Planning for the Worst

With Halloween right around the corner, October is great time to be frightened. Everyone likes a little scare every now and then, right? During 1962, the October scare was very real, though. Nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed like a distinct possibility and people’s greatest fears were on the verge of coming true. Fortunately, the event we refer to as the Cuban Missile Crisis did not result in direct military conflict with the Soviet Union, but in many ways the fear remained.

Khrushchev visits Iowa State, 1959

This image shows a scene from when Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, visited Iowa State in 1959. Things were a lot less cheery in the fall of 1962. (University Photos, Box 12.1)

During this time, Iowa State was not complacent in preparing for potential war. In September 1961, the State Board of Regents requested that Iowa State prepare a Survival Plan in the event of a nuclear attack in the Midwest. President Hilton asked George Burnet to lead the committee to prepare such a plan. Based largely upon the National Plan for Civil Defense and Defense Mobilization, Iowa State’s plan designated fallout shelters on campus, provided shelters with enough food and supplies for two weeks, and identified key personnel to take leadership roles in the event of such an attack.

Iowa State University Bulletin 133, Survival Plan

The Iowa State University Survival Plan was finished in June 1962 and published as Bulletin 133 by Engineering Extension in 1963. (this copy can be found in the Survival Plan Committee records, RS 8/6/90)

Extension was also hard at work helping prepare rural communities with plans to deal with nuclear fallout. If you ever wanted to learn how to build a barn to help livestock survive nuclear war, Extension gives you the answer. One particular publication, “Protecting Family and Livestock from Nuclear Fallout” (RCD-16), provided farmers with examples of farm structures that would help livestock survive as well as instructions on how to construct fallout shelters for people. It’s rather fascinating to look through the publication. I would be curious to know how many farmers actually built or modified their barns to take into account this possibility.

Extension publication on Protecting Family and Livestock from Nuclear Fallout

Interior pages from an Iowa State University Extension publication titled “Protecting Family and Livestock from Nuclear Fallout” published in 1968. (Extension Rural Civil Defense collection, RS 16/3/5)

If this hasn’t frightened you off and you are interested in learning more about how the University prepared for a nuclear attack on the Midwest, please feel free to stop by the Special Collections and University Archives. Information on the ISU Survival Plan can be found in the Survival Plan Committee records, RS 8/6/90, while publications prepared by the Extension service are available in the Extension Rural Civil Defense collection, RS 16/3/5. We look forward to scaring, I mean, seeing you!


The Great ISU-Iowa Football Rivalry

This Saturday, the Iowa State Cyclone football team will meet up with their in-state rivals from Iowa City in the 65th meeting between the two teams. In a rivalry that dates back to 1894, the Cyclones have had some memorable wins in the series, such as the triple-overtime victory in 2011, as well as some pretty forgettable losses, such as last year’s 3-42 drubbing. Through all the wins and losses the two teams continue to play annually, taking turns hosting the big game. But it wasn’t always this way.

Between 1894 and 1934 the Cyclones played the Hawkeyes 24 times, racking up eight wins during that stretch. Then came the great hiatus. After the 1934 game, the two teams would not meet again on the gridiron for over 40 years. Why did the series stop? And why, starting in 1977, did the two teams resume playing each other every year since?

Photograph of members of the 1894 team at their 40th year reunion in 1934.

This photographs shows members of the 1894 Iowa State football team, winners of the first meeting between Iowa State and Iowa in 1894, at their 40th reunion in 1934. They were present to see Iowa State defeat Iowa in the 1934 game–the last game the two teams would play for 43 years. [University Photograph Collection, RS 24/6/D, Football, Box 1865]

Newspaper reports leading up to the 1977 game offer many hypotheses, but nobody apparently knew exactly why the two schools stopped playing each other in football–and in most other sports for that matter. Up until 1934, it is true that there were accusations of cheating or having unqualified players on each other’s teams–some of these claims proved to be true. Some claimed that Iowa State’s surprising and resounding win in the 1934 contest, and the resulting gloating by Iowa State fans, played a role in Iowa canceling and then not scheduling any further games with Iowa State. Some felt that Iowa’s membership in the prestigious Big 10 meant that scheduling its “little brother” over in Ames only lent legitimacy to that program and didn’t offer the University of Iowa any advantages. Others stated that the University of Iowa did not want to be responsible for anguish amongst family members who rooted for opposing teams. Whatever the reason, the University of Iowa refused to include Iowa State on its football schedule for over 40 years despite numerous requests from Iowa State to renew the series.

