Monday, April 29, 2013

May Day Celebrations on Campus

May Pole Dancers, 1916
The tradition of celebrating May Day can be traced back to the pre-Christian era when the first day of May marked the end of winter in Northern Europe.  Rituals celebrated fertility and the planting of new crops with gathering flowers, dancing around a tall pole, and crowning a queen.  Traditions such as selecting a May queen and dancing around a May Pole decorated with flowers and ribbons were incorporated into the modern European and American cultures.

Scene from St. George and the Dragon, 1912
Between 1910 and the entry of the United States into World War I, Elizabethan May Day celebrations were very popular, especially at women’s colleges.  The State Normal & Industrial College, now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was no exception.

The first May Day celebration on this campus was in 1904 and featured a musical program by the Boston Festival Orchestra.  The 1912 and 1916 May Day pageants were the most outstanding celebrations with students, faculty, and Curry training school students participating.  Almost 3,000 people from all over North Carolina came to the campus for the 1912 festival to see the 1,000 players in the five-hour pageant.  More than 1,200 players from the college and training school participated in the 1916 celebration.
May Queen Marietta Muller, 1938

The theme for both pageants was an Old English May Day with the crowning of a May Day queen, aesthetic gymnastics, folk dances, dramatic performances, games, and parades directed by drama teacher Mary Settle Sharpe.

World War I interrupted the College’s May Day festivals and the pageant was not resumed until the mid 1920s.  The celebrations during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940 were much less elaborate events and usually consisted only of a May Day queen and her court.

The last May Day celebration, sponsored by the senior class, was held in 1954.   Since the pageant was so close to commencement and consumed so much energy, money, and time, the senior class voted to abolish the tradition.   

May Queen and Court, 1954

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beating the Heat at Yum Yum

The warmer weather of spring brings out birds and flowers -- and a need for ice cream! At UNCG, for over 90 years, students, faculty, and staff have been able to beat the heat with a tasty cone from the Yum Yum ice cream shop.

The original site of Yum Yum, with construction
on the Jackson Library tower in the background, 1973
This campus tradition dates back to 1921, when Wisdom Brown (W. B.) Aydelette opened his now-famous ice cream shop on the corner of Spring Garden Street and Forest Avenue. It sat at the edge of the campus then known as the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG). Because the site what on the western edge of the Greensboro city limits at the time, the store was named West End Ice Cream Company.

At first, there were only a few flavors of homemade ice cream offered -- vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. But soon, the owner introduced a flavor he called "yum yum," an ice cream that is believed to have included soggy Grape Nuts cereal. According to popular tales, the flavor itself was never very popular, but the name was soon adopted for the store itself (although the formal "West End Ice Cream Company" remains).

Students at the Woman's College (as UNCG was known from 1932-1963) flocked to Yum Yum for its food as well as its atmosphere. In a 1994 interview with the Carolinian, alumnae Sharon Garrett remembered Yum Yum as a place to relax and escape from the restrictive residence hall lifestyle of the 1960s. "When we were there," she noted, "it represented some sort of freedom and just being together with your friends. It was like a breath of fresh air."

Yum Yum at its current location, 2002
In 1973, the building that housed Yum Yum was condemned and scheduled to be replaced with a new administration building (now the Mossman Building) for the expanding UNCG campus. Aydlette was able to acquire a building on the opposite corner across Spring Garden from his former site, and moved his operations across the street.

Aydelette passed away in 1984 at the age of 97, but his family continues his legacy today.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The History of Class Jackets at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Leather Class Jacket, 1
The tradition of class jackets made its debut at the North Carolina College for Women (now UNCG) in the late 1920s. Before the jackets became popular, the girls wore hats and sweaters in the class colors of green, red, blue, and lavender.  This color scheme would be a continuing tradition with class jackets, although during the lavender years the girls preferred to substitute black, charcoal, or camel colored jackets. Early jackets had unique designs each year and were made of flannel, suede, or leather.  Eventually, they would evolve into standard wool blazers.

The first class jacket appeared in 1927. A blue flannel blazer was designed with white piping and “N.C.C. – ’29” on a front pocket emblem, signifying their graduating class year. Later jackets included the girls’ initials also placed on or directly above the pocket. After receiving their jackets, the students of the Class of 1929 paraded through the dining hall singing their class song, beginning a new tradition at the school. The jackets were so popular, that they continued into subsequent years. The distinctively colored jackets were bought during the sophomore year and were worn by the students for the remainder of their college days. An extra pocket was included for students who wanted to wear their jackets after graduation and additional material could be purchased for a matching skirt.  Jackets arrived during the fall of the students’ sophomore year, signifying that they were upperclassmen. “Jacket Day” was an important event as sophomores were given their jackets for the first time.

Wool Class Jacket, 1956
There was a great deal of pride associated with the jackets and the girls wore them on and off campus. This would be significant on February 1, 1960, when three white Woman’s College (now UNCG) students joined the Sit-ins occurring at the local Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter – wearing their class jackets. This protest, initiated by four African American North Carolina A&T students, was instrumental in the desegregation of downtown businesses. The college’s administration was not pleased to see their students figure so prominently in the Sit-ins, especially because of the visual association with the school that the class jackets provided. Although the students were allowed to remain in school, this controversial incident would foreshadow the changing mood of the 1960s which saw many school traditions fade into obscurity. After the school became coeducational in 1963, class jackets were one of the few traditions to remain intact. Male students were able to order class jackets, but it is unclear whether they were as popular as they had been with the girls. The tradition gradually died out, with the last class jacket being worn by the class of 1972.     

