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.
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.
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.
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!
The Veteran was an independent newspaper published by Indiana University students from the Fall 1946 to Spring 1947. The intent of this paper was to provide information to incoming and current veteran students at Indiana University about current events and functions that were happening on campus.
Within The Veteran were several reoccurring columns that touched on student life, personal issues, and any questions that a veteran might have in reference to their training or education. All were very interesting and cleverly named, however, none of them seemed to catch my attention like the column By Martha.
By Martha was an reoccurring opinion column featured directed mainly towards the wives of veterans. The author of By Martha was unknown to the reader, as it functioned as an anonymous advice column. Each column outside of its first appearance, was structured around answering questions that a wife might seek advice on such as cooking, budgeting, home improvement, and childcare. The information given was very informal to the woman of that day, and frankly some of the advice is still applicable to readers today.
During the last issue of Volume 1, it was stated that originally The Veteran was supposed to be a one semester project. However, due to the support from readers and faculty, its release was extended into the following semesters. During this issue they also gave thanks to the writers and staff members who made The Veteran possible each month. Here, the identity of the By Martha columnist was revealed to be co-editor Eloise Kelly Small. A graduate of Manchester College, Eloise married William Lee Small on November 22, 1945. William graduated with his B.S. in Business in 1946. After the birth of their child, Eloise took a break from writing and subsequent columns in Vol. 3 were written by various staff members whose identities remained anonymous.
A common theme in the By Martha columns centered on food frugality–it is obvious that providing their families nutritious meals without spending too much on groceries was important to veteran families on campus. Here are some tips that Martha gave on making your shopping last:
“Help your shelf and help yourself”. “Take advantage of the variety of canned foods that line the grocers’ shelves.” “Take for example the humble can of tuna fish. You can have tuna salad, tuna sandwiches, creamed tuna on toast squares, tuna served with spaghetti or macaroni, tuna with rice and cheese sauce, or tuna chow mein …” (Vol 1. No. 1, pg. 2)
“Topmost in the minds of most housewives these days is what can be done to conserve on food, especially wheat.” “In the first place buy only bread you absolutely must use. Reduce your family’s bread diet to a minimum.” “If you must use flour, remember it will be an emergency flour. Emergency flour is a creamy white to beige colored wheat product.” “Emergency flour does not keep as well as white flour. It should be bought in small quantities and stored in a dark, cool place.” (Vol 1 No. 8, pg. 2)
“Be sure your meals provide best food value for money spent.” “Don’t wait to plan your meals at the grocer’s. Make out menus two or three days ahead, taking into account the perishable foods you have on hand.” “It’s the cost of the food you actually eat that counts.” “Avoid leftovers, but use well those you have. Work them into the day’s meals.” “Compare prices of canned, quick-frozen and market vegetables and fruits. The canned or quick-frozen foods are often cheaper than the fresh, and require less fuel, time and effort to prepare.” (Vol 2 No. 4, pg. 3)
The advice that By Martha gave seems like advice that would be useful to someone now. I know that I am someone that needs to be more frugal with food, so I am sure that her readers found the advise useful. Along with cooking tips, By Martha also offered cleaning and gardening hacks. Here are some tips to help you spend less time and yield the same results:
“A dash of salt is wonderful on grapefruit. It brings out that natural flavor and decreases the sourness, to say nothing of helping on short sugar rations.” “Lemon-soured milk can replace natural sour milk or buttermilk in any recipe.” “Small apartments and trailers are wonderful to keep clean and have a cozy atmosphere, but what to do about cigarette smoke, a stale odor or the lingering breath of cooked cabbage or onion? Worry no more – get a bottle of Air Wick. Pull out the wick of the magical little bottle and the air soon is sweet and clean.” (Vol 1 No. 5, pg. 2)
“You who make your home in temporary quarters must garden, if you garden at all, in pots and window boxes.” “Don’t make the window box too small. Make it as long as it is wide. Extend it past the window opening four to six inches on either side rather than fit it into the sill.” “Choice of soil depends on the type of roots on the plants you decide to grow.” “In this type of box, watering is required almost daily.” (Vol 1 No. 6, pg. 3)
“Are you freshening up your apartment with a coat of paint? If so, mask your windowpanes when you paint woodwork and you won’t have to spend tedious hours removing paint spatters. Just cut newspaper to fit the glass, dampen the paper and press it in place. It’s far easier to remove than hardened paint.” (Vol 1 No. 2, pg. 2)
Another important topic of advice in By Martha centered around childcare. This topic however wasn’t as frequent as other topics discussed and only appeared in two columns. The columns mainly focused on how to prepare for a new addition to the family, and the types of items one should get before the new arrival. One column in particular was all about diapers and here are a few tips:
“If you are a new mother or even not so new, you’ll agree to one thing. Diaper washing is the hardest, most time-consuming job in your daily routine.” “Of course the best solution to the problem would be a good diaper supply service, but if you can’t do that, decide on a regular time for the job and stick to it.”
“An excellent diaper to use when traveling, or for contagious diarrheal condition, is one which can be disposed of after it is soiled. Such a diaper is on the market and consists of two layers of gauze between which is a soft, highly absorbent cellulose fiber.”
