For this post I would like to share just a great set of snapshots of campus life taken by Robert M. Schaller [W1942], a Lambda Chi brother. The photos were taken during the years of 1938-1942.
The first one above is such a treat, look at those great cars!
Here is another of the east side of Center. Keen eyes might note that the Milligan Clock no longer sits in that space. The Thomson Bench [called by most the Senior Bench] is still right where it has always been. Center Hall is timeless.
This is the sidewalk from Yandes [now Detchon] to Center Hall. The stairs we see at right are to Peck Hall, replaced by Waugh Hall, replaced by Hays Hall. I especially like the perspective in this snapshot.
This picture was taken on September 17, 1938. All Wabash men will understand this image. This is Chapel Sing for the class of 1942.
Here is another angle of the same event. It looks like the photographer is taking a picture of a part of the new class as other freshmen observe.
Speaking of freshmen – here is their contribution to the tradition of a homecoming fire. Freshmen were sent out into town to collect just any old thing that might burn. Often, they took things, boards, scrap lumber, etc. that they were not given. Including, annually, someone’s outhouse. This was often the crowning glory of the freshman fire. And, lest we suppose they were marauding hooligans with no consequences – each fall the town would tender a bill for the missing property. The students would then pony up the cash and all was forgiven.
This great picture gives us a “typical student” at his studies. This young man is Jack Chase, Wabash class of 1942. This picture was taken in 1940 at the Lambda Chi house where Jack was also a brother.
And here is a picture of the Lambda Chi house in the late 1930s. A few less trees now, but the same beloved façade. Interestingly, this is also a picture of the “new” house which was acquired by the fraternity in 1936.
And here is the house all decorated for Homecoming of 1939. At the far right of the picture is an outhouse with a sign which says, “Georgetown – out in the cold.” The other signs are all on the theme of a farmstead. A sign by a chicken coop reads, “We’re laying for Georgetown.” While a sign near an old mower states, “Wabash mows ‘em down.” The team referred to in this homecoming display is Georgetown College of Georgetown, Kentucky. And, in front of a Homecoming crowd of 1,500 we beat them 9-7.
This is a snap of the view of campus from the south. There is a lot going on in this picture.
In the foreground we can see the football field and the yard markers. At this time the field ran north and south along Crawford Street.
This is a closeup of the Goodrich construction, taken in September of 1938. And in the foreground is the baseball diamond.
Yet one more shot of that area, showing the pitcher’s mound and home plate.
This is the football team of 1938 stretching ahead of a game.
We see here the 1938 game against Butler. The visitor’s stands in the back look to be quite full. The Butler game always brought out the fans of both schools.
This is Jim Adamson [W1941]. Looks like he might be coaching at first base.
This might be my favorite pic of them all. It appears that this was taken just after a Chapel period. At this time, and for a long time after, Chapels were mandatory. Just another day in the life of Wabash College.
These photos are a few of the many that we have from Robert Schaller, but they offer us a glimpse of life at Wabash at the end of the 1930s. A time just ahead of worldwide war. The calm before the storm, as we say.
I hope that you have enjoyed these snaps from the past.
This is a scan of the ticket of Will H. Hays, Jr. to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. It is housed in a leatherette case and is printed on thick card stock by the Jeffries Banknote Company of Los Angeles. And looking at it, we can clearly see the similarities between this ticket and banknotes of that era.
Here is a closeup of the ticket.
Here we can clearly see the intricate borders and in the background a rendering of the Rose Bowl Stadium [correction courtesy of Joe Day – this is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum] where much of the games took place. And from the seat listed it looks like young Bill Hays had a really great view of the festivities.
Bill Hays [Wabash class of 1937] was the son of Will H. Hays, Sr. [Wabash class of 1900] who was known at this time as the “Movie Czar” and spent a great deal of his time in Hollywood. Naturally, the Olympics were a huge event in the life of Southern California in 1932. This ticket, with a face value of $22 would have been quite a stretch for most Americans in 1932 during the Great Depression. A quick check of the average wage for workers in 1932 shows that the average rate was 45.8 cents per hour.* That was assuming, of course, that one could find work in that time. A rough calculation shows that it would have taken six full workdays to pay the face value. Or a family’s entire paycheck for one week to purchase a ticket for just one person. So it would have been a real treat for those who could afford it.
This is the back of the ticket and spells out the limitations on the purchaser. No scalping, no refunds for events cancelled, in general no refunds of any sort, no liability for lost or stolen tickets and all spectators must present a ticket to enter.
From the Library of Congress website** we can read more about these historic games:
On July 30, 1932, United States Vice President Charles Curtis declared, “I proclaim open the Olympic Games of Los Angeles, celebrating the tenth Olympiad of the modern era.” A crowd of 100,000 spectators watched as some 1,332 athletes, representing 37 nations, paraded into the stadium. Vice President Curtis pressed a silver button to light the Olympic torch, the Olympic flag was raised, and 2,000 pigeons werereleased.