Monday, April 8, 2013

Origin of a Goddess: Minerva on the Consolidated University era seal

During the period of the Consolidated University of North Carolina (1931-1971), a seal for the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) appeared featuring an image of Minerva quite different from those previously used for the school's seal.
Letterhead from Consolidated University period
The seal appeared together with the seals of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University on official documents and letterhead from the office of the Consolidated University throughout this period.  The seal, by itself, was also used sporadically on items produced by the Woman's College such as Bulletins and Programs.
Seal from 1943 Bulletin of Courses
As has been discussed in previous blogs and exhibits, a wide variety of images has been used for our school's seal and unfortunately, we don't have much information on how many of these images came to be.  We still do not know who came up with the Consolidated University era seal, but we can now state that we know the original source of the image.
In the Louvre Museum in Paris, there is a Greek pot (Krater) dating back to about 460 B.C. This Krater, a form of Greek pottery used to mix wine and water, is an example of Attic red-figure painting. This particular Krater is the name vase of the Niobid Painter, so-called because of the scene depicting the slaughter of the children of Amphion and Niobe by Apollo and Artemis. The scene illustrates a central theme of the Greek world, Hubris, since Niobe had boasted that she had more children than Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis.

The Niobid Painter Krater, showing scenes on both sides

It is not the scene for which the Painter is named, but the scene on the opposite side (image on the right in the above picture), which reveals a familiar face (indicated with red arrow above).  It is a question of debate as to what this side of the Krater depicts, but there is no doubt about one particular figure.  Near the handles stands a robed figure of a woman, wearing an aegis (breastplate of armor) with the head of Medusa, a war helmet, and carrying a shield and spear.  Sound familiar? It's Athena, and it's the source of the image for the Consolidated University era Woman's College seal. The drawing taken from the Krater in the image below shows a better view of the goddess.1

Drawing from Niobid Painter Krater showing detail of Athena and seal

It's very clear that officials weren't aware of the origin of the image used in this seal. In 1963 when the official seal currently used by The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was adopted, long-time Registrar Hoyt Price curiously said, "the 1963 rendition of the university seal actually is more authentic in so far as Minerva is depicted, especially her headdress and the wreath around the figure."2  

1-The Niobid Painter Krater is located in the Louvre and designated as Louvre G341; All Images used here of the Krater are from Tufts University's Perseus Digital Library
2- Quote is from "Today on Campus" October 2, 1983.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Physical Culture at State Normal

Dr. Miriam Bitting
A founding department at the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) was the Department of Physiology and Health (also known as Physical Culture). This unit had two objectives: instruction in hygiene and creation an individualized program of exercise for students. Work in the department included gymnastics, calisthenics, and exercises that were to promote the individual’s health and strength. The purpose of the department, according to the campus catalog, was “not only to provide systematic, graded, healthful exercise for the class, but also to give each student such exercises as her peculiar case demands, to strengthen crooked shoulders, to strengthen weak lungs, to develop chest and arms, and to improve her general bearing.” This focus on “Physical Culture” would “give students such knowledge as will make them reverent and care for their bodies and such training as will give them strength and conduce to their happiness.”

Maude Broadaway
As the campus’s resident physician, Dr. Miriam Bitting not only taught physiology in the classrooms, but on her morning and evening rounds, she made suggestions about ventilation, clothing, bathing, dressing, and other points of personal hygiene. During this time period, it was rare for a full-time physician to be on staff at a college, and a female physician was exceptionally rare. But, President Charles Duncan McIver’s wife (Lula Martin McIver) actually insisted that there be one on campus. Dr. Bitting had previously received her medical degree from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia, where she also practiced prior to arriving at State Normal. In 1893, however, Dr. Bitting left campus after getting married and Dr. Anna Gove took over as the campus physician and head of the Physical Culture Department.

Dr. Bitting and Gove were assisted in their work by Maude Broadaway, a student, who acted as director of the gymnasium. A small room in the northeast section of the Main Building (now Foust) was equipped with eleven bars, chest weights, Indian clubs, and a weighing machine. Although the gym was in use only for 4 ½ months during the first year, “many chests increased in girth, shoulders straightened, arms became stronger, and the general bearing much improved.”

Main Building (now Foust) Gymnasium
A designated Walking Period also ensured that students got some exercise each day. All students were required to leave the dorms and engage in some type of physical activity. Some students loved it; others didn’t. In 1914, an article appeared in the Carolinian student newspaper describing the Walking Period: “Walking period bell rings at 4:30, you open your windows and doors, and set out resolutely to tramp the slowly drying walk for a perfectly good hour you might have spent making fudge or doing embroidery.” Someone checked in the dorms to make sure that all students had gone on their walk. Students were required to walk only on campus, and most chose to walk through Peabody Park, about one mile each day.

Walking Period in Peabody Park
Dr. T.H. Pritchard, former president of Wake Forest, who delivered the first commencement address at the Normal, took note of the institution’s focus on women’s health in observing that there were three ways to recognize a State Normal student: “she doesn’t flirt with the boys, she walks erect and throws her shoulders back well, and she has a large waist” (Drs. Bitting and Gove had taught the women that lacing was not conducive to health, and two-thirds of them had been persuaded to discard their corsets). By tossing aside Victorian-era taboos about women’s health and fitness capabilities, State Normal became an early leader in physical education for women as well as in the training of female physical education instructors.