Mid-Summer Moonlight Prowl set for July 31st

Moonlight Prowl 600

Everyone’s invited! The annual Mid-Summer Moonlight Prowl is scheduled for Friday, July 31st at 8 p.m. Not only is it  – appropriately – the night of a full moon, it’ll be the second full moon in July, which makes it a blue moon. The “Blue Moon Prowl” will begin on the Main Mall in front of the UT Tower.

Prowl.B Hall.First conducted in 1988, the Moonlight Prowl is a nighttime walking tour packed with anecdotes of student life, campus architecture, and UT history. With content drawn from newspaper accounts, memoirs, and the UT archives, the Prowl is intended to help personalize the University, explore its history, and have some fun.

RSVPs aren’t required, but appreciated. You can send me a quick email through the Contact link here, or RSVP via the Facebook event posted here.

For all the details and answers to common questions, see the Moonlight Prowl info page.

Hope to see you on July 31st!


Facebook Event Photo

World War II and the University Date Bureau

Train for Victory.CoverIn December 1941, when the United States entered the Second World War, the University of Texas was once again called to join in the nation’s service. The global conflict brought swift and dramatic changes to the campus, as activity was focused on the war effort. Science and engineering research became almost exclusively war-related, military topics found their way into most  UT courses, and the Department of Aeronautical Engineering was created to meet the wartime “imperative demand for trained aeronautical engineers.” To help draft-eligible students graduate sooner, the academic year was compressed and additional sessions added just after Christmas and over summer so that a bachelor’s degree could be completed as quickly as two years and eight months.

Photo at left: “Train for Victory” was one of many brochures printed for UT students to explain how they could help with the war effort. The University particularly encouraged enrollment in physics and new aeronautical engineering courses.

A Naval ROTC unit was headquartered in the Littlefield Home, with two anti-aircraft guns placed on the front lawn of the Victorian mansion, and a practice firing range installed in the attic. By 1943, the ROTC unit had been absorbed into the Navy’s V-12 program, which brought thousands of officer candidates to the campus.

1943 WW II.Womens Obstacle CoursePhysical preparation was also a high priority. A special “War Conditioning Course” was provided for male students, which included training in judo, boxing, wrestling, and grenade throwing. While co-eds were prevented from serving in combat roles, Anna Hiss, the director of physical training for women, believed the girls ought to be just a physically prepared, and invented a wartime class of her own. An obstacle course, later touted as the “the only obstacle course in the nation built especially for women.” was installed next to the Women’s Gym on the side of campus. The girls trained on balance beams, parallel bars, a series of hoops, hanging ropes, and a high fence helped to build strength and stamina. In October 1943, Universal Newsreels visited Austin and filmed the co-eds going through their paces, which was shown in theaters nationwide the following month.

DT.1942.08.16.Headline.Date Bureau

Perhaps the most unusual wartime program was the University’s Date Bureau. With about 30,000 armed forces stationed in central Texas – particularly at Camp Swift, 28 miles southwest of Austin near Bastrop – there was a need to provide social activity for the “lonely soldiers” in the area. University co-eds already participated in USO dances for the soldiers, and UT music ensembles and theater productions toured to the local military bases to provide entertainment, but in the summer of 1942, the creation of a campus date bureau was announced.

“Designed to give a lift to army morale and relieve the alleged shortage of male ‘dates,’ ” reported The Daily Texan, “the bureau is a project of the Campus War Council.” Headquartered on the third floor of the  Texas Union, the student-led council oversaw many campus wartime activities, including war bond promotions, book drives to send reading material to soldiers overseas, and a creative solution for all-University dances called the Longhorn Room, which garnered national press.

DT.1942.10.07.Date Bureau HeadlineA co-ed interested in participating in the bureau was first required to get her parents’ permission, and then completed an index card with her name, age, hometown, and interests. Attached to the card was a small, 1 1/2 x 2 inch head shot. A two-day recruitment drive was held in October 1942. Almost 1,000 University girls registered.

