Monday, June 26, 2017

WC Theatre's International Tour: Taking the Pajama Game Overseas

From October 21 through December 3, 1962, the Woman's College Theatre participated in a series of college student productions that toured overseas Army, Navy, and Air Force installations and provided free entertainment for servicemen and their families. WC was one of 29 American colleges and universities participating in the tour, which was sponsored by the USO (United Service Organizations) along with AETA (American Educational Theater Association).

The WC Theatre chose the musical "The Pajama Game" as its performance for touring. Based on the novel 7 1/2 Cents by Richard Bissell, "The Pajama Game" tells the tales of individuals working in a pajama factory. The WC company was assigned a six-week route throughout the Northeast Command area, which included Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Iceland. The route, which covered nearly 12,000 miles, included a performance at Thule, Greenland, approximately 500 miles away from the North Pole. 

Competition to join the touring group was fierce, and students were required to not only perform but also serve as production technicians. Selection was limited to juniors and seniors due to "the sophisticated nature of the clubs which the Company would frequent during the tour." Only drama majors, members of the student drama organization The Masqueraders, or former performers in WC productions were allowed to audition. Additionally "because of the arctic climate, students free of allergies and of proven physical stamina were chosen." Eleven WC students were selected to be part of the touring company. Five students from UNC Chapel Hill and one from Greensboro College also joined the company to take on the male roles.


The lead female role of Babe in "The Pajama Game" was played by WC senior Shirley Bosta of Hampton, Virginia. The performance notes describe her as "a fiery red head with an even temperament," and adds that "she is the only Woman's College student ever to have two leading roles in musical comedies."

Student selected to join the company were required to enroll in a special nine-hour drama course entitled "Woman's College Theatre North Atlantic Tour." In addition to this nine-hour course, various departments having student majors participating in the tour arranged for the students to take an additional three hours during the early part of the semester, before the touring began. For example, Drama and Speech Department majors took a course in playwrighting. English majors did special honors work. Additionally, a special seminar room in the College Library was reserved for students to read books on "the arts and crafts, people, history, and geography" of the areas they would be visiting.

Of the 31 performances in the tour, 11 were to full houses with most of those including standees. Attendance at the others was near capacity. In his final report on the tour, Herman Middleton, head of WC's Department of Drama and Speech and director of the touring production, noted that the bulk of the audiences consisted of young enlisted men between the ages of 18 and 25. The audience was enthusiastic with "many flash photographs and movies made during performances."

This successful overseas tour of "The Pajama Game" was actually the second time WC was asked to perform as part of the USO-AETA tour. In the summer of 1959, WC Theatre was the first college theater in the south to be selected for tour. They traveled to Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Hawaii to perform Clare Boothe's comedy "The Women." In 1966, after WC transitioned to UNCG, a group once again participated with a touring production of "L'il Abner."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mereb Mossman: An Administrator and Leader

Today's blog post was written by Ashlie Brewer. Ashlie is a rising junior, majoring in music education. She currently works as one of the 125th Anniversary Student Researchers, helping conduct archival research in anticipation of the university's upcoming celebration.

Mereb Mossman was born in Winfield, Kansas on December 1, 1905. She attended Morningside College where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1926, then her Master of Arts from the University of Chicago two years later in 1928. Mossman taught sociology at Ginling College in China from 1930-35, then came back to the States for a year of graduate study. She went back overseas to teach and travel in Asia and Europe. In 1936, Mossman taught at the Alabama Women’s College and then joined the Woman’s College (now UNCG) faculty in 1937 as a professor of Sociology. Mossman was quickly recognized as a critical member of the WC faculty. Her peers frequently described her as a hard-working, model administrator.

Mossman was an active member of the WC campus community, the Greensboro community, and her professional community. During her first couple of years on campus, she was asked to lecture on China to civic organizations as an aftermath of the Japanese invasion of the country. From 1946 to 1948, Mossman served as president of the Greensboro Council of Social Agencies, and in 1947 to 1951, she was a member of the National Committee on Preprofessional Education of the American Association of Schools of Social Work. In 1951 she was named WC’s Dean of Instruction. She was promoted to Dean of the College, then Dean of Faculty soon after that, then was named Greensboro’s Woman of the Year given an honorary membership to the Greensboro Junior League in 1954. Two years later, in 1956, she received the Max Oliver Gardener Award. Then in 1960, she was awarded an honorary degree of Humanities at Queen’s College and Morningside College. In 1963, Mossman was elected executive council of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of College and Schools. Finally, in 1969 she was promoted to Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Making her the first woman to ever hold this position at the university. However, she only held the title briefly before stepping down in 1971 to resume teaching full time.

