From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: Students (page 2 of 31)

Scrapbook provides insights to early student life

Esther McGinnis Scrapbook, 1915

Today, college scrapbooks simply contain photos of one participating in various university events, friends hanging around on the weekends, and maybe a graduation cap tassel or diploma at the very end. However, the almost 200 page scrapbook that Esther McGinnis made to commemorate her time at the Ohio State University may not contain any photos of herself, but tells us much more.

Makio 1915

McGinnis started at Ohio State in the fall of 1911 as a Home Economics major and was actively involved throughout the Ohio State community during her undergraduate career. The journey through her scrapbook begins with the various organizations that she participated in during her four years. The Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) appears to have been a major organization during McGinnis’ collegiate years.

YWCA Membership Card

Her membership card stating her affiliation and fee of one dollar to join is one of the first items glued into the book with a news article about her appointment as treasurer. She also belonged to the Philomathean Literary Society, one of the oldest existing literary societies among universities. Her scrapbook contains her invitation to join and several invitations to attend events held by the group. Additionally, as a member of the Women’s Glee Club she cut out Lantern news articles about her acceptance and their concerts that followed.

Athletic Tags, c. 1911

During McGinnis’ time at Ohio State she also participated in quite a few organizations pertaining to her major, home economics. She was a member of the Home Economics Club, inducted into Phi Upsilon Lambda – a national home economics honorary, andworked as a student assistant in the Home Economics department.

Dance card, 1912

While this scrapbook is significantly dated, it is similar to today’s scrapbooks by what it contains next. The first half of the book reads like a yearbook mainly because it involves her inclusion in school activities, while the second half of the book is more about the various events she participated in outside of her organizations. One such activity is a Co-Ed prom she attended with Dorothy Griggs in 1913 at The Armory. Inside the scrapbook McGinnis attached a dance card, which lists the dances followed by the name of whomever she danced with. In addition, there are tags that were used for various athletic events around campus with captions underneath them such as, “Girls Basket Ball Tournament.”

Valentine c. 1911

Continuing to flip through the pages will allow one to see all the parties, luncheons, plays, and concerts that McGinnis attended by means of invitations, playbills, tickets, and programs glued inside. One page we found to be interesting within the scrapbook was a cut-out heart valentine that reads “’E’ is for Esther, Please don’t molest her.” While we may not know the context behind it, this clever rhyme allows us to think about a different time in history and what the valentine could have meant to her at the time. Whether it is an inside joke among friends or a gift she received, we may never know but this is what makes the scrapbook intriguing and an asset to our collection at the archives.

The rest of McGinnis’ scrapbook is filled of news clippings about what was going on around campus. While some of these articles acknowledged her induction into an organization or her tryouts for the Glee Club, most of them were just current events or updates on individuals’ lives. Many were about new faculty and staff, engagement and event announcements, event recaps, and the occasional news clipping about Dr. Thompson; such as the Christmas greeting that he wrote in 1914.

Alumni Magazine, 1951

This scrapbook contains the memories and moments that Esther McGinnis wanted to remember beyond her days at Ohio State. In doing so, Esther provided the archives with an inside story of what the life of an Ohio State student was like at the beginning of the 20th century. It highlights the events that took place, what students valued and found to be of importance, and gives us the chance to learn about Ohio State from a new, fascinating perspective.

As for Esther McGinnis, she continued on to receive her master’s in nutrition at Columbia University and her Ph.D in child development at University of Minnesota, but eventually returned to the Ohio State University. In 1951, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree was granted upon her at the Ohio State University and the following year she became a professor in the Home Economics department at Ohio State. She was the member of several honorary societies within her discipline and the author of many books as well. Her scrapbook will remain in the University’s collection to allow our patrons to enjoy it as much as we have!