I was also quite interested to read that the LA Olympics of 1932 sported the first ever Olympic Village. Here is more from the Library of Congress site:
The Olympic Village was first instituted at the 1932 Olympics to counteract the effects of the Great Depression and to provide an affordable and convenient place for athletes and officials to eat and be housed.
Among the United States athletes on the field were Mildred (Babe) Didrikson, Ralph Harold Metcalfe, Edward (Eddie) Thomas Tolan, Helene Madison, and Benjamin (Ben) B. Eastman. Eighteen-year-old track competitor Babe Didrikson won two gold medals and one silver medal. Jim Thorpe, who had won gold in the 1912 games, watched from the presidential box. He was unable to purchase regular tickets because of the personal financial ruin that befell him during the Great Depression.
It must have been so exciting for those who watched in person. Although the games were not televised, some events were broadcast over the radio, using “a word picture of the…events” so that America could cheer on her heroes. The Olympics still have the power to inspire folks around the world.
James Carlton Gauld [W1922] was a local boy and possessed of many talents. He graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1918 and came to Wabash to study. His father was a pharmacist and big supporter of Wabash publications as indicated by the ad below which ran in many issues of The Bachelor.
It seems that Carlton was not the only talented member of his family as there are records of his sister, Carolyn, a contralto singing at various campus activities, well into the 1940s.
Carolyn married and lived the remainder of her life here in Crawfordsville. Lucky for us as it drew her brother back to town on a regular basis.
For the alumni reunion of June, 1930 The Bachelor mentions his return and also that he “…just returned from a five month’s stay in France…returning there in a few days…” Gauld was studying with a master opera teacher in France.
So who was J. Carlton Gauld and why is there a mention of his return for the reunion? To put it mildly, Gauld was a pretty big man on campus. Here are a few clips from the Bachelor that illustrate the point.
Active in the Wabash theater, in 1919 Gauld was elected President of that group. In addition to his acting and singing, Gauld could also play the piano and the violin at an astonishingly high level. To fully appreciate his standing on campus, here is a brief snapshot of his Wabash career, the title says a lot.
Among his many accomplishments while a student were his oratorical skills, as highlighted in the following article from The Bachelor. Side note: unless specified, all articles here are from The Bachelor.
This win at the state oratorical contest propelled Gauld to the regional held in South Dakota.
Competing against speakers from all of the Midwest proved to be too tough for our man Gauld. Here is a summary of the competition.
Speechifying was just one of Gauld’s many talents. Stories abound in The Bachelor of his excellent work associated with the glee club. It was his voice that would, in time, take him to the top of the opera world.
He first studied with an opera master in Cannes, France and appeared on the French stage for several seasons. Here is an article with details of his path to the Met in New York City.
The 1930’s were a very good decade for Gauld.
In addition to this report from The Bachelor on Gauld’s Metropolitan performance we also have this review from the New York Times of February 20, 1938:
‘FAUST’ TURNS UP AT METROPOLITAN
Opera Stages Goundo Classic, Once Its Most Popular Work, in 12th Week of Season
GAULD REPLACES PINZA
Makes Return Appearance as Mephistopheles – Vina Bovy in Role of Marguerite
The change in operatic taste is in no way more surely indicated than by the fact that the Metropolitan Opera House, once dubbed the “Faustpielhaus,” just got around last night to Gounod’s masterpiece at the tail-end of its season’s twelfth week. Perhaps, in these days when men are selling their souls for power and empire, the spectacle of a man accepting a similar bargain for mere youth seems somewhat ridiculous. Nevertheless, the opera was attended by a packed house cordially responsive to its tale.
The novel elements of last night’s cast were Vina Bovy’s first assumption of the role of Marguerite and the Mephistopheles of Carlton Gauld, who replaced the indisposed Ezio Pinza. Miss Bovy’s Marguerite is well in the line of tradition ingratiating both to the eye and ear. Her “Jewel Song” was a brilliant, though sufficiently satisfying to have gained a warm reception.
Although he sang within a restricted vocal range, Mr. Gauld acted with smiling zest and made a pleasant enough Devil who, incidentally, used excellent French. This was really a return appearance for Mr. Gauld, for he sang with the Metropolitan in the season of 1931-32.
Charles Kullman’s Faust and Richard Bonelli’s Valentin cast healthy-voiced and well-appearing; both were especially enjoyed by the audience. The roles of Siebel, Marthe and Wagner were filled adequately by Helen Olheim, Thelma Votipka and Wilfred Engelman, respectively. Wilfred Pelletier conducted. G.G.
Here is another article from The Bachelor about a 1941 visit to Wabash by Gauld.
By 1941 Gauld is on another return visit, having left Paris where he was appearing in the Opera Comique. Living in Paris at the start of World War II must have been quite an experience. Happily Gauld made it out of Europe and returned to New York City.
By 1967 Gauld was teaching at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. His title as reported on an alumni questionnaire was Stage Director, Opera Theatre and Workshop. He married Becky Pearce who predeceased him. They had no children.
