whole. The collection is fully digitized and includes one scrapbook that includes clips of newspaper, photographs, and chapter items from the years 1946-1949, and offers an interesting glimpse of what life was like for veteran students during these years right after WWII.

Black and white photograph of members of the AVC.
American Veterans Committee, from the 1946 Arbutus Yearbook, IU Archives P0034240

Like the national organization, Bloomington’s chapter was committed to supporting all veterans on campus and in the community, regardless of nationality, race, or religion. Their main policies included fighting bigotry, which included a push to bar Bloomington restaurants from discriminating against people of color. They were supporters of the Bloomington NAACP. In 1948, the organization wrote an op-ed to the Indiana Daily Student that outlined their support for national integration of all colleges and to end all college discrimination.

The Bloomington AVC also focused on the financial aspects of IU veterans’ lives. In 1947, the AVC compiled the GI Subsistence Survey that asked 1500 current student veterans about their finances and the support they receive from the government; based on their results, they asked the university and local and national politicians to increase veteran subsistence pay, arguing that veterans were paying more for housing and food than they should be.

Scan of a scrapbook page from the AVC
Results of the AVC’s Subsistence Survey with press clippings, AVC Scrapbook, 1946-1949.

The American Veterans Committee also hosted social and educational events on campus to support their initiatives. In 1947 the group hosted an Autumn Festival informal dance at the Indiana Memorial Union. The AVC also hosted speakers for their members and the general public, including history novelist Howard Fast, sports writer John R. Tunis, and the famed IU professor Dr. Alfred Kinsey right after his release of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male at an AVC meeting in 1948. It was one of the only public lectures he gave on campus after the release of the book.

The scrapbook is a fascinating glimpse into a few of the issues that student veterans faced as they returned from war, adjusted to life back home, attended university, and moved forward in their lives. Aspects of life that affected veterans as they transitioned back into society are deeply compelling to see from the student perspective. Check out the finding aid and the full scrapbook here!

Union Board Scrapbooks highlight IU events over the years

For more more than 100 years, the Union Board has organized events on campus that have elevated the IU experience. The IU Archives holds a collection of Union Board scrapbooks that highlight the board’s events and programs from the 1930s through the 2000s. They are a wonderful look into IU history and at the events that shaped many IU students’ experiences across the last several decades.

Photograph of John Whittenburger, founder of the Union Board, originally printed in the 1911 Arbutus, P0047175

As I dug into the history of the Union Board, I realized the Union Board existed before the construction of the Indiana Memorial Union (IMU). In fact, it was first founded by IU student John M. Wittenburger in 1909 with a goal to “further the interests of Indiana University and her students.”

Originally comprised of male students and two male faculty advisers, including Indiana University President William L. Bryan, the group met in the Student Building and old Assembly Hall until the construction of the Union in 1932. Their focus was on enriching the lives of IU students, faculty and staff through unique events, activity and programs. Initiatives ran the gamut, from socials and dances, fairs, movie screenings, concerts, performing arts acts, and more.

From the Archives Photograph Collection, titled, “The Indiana Union barbershop located in the Student Building,” from the 1912 Arbutus, P0048276.

One early example of the Union Board’s impact on campus comes from the 1912 IU Arbutus. One page includes a picture of a barbershop in the Student Building attributed to the early Union board.

The Union Board went co-ed in 1952 when it merged with the Association of Women Students, and over time has grown to become an elected student governing body that leads the IMU, directs handfuls of committees – including the Campus Creative Arts committee, Concert committee, and the popular Live From Bloomington committee – and is now the largest student programming organization on campus.

One of the longest running and likely one of the best known Union Board programs, Union Board Films, was first rolled out in 1914 under the program’s early name, “Let’s go to the Union Movies.” It has brought screenings of popular films to campus for free or cheap, providing a fun and cost-effective weekend event an easy walk from the dorms. Originally held two nights a week, the recent film program offers showings of newly released movies in the Union’s Whittenberger Auditorium most weekends during the school year.