When the Hawks and Cyclones finally did agree to play again, it didn’t exactly go smoothly. According to an article in the Ames Daily Tribune from January 29, 1977, the 1977 and 1978 games were agreed to in the early 1970s before the new Cyclone Stadium (now known far and wide as Jack Trice Stadium) was even under construction. Because Iowa’s stadium at the time was twice the size of Iowa State’s Clyde Williams Field, it was agreed that the games would be held in Iowa City. Both athletic directors agreed to extending the series to a total of six games. When the contracts were signed, only one of those six games, the game in 1981, was originally scheduled to be played in Ames–and that was only if the Cyclones built a new stadium by that time.

Photograph of Lou McCullough, 1971

Photograph of Lou McCullough, Iowa State Athletic Director for much of the 1970s. [University Photograph Collections, 24/6/A, Athletics, Box 1758]

As the 1976 football season came to a close and attention turned to the revival of the Iowa-Iowa State game in the fall, many bitter feelings would be expressed. Iowa announced that they were giving Iowa State 5,000 tickets to disperse to its fans, a number that Iowa State officials felt was far too few and that Iowa officials felt was more than generous. The athletic directors on both sides were new since the original agreements were signed and Iowa’s Bump Elliott tried to cancel the final three games in the series. The state legislature had to step in and prevent that from happening. The Iowa State athletic director, Lou McCullough, wanted to revisit the contract and make it a home-and-home series due to Iowa State’s new stadium. Pretty soon everyone was getting involved. A state senator from Ames, John Murray, introduced a resolution in the state legislature that would require the renewal of the games to be played on a home-and-home basis; the Board of Regents discussed the games at their meetings that spring; and even Governor Ray told the two schools to settle things or he would get the legislature involved.

Photogrpah of Iowa State football player carrying the ball during the 1977 ISU-Iowa football game.

Photograph from the first game in the renewal of the rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, on September 17, 1977. [University Photograph Collection, RS 24/6/D, Football, Box 1880]

In the end, Iowa would send more tickets, around 7,800 total, for the Iowa State ticket office to disperse. The schedule, however was not changed. Five of the first six games in the renewed series were played in Iowa City. Iowa State did end up winning four of those six games, but despite coming into the season ranked 19th in the country, the Cyclones fell to the Hawkeyes by a score of 10-12 in that first game held on September 17, 1977. In a way, Iowa State did get what it had wanted–since 1981, Iowa and Iowa State have played every year on a home-and-home basis. Though some Hawkeye fans may still grumble about having to play the Cyclones each year, I imagine most people in Iowa are glad the game is played. So as you watch the game this weekend, remember all the hard work that went into renewing this rivalry and don’t forget, no matter the outcome, it’s only a game!

The Special Collections and University Archives has a large collection of records related to Iowa State football, including media guides, programs, posters, photographs, film, and other archival materials. Anyone is welcome to stop by and do some research–we would be happy to see you!


Iowa State University at the Iowa State Fair

During the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of people will converge on Des Moines for the annual spectacle that is the Iowa State Fair. As usual, there will be all kinds of activities and exhibits at the fair, but the main attraction continues to be Iowa’s agricultural enterprises. Considering the prominence of agriculture at the fair, it probably comes as no surprise that Iowa State University has been participating in the State Fair for well over a century–back when the school was known as the Iowa Agricultural College.

State fair display, 1924

This image shows part of the Iowa State College exhibit at the state fair from 1924. (Iowa State Fair scrapbook, RS 0/10/4, Box 1)

In a written account of the 38th annual state fair held in 1891, the exhibit presented by the Iowa Agricultural College highlighted the three departments of entomology, botany, and civil engineering. The purpose of the exhibit was to:

“…acquaint the public with their friends and foes of field and garden, the best methods of preserving and destroying them, the noxious weeds and various diseases of plants, with methods of treatment, and to illustrate some of the work pursued in the college curriculum.” Annual Report of the Board of Directors, Iowa State Agricultural Society, 1891.

Even though members of the college saw the state fair as an opportunity to educate the citizenry about important research going on at the school, it was also clear that they recognized the benefits of advertising at the fair.

Annual Report of the Iowa State Agricutural Society, 1891

Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Iowa State Agriculture Society, 1891. Starting at the bottom of page 140 is the description of the Iowa Agricultural College exhibit.