J. Carlton Gauld is yet another example of future excellence predicted by his many notable achievements while a student. He left Wabash and Crawfordsville behind, but never forgot either. He returned on a regular basis and often performed locally while here. Thus we can say that it was here at Wabash that a star was born!
“…as close to the perfect newsman as it is possible to be.”
Edward Price Bell was born in Parke County, Indiana on March 1, 1869. The farm was remote and life was simple, but the family moved to Terre Haute when he was young. At the age of 13 Bell walked into the offices of the Terre Haute Gazette’s newspaper offices and offered to become a correspondent. Wearing his best suit, and with a flower in his button hole, the boy evidently impressed the grizzled editor as Bell walked out as the riverboat/houseboat correspondent on the Wabash River.
For his education, Bell attended Hanover for one year, then transferred to Wabash. Our records show that Bell left early in his senior year, sailing to England in June of 1896. He had an assignment from the Chicago Daily News to study the lives of the poor in England and report back. He lived in a settlement house in the Whitechapel area of London for several months. An extremely poor area, it is perhaps best known as Jack the Ripper’s haunt. When his assignment was complete, he returned to Chicago. He very quickly made a name for himself as a dogged reporter. He covered race riots in North Carolina, a Chippewa uprising in Minnesota, the Klan in Indiana and corruption in Cook County.
In 1900 he returned to London where he lived and worked for 23 years, longer than any other foreign reporter. He made friends wherever he went and had a talent for getting an interview that was remarked upon by his fellow correspondents. He said he had a simple system. From his Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame citation, we can get a better picture of him,
“In his search for the facts and the reasons behind them, Bell went after and obtained interviews with men at levels of government that had never been approached by journalists before.
“His method was to convince the lesser figures around his proposed subject of the beneficial nature of his projected interview, until, when he finally approached the man himself, the latter found himself penned in on every side by subordinates urging him to grant the interview and was finally forced to give in.”
After his first assignment in England, he returned home and married Mary Alice Mills of Crawfordsville. It seems they must have met while he was a student here. They had two sons and a daughter.
His talents and his passion led him to advocate for peace, having covered WWI from England. Along these lines, he organized a meeting/conference with the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Canada and President Herbert Hoover. This conference of 1929 went a long way to the London Five Power Naval Conference of 1930 which imposed limitations on naval armaments.
Bell traveled widely and used his gifts to obtain in-depth interviews with world leaders in an effort to avoid another catastrophic great war. This clipping from The Bachelor of March 20, 1936 provides a clearer picture of his work on behalf of world peace.
Bell was, at one time, the highest paid journalist in America. A sign of the respect he engendered among those who met him. He is credited with creating the long form interview that is a standard today. In 1930 he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work. He did not win, but always treasured the letters in support of his nomination.
There is so much more to share about this high achiever, his worldwide travels, and chats with world leaders. Edwin Price Bell loved to share the stories he heard and clearly loved to travel. He died in 1943 at the age of 74. His Indiana Hall of Fame citation says that the cause was beriberi which he picked up on his travels to China. He received an honorary degree from Wabash and from Northwestern University. He lived a long and productive life and Wabash is glad to have him as one of our Loyal Sons!
This is a student handbook given to students as a project of the local YMCA. Scattered throughout its pages are tidbits of helpful information. Particularly helpful for those new students, the freshmen of Wabash.
Here are some examples from the handbook.
Just scrolling down through the topics listed in this Table of Contents shows us that pretty much all a student needed to know about the College and the town may be found in its pages. [Editor’s note: College NOT Collage. Original typo.]
The two pages above give the reader an overview of Wabash which includes a little history as well.
The page above offers some simple truths to the new student. I am especially fond of the advice, “If you have read a book, return it.” But maybe that is because I work in the Lilly Library.
This page features customs and a discussion of permitted absences and the guidelines for expulsion. Included in these two pages are the rules regarding the Senior Bench and Junior Fence, the accepted customs of Chapel Period – required every day at 9:45 a.m. The school color is scarlet, we are the “Little Giants” and freshmen may expect a class battle between the sophomores and the freshmen on the first Friday of the fall term.
Much as Chapel is required each morning, students were expected to attend a local church twice a month. Churches were to be of the family’s own choosing and to assist with that choice, there is a listing of the churches in town.
This page features a different sort of religion – athletics. Specifically football and the schedule was a tough one!
The advice to new men still mostly applies, even after 103 years. “If you don’t know ask; we have all been there.” That is still just as true today. “…treat every man as your brother.” Again, still good advice, and still true, just as is this, “Don’t brag, be modest.” And the best one of all, “Don’t forget that you need regular exercise each day.”
There are calendar pages for each day of the school year and also a complete listing of students and faculty which included their local addresses.
Boosters at the ball game were expected to know the yells. These seem stodgy and old-fashioned to us now.
This page tells the reader where to find various classes and services.
A listing of trains in and out of town, as most students arrived via rail at that time. And, if you wanted to get over to Indianapolis all it took was a short hop on the Ben-Hur Interurban line.
