Monday, May 4, 2020

The Dolphin-Seal Club: Aquatic Adventures on Campus

Even before there was a pool on campus, swimming was an important part of the college’s curriculum. Early lessons were given at the downtown Greensboro YWCA facilities, but when the Rosenthal Gymnasium was completed in 1925, classes were held in the new 25 ft. by 75 ft. swimming pool, which included a shallow end and separate lanes for lap swimming. The addition of the pool, strongly endorsed by Mary Channing Coleman, enabled the school to offer a more convenient on-campus option for students who were interested in the sport. 

Dolphin-Seal Club Members, 1946
In 1926, the Dolphin Club was formed, boasting six charter members. The purpose of the group was to help students improve their stroke techniques and become expert swimmers and divers. To be a Dolphin, a student was required to pass a rigorous admittance examination which tested “speed and perfection” in swimming. The successful candidates had to excel in “two strokes for form, three standard dives, a speed record of two lengths of the pool in 45 seconds with the crawl, and [swimming] 12 lengths of the pool.” Dolphins met once per week for practice and to work on earning special badges for swimming accomplishments. Members also performed yearly “water festivals,” during which students staged choreographed routines and stunts. 

Diving Exhibitions by Dolphin-Seal Club Members, ca. 1948

In 1930, the Club decided to allow students who were less technically proficient than the “Dolphins” to join. This group of students were called the “Seals” and subsequently, the “Dolphin-Seal Club” was formed. Continuing the tradition of providing elaborate campus entertainments, the Club held yearly events featuring synchronized aquatic performances, as well as technical swimming and diving demonstrations. These elaborately choreographed events included festive and sometimes very elaborate decorations, props, and lighting. Live music was integral to the performances and often became an important part of the annual themes. 

Club Members Participate in "A Tale of the Toys" (1963)

Yearly festivities had creative themes, such as the 1940 pageant “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” during which student swimmers, representing “all marine deities and animals,” payed tribute to Neptune, the god of the sea. “Rhythm Americana,” produced in 1953, guided the audience through water-based versions of tangos, duets, ballads, and waltzes. The mid-1950s saw aquatic productions that were less fantastical and more modern, such the “Underwater Times.” This 1955 pageant program featured “headlines” such as “Escaped Murderer Captured” and “Democrats vs. Republicans,” and performances divided into Editorials, Travel, Sports, and Theater. The 1960s embraced more whimsical themes, including “The Tale of the Toys” (1963) and “Spring is a New Beginning” (1967). Sadly, by the early 1970s, the Dolphin-Seal Club was no longer included as a student group in the university’s handbook. Although UNCG still has a swim team, the Dolphin-Seal is now considered one of the university’s lost clubs.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe on the UNC Greensboro Campus

Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe, 1979
Founded in 1973 as an innovative and experimental drama group by acting instructor Jamey Reynolds, the Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe was established to give student mimes an opportunity to practice their art on and off campus. The tradition of Mime is thought to have had its origins in Ancient Greece, when a masked dancer, or Pantomimus, performed to honor Dionysus, the god of theater. In both the Greek and Roman dramatic tradition, mimes created a comical break between acts of more serious plays and performed for weddings and important events. The performers of the Middle Ages adapted the early art into “mummer plays,” or “guisers,” which evolved into the “dumbshow.” Pantomime, or Mime, saw its modern incarnation in France with performers portraying a character through silent, creative movements or gestures, usually in costume. Mimes such as Etienne Decroux, Jean Louis Barrault, and Marcel Marceau set the bar in France, while American Mime was made famous by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Emmett Kelly, and Buster Keaton.

The oldest Mime group in the US is The American Mime Theatre, which was founded in 1952. By the 1970s and 1980s, mimes mainstreamed into television, street performances, and even onto the UNCG campus. As part of the university’s Department of Communication and Theatre, UNCG undergraduates, as well as graduate students, could enroll in the Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe.

Alamance  County Arts Council Performance, 1981
Professor Reynolds taught his students that Mime was “the art of gesture, of making the body’s movements express a dramatic scene.” He incorporated elements of French, American, and classical Mime to develop routines that required mental and physical control to reach the optimal performance level. Their programs ranged from magical and mystical tales to abstract and representational interpretations of our society.