By the 1920s, Iowa State’s presence at the fair had expanded greatly. Many departments, even those outside of the field of agriculture, were highlighted in the exhibits. Photographs from that era show exhibits sponsored by engineering, home economics, as well as the traditional agriculture programs. One portion of the 1924 exhibit featured a chemical engineering exhibit next to a promotion for a young college radio service called WOI. In 1930, Iowa State’s exhibit included a display from the women’s physical education program featuring two young women demonstrating ping pong on a rather undersized table–at least by today’s standards. You never know what you will see at the fair!

Iowa Stae College exhibit at the 1930 Iowa State Fair

Iowa State College exhibit at the 1930 Iowa State Fair featuring the Women’s Physical Education program. (Iowa State Fair scrapbook, RS 0/10/4, Box 1)

Over the years, the University’s state fair exhibits became more professional-looking and more elaborate. By the 1990s, the Office of University Marketing took charge of planning Iowa State’s exhibit at the fair. University Marketing staff determine a theme for each year’s exhibit emphasizing different aspects of the University. Sadly, visitors are not likely to see college students giving demonstrations as happened in the past, but they are sure to run into the friendly faces of ISU employees, faculty, alumni, and friends that staff the exhibit.

2005 Iowa State University state fair exhibit featuring Reiman Gardens

This image shows part of the Iowa State University state fair exhibit in 2005. This exhibit featured Reiman Gardens. (University Relations images, digital files for the State Fair)

Just as it was in 1891, the Iowa State Fair is still a great opportunity for the University to advertise itself and to share at least part of the story of Iowa State with the tens of thousands of people from around the country that stop by the exhibit. So when you visit the Varied Industries Building to pick up ISU athletics posters and temporary tattoos at this year’s ISU exhibit, take some time to read and learn about some of the great things currently going on at the University. And, of course, if you are more interested in seeing images of the ISU state fair exhibit from years past, stop by Special Collections and University Archives. We would love to see you!


Back to the 1960s – The Story of Don Smith

Several months ago I reached into the archives and pulled out an address from 1967 by President W. Robert Parks that emphasized the importance of practicing tolerance on the university campus. Across the country, the late-1960s was a period of significant generational change and Iowa State was not immune to these events. Interestingly, the address by Parks was prompted by an unlikely event–the ISU student government election of 1967. 

News article announing Smiths and Lifkas intentions to run for GSB office

Don Smith and Mary Lou Lifka announce they are entering the Government of the Student Body election. This article appeared in the April 20, 1967, issue of the Iowa State Daily. (W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, box 35, folder 8)

Donald R. Smith, often described in the papers as a member of the New Left (and often called far worse things by editorial letter writers), was elected president of the student body alongside running mate Mary Lou Lifka. Their platform included the elimination of university oversight into the private lives of students and the formation of a student federation to oppose high rents in Ames. Smith strayed from the image of the typical college student that was normally elected student body president at Iowa State: he was bearded with long shaggy hair, he rarely wore socks let alone a suit and a tie, and he didn’t much care for rules. In fact it was the elimination of rules that he was most passionate about, including eliminating student curfews, loosening campus drinking policies, and essentially getting rid of any campus policies that affected students when they were outside the classroom. He supported ending the war in Vietnam, legalization of marijuana, and access to contraceptives.

Smith stated one of his goals was to bring the University “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.” It seems he felt his main opposition would come from the administration, as they were largely the rule-enforcing body. In large part the administration remained silent, even though Smith’s election made headlines from New York to San Francisco. President Parks remained remarkably quiet on the issue considering he was receiving numerous letters from irate citizens and legislators who worried Iowa State was becoming the “Berkeley of the Midwest.”

Newspaper photo of Don Smith hung in effigy on the steps of Beardshear Hall in 1967

This image of Don Smith hung in effigy on the steps of Beardshear Hall appeared in the April 8, 1967 issue of the Iowa State Daily (W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, box 35, folder 8)

Perhaps what Smith didn’t realize was the level of resistance he would receive from his fellow students. Just weeks into his presidency the Iowa State Daily published an article claiming that Smith had attended a party in which marijuana was consumed. When Smith admitted that he had indeed smoked pot on numerous occasions, calls for his impeachment started to build momentum. Smith resigned before the student senate was to vote on his impeachment and withdrew from Iowa State shortly thereafter. His tenure lasted all of 40 days. 