Folded inside the back cover is this map of Crawfordsville listing those places of most interest to a student.
A listing of the class officers let freshmen know the Big Men on Campus.
The entire book was supported by advertising from downtown merchants. Here are several ads which appeared in its pages.
By looking at these ads, we get a better idea of the things that were of interest to these students. Cigars, billiards, movies, “Vodevil” books, stationery, jewelry [think fraternity pins]. photographs and lots of ads for clothing stores.
Altogether this little book would have contained all of the information that a well-informed Wabash man of 1918 needed. How lucky for them that the “Y” committee went to the effort to gather it all in one place.
One of the best parts of my work as Archivist at Wabash is untangling the stories of the Wabash family. Much like our own families, we know a little of the story, and it is in the distillation of the tales that the real story becomes clearer. The subject of this post is a Wabash man, well known in the past and little-known today, Harry Joseph Milligan of the Wabash class of 1873.
Like many before and after, Harry Milligan was a local boy. His father, Joseph [W1840], was a successful businessman and served as a Wabash trustee for 20 years. The image below is of a business card for Joseph’s Crawfordsville Coffin Company. This was located on the future site of the Lew Wallace Motor Inn just a block from campus and which is now owned by Wabash.
Joseph was raised in Waveland, a small town in the southern part of the county, founded by his pioneer ancestors. Jospeh moved his young family to Crawfordsville where he built a beautiful home, just west of campus. A gothic brick house which is pictured below, still survives. Milligan Street, which runs past the Wabash tennis courts, is named for the family whose stately home sits at the end of it.
Young Harry grew up a stone’s throw from Wabash and attended Crawfordsville public schools until he enrolled at the college. As a student, Milligan was the youngest founding member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and joined the Calliopean Literary Society. Following graduation, Harry attended Columbia University Law School. Following his graduation, he returned to Indiana and quickly made a name for himself in Indianapolis.
From his obituary which appeared in The Bachelor following his death, “He came to Indianapolis in the late seventies and began the practice of law as a student in the law offices of Harrison, Hines and Miller, of which firm Benjamin Harrison, later President of the United States, and W. H. H. Miller, United States Attorney General under President Harrison, were members.
“He first gained prominence in 1884 as receiver for the banking firm of Fletcher and Sharp, that occupied quarters in the Saks Building at Pennsylvania and Washington Street. His skillful management of the affairs of the bankrupt firm made it possible for the many creditors to be paid nearly in full and much praise was voiced at his ability in connection with the receivership.”
Milligan’s career was on the rise. In 1885 Harry married Miss Caroline Fishback of Indianapolis. Together they had a daughter, Louise, who married Charles Douglas Herron [W1897]. The Herrons are also a Wabash family, father and sons as alumni. They built the brick house with the tower which sits across from the Arboretum on campus.
During his life Harry Milligan believed in giving back to his community. in 1911 was he donated a 40-acre tract of land that became Milligan Park here in Crawfordsville. He specified that the land be used, “to perpetuate the memory of Joseph Milligan.” Harry’s father who was one of the town’s earliest merchants and landowners.
Preparing the land for use as a park was a project requiring several years’ work. Roads had to be surveyed, graded, and graveled. Then, a pavilion and bandstand were erected, and a wading pool, horseshoe pits and playground equipment were added. It was June 16, 1916, before Milligan Park was dedicated, as the town celebrated the state’s centennial.
From an article in The Bachelor comes this from Professor Bechtel, a Wabash botany professor who praised Harry Milligan’s foresight and understanding of the basic human need for woods for recreation. “The influence of a large grove of trees, or woodland, undoubtedly exerts a powerful effect upon the nature and habitats of both young and old,” he wrote. “The youths who grow up without the companionship of trees have missed something for which there is no adequate substitute.”
Service to Wabash College
Milligan was a highly respected member of the Wabash Board of Trustees from 1902-1916, serving as President from 1906 until his death in 1916. From The Bachelor of 10/11/1916, “Mr. Milligan subscribed $10,000 to what is known as the Endowment of 1909, and $2,000 to the Gym Fund.” During his life he also gave Wabash a beautiful Italian marble bust of Dante. Made of three types of marble, Milligan spotted it on his travels and brought it back to Wabash for the Yandes Library. Sadly, it has been missing for many years now.
These donations were just the beginning of more substantial gifts to Wabash. At the reading of his will, it was learned that at his death Milligan bequeathed all of his Montgomery County property to Wabash. This gift is shown in college records as $118,488 or, in a rough conversion to today’s money roughly 2.4 million dollars. A portion of the principal was used to endow the Milligan Chair in English, first held by George V. Kendall.
Following Milligan’s death in 1916, the family also gave a portrait, which now hangs in the Chapel. This is so fitting as the Milligan family also made a large donation toward the Chapel’s construction. Mrs. Milligan donated her husband’s significant law library to Wabash. It formed the basis of a deep collection of law materials.
In 1920 Mrs. Milligan gave another gift and one that still graces our campus today – the Milligan Clock. Located on the east side of Center Hall, the clock is a beautiful limestone tower with four illuminated faces.