Any college-aged soldier stationed in the area also had to register with the bureau and request a date for the upcoming weekend. Every effort was made to match similar interests, though the bureau – not the soldier – made the selection. Once a co-ed was chosen, she was contacted by the bureau, and if she had no other engagements, she would “consider it her patriotic duty to comply with the request.” Dates could only go to approved locations, and as further insurance against any “misconduct” of a soldier, the girl was to report back to the bureau the following day. Soldiers who broke the rules were barred from future dates.


WW II. Littlefield Home as NROTC Headquarters


Photo at left: A sign of the times. During World War II, the Littlefield Home, a 19th century Victorian mansion donated to the University by regent and donor George Littlefield, took on the role as headquarters for the Naval ROTC unit stationed on campus. A pair of anti-aircraft guns – one of them seen here – was placed on the front lawn, and a practice firing range was created in the attic. (You can still find bullet holes in the beams!) Click on the image for a larger version.


The Dreaded Scourge of “Follicular Ticsiphobia”

Womans Building

Above: The Woman’s Building, the first UT residence hall for co-eds. It stood where the Flawn Academic Center is today.

April 13, 1915: “The medical authorities have been unable to cope with it,” reported The Daily Texan. A mysterious illness had swept through the University’s only residence hall for women. Within just a few days, 35 of the 86 residents had been stricken, along with the head matron – Mrs. Neil Carothers – and four members of the staff. “The disease,” warned the Texan, “has been diagnosed as – “

Follicular Ticsiphobia.


Old Main.Water Tank.BluebonnetsA century ago, the spring of 1915 was an exciting time on the Forty Acres. In February, a group of sophomores kidnapped the freshman class president to prevent him from attending the annual Freshman Ball, though he managed to escape. March was welcomed by an all-out rumble between law and engineering students at the old water tank on the north side of campus. Several professors stayed up all night to safeguard the tank, only to wind up making an incredibly precarious early morning climb up to the roof of the old Main Building to grab a flag hung by some students in the Academic Department. April finally arrived with its annual blanket of Texas Bluebonnets (photo above), but trouble was brewing in the Woman’s Building.

Opened in 1903 as the first UT residence hall for co-eds, the Woman’s Building housed 86 girls, mostly in single rooms, along with head matron Mrs. Carothers. Students enjoyed their own dining room and parlor, and a full gymnasium in the basement, which included a pool, elevated running track, and basketball court. (The first basketball games at UT were played by women.) The girls, though, were only allowed to go out three times a week, had an unwavering 10 p.m. curfew, and needed a chaperon to accompany any dates.

1915 Cactus.Hattie HigganbothamIn mid-April, a mysterious illness arrived at the Woman’s Building. Hatie Higganbothom (left), a senior in the Academic  Department, was the first victim.  A chill was followed by a high fever, headache, and sore throat. The University physician, Dr. Joe Gilbert, made a house call and thought it might be a case of tonsillitis. Hattie’s third floor
neighbors volunteered to help change cold compresses, refill a glass of iced pineapple juice, and offer comforting words, all while studying for mid-term exams.

But with a contagion loose in the residence hall, it was only a few days before the inevitable. Anne Aynesworth (below right) was the next casualty. As a 1915 Cactus.YWCA.Aynesworthprecautionary measure, Dr. Gilbert placed her in Seton Hospital, then just northwest of campus on 26th Street, but it was too late. On the first day, more than 30 girls visited Anne, brought flowers, fruit, and news that others had succumbed: “Viola Baker has it – fainted on the stairs.” The next morning, less than half of the group was still healthy. By afternoon, only Pinkie Miller had escaped. Head Matron Mrs. Carothers was ill, along with four of the kitchen staff.

Dr. Gilbert reversed course, kept everyone at the Woman’s Building, and turned the hall into a makeshift infirmary. Co-eds who were still well were excused from classes and pressed into service to carry sick trays and smiles upstairs to the fallen.