As an administrator, Mossman was a woman who always got the job done. However, she worked a small team consisting of herself, an assistant and a secretary. Unwilling to delegate, there were many times that the team had to stay long hours and weekends in order to get necessary paperwork completed. She was able to master virtually every detail of the college’s operations which kept her as a pivotal member at the university. Mossman always looked to the future for the university -- from bringing in more professors, being a familiar face as chancellors rotated in and out, and bringing more education to UNCG (she was a driving force in creating masters and doctoral programs in several departments). Mossman looked at adding as many learning opportunities to the university as possible.

During her years 20+ years at WC/UNCG, Mossman held several positions but valued her time as a teacher more than any other of her titles. She viewed higher education as not only a place to develop curious minds of students and to place them into the working force, but as two continuing education programs. The first being the workshops and seminars that are being held across the country for professionals, and the second being the continuing programs for people interested in their own personal development as a human being. She pushed this idea onto her students. One of Mossman’s student’s recounted, "She held us to the highest standards and never, never relaxed that. She was one of the finest, a fascinating professor who got to you. Years after you left her class you didn’t want to let her down. She is one of the life’s very special people."


Mossman retired in 1976 with a resume listing over 10 pages of educational groups and community service work. A year after her retirement, the campus administration building was named in her honor. Mereb Mossman died in 1990 at the age of 84.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Flu Pandemic of 1918: The "Fourth Horseman" Comes to State Normal

In 1918, an influenza pandemic began to spread across the globe. In the U.S., about 28% of the population became infected, and 500,000 to 675,000 people died over the course the next two years. The campus of the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG) was, of course, not immune to this easily-transmitted disease. In October 1918, the disease found the College, and campus administrators had to made quick decisions on the best course of action to protect the students and limit the spread of the flu.

Instead of suspending operations as some schools did at the time, State Normal President Julius Foust made the decision to instead quarantine students to the campus. From October through December, students were unable to leave campus, and guests were not permitted to visit. One alumnae wrote:

Wooden Dormitory (approximate site of the Alumni House today)
"It was that fall when the Fourth Horseman on his livid steed was abroad in the land. Pestilence, in the form of deadly influenza epidemic, was sweeping the country. No city, village, or hamlet was spared. It reached the campus as I remember in October. Several hundred girls contracted it ... A rigid quarantine was enforced. No one was allowed to leave the campus, no going to town, no weekends at home, only walks into the country were permitted."

Several hundred students were infected -- so many that the campus infirmary could not hold them all. Wooden Dormitory (also known as Guilford Hall) was converted into a makeshift hospital. But fortunately, none of the students contracted pneumonia, and no deaths resulted. As President Foust wrote in his unpublished history of the College, "This was remarkable in view of the fact that many more people died from flu in this country than were killed in the war [note: Foust is referring to World War I]. Both faculty and students had relatives and friends in the army and frequently a report would come that a loved one had been killed or died from influenza, but these sorrows were endured with Christian fortitude."

The pledge signed by students prior to leaving campus in December 1918
By December, the influenza outbreak on campus had subsided enough that Foust decided that the students should be allowed to return home for the holiday break. But each student was required to sign an agreement pledging to report any illnesses in their home, avoid possible sources of the disease, and reporting to the infirmary for a health assessment immediately upon returning to the school.

When the holiday period end and student returned to State Normal, they faced a week of final exams. But, as soon as those were complete, they began to celebrate the end of the semester and of the full campus quarantine by planning a large gala event for the evening of February 3, 1919. As reported in the Greensboro Daily News:

"Memories of long, dreary weeks of quarantine were forgotten, and mirth reigned supreme through the spacious dining hall, when at 7:30 o'clock last evening students of the State Normal and Industrial College participated in one of the most elaborate entertainments in the history of the college.