Wabash mourns his passing
Milligan’s death was a loss to the college. Details from The Bachelor of 10/04/1916, “Wabash College and Crawfordsville paid honor to Harry J. Milligan, President of the Board of Trustees of Wabash College, who died at his home Sunday of acute indigestion.
“Classes at the college were not held and a big delegation of students attended the Crawfordsville services for the trustee, which were held at the Center Presbyterian Church. The body was laid to rest at the Oak Hill cemetery, north of Crawfordsville.”
And the gifts keep coming. just a few years ago Louise’s family contacted Wabash with the offer of another gift – a portrait of their ancestor painted by T.C. Steele. It is beautiful and hangs in the English Department here.
It is often difficult to measure the impact of a life on a long lived institution, but the impact of the Milligan family on Wabash is still easy to see on campus. The Chapel, the clock and the professorship all survive to the benefit of Wabash and more than a hundred years later the threads of that family’s story still shine. Now that is a legacy!
This beautiful, full color, photograph taken during the Franklin vs. Wabash football game of 10/05/1946 is titled, “Lineup before touchdown – Franklin.” The two teams are lined up for the next play. Note the bright colors and superb resolution, this is scanned from a Kodachrome slide taken by W. Norwood Brigance. The dozens of slides by Brigance are still fresh and the colors are holding beautifully.
Brigance was a teacher of Speech, nationally renowned for his scholarship in the field. Luckily for us, he was also an inveterate shutterbug. Thanks to his good work and good judgement, these photos are as vibrant as they were 74 years ago.
Thanks to Brigance’s keen eye we can look at the past in “living color” as the old TV ads proclaimed. There is something that much more real about a color photo. So much of our history is preserved in black and white, it is refreshing to see so much in color.
And, in case you are wondering – Wabash was victorious 22-7 over Franklin. In fact, that year the Little Giants lost only one game – to Butler on their home field. Other teams Wabash beat that year included Ball State. Rose-Poly. Centre College of KY, Lake Forest College and the biggest win – DePauw University, by a score of 26-0.
Several years ago, while reading a column written by Bill Boone, alum of Wabash, Class of 1960 and a native of the area, I was surprised to read that one of THE most notable attractions of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was built by a man from this county, Luther Rice. What a connection! I set out to discover more about this history.
For reference, Ladoga is a small town in the southeastern part of Montgomery county. Quite a prosperous town in its day, Ladoga still maintains a healthy small-town vibe.
Here is a description of the Ferris Wheel from a souvenir booklet, the cover of which appears above and which was purchased at the Fair.
“The Mammoth Ferris Wheel – Greatest of all the many wonders exhibited at the Columbian Exposition was the monster spider-web cycle known as the Ferris Wheel, located in the Midway Plaisance. This remarkable product of inventive genius was designed and constructed under the direction of G. W. Ferris, superintendent of one of the large bridge companies of America. The forgings were made at Detroit; the axle, 33 inches in diameter, 45 feet long and weighing 56 tons, was the largest single piece of steel ever cast in this country. The colossal shaft rested upon steel towers 137 feet high, and the lifting of it into place required the use of a derrick bigger, taller and stronger than was ever made before. The wheel was 264 feet in diameter, between the rims of which, separated by a distance of 28 1/2 feet, 36 cars were suspended, each having a capacity of 60 passengers. It was perfectly balanced, and was turned by a sprocket chain, attached to an engine of 2000 horse-power, with an engine of like power held in reserve. The time occupied in making one revolution was about twenty minutes, and the price of passage, for two revolutions, was fifty cents. Cost of the wheel was $362,000, but the earnings paid the cost in three months after it was put into motion, and the profits of its operation were much greater in the latter months of the fair.”
The Ferris Wheel was a hit! So popular that wheels of this type are still referred to as Ferris wheels. For more information on the man who put it together, we have this entry from Bowen’s History of Montgomery County.
The Ferris Wheel, a Ladoga product
The town of Ladoga lays claim to the engineering feat of constructing the famous World’s Fair “Ferris Wheel,” that amused and astonished its millions of people at both the Chicago and St. Louis World’s Fairs. The originator of the scheme, could not find an engineer who would undertake to build it, until he finally found Luther Rice of Ladoga, this county, who examined the plans and said he would build it, and he did. The entire world knows of its history. After the fair in Chicago, it stood in “Ferris Wheel Park” for a time, but when the St. Louis fair came on it was taken down and set up there. After that ended it was sold to the Chicago Wrecking Company, who placed many sticks of dynamite beneath it and destroyed it cement moorings and it fell. It was a wonder. – Bowen’s History of Montgomery County
In the snippet from the souvenir booklet it says that, “…profits of its operation were much greater in the latter months of the fair.” I bet they were! It must have taken a while to prove to people that riding on the wheel, up so high, was safe.
With most fairs cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are few Ferris wheels operating. Still, we can remember what our first ride “up high” felt like as we looked down on our world. What delight, mixed with apprehension, feelings surely not uncommon.