Pensive Student Mime, 1975

Sound, light, and costumes were also utilized to accentuate their programs. The costumes were often very imaginative in their use of bright color and design to re-mold the mimes' human shape into new forms. Describing their performances as “a combination of comedy, fantasy, mystery, and satire,” the Troupe performed at school and community events. They entertained with traditional miming, as well as juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, music and dancing. The mimes continually re-configured their shows to suit their audiences, which ranged from elementary school students to retirees. Most performances were free, but when they would charge, all monies were channeled to a theater scholarship fund.

While The American Mime Theatre continued to produce mimes, the art form's popularity dwindled. By the 1980s, the Kaleidoscope Mime Troupe seems to have disappeared completely from campus.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Day Students on Campus

When the State Normal and Industrial School opened its doors in October of 1892, there was barely enough room for the 176 students who came through them. By the end of the year, the girls’ school had 223 students spilling out of the dormitories. This overflow resulted in some students rooming in auxiliary dormitories, while others boarded with neighborhood families. Most of these students dined at the college’s dining hall, which was located in Brick Dormitory. The only other students who lived off of the main campus were the small number of girls who lived at home. Initially, there were very few of these “Day Students.” In 1904, there were forty-six students attending classes at State Normal, but living at home.

Town Students, ca. 1953
Because the “Day Students,” or “Town Students,” did not live in the dorms, they tended not to be as involved in groups, and often felt that they had second class status on campus. As Day Students had their own particular needs and concerns, they were encouraged to start their own organization, in the hope that it would encourage them to become more involved on campus. In the early years, these students were represented in the school’s Student Government Association, but they were not given formal recognition until 1929. In that year, the Day Students Association was founded, which allowed the students more representation in the school’s student government. At this time, the group was given a special room in the Students’ Building that was designated for study and relaxation. Unfortunately, the space had very few amenities which would have made life easier for students who lived off campus. It had sparse furniture and no lockers, resulting in the students having to carry their books all day. There was also a parking problem for commuting students, who had to compete for a limited amount of spaces with faculty members.

As the college continued to grow, students continued to live both on and off campus and there continued to be an organization for commuting students. In 1933, the Day Students’ Association changed its name to the Town Students Association. Membership included all women who lived off campus, and the group’s constitution reflected their desire “to participate more fully in college activities, and believing that student government develops self-control and instills loyalty in students.”

President of the Town Students Association Choosing Tunes on the Jukebox

In the years after World War II, college enrollment began to swell. At that time, almost ten percent of the student populations lived at home. By 1949, 220 town students were enrolled at Woman’s College (now UNC Greensboro). Although these young women had only minimal participation in campus organizations, they occasionally would socialize together in the Day Students’ Room. In an attempt to draw these students further into college life and create deeper connections with on-campus students, administration allowed each town students to join a residence hall. This plan was not a great success and most town students preferred to return home after class or to gather in the Day Students’ Organization room, which was now located in Elliott Hall. Instead, to further the feeling of inclusion in typical campus activities, the Organization decided to hold a dance. This type of activity allowed the students to have a typical college experience without living on campus.

Town Students Association Dance, April 1949

When Woman’s College became a part of the University of North Carolina system in 1963, the school became co-ed and the commuting community grew even larger. Indeed, most of the rise in registration was due to local enrollment. Two years later, the Town Students’ Association had its first male officer, Anthony Thompson. This was not popular with many of the female members who were still becoming accustomed to male students on campus. The organization’s new handbook set their goals as: “to inform the Town Students of student government activities; to unite the town students, and to link more closely community students with dormitory students.” Recognizing that meeting attendance was one of the most challenging aspects of the organization, members were requested to check their mailboxes every day for organization news and to attend all meetings, which were held in Elliott Hall.

By the 1970s, the organization attempted to appeal to a broad and diverse range of members by sponsoring a car rally and book exchanges. The early 1980s saw a population of approximately 6000 off-campus and commuter students at UNC Greensboro, and the Town Student Executive Board planned engaging and creative activities. Dues payed for activities included breakfasts and lunches for the members, as well as trips to local breweries and dinner theaters, as well as career planning events.

In 1983, the Town Students Association became the Commuting Students Association, incorporating students who traveled to campus from out of town. The average age of this group was twenty seven years old. Sadly, the renamed organization never really garnered support from the student body, and by 1993, their main function was to supply monthly deli lunches for its members. As the commuting population grew larger, there became less of a formal need for an organization to help the students assimilate to campus life. These students would now help to shape the culture and personality of the school.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The 1959 Commencement Home

In an earlier blog post, the collaborative effort between architect Edward Loewenstein, Woman's College of the University of North Carolina students, and professionals in the building and construction professions, was detailed in the creation of the first Commencement Home. This post will continue to look at that effort as it moved into its second year.

