Throwback Thursday: Ralph Garriott

Today I thought I would join in on the interwebs Throwback Thursday and share a little something from our collections!

Hoosier native Ralph Garriott entered Indiana University in 1923. For the entirety of his freshman year, Ralph maintained a diary of his activities here on campus.  Devoted to his journal, Ralph wrote daily with entries detailing his classes, friends, happenings outside of class, as well as news from home and elsewhere. Ralph seemed to be interested in many of the popular happenings on campus, so in addition to talk about his classes, there are entries about athletic events (IU-Purdue football and burial of Jawn Purdue), dances (“Blanket Hop”), freshman-sophomore scraps, serenades, and popular movies (“My Wild Irish Rose”).

Below is his entry written 90 years ago today:



Wednesday, October 3, 1923

Attended classes as usual. This was convocation day. Heard Winifred Merrill from New York give a violin recital accompanied by Axel Skjerne a Norweigan [sic] pianist. Breakfast and dinner at cafeteria, supper at Mefford’s. Witnessed varsity-“rhinie” scrimmage after school. Saw Jack Risk and wife and Richard Collins from Knightstown in the bleachers. Worked Algebra, studied Spanish and English tonight from 5:45 until 11:30. (Lights Out) Kenneth Ward left us today. He is expecting to attend Indiana Business College at Indianapolis. 


Would you like to read more about Ralph’s experience at IU? The full diary has been digitized and is available via the finding aid!

Life in Woodlawn Courts

While working on the Board of Trustees project over the past year, I’ve become quite familiar with many of the unique happenings on the Indiana University campus between 1939 and 1953.  For example, did you know that following World War II the university purchased hundreds of trailers to serve as housing for veterans?  You can read more about the establishment of Woodlawn Courts in these excerpts from the Board of Trustees minutes:

Woodlawn Trailer Court
Looking Northwest over Woodlawn Trailer Court, November 1946.

With the end of the war, many veterans returned home with the hopes of earning an education and all across the country institutions of higher education were pressed to provide housing for a massive influx of students.  At Indiana University, efforts were made to ensure that any veteran who was accepted would not be turned away due to a lack of space.  In response to the housing problem, IU established Woodlawn Courts, a trailer community located just off of 10th Street, west of the former Memorial Stadium.  By October of 1946, the community had grown to 323 trailers and was one of the largest trailer communities on a campus in the United States.

Family at Woodlawn Court Trailer Store
Family at Woodlawn Court Trailer Store, January 12, 1948.

Three hundred of the units were used as housing for veterans and their wives (and sometimes children) while the remaining  were used for shared laundry, bathroom, nursery and recreation facilities.  Living in such close quarters was not easy, but these students and their families managed to make the best of it by establishing their own system of government, recreation, entertainment, and support systems. They even established their own cooperative grocery store in an effort to make buying groceries cheaper and more convenient than going off-campus.


With vastly different concerns from the larger campus community, the students elected their own mayor each year along with a Court Council consisting of one councilor for each unit of 15 trailers.  They held meetings to discuss current issues, listen to complaints, and plan social functions; beginning in 1947, they published a bulletin after each meeting to summarize their discussions and encourage participation from outside of the Council.

Mayor (Chairman) and Council of Woodlawn Courts
Mayor (Chairman) and Council of Woodlawn Courts, April 10, 1946.

One such social event was an outing to Cascades Park, organized by the Council in conjunction with the YMCA which arranged transportation so that the residents were able to escape their close quarters and enjoy the open spaces of the park. In the spring, residents of Woodlawn Courts planted and cared for flowers which were then exhibited at the Monroe County Fair. Additionally, there was an on-site community house and picnic grounds which could be reserved by the residents to hold social events and many of the men participated in intramural athletics.  Woodlawn Courts even selected its own athletic director!

Have you ever been known to sing in the shower?  Well, it was not uncommon to hear the residents singing in their shared shower facilities.  This impromptu choir later known as the Woodlawn Courts Chorus even held formal concerts in the summer of 1946: one on the steps of the Student Building and another at a Stadium movie on July 15.