2nd Time Around for 2nd year students: Dorm Rule in the 60s

Novice Fawcett

Novice Fawcett

The requirement for sophomores to live in dorms went into effect this semester, but it’s not the first time second-year students have been told they have to live on campus.  In early 1965 President
Novice Fawcett enforced a rule stating that “unmarried freshman and sophomores under twenty-one years of age who do not live with their parents or close relatives are required to reside in University-owned residence halls.”  The rule was set to take effect in 1967.

This rule had originally come about in April 1958 when large amounts of money was raised by issuing bonds to pay for a large number of new residence halls.  The sophomore dorm rule was a way to maintain full occupancy in the new residence halls and ensure bond holders their money would be paid back.  Until the recommendation in 1965, the rule had never been enforced, likely due to high rates of occupancy in the residence halls.

Although the number dorm rooms in the mid-’60s met the demands of the current student body, the residence hall capacity was expected to increase.  Vice President Gordon B. Carson stated with these new openings, “it would be wise and prudent to reaffirm the Board of Trustees’ resolution.”

Construction of Towers, 1966

Construction of Towers, 1966

Students and politicians alike opposed the 1965 rule. Adversaries pointed out that there is a greater cost to living in dormitories.  They, including Robert Shaw, a Republican state senator of Ohio, believed that forcing students to remain in dorms for two years would prevent those with insufficient funds from attending the university and was therefore discriminatory.

Students, alumni and community members thought that it was not the job of the university to decide on living quarters; there should be freedom of choice.  Furthermore, students believed the reason for the enactment was a money-making scheme.

Regardless, the rule was enforced in the autumn of 1968 and remained in effect until 1976.  Throughout this period, sophomores could have a waiver signed by their parents allowing them to live off-campus.  The accessibility of the waivers fluctuated throughout

Lantern Headline, 1972

Lantern Headline, 1972

the eight-year period, with the most liberal period toward the end of dorm rule.  Waivers were given out so frequently that sophomores were able to choose if they wanted to live on or off campus and thus made the dorm rule obsolete.

The fight against dorm rule was part of a larger movement on campus led by students to have their voices heard by the administration.  You can learn more about the student movements on our Spring of Dissent exhibit  and Bill Shkurti’s new book The Ohio State University in the Sixties: The Unraveling of the Old Order.

Varsity ‘O’ member had more to brag about than athletic ability

Editor’s Note: Recently, Peggy Knight graciously donated the Varsity “O” sweater her father, Arthur Gordon Knight, earned as a member of the OSU Track and Field Team in 1938. It turns out that while Knight had the legs of a racehorse, as it were, he also had the heart of a poet: In 1949 the then-married student, who had interrupted his studies to serve in World War II, won a short-story contest for “The Shovel.” His own story seemed intriguing, so we asked Peggy to tell us more about her father. Below is his story, which we have edited for length.

1938 men's track team. Knight is in the second row, fourth from the right

1938 men’s track team. Knight is in the second row, fourth from the right

The son of immigrants, Knight was born in 1917 and grew up in Lakewood, Ohio. One of Peggy’s first stories about her father was when he was about eight years old. His older sister had diabetes, and there were no insulin shots at the time to help regulate her blood sugar. He kept an eye on her, though, so he could prevent an “episode.” As Peggy says, “One time… as they walked together he saw she was shaking and sweating profusely. Knowing she had little time before collapsing, he reached in his pockets hoping to find a bit of candy that he normally carried for her. He did not have any but he also knew the best thing for her was a glass of orange juice.  He had no money and there were no stores about, so he ducked into a neighborhood bar. The bartender tried to run him out thinking he was a mischievous neighborhood scamp, but he quickly explained the situation and the bartender was happy to provide the juice. Even then, my dad showed great compassion and sense of responsibility.”

Knight was extremely curious about the world, so he decided after he graduated from high school to do some exploring. He spent six months traveling around Mexico, including doing some digging in the ruins of Oaxaca. When he returned home, he decided to attend OSU, thinking at the time he would become a Geology major. After arriving on campus in the fall of 1936, however, he switched majors to English Literature, in the hopes it would better prepare him for a career that would allow him to explore and write about the world.