Although there seemed to be less publicity for the second Commencement Home, the second home designed and built collaboratively by students, architects, professionals, and Woman's College was featured in the October 1959 issue of Living for Young Homemakers.
Cover of the October 1959 issue of Living for Young HomeMakers

The article (titled, "a house with a college DIPLOMA"[sic]) describes the course in Residential Design as giving Woman's College's "art and home economics students the practical experience of planning a home from foundation to furnishings." The students were "assigned to committees undertaking specific study in orientation, space planning, electrical, mechanical and plumbing potential." Because the houses were always meant to be sold, students were given budgets that were realistic and marketable. The target budget for the 1959 Commencement House was placed at approximately $24,000. Apparently the price was right, since the house was immediately sold to Mr. and Mrs. Hinsdale in 1959.

Design principles laid out by the WC students included: areas zoned for family activities, stepsaving traffic pattern, visual spaciousness beyond actual square footage, easy maintenance, dramatic lighting, and climate-conditioning. Some of these principles are apparent in the house plan, which show well-separated living and sleeping areas, as well as a sunken living room, which helps to delineate the more formal dining room from the living room.
1959 Commencement Home Plan (p. 159 Living for Young HomeMakers October, 1959)
In keeping with the Modernist feel of the home, the interiors are decorated with period-appropriate furniture. Note also, the use artificial and natural lighting, which is both practical and fulfills the stated design principle of "dramatic lighting."
Living and Dining Rooms (p. 158 Living for Young HomeMakers October, 1959)

The exterior of the home also exhibits the design principles of dramatic lighting, easy maintenance, and climate-conditioning.
(p. 183 Living for Young HomeMakers October, 1959)
Like the 1958 Commencement Home, The 1959 Home featured measured advancements and innovations. One of those accomplishments which both the 1958 and 1959 home shared was the "Live Better Electrically Gold Medallion" an award from Duke Power Company for "electrical excellence." A wonderful announcement (sponsored by Duke Power) for the open house taking place on May 30-31, 1959 showed the electricity mascot, "Reddy Kilowatt," with the medallion and invited the public to view the Home.
Greensboro Daily News March 30, 1959

We are fortunate to have in our archives a picture of the student designers alongside their 1959 Commencement Home.
1959 Commencement Home with WC students with Edward Loewenstein (UNCG University Archives) 
Although the first Commencement Home has been demolished, the 1959 Commencement Home still stands.

1959 Commencement Home in a 2010 photograph (photo from Guilford County Tax Department, Real Property Search website:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

“I am, Dear Miss, Yours Very Truly:” Melville Fort’s Letters to Prisoners of War

During World War I, many young American women became pen pals with European prisoners of war. This was the case with Miss Melville Fort, an art teacher at the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNC Greensboro). Like many of the women who taught college in the early 20th century, Miss Fort was strongly committed to the education of the young students in her charge.  A native of Mississippi, she was known as an intelligent and witty teacher and a good friend, but we know very little about her social life. In fact, we know very little about Miss Fort at all, but we can glean a bit of her nature from several letters and postcards that she received from a Belgian prisoner of war in 1917.

Miss Melville Fort
Miss Fort participated in a British program in which Americans were able to write POWs in Europe. Programs such as these provided interred men with a link to the outside world, and a way for Americans to “give back” to the war effort. Although Miss Fort corresponded with two men, her correspondence with Arthur Limbosch was the most substantial. As his letters provide a response to Miss Fort’s correspondence, her interests and compassionate nature become apparent. She shared a little about her profession and her love of travel with him, commenting that she had been to Holland. In turn, he described the beauty of his country and his fear that it would be destroyed by "the Huns."

Arthur was only seventeen years old when the war began. He had been an electrician living with his parents in Brussels and by his own account, was very inexperienced. As there were sufficient electricians in his military unit, he was made a “telephonist.” In his letters, Arthur recounted his involvement in the Siege of Antwerp in October of 1914. He expressed the horrors of war though the death of his friends and comrades, the lack of food, and his fear of the enemy. Arthur was surprisingly candid about how his battalion was besieged by the Germans and subsequently retreated.

