"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

KU Freshmen 50 Years Ago

     WHEN K. U. STARTED ON ITS second century this fall (1966), the new freshmen looked decidedly different from those fifty years before. Then, the Lawrence freshman woman bought her clothes from Innes, Bullene & Hackman; Newmark's, or Weaver's. There were no specialty shops. Today, the colorful array of sweaters and skirts and blouses might be purchased in Lawrence, Topeka or Kansas City. Sweaters were worn, but they were not the lovely cashmeres of today. They were thick and bulky and dark, and were worn in place of a jacket. Mini-skirts? The skirts then were ankle length, covering long, black, lisle stockings and high top shoes. The shoes would have been purchased at Fischer's Shoe Store or Starkweather's.

     The girls wore their long hair combed fairly high, sort of a modified pompadour effect. Some ratting (now called "teasing"), was necessary to achieve best results. Makeup? You would have been considered "Fast", if you had the faintest trace of makeup, other than face powder. It was the "natural" look then without the help of cosmetics.

     Girls wore scarves around their necks, not on their heads. Hats were large and made or velvet or felt. No stretch pants, on or off campus. Undergarments consisted of a corset or girdle, "Teddy Bears", (a sort of cotton chemise), and a slip, also cotton. The girls wore blouses and skirts or suits to school. The sporty blouses were middy style, worn with a large, square silk scarf, folded in a triangle and tied in front under a large collar.

     A Lawrence boy would have bought his clothes at several men's stores; Ober's; Johnson & Carl; Peckham's; Robt. E. House; Winey & Underwood; Abe Wolfson; or Protch the Tailor. The suits always had a vest. The trousers were fairly narrow and the cuff came just to the top of the high top shoe -- sort of high water effect. Black or brown socks matched the shoes. Boys carried pocket watches. Collars were not attached to the shirts. Stiff, white collars were fastened in the front and back of the shirt with a collar button. When the collar became soiled, it was sent to the laundry to be starched and laundered. Extra collars were kept in a round, leather collar box.

     Men wore caps on the campus mostly, although a few dressier ones wore hats. A bareheaded man or woman in cold weather was unheard of. Freshmen men had to wear freshmen caps, small beanies.

     The freshmen this year will arrive in cars, or fly in to Kansas City, or come by bus. Fifty years ago, they came by train. The baggage rooms at the Santa Fe and Union Pacific stations would

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be jammed with trunks and suit cases. Trains carried extra coaches for students going all over the country to school.

     Cabs would be lined up at the stations, waiting to take the students to their rooming houses or fraternities. The cab drivers standing alongside the cab and hawking for fares, would rush up to a co-ed and grab a suit case. Trunks were sent up later in cabs, trucks or Ad Manter's transfer wagon. Today, many recognize a student arriving in town by the line of clothes hanging across the back seat of the car with either the student or a parent driving. They are on their way with those countless sweaters, skirts, dresses, slacks or shirts, to one of the many well-equipped dormitories or organized houses.

     September, 1916, registration and enrollment took place in Robinson Gymnasium. Enrollees walked up the hill, or rode the street car. Walking was fashionable then. When you enrolled, if you were a sorority pledge, your sorority sisters were on hand to help you and to steer you away from any instructor who was known to be not too friendly toward social organizations.

     Students had the choice of several book stores to buy books and supplies and their "memory" book, (scrap book) -- Rowland's College Book Store on 14th where the Wagon Wheel cafe now is located; the University Book Store downtown; Keelers; Bell's Music Store and Pierce's Music Store for music supplies; F. I. Carter (same location as now); Morrison & Bliesner for typewriters. There was a choice of several banks -- Peoples State Bank, Merchants National Bank (now called First National Bank); Watkins National Bank; Citizens State Bank; and the Lawrence National Bank. You patronized Con Squires or Alfred Lawrence to have your picture taken.

     If you were a non-fraternity student, you roomed at a rooming house as close to the campus as you could. And you ate your meals at a boarding club; at Lee's College Inn, (below Rowland's); or Brick's on Oread where the Gas Light Tavern is now; or down town at the Evereat or the DeLuxe, near the Eldridge.

     Even the buildings on the campus looked different in 1916. The Administration building (Strong Hall), had only one wing. Old Blake Hall with the clock is now gone, as is old Fraser. Green Hall didn't have the bronze statue in front, Spooner Library now is the Art Gallery.

     "Aunt Carrie" Watson ruled the library. A large, erect woman, she used to walk regally down the rubber strip in the center aisle and admonish anyone foolish enough to be caught whispering or giggling. In fact, she was known to have sent many a culprit out of the library for such an offense.

     Library dates at night were popular. Week-night dates were not permitted, but a boy could take a girl home from the library. You walked. And you were given thirty minutes to get in after

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library closing hours. Your date had to wait outside the library for you to come out. There always were plenty of boys to keep each other company while waiting. Of course, you always got through studying long before closing hour. And the walk home could be quite circuitous.

     There will be no candy or ice cream store like Wiedemann's for this year's freshmen to frequent. Wilson's Drug Store (now Rankin's), was also a popular downtown gathering place for sodas.

     No doubt there are just as handsome and "different" professors today, but it will be hard to convince the 50-year-ago freshman that there are. Take for example, D. L. Patterson; John N. Van Der Vries, and C. A. Dykstra. Most of the girls sat in the front row for their classes.

     You could see W. W. Davis walking jauntily on the campus swinging his cane, or he and Professor Patterson playing golf every afternoon at the Country Club. Professor Davis' favorite expression in class was, "perfectly asinine". The student today won't have the fun of taking a quiz under Professor Blackmar and filling the quiz book to the last page by elaborating, and writing and writing -- just so the book was filled and you wrote a good last paragraph.

     You could call everyone in every class by name. The classes are so big and impersonal now, that students will not have the fun of walking down to Louisiana Street to Prof. Skilton's home for a 10:30 class in Music Appreciation and listening to records played.

     And do students today ever answer roll call for a friend? And take turns going to class? And what professor today would dance in Greek Drama class to demonstrate Greek dancing? Professor Wilcox, with his black skull cap on his head, would do that.

     Then there was Professor Cady who demonstrated making dry ice in Bailey and would end the lecture by throwing handfuls of frozen cranberries out into the audience. And is there an English professor today who can write with as precise a hand as Professor O'Leary did on your papers in "Short Story"? Professor Dunlap would read passages of Shelly & Keats and for fear you might not appreciate a special passage, would read it, look out over the class, and remark: "Now, isn't that just beautiful?" That year, 1916 saw Mrs. Eustace Brown hired as "Adviser to Women", and of course, the students promptly nicknamed her, "Mrs. Useless Brown".

     The second century K. U. co-ed of today will swing down Jayhawk Boulevard, in that short, short, skirt, not impeded by the long, dark, bulky, skirts of fifty years ago. Her long, straight hair may have a tiny scarf over it, and she will have plenty of

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makeup on that skin that doesn't really need it. And the boy walking beside her, will have on tight, tight, stretch pants or faded jeans, a colored shirt, white socks and sloppy loafers. And he will be bareheaded.

     What will student dress be 50 years from now? It is difficult to imagine.

Printed in Journal-World Sept. 16, 1966

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