A neat connection.
The Magic City – A Portfolio of Original Photographic Views of the Great World’s Fair
Bowen’s History of Montgomery County Indiana Vol.1, p. 506
For more information on the Chicago World’s Fair, follow the link below to Wikipedia:
We received word here recently of the passing of Jasmine Robinson, a woman with a big smile and a bigger heart. Jim Amidon’s notice of her passing was an excellent piece of writing, summing up her life succinctly. I thought I might add to her story by sharing some Archives materials, including her words from the Black Oral History project of the 1980s. Thanks to Bill Doemel for reminding me of it!
It is always sad to hear of a member of the Wabash family passing. It so often feels to me like we have lost something big, a piece of our history has gone. This is especially true in the passing of Jasmine Robinson, who broke the professional color barrier at Wabash in the 1960s. Wabash had employed other Black women, but they were maids, janitors, or cooks at the fraternities. Jasmine was, however, the first woman of color to work in a professional role in all of Crawfordsville. When Paul Mielke hired her to work in the computer center here at Wabash in 1963, she was indeed the first woman of color to work professionally here.
At the top of the page I listed a few of Jasmine’s better-known accomplishments. I start with trailblazer, because for all her long life she was busy forging the way for those who would follow. It was in this line that she spoke to classes here at Wabash about what it was like to be on campus during the Civil Rights movement. To elaborate on her perspective, here are Jasmine’s own words from a transcript of a Black Oral History project undertaken in the early 1980s. The project looked at Wabash and the Black Experience and there was a second section which was Crawfordsville and the Black Experience. Jasmine, interestingly, could speak on both topics. She was interviewed by her friend Dr. Paul Mielke of the Mathematics Department in 1982. Here are some details of her life and quotes from the oral history project or Jasmine in her own words.
Jasmine was born on a farm in Putnam County just outside of Greencastle on May 8, 1927 as one of six children, she was the youngest. Living on a farm ensured that there was always enough to eat. When asked about life on the farm and discrimination she responded, “All of our neighbors were white, but we didn’t have any problems. We would go to their farm and help them and in return they would come to our farm and help us harvest. We looked at each other as just people.”
As a high school student, Jasmine was barred from the local drugstore where there was a soda fountain. Here is her description of that situation, “I noticed it [discrimination] when I entered high school because of the difference in skin color of my sister and myself. Then I was aware of it. She could go into the drugstore and site down and have a coke and I couldn’t because I was darker than she was.”
Jasmine came to Crawfordsville in October of 1947 after she married Andy Robinson, a local fellow. It took no time before the difference in society was made clear. “I remember distinctly that when we moved here there was a Welcome Wagon…I am afraid they did not welcome us.” In addition, it was very difficult to find housing as whites would not rent to people of color. They found one apartment with a Black landlord; however, no children were allowed. As the couple were expecting their first child, it was a short-term solution. They found other housing through their church with an unused second floor space in a family home. Their next home was Andy’s father’s house. When forced to move again, a white friend suggested that perhaps they could build their own home. They applied to a local savings and loan and were denied, despite their excellent credit and job stability. When their friend heard of this, he went to the bank and, “…and after some strong persuasion they gave us a loan (laughs) and we built this house that we are now living in, in 1964.”
When asked about the sorts of jobs available to her she replied, “I hate to say this, but overt discrimination in employment was a general practice here. Employment opportunities apart from domestic and janitors were few, if any.” Jasmine continued that there was, “an unwritten law,” that Black women, “…were to be maids and the men were to be janitors.” Her first job here in town was at a restaurant, peeling vegetables. She worked at a nursery school and earned money sewing, which continued to be her passion throughout life.
Paul asked her, “Did you ever feel treated as though you were not a person in these jobs?” She answered, “Some people respected me as a person and there were some who didn’t and in those instances I had to tune them out. I had to work, my husband’s paycheck was as small as mine…There were times when one would become depressed because you could not be yourself, you could not express what you felt with white people.”
Jasmine continued to seek out opportunities to better her employment and took a class at the Indiana Business School in Lafayette. In the meantime, she continued her quest for a better paying job and despite being turned down at more than one local manufacturer, she was hired at Hoosier Crown, a company that made bottle caps. Asked how she was treated there, “I was the first Black woman to be employed by industry. I am sure management accepted me and I would like to believe most of the employees did also.”
Jasmine met Paul Mielke at an NAACP meeting here in town, she was among the founders of the local chapter in 1959. Paul mentioned that there would shortly be an opening in the Computer Center at Wabash. Jasmine elaborated, “I don’t know if I ever told you, but I really didn’t believe you (laughs). After eight months of employment at Hoosier Crown, you did contact me and offered me a job in the computer center at Wabash College. I came to Wabash in October 1963.”
In another portion of the oral history, Mielke asked about her relationship with Black students, “I have tried to let them know that we are here, if there was a need that they could call on us. I tried to indicate that if there were dances, and the girls needed a place to stay, they could stay here.” There were dinners for all Black students at the Robinson home and so many conversations. Andy and Jasmine provided grounding and support.