Knight was also interested in sports, and he decided to participate in either OSU’s football or track program. After spending time in a few football practices, he realized he was not going to excel and would probably spend most of his later life nursing old injuries from the game. He focused then on track and field, helping the OSU team establish new team records in the mile-relay event in 1938. He was good enough to earn a Varsity “O” sweater that year, and he started dreaming of going to the 1940 Olympics.

Knight's Varsity "O" sweater and a photo of the 1938 team

Knight’s Varsity “O” sweater and a photo of the 1938 team

However, his dream was never fulfilled because of World War II, which also interrupted his studies. Early in 1941, he and Peggy’s mother, Betty, eloped, and in June, he enlisted in the Army. According to Peggy, her father did not talk much about the war, but he did share several anecdotes with her, one of which was about being an ordinance officer with “a knack for bombs. He became the local go-to-guy for bombs that fell but did not go off.  He was called out to defuse bombs as needed and, as a child, I saw many gold-toned flaming bomb pins in his dresser drawer that he was given after each bomb was unarmed.  He told me he was very happy he was a smoker because his matchbook was his biggest weapon against difficult bombs.  He used the flap to prevent contact between the pin and the explosives.”

When his four years of service were up, the war wasn’t over yet, so he decided to re-enlist, this time in the Air Force. It was during these three years of service – he reached the rank of Second Lieutenant – that he hatched the idea for his future award-winning short story.

A year after returning home and to Ohio State in 1948, Knight enrolled in a short story class, English 507, where he wrote “The Shovel.” It was submitted to the Columbus Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters, and won first prize. The story, about a British woman in the days just before D-Day, was described by one judge as “a very profound story,” according to a Lantern article. In the article, Knight said he planned to be a creative writer after he graduated that June.

Knight, sharing a book with his daughter, Peggy

Knight, sharing a book with his daughter, Peggy

But Knight had a family to support (Peggy was adopted in 1953) and he began working in his father’s insurance agency. He and his family eventually moved to Galveston, Texas, though, where he became vice president of the American National Insurance Company. Because of a heart condition, Knight decided to retire early, and that’s when he was really able to satisfy his curiosity about the world and his passion for writing.

In 1970, he opened a rare and antique book dealership, and at about the same time, he became a columnist for the Galveston Daily News. “Now, his life was everything he hoped for in a career,” Peggy says, “he bought and sold rare books, 13th-century manuscripts and other types of writing, and spent hours reading them before selling them.  He was filling additional hours with writing his editorial columns.  And on occasion, he locked himself in his home office where I could hear his ‘new and modern’ electric typewriter clacking away with determination.”

His career as a Galveston columnist came to an abrupt end when he submitted a column about the “Johnson Memorial.” It was about a pull-chain toilet affectionately known by that name at the Rowfant Club in Cleveland (a literary society of which Knight was a long-standing member). According to Peggy, “no matter how good the article was or what the history of the water closet was, the publishers of the paper felt that the cultured ladies of Galveston society would not be pleased with talk of toilets, even in the modern age of the ’70s.  My father refused to be censored and pulled out of the ‘editorial comment’ business.”

After a flood destroyed much of their home – including many of Knight’s books and other life treasures – he and Betty moved to Ocala, Florida, where he died in 1987 at the age of 70 from melanoma. Peggy concludes:

“In his effects, I found nine unpublished and unfinished novels on which he’d been working.

He was a great man to many, an enemy to none.  He was a hero to me.”

We would like to thank Peggy for her wonderful donations, and we say donations because she not only provided us with a beautiful Varsity “O” sweater, but also a wonderful recounting of her father’s life. Our records focus mostly on him being an OSU athlete, so we appreciate her taking the time to show that his own story was much more than that.

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