A letter writing committee was organized to notify parents, and each patient was consulted as to which letter they’d like sent to the folks at home. The committee created three types from which to choose: the not-to-worry letters to shield parents from undue anxiety, letters designed to raise a little concern and thus provide a ready excuse for a poor report card at the end of the term, and, lastly, letters calculated to alarm parents just enough that they would send flowers . . . and checks.


Sunday evening, April 11th, was one of the few times during the week that men were allowed to visit the Woman’s Building, though with so many girls ill and confined to their rooms, only one gentleman was seen in the parlor. A sophomore, who also happened to be a reporter for The Daily Texan, had called upon his girlfriend. The two were sitting in “Lover’s Nook,” in a corner of the parlor next to the grand piano.

A few of the girls spied the reporter and, perhaps giddy from climbing stairs and tending to the sick all day, saw an opportunity to have some fun. They huddled a few minutes to perfect their plans, and then approached the reporter and his date with serious faces.

“Would you mind telling us,” asked one of the co-eds with a sense of foreboding in her voice, “do people outside the building know? That is, is it generally suspected what we fear about the present situation?”

The reporter perked up. His journalistic nose smelled a story. He casually replied that he didn’t think the campus knew too much, but, of course – and let his sentence drift away.

“You won’t mention it, of course?” said the co-ed. “It hasn’t been officially given out, but all indications are that we have,” she dropped her voice to a near whisper, “Follicular Ticsiphobia in the house!”

“Follicular Ticsiphobia” was a name the girls had invented just moments beforehand.

The reporter remained with his date until curfew, and then hurried off to the Texan offices to tell the editor and write his scoop.

Follicular Ticsiphobia Headline

It was Tuesday morning, April 13th, when the Texan announced to the world that an epidemic of Follicular Ticsiphobia had decimated the ranks of the Woman’s Building. “Every precaution is being employed to suppress its spread,” stated the newspaper, “but so far the medical authorities have been unable to cope with it.”

As Dr. Gilbert made his morning rounds to check on his patients, every girl had seen the paper and asked, wide-eyed, “Is it true?!” Anne Aynesworth recalled, “He swept my Texan aside, thrust a thermometer under my tongue, and muttered something about young idiots who ought to be expelled, and then stalked out.”

The prank was a success. The following day, the Texan ran an update that claimed the illness among the co-eds had been checked, and Dr. Gilbert thought it was simply a peculiar form of the flu. “Though the name Follicular Ticsiphobia did not follow Doctor Gilbert’s diagnosis,” the paper explained, “the girls assert it is by no means inappropriate, as it translates into plain English as ‘throat fits’ or something of the sort.” So much for fact checking.


1913 Cactus Yearbook.Womans Building.That might have been the end of the episode, except that newspapers across the state subscribed to the Texan to keep up with events on the UT campus, and the Texan was mailed daily. Through the rest of the week, several of the state’s dailies saw the story and republished it almost verbatim. If it had happened a century later, Follicular Ticsiphobia would have been trending on Twitter.

It wasn’t long before the President’s Office and the Woman’s Building were besieged by telephone calls and Western Union telegrams from harried parents. Would the girls be all right? Had it spread to the men’s dorm? Had the campus been quarantined? Mrs. Carothers, still bedridden, pale, and weak, resolved to answer every telegram, and dictated her reassuring replies in a raspy voice that was barely above a whisper.

Within two weeks, the outbreak of tonsillitis, or the flu, or whatever it was, ran its course and disappeared from whence it came. But for years, even the slightest case of an allergy in the Woman’s Building was jokingly declared to be a new outbreak of Follicular Ticsiphobia.

1957.Womans Building from West Mall

Above: In the 1950s, the old Woman’s Building (left) could be seen from the West Mall, standing next to Hogg Auditorium. The building burned in 1958, and was replaced in the 1960s by today’s Flawn Academic Center. The sidewalk on the right now passes along and under the east side of the FAC. Click on the image for a closer view.