Woodlawn Trailer 32
Woodlawn Trailer 32, October 25, 1957.

Although every effort was made to make life more comfortable for the families of Woodlawn Courts, there were some problems for which there was no simple solution.  To start, the trailers were small and close together.  In the winter they were drafty, and in the spring their roofs leaked which only became more of an issue as the trailers aged. Mud was also a problem in the spring — it was everywhere!

There was no running water, which often meant that the men had to get up early in the morning to haul buckets of water back to the trailer.  Termites, ants, and mice were attracted to the trailers as reportedly the space underneath the trailers was rarely cleaned. Security was an issue as well.  Women sometimes did not feel safe leaving their trailer alone at night so men found it necessary to escort their wives to the community facilities, which was undoubtedly an inconvenience.  Fire protection was inadequate and at one point a small fire broke out in one of the trailers, but fortunately nobody was hurt.

Trailer Courts Nursery
Children playing in playground at Trailer Courts Nursery, March 28, 1949.

Life was even harder for those with children.  As many of the veterans came to school at IU along with their wives, not surprisingly there was a large population of children.  It was said that the birth rate in this community was higher than any other comparably-sized community and thus this high concentration of children was an important concern for Woodlawn Court residents.  Since the trailers were so small, many of the children played outside.  Toys and bikes could be seen strewn across paths.  Speeding cars quickly became a safety issue.

One of the solutions to help in caring for this growing number of children was the establishment of a nursery for small children, ages 2-5.  In addition, there were classes in child care offered in the community’s recreation center.  Parents were given the resources they needed to manage raising children and going to school.  When one couple wanted a night out, they would ask another couple to watch their child(ren) and then reciprocate the favor another time.  It’s like the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Trailer Life.
“Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” February 1, 1946.

However, despite the lack of privacy due to the close proximity of the trailers combined with open windows on hot summer days, reports reveal that residents were respectful of their neighbor’s spaces. They were generally friendly to each other and their children played together.  Still gossip could be overheard in the shared washing facilities, but perhaps some of this is what made Woodlawn Courts a world unto itself. Everyone knew everything about each other, and it may be due to this strong community that some women actually said they would rather live in the trailers than in apartments.


Despite these hardships, the scholarly pursuits of the students living in Woodlawn Courts did not suffer.  According to a report published on November 1, 1946, the men of Woodlawn Courts were number one in scholastic standing in comparison with other campus communities, including fraternities, sororities, and dormitories.  These World War II veterans were able to successfully balance their studying, recreation, and family life, all while living in an area which would make life more difficult for some, but was a strong community as seen by those who lived in it.

Trailer Life
Ruth Richardson McConnell, Thomas P. McConnell, and their baby, 1946.

So what happened to Woodlawn Courts?  Once the extra housing was no longer needed and Indiana University had more permanent housing options in place, the trailers were sold at auction.  The last Woodlawn Court trailer was towed away in 1958.

New online exhibition: IU Student Traditions!

Indiana University Junior Prom dance card from the scrapbook of Pauline Day.
Indiana University Junior Prom dance card from the scrapbook of Pauline Day.


Just a brief note to let you know the Archives has added a new Omeka exhibit to its Student Life at IU site!  The exhibit is called IU Student Traditions, and features 11 traditions, all but one of which (traditions associated with the Well House) have died away.  Some of these traditions may be familiar to you, e.g. the burning of Jawn Purdue, while many others will be completely new.  As usual, the exhibit includes a brief history of the tradition, supported by images of photos and documents.   We hope you enjoy the exhibit, and will share your stories about participating in these or other student traditions.

A Pioneer of Science Fiction – C.L. Moore

It is always an interesting day interning in the University Archives – more and more I find pleasant surprises in the collections.  For science fiction fans like myself there is (until recently) an unknown treasure in the digital collection, three short fiction stories written by the American science fiction and fantasy writer C. L. Moore.  Written under her legal name Catherine Moore for the IU student publication The Vagabond (a collection of poetry, essays and fiction), these stories give a wonderful view of her emerging writing style. 