Don Smith’s resignation letter, April 1967. (Government of the Student Body records, RS 22/1/3, box 2, folder 24)

Don Smith did return to Iowa State the following year to finish his mechanical engineering degree. However, just his formal request to re-enroll at Iowa State caused more headlines. Smith obtained graduate degrees from the University of Iowa and eventually moved to California where he became a very successful wind energy consultant and engineer. Donald R. Smith passed away in 2010, but he was welcomed back to the Iowa State campus on several occasions before his death to talk about his experience during those tumultuous years.

For his part, President Parks tried to let the students work out who they were going to have represent them. After Smith resigned, President Parks did assert that the University would continue to maintain rules governing student conduct outside of the classroom, but emphasized that administration was willing to listen and work with students to update student conduct rules.

If you would like to dive into the life of Donald R. Smith a little more there are several collections worth looking into. Materials from the papers of former President Parks and the records of the Government of the Student Body are cited above. The archives also holds files on former students and alumni (collection RS 21/7/1), largely composed of news clippings. The file on Don Smith contains a significant number of articles during his college years, but also after his graduation and up until his death. Clearly, Don Smith left an impression on the people of central Iowa.  

 

 


Howard P. Johnson donates World War II letters

As the University Archivist, I frequently hear from loyal Iowa Staters from across the country who inquire about donating materials to the University Archives. Often people are trying to find an appreciative home for some Iowa State memorabilia or seeing if there is any interest in a future donation of materials. This past fall I received a call from an Iowa State alum and former ISU professor regarding a small collection of materials in his possession that he was ready to part with.

Portrait of Howard P. Johnson in his military uniform, 1943

Howard P. Johnson, 1943 (Box 8, Folder 95 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

Howard P. Johnson, three-time graduate of Iowa State University (we were just a College at the time he received his degrees) and former Professor and Head of ISU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, was contacting me regarding some World War II letters that he had. Dr. Johnson explained that he grew up on a farm near Odebolt, Iowa, and in 1943 was inducted into the military like many young men at that time. He served as a technician in the 69th Infantry Division and entered the war in Europe at the end of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. All during his military training and his service in Europe, young Pfc. Johnson wrote to his family back home in western Iowa–often several times a week–and his family wrote back. Howard would describe his daily routine, the duties he was assigned during training, and his experiences in Europe. His parents and siblings would respond with stories of family and community events, activities on the farm, and, of course, the weather.

Letter from Howard Johnson to his folks, June 12, 1944.

Letter from Johnson to his parents dated June 12, 1944. In this letter he writes home about some of his training experiences in Mississippi–including accidentally sleeping through a first aid training session. (Box 7, Folder 51 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

As Dr. Johnson was explaining this to me over the phone, he questioned whether anyone would be interested in this collection of letters–nearly 400 in total. Although I recognized that these letters would not hold the same meaning to others as they do to him, I assured Dr. Johnson that people will certainly be interested in reading these letters for generations to come.

Letter from Howard P. Johnson, May 20, 1945

This note, written on a piece of birch bark that Johnson found near his encampment on May 20, 1945, provides a brief description of his location.  (Box 8, Folder 43, Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

It is not every day that I am privileged to speak with a World War II veteran, nor is it often that such a complete collection of letters with so many connections to Iowa State and rural life in Iowa are offered to the department, so I was thrilled to accept the donation. The Johnson family letters offer an intimate snapshot of one Iowa farm family’s experience during a major turning point in American history. Similar stories played out thousands of times across the state and the country, but relatively few of those stories are so well documented.

Today, as we mark the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, it is important to reflect upon those men and women who bravely served in World War II. Some names, like Eisenhower and MacArthur, will forever be associated with  winning the war for the Allies. There are many more thousands of names, names like Howard P. Johnson, whose contributions are often overlooked. At least in this case his story will be preserved in the archives.

The Johnson family World War II letters are part of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15, located in the Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives. The department is open to researchers from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday. Part of our mission is to preserve the history of Iowa State University and the stories of its faculty, staff, and alumni. If you have questions about whether we are the right home for your Iowa State story, give us a call, we would love to hear from you.


“The University and Tolerance”

In deciding which topic to write about for this blog, I’ll admit, I struggled to find inspiration. I knew I wanted it to be a topic that related back to the 1960s and that it should have some connection with current events. I checked the usual sources that were readily available to me such as the Iowa State yearbook, the ISU history timeline on our website, and previous posts that appeared on this blog.