Camp Zeist postcard from Arthur Limbosch
Like many young men, Arthur was captured and forced to live in an internment camp. The official name of this site was “Internment Camp Amersfoot – near Zeist,” but was usually shortened to just “Zeist.” In his letters to Miss Fort, Arthur described the grounds and the “shed” in which he lived. Zeist was actually two camps that consisted of twenty-four barracks within an approximate square mile area, housing up to 15,000 men. It was surrounded by barbed wire and the prisoners were given little freedom, although they were allowed to take walks around the area before they retired for the night. Every other day, they were granted permission to walk in the woods, guarded by Dutch sentries. The camp also included sports grounds, and Arthur told Miss Fort that he played football (soccer) on these athletic fields. He also described dining on potatoes and beans - and sometimes a few vegetables and a little meat.

Prisoner participating in an athletic event at Camp Zeist, from a postcard sent to Miss Fort by Arthur Limbosch
Through the several surviving letters, we see that she became an immediate favorite with Arthur and the other prisoners by sending stamps for their stamp collections. Arthur was also thrilled to find Miss Fort was a teacher and asked if he could practice his English through their correspondence. He insisted she correct any mistakes in his letters, as he was attempting to master a language that he considered much different from his. He made a special point of telling her that he had not learned English in school, but had picked it up during the time he was a prisoner. Arthur was also quick to correct her assumption that the European schools were more advanced than their American counterparts.

Although their correspondence was limited to only a few letters and postcards, it reveals an interesting slice of history, which for a brief time, allowed an electrician from Brussels and an art professor from Mississippi to form a friendship.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Education of Charles Duncan McIver

Charles D. McIver (left) and his younger brother William in 1865 
The founder and first president of our university, Charles D. McIver, left a wealth of information behind when he died suddenly in 1906 on a train returning from Raleigh to Greensboro. Among his more formal papers dealing with his work as president of the school are also included diaries, school note books, and reminiscences of his life. From these, it is possible to get a better understanding of McIver’s education in Reconstruction era North Carolina.

Charles D. McIver was fortunate to have been born into a family well enough off, that he was able to enjoy an early education that was decidedly better than many North Carolinians had access to at that time.
Charles' first teacher may have been his father, Henry (Matthew Henry McIver, always referred to as “Henry”). Although from a wealthy family, Henry’s own father needed him on the farm and thus, Henry never attended college. Despite this, Henry was compelled by his neighbors to teach at the local one room school house. When Henry went to teach, he brought along his four year old son, Charles. Charles would later recall that school house as among his earliest memories.

Despite never having attended college, Henry and his wife, Sarah, always encouraged their children to go to college. “My father and mother reared me to the idea that, as a matter of course, I was to go to college,” McIver would later recall.
"Winter" an essay written by Charles D. McIver, Dec. 19th, 1873

By the age of eight, Charles was ready to properly go to school. This time, however, Henry and his cousins hired a “proper” teacher. Bertha Buie, a sixteen year old graduate of Salem Academy was Charles first formal teacher. Charles would learn from textbooks such as McGuffey’s Reader or the North Carolina Reader. McIver also remembered other teachers from this period. Mary Newby particularly helped to see his education through to the age of thirteen.

From age thirteen to sixteen, Charles was taught by Davidson College graduate (and cousin) John E. Kelley. The subjects taught during this time were appropriate for a student who sought to enter college- English, geography, algebra, Latin and Greek.

With his Presbyterian roots and connections, it would have been entirely natural for Charles to attend Davidson College, but he instead chose the University of North Carolina, partly because it had produced so many leaders in the state, but also because he wanted something a little outside of his upbringing.
Charles' Zoology notebook, 1878

The entrance requirements for UNC were stringent:
“A competent knowledge of the elements of the English language, Geography, and Algebra through equations of the second degree, Latin Grammar, Prosody and composition, four books of Caesar, five books of Virgil’s Aeneid, or the equivalent in Ovid, Sallust, or Cicero’s orations; of Greek Grammar and Composition, four books of Xenophon’s Anabasis, or Memorabilia, and two books of the Iliad.”