"Two Fantasies"
“Two Fantasies”
"Happily Ever After"
“Happily Ever After”






Thanks to a recent reference request, I began trying to find more information about Moore’s time while attending IU when she attended IU Bloomington because as is the case with many other successful authors, there is plenty of detail about her later achievements and writings, but not so much about the early days.  How did she get started? What did she write about?  What was her life like at that time?


Born in Indianapolis on January 24, 1911, as a child Moore did a lot of reading due to being frequently ill.  At the age of 18, she enrolled at Indiana University, attending three semesters from the fall of 1929 through the fall of 1930. Pictures of Memorial Hall where Moore resided give you a sense of what life was like for her here at that time.  No School of Music, no Jordan Hall or greenhouse crowding up alongside.  Part of that great stone wall still exists but the archway is gone.

Other images show the dining, living and dorm rooms where she lived, studied and wrote. Perhaps this is where some of her inspiration for the “Happily Ever After” story came from?

Memorial Hall003Memorial Hall001

However, before officially declaring a major,  she withdrew from the university due to the financial hardships of the Great Depression and returned to Indianapolis to work as a secretary.

In the 1930s and 40s,  she began publishing stories in pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Astounding Science-Fiction.  At the time the genre was dominated by male writers and if a woman wanted to be published she was forced to publish under a pseudonym that was either male or ambiguously gender neutral.

As an example of that mindset, Moore met her husband, Henry Kuttner – also a science fiction writer – in 1936 when he wrote her a fan letter thinking she was a man.  The couple were married in 1940.  Their writing collaboration under the pseudonym Lewis Padgett resulted in “Mimsy Were the Borogoves“, considered a must-read classic.  You may remember recently a movie that was released called the The Last Mimzy which was based upon this story. Later in their careers, the pair moved to California to study at the University of Southern California, where Moore graduated in 1956.  Sadly, following the death of her husband in 1958, Moore stopped writing fiction though she sometimes wrote scripts for television shows such as Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip and taught writing courses at USC.  When she remarried Thomas Reggie she stopped writing completely though she continued to be very much involved with the Tom and Terri Pinckard Science Fiction literary salon, contributing to literary discussions with other members such as Larry Niven (Ringworld) and George Clayton Johnson (Twilight Zone and Star Trek).  Moore died on April 4, 1987 in Hollywood, California, in her home.

If you’d like to read the article which resulted from this reference inquiry and learn more about C.L. Moore check out this recent article in Kirkus!

You’re skating on…campus ice?

I, for one, do not enjoy these cold temperatures and am ready for spring. But in January 1916, many IU students were crossing their fingers for some snow and a cold snap so that they could skate on the Jordan!

I know what you are thinking – the Jordan River? That’s some pretty lousy skating. And I’d have to agree with you there.

No, in 1916, what is now the IMU parking lot was still home to IU’s multi-purpose Jordan Field.

It was home to baseball…

IU's Jimmy Boyle, circa 1902
IU’s Jimmy Boyle, circa 1902


IU vs. Purdue, November 20, 1909

Class scraps….

1909 class scrap

And in 1916 — ice skating!

As reported in the February 6, 1908 IDS, Jordan Field was practically useless in the winter and folks on campus had been talking about some sort of winter use of the ground for quite some time. The first flooding of Jordan Field occurred under the watchful eye of IU’s football coach James Sheldon in 1908, but it is not clear whether or not their plan succeeded. However by 1916, recreational ice skating had received attention across the country and IU officials and students decided to give it another go.

This time, responsibility of the skating rink would come under the auspices of the Indiana Union. According to IDS reports, Union Director A.H. Berndt proposed other sites, including Dunn Meadow or a site just south of campus that would cover two acres of land. These proposals, however, were much more involved,  as it would “be necessary to build a damn four or five feet in height and thirty to forty feet long.” On December 14, 1915, the Union Board held its weekly session to decide on its final actions regarding the rink. The next day, students were met with these headlines:


Oh, the excitement! Beginning January 8, the student newspaper reported on the rink happenings on a near daily basis, detailing the steps taken to flood the field and smooth out the ice. The weather was all over the place – remember, it’s Indiana! – but finally by the 14th students had the opportunity to give the ice a try.