Jasmine loved music, especially jazz and often wished for an outlet for that music. Not one to sit idly by, wishing for change, she made it happen with a show on the College radio station called Cooking With Jazz where she played her favorite jazz tunes. A catchy name, it was later used as the title of her legendary cookbook featuring many of her best dishes, along with those of others.
[Editor’s note: A copy is held here in the Archives, but there is also one available for checkout from the Lilly Library.]
Not only could Jasmine “spin the platters” she was also an accomplished musician who played the organ for her church and was the Musical Director there for over 45 years.
On the list of accomplishments must be her status as a championship bowler. Her love for bowling lasted a lifetime. She was a member of a group of Wabash women who competed on the national level. Jasmine kept bowling until she couldn’t but returned to the game in 2014 at the age of 87. Not surprising then that she was added to the local lanes’ Bowling Hall of Fame in 1988.
A loving wife to Andy and devoted mother to her two children, Jasmine was an inspiration to anyone who met her. Her dazzling smile, elegant style and unbounded enthusiasm for life were clear for all to see. At Homecoming in 2007, the National Association of Wabash Men honored Jasmine Robinson for her service to the College and its students by naming her an Honorary Alumna, the highest honor they can bestow. In addition, the computer center in the Malcolm X Institute is named for her, as a nod to her groundbreaking career and the MXI instituted the Jasmine Robinson Pioneering Woman Award.
In The Bachelor of March 24, 1988 Jasmine was the subject of a feature called “20 Questions: Jasmine Robinson” she was asked what was the best advice she ever received. Her answer was, “Never get too big to apologize.” Asked about her greatest ambition she answered, “I always wanted to be a counselor at a college or university.” Based on a lifetime of support, advocacy, and a loving outlook to so many young Wabash men, I would say that she surely achieved it.
As I post this blog, we are in the midst of the corona virus lockdown. Many are the stories of loss, whether the loss of a job, loss of business, loss of things we never even thought about, and the greatest loss of all, loss of loved ones – neighbors, family and friends.
So much we’ve lost and yet we have found a great deal as well. The simple pleasures of a slower time. A time when there is nowhere to rush off to, when appointments and activities are on hold. We have found ways to connect and alternatives to in-person activities. As Wabash prepares to celebrate its first ever virtual commencement, here is a story of another unusual graduation gleaned from past pages of The Bachelor.
At Wabash in the spring of 1957, the 125th of its existence, things were clicking along in fine fashion. Robert Minor Hurt of the class of ’57 had just been elected as President of his fraternity, Phi Delta Gamma. Hurt was also a popular member of the Speaker’s Bureau and a talented debater. When the fraternity gathered for its election of officers for the fall semester, it was odd that the president was absent. Some thought that perhaps he had gone to Indianapolis, where a recent storm had knocked out some phone lines. This, they thought, would explain his lack of contact. When Wednesday evening arrived and no word was received, Dave Orr [W1957] went to President Trippet to report Hurt missing.
The Phi Delts gathered to discuss possibilities and his friends, “…recalled that Pine Hills had been one of Hurt’s favorite spring study places.” A search party took off to check. Here is their report from The Bachelor of May 24, 1957.
“Student Posse Rescues Bob Hurt in Midnight Search of Forest Area
“Campus tragedy was averted early Thursday morning when a 100-man search and rescue party found Bob Hurt, Phi Delt senior missing for 36 hours, lying semi-conscious at the base of an 80-foot precipice at Pine Hills.
“Hurt, missing since mid-afternoon Tuesday, was found about midnight Wednesday by Joe Malott, Mike Cummings, Ron Rossie, and Dan Millar following the earlier discovery of his car abandoned in the rutted road leading into the secluded forest area.”
The riveting story of the search team follows as taken from The Bachelor and lightly edited:
Hurt Rescuers Relate Story
by Bill Morgan News Editor
(Printed below is the story told this writer by the search party that first reached Bob Hurt in Pine Hills, Wednesday night.)
“It was about 11:05 p.m. when eight of us and Phi Delt Faculty Adviser Ed Gullion got to Pine Hills. We pulled into a drive leading back into the woods but couldn’t go far in the car…the rains during the past twenty-four hours had made the ground too soft.
“We started walking up that muddy road – none of us really expecting to find Hurt. We’d only gone about twenty-five yards when Gabbert said, “There’s his car.” It was funny how calmly he said it…
The Search Begins
“We checked the inside of the car, and somewhat melodramatically peered into the trunk. There was no sign of violence, and no trace of Hurt. We decided to split up and start searching the woods – three of us would follow the road while the rest looked more carefully around the car. Gullion left us to phone back to the house that the car had been found.
“Since Cummings had been out there several times with Hurt, he knew where Bob usually went to study, and he led us [Malott and Millar] through the mist and the mud to that spot.
“Seeing no evidence of Hurt having been there, we waited for word from the rest of the group. The other five arrived within a few minutes and reported they’d found nothing around the car.