300,000 Thank-Yous

Stadium Times ThreeWoo-hoo!!

The UT History Corner has just passed the 300,000 visitor mark – enough to fill the football stadium three times!

As always, a sincere “Thank You” goes to everyone who has stopped by to read, look, listen, comment, and explore the history of the University of Texas. I hope you found something interesting and worthwhile.


The 600th Moonlight Prowl!

Moonlight Prowl 600Everyone is invited to Moonlight Prowl #600, scheduled for Friday, May 1st at 8 p.m. We’ll gather on the Main Mall, in front of the UT Tower.

UPDATE: Thank you for all the interest in attending the Moonlight Prowl! Unfortunately, the May 1st tour is full and then some. Another Prowl (number 601) has been scheduled for Friday, May 8th at 8 p.m.

RSVPs are not required, but appreciated. You can send me a quick email with the number in your party here, or RSVP via Facebook event here.

The Prowl is a nighttime history tour of the University of Texas that I first conducted in June 1988, and there have been about 38,000 Prowl “survivors” so far. For more info about the tour, go here.

Hope to see you on May 8th!


The Alumni Center Turns 50!

Alumni Center Dedication Program.Cover.April 1965Above: The front cover of Alumni Center dedication program for April 3, 1965.

AAS.1961.05.11.Air JauntIn September 1961, the Texas Longhorn football team was set to open its season against the Golden Bears of the University of California. The game was to be played at Cal’s Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, and to help get more orange-minded fans in the seats, the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association chartered its first football weekend excursion. For just under $200, the package included round trip airfare from Austin to San Francisco, two nights’ accommodations in the new Jack Tar Hotel (then billed as the most modern hotel in the world – a television in every room!), ground transportation to Berkeley, and a ticket to the game.  The 80 available spots sold quickly. John Holmes, a Houston lawyer and the association’s president, was one of the first to register.

Cal Alumni House.1952 ModelThe trip also included a pre-game welcome luncheon at Cal’s Alumni House. (Photo at right is of the architectural model.) Opened seven years before, in 1954, the building was called a “house” as it was deemed a place where “alumni throughout the world can come and feel at home – at home because they are in a spot on the campus that belongs to them, was created for them, and in tribute to their accomplishments however large or small.”  Outfitted with staff offices, conference rooms, a lounge, and a kitchen, the Alumni House had become a busy and important gathering place on the campus. It also left a strong and lasting impression on John Holmes. While Texas football won the day 28 – 3, Holmes was excited about the possibility of creating an alumni house in Austin, and spent the return flight conferring on the subject with alumni Executive Director Jack Maguire.


Old Main.1910s.Postcard.2.The idea of an alumni house was the solution to a long term issue: where to place a wandering alumni association. Founded in June 1885, the Ex-Students’ Association was homeless for its first 28 years until October 1913, when the University designated room 119 in the old Main Building (left) as the “Alumni Room.” Measuring 25 x 15 feet, equipped with tables, chairs, bookshelves, and its own telephone (a luxury in 1913), the walls were crammed with photos of Association presidents, University faculty, class portraits, and athletic teams.

The room, though, was only in use for four years. When Governor James Ferguson threatened to shut down the University over a controversy in 1917, the alumni rallied to protect their alma mater, and set up temporary headquarters in the Littlefield Building downtown. Two years later, after Ferguson had been impeached and World War I ended, the Association moved to the YMCA Building at the corner of 22nd and Guadalupe Streets.

Leslie Waggener HouseIn the 1920s, it ventured a little farther into west campus, where it purchased the quaint, Victorian-styled Waggener Home (above right), once owned by UT’s first president Leslie Waggener, at the corner of 23rd and San Antonio. It was here that alumni director John McCurdy and president Thomas Gregory guided the Association through the Union Project, a massive, and at times, heroic, fundraising campaign through part of the Great Depression to build Gregory and Anna Hiss gymnasiums, Hogg Auditorium, and the Texas Union.