The first event of the evening was, perhaps, the most impressive when 700 young ladies, dressed in quaint costumes, formed a long, gala procession and passed in review before the judging members of the faculty ... After the procession had ended a unique program, arranged by Misses Clarence Winder and Lula Martin McIver, was given, including farce scenes of "what might have been" and "what actually happened" during the quarantine. A liberal sprinkling of humor was traced through the numerous sketches given, and the effect was indeed ludicrous.

During the latter hours of the evening a delightful dance was given in which the majority of the young ladies participated. Between dances several vaudeville sketches were presented, including aesthetic dancing, ballet scenes in which the students were dressed in colonial costumes, "buck and wing dancing," and other forms of the Terpischorean art."

Monday, June 5, 2017

The First Reunion of the Class of 1585

In 1926, the alumnae of the North Carolina College for Women (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) were making plans for their class reunions. As these preparations were being made, it occurred to some of the alumnae that the celebration should include those students who had attended the woman’s college but had never graduated, or were never officially associated with a reunion class. This honorary group was christened the “Class of 1585.” This unusual name was a reference to the state’s early history, when Sir Richard Grenville’s English ships landed on the coast of what is now North Carolina.


The first “reunion” of the Class of 1585 was held on June 5, 1926, during the celebration of Alumnae Day. To mark the occasion, there was a luncheon given in the Spencer Residence Hall dining room. In keeping with the 1585 theme, large centerpieces were fashioned in the image of Elizabethan ships. The tables were decorated with vases of daises (the school flower), with individual blossoms spelling out 1585 – 1926. For a special remembrance of the day, guests were presented with a small booklet created by students in the college’s art department. On the cover was a hand-drawn representation of a ship being greeted by a young Native American woman, while the interior contained the day’s program and a photograph of the guests of honor. Those being honored were administrators, professors, and staff members associated with the college’s early history. They included Miss Viola Boddie, Miss Laura Coit, Mr. Edward Forney, Dr. Julius Foust, Dr. Anna Gove, Miss Minnie Lou Jamison, Mrs. Lula McIver, and Miss Mary Petty.


Over ninety guests were entertained with a program which paid tribute to the eight guests of honor. Continuing the theme of settling a new land, these educators were represented as champions of learning and “rescuers of the maidens” held captive by ignorance. In thanks, their former students presented them with “love, loyalty, reverence, and gratitude.” The luncheon’s entertainment also included a song by Miss Molly Matheson Boren and a commemorative verse by Miss Eleanor Watson Andrews, as well as Miss Vaughn White Holoman’s “series of word pictures sketched with the delicacy and precision of a cameo, [of] the eight ‘founders’ of the ‘settlement.’”


The moving program ended with each attendee drawing the name of one of the eight honorees and completing the phrase, “What we really want to tell you…” on a small sheet of paper. These kind thoughts were later collected and incorporated into a commemorative book. The event concluded with the guests toasting the Class of 1585 with best wishes and the hope that the tradition would persist.  For the next several years, the Class of 1585 continued to hold alumnae luncheons with the other college classes, but by the 1930s, this seems to have come to an end. Only one of the hand-drawn booklets survives as a testament of the class’s first reunion held on that June day in 1926.

Monday, May 29, 2017

“A Noble Idea” The History of Peabody Park (Part Two)



Have you ever wondered how UNCG acquired such a beautiful green space on the northern edge of its campus?  Well, the founding and development of Peabody Park is a fascinating story that reflects UNCG’s overall growth as a center of higher learning and a Greensboro neighbor.  Given the complexity of the story, the Park’s history is being told in three Spartan Story installments.  The first installment was told in November 2016, “A Noble Idea:” The History of Peabody Park (Part One), and focused on the Park’s founding through a generous donation of monies.  The second installment, May 2017, will pick up the Park’s story in 1902 and how it evolved from a place of strolling and reflection to one of recreational activities, open-air theatrical performances, and finally, institutional encroachment. 
 
Shortly after the land for Peabody Park was purchased in 1901, landscape designers established a series of walking trails.  Wooden benches were strategically placed along the paths.  Female students used this new green space for their required daily “walking periods.”  President Charles Duncan McIver described the designed space as an education park where student learning and physical education were brought together in one place.  McIver envisioned that stone markers and plaques would be installed to highlight human advancement and inspire the passing walker. However, plans for the installation of stone educational markers were shelved with McIver’s sudden death in 1906.  Despite his untimely death, the Park was quickly being incorporated into campus life.
 