The Second Clue
“About 11:20 p.m. Hamer and Lodovisi spotted three footprints. On closer inspection we noticed a tree root sticking up out of the ground, a couple of sliding marks…and a cliff! It was a drop of 70-100 feet to the bottom, where we could see a stream of water. We couldn’t make out many other details from the top with our flashlights…Malott was ready to try to crawl down the side of the cliff to look…
“Cummings remembered a path a short way ahead that led down along the creek…So four of us went down to search. The other four stayed at the top of the cliff, where the footprints had been to guide us to the right spot with their flashlights.
“After following a winding trail to the bottom, we found that the path came to an end…We had to walk down the middle of the creek.
“Then as we approached the spot beneath the footprints, we heard a moaning sound. Three or four feet from the edge of the creek we spied Hurt. He was lying in a bed of stones. Marks in the mud indicated that he may have crawled – literally crawled – the three or four feet from the water’s edge to where he was now.
“When we got closer, we saw he was lying on his stomach – trying to prop himself up on his hands. He looked around. The glare of the flashlight was in his eyes…I don’t think he knew who we were right away.
“The first words we heard Hurt say were, “It seems that I’ve had a little accident.”…then after we told him our names, and got across to him that we were friends, he said: “Where have you guys been? What have you been doing?” He looked at his watch and said, “I haven’t been able to move for a long time.” The watch was still running.
“He was very pale and obviously in a state of severe shock. His skin was yellow. His eyes never closed…they gave us a glassy stare. When asked how he was, he said, “All right…” We asked where he hurt, and he complained only of his left knee.
“We could also see a deep cut above his left eyebrow, which he had apparently gotten during the fall…
“A couple of us looked around for some dry wood to build a fire…and finally got a small one going…using some handkerchiefs and a T-shirt to kindle it. We covered him with our coats and shirts to help keep him warm…but he still complained of his left leg being cold.
“He finally ‘came out of it’ enough to realize what was wrong with him: shock, a cut on his forehead, exposure, and his left leg. He insisted he hadn’t fallen…but he said he’d sprained his left leg and trying to favor it he hurt his right leg, too…He said he’d been trying to make a walking stick to help him get out. Hurt couldn’t explain the cut on his forehead, or why he’d been lying in the water – fully clothed.
“Under Gullion’s direction we fashioned a make-shift stretcher of blankets and started carrying him back up the creek, and out the way we’d come.
“We’d moved him about 100 yards when (Athletic Trainer) Stebbins got there with a stretcher and his training kit. A conservation man with him said he knew an easier way out…but that we’d have to go back the other way.
“About that time, President Trippet arrived on the scene, fully dressed in a suit, a cigarette in one hand, his overcoat over the other arm, his homburg tipped down over one side of his head – walking through two feet of water as casually as if taking a jaunt between Center Hall and the Chapel.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a calmer person in such an emergency…and a person with such a deep interest. He’d climbed and slid down the treacherous paths, waded down the middle of the creek, and announced that he was staying with Hurt ‘til they got him out.
“By this time several more people – mostly students and county officials of some sort – had arrived, and we started carrying the stretcher back down the middle of the creek, up a hill, and out to the road. The whole trip back with the stretcher took us an hour or better.
“There wasn’t any path for us to follow most of the way…and I remember at one place the mosquitos were so thick you could grab a handful right out of the air. One of the fellows said he’d swallowed a couple. The ambulance was waiting at the road and we shifted Hurt from the stretcher to the ambulance cot, and they rushed him off to the hospital.
“I glanced at my watch…It was shortly after 2 a.m. – the three longest hours any of us had spent were ended.”
Here is a summary of Hurt’s condition, again from that same issue:
“Hurt’s injuries include a fractured left kneecap, fractured left hip, slight fracture of the pelvis, partial collapse of the right lung, and miscellaneous cuts, scrapes and bruises. At the time of his rescue, he was in a state of severe shock from which he has now emerged.
“On Thursday, he was given blood transfusions and oxygen, and fed intravenously.”
The paper carried a bulletin from Culver noting that Hurt was conscious, but in critical condition and stating that no visitors were allowed.
The story continues in the June 6, 1957 edition.
“The black academic dress of the commencement procession was mingled with the white clothes of hospital employees this morning when Bob Hurt, still convalescing from his May 22 fall, received his B.A. degree from his bed in Culver Hospital.
“The special ceremonies took place at 9:45 a.m. this morning with President B.K. Trippet, Dean B. A. Rogge, and Dr. J. Crawford Polley, Secretary of the Faculty, officiating. Also attending were Hurt’s parents.
“The presentation was parallel to that just given the class during the regular commencement.
“Hurt was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received his certificate and was initiated at the time of the special commencement by Dr. Trippet, a past president of the society.”
One can imagine the relief of all of Wabash to have found this young man, rescued him and watched his recovery. An unconventional commencement with a happy ending. One hopes for the same as we prepare to graduate the class of 2020 via modern technology with hopes that all may return to campus in the future for a proper celebration of their achievements.