When the Union building opened in 1933, the Association returned to campus with office space on the building’s second floor, now used as a student lounge next to the Union Ballroom. But after World War II, when a flood of returning veterans on the G. I. Bill created a boom in college enrollment across the nation, the alumni association soon discovered it needed more space.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Talks with University officials in the late 1950s led to the idea of the Association taking over the Littlefield Home at 24th and Whitis Streets, but extensive renovations would be required before the building was ready. In 1958 as a temporary measure, the staff was moved to the basement of Mary Gearing Hall, then used by the Department of Home Economics and is today the headquarters for the School of Human Ecology. The place was a little roomier, but the “mole hole,” as it informally came to be known, was difficult to find, and was certainly not suitable for the activities of a growing alumni association. After three years in its “temporary” quarters and no movement toward use of the Littlefield Home, a permanent solution was desperately needed.


John Holmes wasted no time on the Alumni House idea.The day after his return to Texas, Holmes conferred with other Association leaders, named a committee to investigate possibilities, and initiated a conversation with UT administrators. The point of contact from the University fell to UT System Vice Chancellor Larry Haskew, who moved the process along quickly.

Five weeks later, at the end of October, Haskew had prepared a draft report for the Board of Regents, which declared that “an Alumni House of distinctive character and outstanding convenience is of great importance to The University and that one should be provided as soon as possible.” The alumni committee and administration had investigated several options. The Littlefield Home was still a possibility, but serious design and financial obstacles existed. The group also looked at existing homes in the area, including the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house still located just north of campus, but the consensus was that a new facility, designed specifically for the needs of the alumni, was the best solution.

The desired location was the mostly-vacant lot on San Jacinto Boulevard, across the street from the football stadium. The area was still occupied by a pair of temporary men’s dormitories, former World War II army barracks that had been relocated to campus to accommodate the post-war growth in enrollment, but the dorms were scheduled for demolition. The space had been informally earmarked for a second student union building, but Haskew wrote, “This latter use would be enhanced, actually, by location there of Alumni House,” which implied that the alumni association and the Texas Union might join forces again in the future.

Lila Belle EtterTo help financially, the administration proposed using $110,000 from the Lila B. Etter trust fund, a bequest from the daughter (left) of former UT president Leslie Waggener. The alumni could add any amount desired, and the building would be known as the Etter Alumni House. Once completed and occupied, the Association would pay back the $110,000, without interest, at $5,000 per year.

The Board of Regents gave an initial green light to the project at its November meeting, and then formally approved use of the Etter fund and the San Jacinto location on February 3, 1962, a day after the Alumni Council had officially voted its consent. The local firm Jessen, Jessen, Milhouse and Greeven was brought aboard as the consulting architect, and Fred Day, a 1950 graduate of UT’s School of Architecture, was hired to design the building.


By June 1962, initial ideas had been discussed and approved, but the proposed sketch was unlike anything yet seen on the campus. “I’d feel safer,” Haskew wrote to Chancellor Harry Ransom and UT President Joe Smiley, “if both of you would look at the plot design and building schematics for the Alumni House. … My reaction is highly favorable, but the conception … is unusual enough to warrant advance cognizance of top administration before architects proceed with preliminary plans.”


Above: Fred Day’s initial plans for the Texas Alumni House. In this image, 21st Street runs along the left border with part of the Moore-Hill Residence Hall at top left, while San Jacinto Boulevard – with the stadium across the street – is at the bottom. Click on the image for an expanded view. Source: University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archives, University of Texas Libraries.