Schedule of Union Board Films from the Spring semester 1987. From 1986-1987 (book 3), in the Union Board Scrapbooks, 1932-2012 collection.

Another area of Union Board programming, music and comedy events, are well represented in the pages of the scrapbooks. The board has brought all types of musical acts and comedy events to campus, both large and more intimate. Union Board Concerts committee brought BB King to campus in 1971.  In 1979, the committee featured the rock band Heart. In 2001, Union Board events featured comedian Dave Chappelle. In addition to massive musical and comedy acts, the Union Board has also hosted smaller, localized music and comedy, including their well-known local music series called Live From Bloomington and local comedy improv and sketch group events.

Clipping advertising one of many Union Board concerts, this one promoting the B.B. King concert from the 1971 scrapbook, in March 19,1971 – April 14, 1972 within the Union Board scrapbooks, 1932-2012 collection.
Clipping advertising Union Board-sponsored concert event featuring the band Heart, February 1979, from October 1978-February 1979 in the Union Board Scrapbooks, 1932-2012 collection.
Scrapbook page highlighting a 2001 Union Board comedy event that brought Dave Chappelle to the IU Auditorium. From 2001 in the Union Board scrapbooks, 1932-2012 collection.

Ticket stubs and event programs, news clippings and photographs featured in these scrapbooks provide a glimpse of not only the workings of the Union Board over the years, but also a glimpse of the way student life has changed over the years. The scrapbooks range from the 1930s all the way up to the 2010s, and the richness of campus life from such a broad range of IU history is really interesting to behold! Check out the scrapbooks here and find out more about the Union Board’s current programming and committees!

Fostering Friendships, Not Boundaries – The IU Chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club

IU students have always done their part in difficult times to stay close and foster friendships and understandings between people from all over the world. Just before and during World War I, a group of students at IU formed a chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club, receiving their charter from the national organization in 1918. The goal of the club was to bring American students and foreign students together to foster international fellowship and peace under the motto “Above all nations is humanity.”

An image from the 1922 Arbutus of the members of the Cosmopolitan Club, taken sometime in the fall of 1921. IU Archives Photograph Collection, P0054058.

The first attempt to create the club at IU, after a Cosmopolitan Club member at the University of Wisconsin in 1907 invited IU students to create one and attend their first convention, did not pan out. However, nine years later, 12 international students successfully began IU’s Cosmopolitan Club. The club included members from dozens of countries as well as students from the state and across the U.S. Interest and membership in the Club remained high through the early to mid 1960s, but participation in the club waned by 1969, the last year the club was pictured in the Arbutus.

List of foreign-born students, Indiana University, from Original items, 1941-1943 and undated, Cosmopolitan Club records, 1916-1970.

The club’s most popular event, called the International Dinner, was a hit on campus. Originally started as an “International Revue” in 1922, guests paid a small fee to dine on international food and watch international students perform their nation’s folk dances, music and other entertainment. They also hosted an International Variety Show, which featured international student’s cultural dances.

Cover page of the program for the club’s annual International Dinner, October 1955. From Events, 1922-1970 undated, in the Cosmopolitan Club Records, 1916-1970.

The club was the foundation of many events of IU’s annual International Week organized by the International Affairs Commission that also celebrated the United Nations. The last record of an International Dinner in the collection dates to 1970, the last recorded active year of the club.

Article from the IDS titled, “The Cosmopolitan Club: It brings together many nationalities” from 1942. Located in Clippings, 1916-1958, undated in Cosmopolitan Club records, 1916-1970.

The club files span much of their active years at IU, and focus mostly on various subject files by year and items and clippings from club scrapbooks. Notable files include the club’s constitution, publications related to their events, club correspondence, copies of the club’s newsletter the Cosmo Reporter, initiation files and local news clippings related to the club and its activities that span decades at IU that included significant political and societal change. Discover more digital items in the finding aid here!