Peabody Park became a popular venue for school festivals and performances.  Starting in 1904, students staged elaborate May Day Festivals.  Over the years, the festivals became more and more elaborate.  The Festival’s activities included: the crowning of a May Day queen, dramatic performances, parades, and folk dances.   With the American entry into World War One in 1917, the May Day festivals were stopped and did not resume until the 1920s.  Instead, students used Peabody Park to hold patriotic rallies and pageants to boost morale and to encourage the purchase of Liberty Bonds.  With May Day festivals starting up again in the 1920s and continuing into the 1950s, Peabody Park was again being used for student events and performances.  Indeed, there was even the establishment of “Park Night” that honored students who embodied the school’s ideals of scholarship and service. 
 
As enrollment grew in the 1920s, the school was challenged to meet the needs of its growing student population.  Under the leadership of President Foust, the school experienced a building boom and sought to incorporate parts of Peabody Park into its educational programs.  Tennis courts and an archery range were constructed to support physical education classes.  In 1934, during the height of the Depression, the federal government’s Civil Works Administration built a nine-hole golf course in the Park.  With the establishment of a Golf Club, the school administration hoped that faculty and students would be active members and that their membership dues would help support the maintenance of the grounds.  Unfortunately, Club membership remained low and the maintenance of the grounds proved to be costly. 

On the eve of America’s entry into World War Two in 1941, the golf course had fallen into disrepair.  It was decided to transform the space by damming one of the branches of the Buffalo Creek.  The dam helped to form a small lake for boating.  Peabody Park suddenly had a lake!  In addition, an outdoor amphitheater was constructed on the lake’s shore to be used for concerts and pageants.  All traces of the 1934 golf course disappeared.

Interestingly enough, the idea of a school golf course for recreation and learning was resurrected in the postwar period.  In 1954, the lake was drained and the lake bed was leveled.  State funds for a new nine-hole golf course were obtained.  To generate interest for this instructional course, the school held a “gala” in 1957 that featured local golf pros playing the course.  To sustain the project, the course was designed to keep maintenance costs down and to bring golf into the curriculum.  Unlike the fate of the Depression-era course, the 1954 golf course functioned as a nine-hole course until the 1990s.  In 1999, the old golf course was transformed into a short-game practice facility (150 yard fairway, 2 holes and a bunker) to be used by the school’s golf teams as well as for physical education classes.

With the projected growth of the school in the 1960s, there was a strong need to expand residential housing on the campus.  Portions of Peabody Park was identified as a space for development.  Plans were drawn up.  In 1960, the Moore-Strong Residence Hall was built.  In 1963, the Reynolds Residence Hall and the Grogan Residence Hall were opened.  Upon learning of the construction of residences halls in Peabody Park, a number of former students wrote to Chancellor Otis Singletary in 1965 objecting to the University's building plans.  They insisted that this unique green space be preserved.  Despite these written protests, the University moved forward with its building plans and opened both the Cone Residence Hall and the Phillips-Hawkins Residence Hall in 1967.

The third and final installment of the story of Peabody Park will examine how the Park continued to evolve along with the University’s own growth.  The blog post will consider issues such as the 1990s student protests over planned campus expansion as well as the 2016 announcement for the construction of two wetlands sites within Peabody Park.  Stay Tuned! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Farming and Feeding the Campus

Looking at the current site of the Quad, you might never guess that it was once the home to a campus farm and dairy barn that supplied State Normal (now UNCG) with milk, pork, and produce. But in 1897 Charles Duncan McIver established the first campus farm on a newly-acquired plot of land on the western side of the campus. In addition to providing the school with food products, the farm also served as a teaching laboratory for horticulture classes.
Campus dairy farm (near site of current Aycock Street), 1922

Initially the farm was managed by Thomas L. Brown, an English horticulturalist who was then working at the Biltmore Estate. McIver, however, did not allow the farm to proceed without his direct supervision and impact. In fact, he bought much of the livestock himself. The campus also constructed a substantial dairy barn near the current site of Shaw Dormitory.