Haskew was prudent to call for “advance cognizance,” as Fred Day’s design was a bold one. The building didn’t simply nestle alongside the dappled and meandering waters of Waller Creek; the creek was the centerpiece of the plan. Day’s Alumni House resembled a squared “C” shape, with the central portion spanning the water. The east wing, nearest to San Jacinto Boulevard, contained the main entrance, lobby, and offices for the alumni association staff, while the west wing, on the far bank, housed a series of meeting rooms with creekside views, along with an extended outdoor dining terrace shaded by live oaks. Connecting the two wings was a grand main lounge and dining room, equipped with a catering kitchen. Visitors to the lounge would gaze out of full-length windows on either side to see Waller Creek pass underneath the building.

South and East Facades.Alumni House

Above: The south and east views of the Alumni House.Source: University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archives, University of Texas Libraries.

To ensure enough water was present, a small dam was planned just downstream from the building that would both back up the creek and add a waterfall. A second partial barrier installed upstream, in the form of a stepping stone bridge, provided foot access across the creek and created an artificial rapids.

Day purposely located the building near the south edge of the property, where the slope of hill on the west side of the creek was a little less steep. It also reserved the rest of the land for parking and future expansion.

Alumni House First Rendidtion.August 1962

Alumni House.First Rendition.1.August 1962

 Above:Sterling Holloway, Allan Shivers, Harry Ransom, and Jack Maguire show off the first rendering of the UT Alumni House in August 1962. Though it’s difficult to make out much detail, the building’s entrance is in the center, the east wing with offices is to the right, and the main lounge, spanning Waller Creek, is on the left. The footbridge crossed a tributary (that still exists) which would have been redirected to be perpendicular to the creek and behind the downstream dam. Click on an image for a larger view.

 AAS.1961.Alumni House AnnouncedA first birds-eye rendition of the Alumni House was ready in August and a formal announcement made to the press, though the reported cost varied from $250,000 – $300,000. The actual estimate was near $260,000, which required the alumni to raise $150,000 and add it to the $110,000 from the Etter fund.


Alumni House Planning CommitteeWith the fall 1962 semester underway and Fred Day at work on formal architectural plans, attention focused on fundraising. John Holmes appointed a fundraising committee. Former Association president Sterling Holloway agreed to chair the group, while former Texas governor Allan Shivers oversaw the acquisition of special gifts. Popular Dean of Student Life Arno Nowotny was named vice chairman. (A complete roster of the planning committee is on the right. Click on the image for a larger view.)

AAS.1962.10.11.Houston Dallas Meetings SetThere were discussions with university officials on whether to concentrate on a few large donations or make a general appeal to all alumni. In the end, both strategies were used. In October and November, luncheons for prospective donors were held in cities throughout the state, including: Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Tyler, Midland, and others. On the agenda were talks by Harry Ransom, Allan Shivers, Arno Nowotny, Sterling Holloway, and Jack Maguire.

Fundraising Luncheon Invite Stationery

Above: Stationery used for luncheon invitations claimed that the alumni association had been “homeless since 1885.”

 In concert with the fundraising luncheons, the November issue of the Alcalde alumni magazine featured a second, more detailed rendition of the building, which was now formally styled the “Lila B. Etter Alumni Center.” Included in the magazine was a general appeal for donations. Members of the Association also received letters which asked if they “could spare 144 bricks?” as a minimum $10 contribution would purchase those materials, a square yard of carpet, or two gallons of paint.

UT Alumni Center.1962.Alcalde Cover

1962 Alumni Center.Main Lounge

Top: A detailed view of the proposed Alumni Center, with some color added by the author to better distinguish the location of Waller Creek and the outline of the building. The east wing, in the shape of a “+,” housed offices for staff and a vault to safeguard the original alumni records, then kept on index cards. Above: A cutaway view of the main lounge, which used about 2/3 of the central wing. Beyond the doors was a smaller dining/meeting room, with a kitchen behind the wall on the far side. Click on an image for a larger view.