Rites of Spring – Indiana University May Festival

As springtime bloomed across Indiana University in 1908, an Indiana Daily Student reporter eagerly previewed an upcoming campus event. “Dainty maids in the picturesque garb of the English peasant or the flaxen-haired Norwegian will dance the complex, but graceful folk dances of long ago.” Who were these “dainty maids” and what was this dazzling-sounding spectacle? The new Indiana University May Festival collection (C693) at the University Archives tells us a history of a vernal campus tradition. Importantly, the Indiana University May Festival became an active space for female student participation in the early twentieth century.

A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives photograph. Eight women dance in a field.
A scene from the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives no. P0026270

The IU May Festival began in earnest in 1905, when the IU Lecture Association organized an event featuring orchestral and choral performances in the Men’s Gymnasium. A cantata rendition of “The Swan and the Skylark” and ballet music from Faust evoked a springtime feeling. Despite glowing reviews, the IULA-hosted May Festival suffered from poor student participation. An Indiana Daily Student reporter expressed disappointment in 1906: “The small attendance is inconceivable. If the singers of Bloomington and the University knew what the chorus is doing, there would be a regular attendance of 200 instead of 30 or 40.” The event satisfied a Bloomington audience, but didn’t impact enough IU students at the time.

Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives
Section of the program for the 1905 May Festival, IU Archives C693

Beginning in 1908, the Women’s Athletic Association and Department of Physical Education for Women hosted the event in the Women’s Gymnasium for an invitation-only audience. Female students demonstrated exercises like dumbbell handling and club-swinging “with all the vigor and skill of their brothers,” as an IDS reporter noted. In the afternoon, they transformed into “dainty maids” to dance and wind cream and crimson streamers around a tall May Pole. Interestingly, the IDS also notes that only a small number of male students received invitations to the 1908 event.

This iteration of the May Festival was a staple of campus life by the 1920s. By 1922, the Women’s Self-Government Association (WSGA) sponsored an integral feature of the event: the election and crowning of a May Queen. The 1924 May Festival program names Mildred Wight as May Queen, with her heralds Ethel Budrow and Dorothy Tousley. Following a procession with flower girls, crown bearers, maids of honor, and other attendants, “The newly crowned May Queen is entertained by the joyous peasants.” IU students in pastoral garb performed six folk dances for the May Queen, followed by the mythical dance program “Fantasy of Dusk and Dawn.” The programs in this collection show how the all-female May Festival committee staged a mythological renaissance for modern day Bloomington.

Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693
Program for the 1924 May Festival, IU Archives C693

By the 1922 May Festival, the WAA and WSGA had moved proceedings to Dunn Meadow. Rather than an invitation-only event in the Women’s Gymnasium, the May Festival had turned into a public performance. This collection also includes a 25-cent ticket for “Sylvia” to attend the Dance Drama portion of the festival at Dunn Meadow in 1927. IDS articles from this time also list the delightful box lunches served to attendees (who could say no to shrimp and mayonnaise sandwiches?) at no cost. One reporter indicated that the WAA and WSGA prepared 800 of these lunches—enough for a huge crowd. The May Festival shows how women at IU transformed a small musical celebration into a popular event that highlighted their talents as athletes, dancers, singers, and artists.

It appears that the WAA and WSGA ceased sponsorship of the May Festival after the 1920s. The last program contained in this collection is from 1928. IU women, however, carried on celebrating the tradition into at least the 1940s, as documented in the IU women’s residence halls scrapbooks. Collection C631, which contains 82 such scrapbooks from 1925-1959, is open for research and offers images from these later unofficial celebrations.

May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from "The Towers" (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory.
May Day Festival participants Betty Higbee and June Hiatt, 1937. This image scanned from “The Towers” (yearbook / scrapbook / photograph album) compiled by residents of East Memorial Hall when it was a dormitory. IU Archives image no. P0052722

To learn more about the May Festival collection or to view the collection yourself, please feel free to contact the University Archives to set up an appointment.

Students dancing at the May Festival in Dunn Meadow, circa 1930
Students dancing at the May Festival in Dunn Meadow, circa 1930

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.