And then the thought occurred to me to skim the finding aid for the papers of President W. Robert Parks and explore some of the events that were taking place on campus 50 years ago. One folder title caught my attention, “Speech – commencement address: ‘The University and Tolerance'” from 1967.

02-11-A_Parks_0067-003-001

This portrait of W. Robert Parks was taken in 1965, just one year before he was named Iowa State’s 11th President. (University Photograph Collection, RS 2/11/A, box 67)

Parks delivered this speech on tolerance on February 25, 1967, at the graduation ceremony denoting the end of the winter quarter (Iowa State would not move to the semester system until 1981). The speech touches on the challenges of living in a modern and changing world and explores how tolerance is a necessary part of our system of government and our civil society. Parks believed that it was the university’s responsibility to develop educated minds that understood the meaning of and the need for tolerance. It was also his expectation that these people, so educated, would become leaders in developing a climate of tolerance in all aspects of national society.

“The tolerant mind, then, is a tough mind, which does not require the psychological security of absolutes. It does not need to find single causes, or to have single answers. Rather, it can live with the free interplay of differing opinions, differing goals, differing ways of life. It is, in short, tough enough to accept the psychological frustrations which accompany the rich diversities of a pluralistic society.” — “The University and Tolerance” commencement address, February 25, 1967, by W. Robert Parks, President, Iowa State University

Full text of Parks’ commencement address “The University and Tolerance”

Though there may be more eloquent passages in Parks’ speech, the above definition of what Parks believed a tolerant mind to be struck a chord with me. As I read this speech I started to wonder why Parks felt that this message of tolerance was necessary at this point in time in the University’s history. I knew that generational changes were taking place on the Iowa State campus. Female students were starting to demand greater equality with regards to curfews and visitation rules in the residence halls. The civil rights movement was gaining strength nationally, but it would be another year before the black students at Iowa State would truly make their voices heard. These issues were all certainly present at the time, but I believe the impetus for this speech was the result of the student body election that took place just weeks earlier. The campus was unprepared for the ensuing uproar when a nonconformist by the name of Don Smith became president of the Government of the Student Body–but that is a story for a future blog post!

07-02-E_Commencement_0452-009-001a

Spring commencement in 1967 was held in the Armory.  Unfortunately, our collections do not contain any photos of the winter commencement ceremony. (University Photograph Collection, RS 7/2/E, Box 452)

Although the election of Don Smith may have been at the forefront of Parks’ mind when he presented this speech, I also think that the president, in his own way, was preparing the Iowa State community for the challenging years he knew were coming. The next several years of Parks’ presidency saw him navigate the university through the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, and the Vietnam War protests. He may not have moved the university at the speed some students preferred or responded to student agitation as firmly as some legislators would have wanted, but by most accounts Parks approached many of the significant issues of his time with care, thoughtfulness, and, of course, tolerance.

The W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, are rich in correspondence, news clippings, and administrative files that document how university leaders approached some of these often contentious issues. To learn more about how President Parks responded to events and addressed the Iowa State community during these times of change, stop in and visit us!


Establishing a Black Cultural Center at ISU

Following the tumultuous summer of 1968 (see the previous blog post on the formation of the Black Student Organization), a number of black students left Iowa State, including several leaders of the Black Student Organization (BSO). Due to this fact, the BSO essentially ceased to exist as a student organization during the fall of 1968. This hiatus was short-lived. In December 1968 members of the black student population reformed the Black Student Organization under the leadership of Larry Salter, an Aerospace Engineering student from Freeport, Illinois.

larry-salter-1970-bomb

Larry Salter, president of the BSO in 1969, was also a member of the Cardinal Key Honor Society as featured in the 1970 Bomb.

One of the goals of the reconstituted BSO was to advocate for a facility where black students could gather together and socialize. The plan for the center was soon expanded to also provide resources and organize events that promoted a better understanding of black culture. During the spring of 1969, BSO members and Assistant Dean of Students Tom Goodale identified several off-campus properties as possible homes for such a center, but there was still one major obstacle to overcome.