“Wash the diapers thoroughly in hot suds, either by hand or in the washing machine, and put them in fresh suds for boiling. Boiling diapers is really a safety measure, and although it is sometimes inconvenient, and time-consuming, it is not wise to omit. (Vol 2 No. 5, pg. 3)
The final topic of advice shared from By Martha is centered around budgeting. Given the advice shared above, it would be fitting that they would all filter down to the unspoken idea of having a budget. Budgeting was a very important and useful skill for the veterans to have, as most of them were given monthly bonds based on their family size or marital status. To help those families and veterans from being financially burdened, here are some helpful tips:
“It must be custom-made to meet the particular needs of your family group. There is no such thing as a ready-made or standard budget, because no two families spend their money in exactly the same way. So when you start to plan your budget, sit down and decide what you want to get out of life.”
“Successful budgets are based on past experience. Before you start yours, keep a written record of all personal and household expenditures for a month. Total all of these items and multiply by 12. This give you the part of your annual income which may be used for running expenses.”
“How well the budget works is up to you. The best budget can’t help you unless are resolved to stick with it religiously. If you feel you need more help than given here you might want to consult the library shelves. Two particularly good books on the subject are: Managing Personal Finances by David F. Jordan and How to Make Your Budget Balance by E.C. Harwood and Helen Fowie. “ (Vol 1 No. 7, pg. 2)
As you walk across campus, you may notice that most buildings have names. Some names may be familiar or well-known, but others may not particularly stand out. However, the people behind some of those names can have fascinating stories. One such person is Walter Q. Gresham. Gresham, an Indiana native, was born in 1833. He attended Indiana University Prep for a year and then became a student of law. By 1854, he had been admitted to the Bar and was on his way to an illustrious career. He briefly served his home state as a member of the Indiana General Assembly; Gresham then went on to serve his country during the Civil War, rising through the ranks to become a brigadier-general. He also organized the 53rd Indiana Infantry and was wounded at Atlanta during the war, ending his time of service.
During this time, he sent letters to his wife, Matilda, which can be seen in the picture above and the picture to the left. The letter pictured above includes details of his recent experiences in the war, but it also includes a touching note to his wife and children:
“Don’t be uneasy if you don’t hear from me regularly for some time for I will have very few opportunities to write. Write often & continue to direct your letters as heretofore. I think of you often, yes every hour in the day I think of my dear wife & children. It is hard to be thus separated but a man must do his duty to his country in a time like this. God bless you & the children & take care of you is my purpose. I must lay down & take a nap for I will be up at 3 o’clock in the morning. Good night.
Your Officer Husband,
W. Q. Gresham”
In the copy of the letter transcribed by his son Otto, Gresham writes from Vicksburg in July of 1963 and describes how his regiment has marched over fifty miles over only a couple days. He takes great pride in the Indiana 53rd, saying, “Never did the 53d show its superiority over other regiments as it has on this March.”
After the war, Gresham’s career rose to a national level. From 1869 to 1883, Gresham served as a US District Judge. Indiana University then conferred an honorary LL.D. upon him in 1883. President Arthur then appointed Gresham as Postmaster-general, followed by appointment as Secretary of the Treasury; however, he was not in these positions very long. In 1884, he became a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court and served in this position until 1893. Gresham was a candidate for the Republican presidential ticket in 1888, although he did not receive the nomination. In 1893, he served as Secretary of State for President Cleveland. Gresham did not serve in this position for a lengthy time, as he died in 1895.
Gresham’s legacy lived on, however, as his family donated his sword from the war to Indiana University in 1911. Sadly, IU no longer has Gresham’s sword, but his legacy lives on through the dining hall with his name on the Bloomington campus. A large collection of Gresham’s papers can also be found at the Library of Congress.
Formed in 1943, the American Veterans Committee was meant to serve as a more liberal alternative to other veteran’s organizations such as the American Legion. Chapters were formed across the country and the organization sought to undertake political and social issues such as civil rights and civil liberties.
A local chapter of the organization was formed on the Indiana University Bloomington campus and was largely comprised of male students who were attending college on the G.I. Bill. History Professor C. Leonard Lundin served as the group’s faculty sponsor during the chapter’s short existence in Bloomington. In oral history interviews conducted in 1972, 1985, and 1994 Professor Lundin comments that the organization was “supposed to be a sort of liberal version of the American Legion, and it was for a while and then petered out…it didn’t last very long here.” (1985) He also told interviewers that while the organization existed on campus, he was very actively involved. “I think it’s strongest hold almost everywhere [was] among the veteran students at universities. This campus was no exception. It took a decided interest in community affairs.”(1972) “They had been roused by the war,” Lundin notes. “Then of course came the McCarthy years” (1985).
National membership in the AVC dropped dramatically during the late forties and early fifties as worries about communism swept the nation. Members of the American Communist Party had originally been opposed to their members joining the AVC because they felt the organization was too “ivy-league” but later reversed their position. As the AVC gained communists members, the Second Red Scare, or McCarthyism, was taking hold in America. In order to avoid scandal, the AVC dismissed its communist members. However, their membership significantly decreased and remained low for the rest of its existence. The organization formally disbanded in 2008 when the last two chapters folded.
Despite its short tenure, the Bloomington chapter of the AVC actively worked to better the Indiana University campus and larger community through efforts towards desegregation on campus and the larger Bloomington community, as well as better housing and payment for veterans.
The Archives holds a scrapbook of the local chapter, which has been fully digitized. Take a look and let us know if you have any further questions!