It took seven years (as well as Brown’s replacement and a reduction in the livestock herd) for the farm to begin turning a profit for the school. After 1904, however, the farm operations grew substantially. By 1910, the cattle produced more milk than the students could consume, allowing the college to sell and profit from the surplus.

Soon, however, campus expansion (specifically the newly-constructed Woman’s Dormitory) led administrators to search for new sites for the barn. In 1913, the livestock and their barn were moved further west, closer to Dairy Street (now Aycock Street).

Only four years later, however, the campus farm had proven too small for the growing student body, and the land it occupied was needed for other purposes. The Quad was carved out of the farm’s eastern side, and there were plans for a physical education building and golf course to occupy the remaining area. While the college had use of an additional farm southeast of Greensboro, it needed more space to produce more foodstuffs.

So, in 1923, president Foust purchased a 250-acre plot of land in Friendship Township about eight miles west of campus (near the current Piedmont Triad International Airport). Primarily, this site was used as a dairy farm, with Holstein cows providing milk for students and extra milk being sold to local dairies. The old campus barn was demolished, physical education facilities were constructed where the farm stood, and farming operations fully moved away from the immediate campus area.

During World War II, the campus experienced a shortage of workers for the farm. As a result, forty to fifty German prisoners of war were bused in daily from Winston-Salem to provide much-needed labor. Once American soldiers returned from overseas, however, the labor shortage continued. Foust and later president Walter Clinton Jackson were advised – but refused – to sell the farm as it began to lose money. Both cited distrust in the quality and quantity of milk available from local dairies as the primary reason for retaining the farm. But in 1945, ultimately the shortage of labor and high cost of animal feed led the College to sell the farm at auction.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Summer Studies at the Shore

On June 15, 1931, Archie D. Shaftesbury, Associate Professor of Zoology at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) wrote Mary Taylor Moor, the school's registrar, regarding a proposal "to conduct a three weeks summer term in zoology at Beaufort during this and succeeding summers." Shaftesbury emphasized that "it is our intention to reserve this work for certain selected students, rather than to open the course to classes of any considerable size." He asked Moore to quickly take the proposal to the "college credit committee" to ensure that students planning to participate that summer would be eligible for course credit.

Dr. Archie Shaftesbury
Shaftesbury's work to bring students to Beaufort for marine zoology study continued to develop, and, in 1934, student members of the school's Zoology Field Club actively joined in by writing their alumni members for support "in the establishment of our marine laboratory on the North Carolina coast." They asked that each former member pledge $10 ($5 in 1935 and $5 in 1936) to support the development of these research facilities. These efforts paid off. In 1935, work began on the construction of the "Carolina Marine Laboratory" in Beaufort. Previously, students had made use of local high school classrooms as well as U.S. Bureau of Fisheries laboratories and boats for their summer studies.

Beaufort continued to grow as a hub of marine research. In addition to the active U.S. Bureau of Fisheries facility and the newly-constructed NCCW laboratory, Duke University established a presence in the town in 1937 with the purchase of 11.5 acres to house a third research facility.

In 1938, the NCCW facility in Beaufort featured a course in Invertebrate Zoology, a class "designed for seriously minded advanced college students, high school teachers, and others who may be interested professionally in biology." An information pamphlet sent to prospective applicants to the course noted that "while the work is not a vacation in the ordinary sense, the experiences offer a pleasant change from the confines of the classroom and laboratory together with an unusual opportunity for observation and study." Classes were held between June 13 and July 9.

Biology students studying  at Beaufort, ca. 1940
That same summer, NCCW's presence in Beaufort expanded beyond marine research as the art department established a 26-day "summer colony" in the town. Gregory D. Ivy, head of the art department and manager of the "colony," proclaimed the project to be an "experiment." The academic work centered around coursework in "advanced landscape painting," which focused on "the theories and methods used by the post-impressionist cubists, and surrealists." It appears that this was indeed a limited experience, as the bulk of the NCCW use of Beaufort focused solely on marine biology. 

The 1961-1962 course bulletin contains the last direct reference to the Invertebrate Zoology course conducted at the Beaufort facility by Shaftesbury (who had become professor emeritus in 1959).