The group had to raise money. In August 1968, the non-profit organization Black Cultural Center, Inc. (BCC), was formed under the leadership of board members William Bell and Neil Harl of the ISU faculty and Judge Luther Glanton, Jr., of Des Moines. This organization was established as a vehicle to raise funds for and manage the operations of a black cultural center in Ames. In September 1969, members of BCC, Inc., and the BSO were likely disappointed, but probably not surprised, when President Parks declined to offer University funding for the purchase of a center. However, Parks strongly encouraged members of the community to help the students acquire the necessary resources to acquire a facility. Community members stepped up as did the student body: the VEISHEA Central Committee provided a $2,000 grant and the Government of the Student Body followed with a $2,400 appropriation.

black-cultural-center-1970-isd

Article from the Iowa State Daily announcing the acquisition of the Black Cultural Center. (RS 7/5/4, Black Cultural Center records)

Just a few weeks later, on October 8, 1969, the board of directors of BCC, Inc., announced that a property in Ames had been obtained for $30,000. The house, located at 517 Welch Avenue, was purchased with the support of donations from University organizations, private subscriptions, and a loan from the Alumni Achievement Fund (now part of the ISU Foundation). The organization took ownership of the property on January 1, 1970. For the next nine months, students, faculty, and members of the Ames community worked together to prepare the Black Cultural Center for its grand opening.

The Black Cultural Center was officially dedicated on Sunday, September 27, 1970, in conjunction with the dedication of Carver Hall. Since then, the BCC has offered space for all students to socialize and learn about black culture though the publication of newsletters and sponsored events and programming. In January 2017, the BCC was named after George Jackson, a longtime ISU administrator and champion for students of color. Today, the center is operated under the umbrella of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and is a recognized organization affiliated with the University.

7-5-g-bcc-496-01-01-07
An identified student speaks with President Parks and BCC Inc. Board Member William Bell at the dedication of the Black Cultural Center, September 27, 1970. (University Photograph Collection, RS 7/5/G, Box 496)

There are a number of resources available to researchers interested in learning more about the history of the BCC. News clippings related to the Black Student Organization’s efforts to establish the center can be found in RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Organizations. Files related to the Black Cultural Center can be found in RS 7/5/4, Black Cultural Center records. And of course, there are always yearbooks and other student publications to peruse. If you are interested in learning more, please stop by Special Collections and University Archives. We would love to see you!

 


Formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU

For this look back at the 1960s I’ve decided to explore the origins of the Black Student Organization at ISU (now the Black Student Alliance). Not only is it a story that is not well-known to me, but I suspect it is not familiar to most people now at Iowa State. It seems almost all Iowa Staters are familiar with the story of George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American student and faculty member, and the tragedy of Iowa State’s first black athlete, Jack Trice. After doing some research into our student organizations files here in the archives, I found that the story of the formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU is just as interesting and incredibly relevant to students on campus today.

The 1960s at Iowa State started off much as the 1950s left off. Strict rules were still in place regulating conduct and social interaction of women students. Students were separated into different dormitories with men on one side of campus and the women on the other. However, as the 1960s wore on, student perceptions began to change. Like in much of the country, students began to question the war in Vietnam, female students began to push back against gender barriers, and students of color began to speak out against racism and prejudice.

In the summer of 1967, the faculty and staff newspaper, News of Iowa State, ran an article reporting on a study completed by two ISU journalism students regarding the racial climate at Iowa State. The findings, authored by Pat Alford, identified as a “Negro coed from Charlotte, N.C.,” and Maurine Foster, simply identified as a Weldon, Iowa native, were both journalism students at Iowa State. The results of their study found that the racial climate at Iowa State at that time was “relatively favorable.” During those years, the University attempted to eliminate overt discrimination. Students interviewed in the study didn’t believe they would be denied membership to student groups, but with an enrollment of around 125, black students largely felt they were being left out of the mainstream of college life. (This may help explain why it is so difficult to find a photograph in our collections of an African-American student at Iowa State prior to 1970 unless he was involved in athletics.)

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Article from the Iowa State Daily, April 6, 1968, reporting on the demonstration by a group of students at the Memorial Union the previous day.

This favorable view of campus race relations abruptly changed following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. The following day, black students on campus held a demonstration in the Commons of the Memorial Union. According to a report by the Iowa State Daily (April 6, 1968), a group of approximately 40 students filed into the Union, toasted to “black unity on campus” and then dropped and shattered their drinking glasses on the floor, overturned their tables and chairs, and quietly left. Following the demonstration, a statement was issued and signed by the “Afro-American Students of Iowa State University,” a group that formed the night before under the leadership of student Bruce Ellis. The students adopted a constitution on April 23, 1968 and officially became the Black Student Organization.