Charles was well prepared by his schooling under John E. Kelley and entered UNC in the fall of 1877 at age sixteen. Although his family was decidedly not poor, he was forced to borrow money from his uncle to pay for tuition and expenses (Tuition was 60 dollars, Room rent was 10 dollars/year at UNC during this time). McIver later stated that his total tuition debt for attending UNC was $1,200 dollars.
Charles' notes on NC History, 1880

Charles enrolled in the A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) degree, and being well served by the course of education taught by Kelley, was a very good student, scoring above 90 in every subject in his first two semesters. Indeed, he did so well, that he would later earn a medal for Greek in 1879. If Charles had one failing at UNC, it was his inability to speak publicly. As he would later relate, “During my four years at this institution I made no appearance before the public as a speaker when the payment of fines…could relieve me from that duty.” Fortunately, Charles would later overcome that deficiency in the course of time.

Charles would graduate in 1881 among the highest in his class, all the more notable in that his classmates included many future NC leaders. 
Although he would record on a questionnaire for a prospective book on prominent men in North Carolina that he had pursued no professional education, Charles was later awarded two honorary degrees from UNC: a doctorate of literature in 1893 and doctor of law in 1904.
One example out of many of Dr. McIver's reminiscences concerning his early life and education, undated

Charles' medal for excellence in Greek from UNC, 1879
*In addition to the Charles Duncan McIver Records, 1855-1906 (UA2.1), the books: McIver of North Carolina by Rose Howell Holder & Covert Curriculum by Pamela Dean were also consulted in the creation of this blog post.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Lina McDonald: The First Campus Mystery

Graduating Class of the State Normal and Industrial School, 1893
Lina McDonald is not pictured
Working at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives is always interesting. Recently, I came across one of the earliest campus mysteries – the tragic accident of a student who lost her life several months before graduation when she was struck by a train and killed, not far from campus.

A Forsyth County native, Miss Lina McDonald was a graduate of Peace Institute (now Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina) and arrived at the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) when the doors opened in the fall of 1892. Although she had gained teaching experience in the nearby towns of Winston, Shelby, and Concord, Miss McDonald decided to apply to the State Normal to acquire a certificate and additional experience.  In addition to her responsibilities as a student, she also served as an assistant faculty member and soon took charge of the Department of Vocal Music and Education where she quickly gained the reputation as a conscientious and caring teacher. She was described as having a lovable nature, a good character, and winning cheerfulness which made her well-liked by both the students and the teachers. Her sweet personality and reputation as a powerful teacher made her untimely death an even greater shock to the college and to the community.

The circumstances surrounding the accident were never fully understood. There were no actual witnesses and the last person who saw her alive reported that she was safe on a nearby embankment. What happened next is purely conjecture.

A remembrance of Lina McDonald written by members of the faculty

It was not unusual to find Miss McDonald taking long walks. As an assistant member of the faculty, she was not restricted to campus and she was known to relieve the stress of teaching and studying by walking, either with members of the staff or friends in the community. On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, Miss McDonald was returning from a visit with her friend, Mrs. James Glenn in South Greensboro when her path took her close to the railroad tracks, presumably because it created easier walking conditions in the snow. A local man, T. J. Trent, told authorities that the young woman had passed him while he was making his way south, away from the city. He noted that when she was approximately 200 yards beyond him, she paused and appeared to contemplate her path. She then reversed course and headed back toward to the city, passing him again. About that time, Mr. Trent heard the sound of the oncoming train, but had lost sight of Miss McDonald who he believed had continued to her destination. It was only later that he heard that she had been struck by the train; her body discovered by a local hunter, lying on the track in the snow. Sadly, the engineer had not seen her and the accident had gone unnoticed by the train crew or the passengers.

As a crowd gathered around the lifeless body, no one could identify her. It was only later that evening when someone discovered a college laundry tag reading “Lina McD ” on her clothing that someone remembered a young woman by the name of Lina McDonald attended the State Normal, and college president Charles Duncan McIver was notified. Two days later, McIver and several members of the faculty accompanied Miss McDonald’s remains to her funeral in Raleigh.

The mystery of how she was hit by the train when she was last seen safely on a high embankment was never solved. The official inquest did not hold the engineers responsible for her death and it was generally believed that she may have panicked when she heard the train, causing her to lose her footing and fall on the track. Another proposed explanation was that somehow the train caught part of her clothing, pulling her onto the rails, and causing the train to pass diagonally over her chest. Whatever the circumstances, Lina McDonald was truly mourned and ten years later when asked to write about the first graduates of the State Normal for the campus yearbook, The Decennial, her classmates and colleagues included her in their number.