In early May, students and administrators were interviewed by the Iowa State Daily (May 3, 1968) for an article on campus race relations. One of those students was Pat Alford, the student from Charlotte. The article identifies some of the common forms of discrimination blacks faced at Iowa State. These included overt forms such as insensitive signs and symbols used by student groups and the denial of access to certain student groups based on skin color. It is interesting that these statements seem to conflict with what was reported a year earlier. The article noted the psychological burdens of being a person of color in a community where the vast majority of students and faculty are white. Black students also felt they were missing out on social interactions at Iowa State. According to one estimate, black male students outnumbered black female students at Iowa State 15 to 1, resulting in many black male students traveling to Des Moines to find a date.

bomb1968page119 0001.jpg

1967 Iowa State football team (Bomb, 1968, page 119)

Within weeks, the Black Student Organization would take their concerns to University administration. On May 20, 1968, the black athletes of Iowa State, with the full support of the Black Student Organization, issued eight grievances to the Athletic Council. The students asked for racial representation in the coaching staff and administration of the athletics department, reprimands or removal of three coaches and trainers they accused of discriminatory treatment of black athletes, more leniency for all athletes in terms of academics and living requirements, an allowance for black athletes to seek employment while on full scholarship, and a request that the ISU community use the words Black Students or Afro-Americans in place of the term Negro.

The initial response from the Athletic Council, signed by council chairman John Mahlstede, did not exactly impress the students. Dated two weeks later on June 5, the response was carefully worded, but it was clear that the Council did not find any evidence of discriminatory actions by the coaches or in its hiring practices. Not surprisingly, this announcement did not end the controversy.

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The first page from a letter, dated May 20, 1968, submitted to the Athletic Council on behalf of the black student athletess. (See file labeled Black Student Organization – Athletic Council Issue in RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Affairs)

By the end of June, President W. Robert Parks asked that the University Human Relations Committee conduct a separate investigation into the grievances. This report, presented just two weeks later, recognized that discrimination almost assuredly existed on campus and that “the need for change in behavior on the part of individual members of the University community is crucial.” The report did not charge any individuals with discriminatory actions. It did, however, strongly encourage the hiring of a black football coach, a recommendation that coach Johnny Majors fulfilled when he hired coach Ray Green in the spring of 1969.

These actions did not satisfy everyone. At least seven students carried through on their promise to leave Iowa State if and when the Athletic Council did not comply with the eight grievances. Bruce Ellis, president of the Black Student Organization, was one of these students along with two football players. Though these students did not immediately effect the change they hoped to, their actions did initiate a conversation about race and inclusivity that in many ways continues today. They also helped foster a growing awareness among members of the ISU community that racism and discrimination were present on the Iowa State campus and that the entire community was responsible for addressing the concerns raised by black students of Iowa State.

More information on the early years of the Black Student Organization (now known as the Black Student Alliance) is available in Special Collections and University Archives in collection RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Organizations. Unfortunately, the black student experience at Iowa State is largely underrepresented in the archives. Most of the materials that are available to historians and researchers consist of newspaper clippings or files from campus administration. These records are often incomplete and leave gaps in the historical record. We welcome collection materials (i.e. photographs, letters, flyers, etc.) from alumni that might help document the experience of black students at Iowa State.


Looking Back on the 1960s

This is the first in a series of posts about Iowa State University during the 1960s.

Exploring The Chart: Rules and Regulations for Women

This past semester I had the pleasure of assisting a history class interested in studying student life during the 1960s here at Iowa State. For this type of research there are many great places to start in the archives. The Bomb, Iowa State’s yearbook, and other student publications like the Iowa State Daily and the Iowa Homemaker offer lots of opportunities to explore college life throughout the years. For some reason, maybe due to the relative lack of formal rules imposed upon my youth, I find myself fascinated by the regulations that governed student conduct on campus. The best place to find these rules for Iowa State students of the 1960s is in the student handbook, which at this time was called The Chart.

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This is an undated image of Linden Hall, originally built as a women’s dormitory. Photograph from box 487, Linden Hall, RS 7/4/I, University Photograph Collection.

The 1959/1961 issue of The Chart provides a clear picture of what was expected from students at Iowa State, especially women, during the start of the 1960s. At this time men and women were housed in separate dormitories on opposite sides of campus. There were also far more restrictions on women than men. In 1960, all undergraduate women had to live in residence halls or sorority houses except under special circumstances approved by administration. The Chart details very specifically the times when women must be in their residence halls. Freshman women had to be home by 9:00 pm most weeknights whereas sophomores and up were able to stay out until the wee hour of 10:00 pm. Friday and Saturday nights the women were granted leave until midnight and 12:30 am respectively. For special events women were allowed extended hours, but this was only for a handful of events such as Homecoming, VEISHEA, and annual dances.

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No car rides without a letter from your parents! This undated photograph shows several cars parked outside Linden Hall. Photograph from box 487, Linden Hall, RS 7/4/I, University Photograph Collection.

Another example of some of the strict rules for women involved visitations and travels. Any woman student intending to be away from the residence hall later than 6:00 pm had to “sign out” and any time a woman planned to leave town for any reason, she had to secure permission from the residence director. A letter of approval for out-of-town travel and for all car trips required a written letter of approval from the student’s parents! The handbook quite emphatically denied any women from entering the residence of a male student unless she was an immediate family member such as a mother or sister–and even then this was allowed only during certain times.

 

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This image shows members of Lowe House in Westgate Hall during the 1969 winter quarter. These women would be among the first at Iowa State to reside in a dormitory previously housing only men. Image taken from a Lowe House scrapbook located in Box 8 of the Union Drive Houses records, RS 7/4/4.

By the end of the decade, some of these strict rules started to soften just a bit. For one thing, in 1968 women and men started living in the same buildings, though still on separate houses/floors. Also, women were allowed as guests into men’s rooms, though hours restricted these visits to Saturdays and Sundays only. In a surprising twist they were allowed to meet with the door closed! An interesting rule that appears in the Guide to Resident Hall Living for 1969 that didn’t appear in the earlier Chart were regulations regarding the proper location for sun bathing.

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The student handbook, The Chart, for 1969-1971. Archives books call number LD2535.8 I58x

It’s important to note that these types of rules were not unique to Iowa State. In many ways these regulations were not much changed from those established at the school a century earlier. It wasn’t until the students themselves started agitating for greater equality and freedom that things started to change. The archives has many official and published records documenting student life in the 1960s at Iowa State, but relatively little from the individual students themselves. We are always interested in speaking with former students and alumni willing to donate materials documenting their personal adventure at Iowa State, so feel free to give us a call!


Television is for Kids! @IowaPublicTV

This month is a great time to celebrate children’s television programming in the State of Iowa. After all, Iowa Public Television is debuting their new IPTV Kids Clubhouse with host, and personal friend of yours truly, Dan Wardell. If you have kids (or you are a kid at heart) I would recommend checking it out.

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This undated image shows longtime host of The Magic Window, Betty Lou Varnum, on the set of the show. Photograph from box 4, folder 6 of the Betty Lou Varnum Papers, RS 5/6/53.

Of course, any discussion of children’s programming in Iowa eventually leads to talk of WOI-TV and America’s longest-running children’s program (who am I to argue with Wikipedia?)–The House with the Magic Window. Originally called The Magic Window, this program aired in central Iowa on WOI-TV from 1951 until 1994 and for nearly 40 years was hosted by Betty Lou (McVay) Varnum. Betty Lou became a fixture in most central Iowa households and almost anyone growing up here during this time could tell you who Betty Lou was and name each of her puppet friends that regularly appeared on the show.

However, Betty Lou was not the first host of The Magic Window. Other hosts included Virginia “Ginny” Adams, Joy (Ringham) Munn, and Arjes “Sunny” Sundquist. Each of these women hosted the show for a year or so until Betty Lou took over permanently. Special Collections and University Archives has kinescope (16mm film) recordings of some of the earliest episodes of The Magic Window in our collections, but sadly we only have one recording, dating from 1955, of Betty Lou as host of The Magic Window!

Something most people may not be aware of is that WOI-TV produced a second children’s program in 1954 called Window Watchers (I see a theme here). This program was sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio Center, later known as the Public Broadcasting Service. Window Watchers was hosted by Arjes Sundquist and featured a  format very similar to that of The Magic Window.

To view some of these early children’s programs, visit our YouTube Channel!

For more information on WOI-TV during the time it was owned and operated by Iowa State University, read through some of the finding aids listed on the Special Collections and University Archives website on this page.