 Along with alumni donations, other contributions came from a variety of sources. In January 1963, Allan Shivers, American Airlines president C. R. Smith, and actor Rip Torn, represented the University on “Alumni Fun,” a popular weekly quiz show broadcast on ABC. The team won $4,700, which was donated to the building fund. Along with quiz show winnings, the Canteen Company of America, one of the largest providers of vending machines in the United States, donated a week’s proceeds from three of its most popular coffee machines on the UT campus, and presented the alumni with $410 in dimes.

January 1963.Alumni Fun

Above: Allan Shivers, C R Smith, and Rip Torn compete for the University of Texas in ABC’s Alumni Fun quiz show in January 1963.

By mid-spring, the campaign was a success. More than 3,000 alumni had sent contributions from $1 and greater, including three $10,000 donors, six $5,000 donors, and 25 alumni who gave $1,000 each. The new Alumni Center seemed assured, and a groundbreaking ceremony was promptly scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 6th, on the banks of Waller Creek. A large sign on the property announced the future home of the Ex-Students’ Association and told passersby to expect to see the Alumni Center within the year.

1963.Alumni Center Groundbreaking.Edited


Top: A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the Waller Creek site on April 6, 1963. On the right is one of two post-WW II temporary dorms that were scheduled for removal. Groundbreaking participants included UT alumnus and Texas Governor John Connally, Board of Regents chair W. W. Heath, UT President Joe Smiley, and Dean Arno Nowotny.


The bad news came a few weeks after the groundbreaking. After bids were opened for contractors, the cost of the Alumni Center as designed was far greater than anticipated, specifically the transformation of the western bank of Waller Creek to make room for the west wing and dining terrace, the extensive use of retaining walls, and a redirected tributary to the creek so that it would remain behind the proposed dam. Through the summer of 1963, architect Fred Day attempted to redesign the structure. He shortened the west wing and reversed its direction, and then removed it outright while still preserving the main lounge. Neither brought the costs down to acceptable levels. Unwilling to reopen the fundraising drive, the Alumni Center committee reluctantly abandoned the initial plans and sent Day back to the drawing board.

Alumni Center.Redesign.August 1963

Above: Fred Day attempted to redesign the Alumni Center by shortening the west wing and pointing it towards 21st Street. Source: University of Texas Buildings Collection, Alexander Architecture Archives, University of Texas Libraries.

Through the fall, Day worked on new plans for the building, placed it alongside Waller Creek instead of over it, and preserved the elements used in the initial designs. The single main lounge and dining area was divided into two connected rooms at right angles, and then joined to a larger structure around a simple square courtyard with a fountain. The plan afforded ample light throughout and office windows that faced either the courtyard or outside, while the main lounge and the dining room (today used by the Texas Expresso Café) were nudged close to the edge of Waller Creek for the best views. A walled patio adjoined the main lounge to make room for larger alumni events.

ALumni Center.1965.With Orange Carpet welcome

Above: The Alumni Center, drawn with Jack Maguire’s “orange carpet” welcome.

Alumni Center.Main Lounge.1965

Above: The Main Lounge of the Alumni Center.

Designed in “Early Texas” style – which Fred Day described as a blend of Western and Spanish colonial – the 14,400 square foot textured brick building featured copper chandeliers in the main entrance, lounge, and dining room, that were hand-crafted in Mexico. Terra-cotta tiles, mahogany doors and paneling, vaulted beamed ceilings, and concrete Spanish roof tiles all added to the decor, along with refinished furniture from the 1930s that had originally been used when the offices were in the Texas Union. The Alumni Center, though, was also unabashedly a part of the University of Texas. Brass handles for the two front door were designed in the shape of “U’s” and attached to equally large “T’s” on the door front. The light fixtures were purposely created to evoke images of interlocking “UT’s,” and the orange and white silk-screened draperies, along with the orange carpeting in the staff offices, was hard to miss.

AAS.1965.Alumni Center to be dedicated

Construction finally began on April 27, 1964, just over a year after the groundbreaking. The alumni association staff moved into its new quarters the following February, and it was officially opened Saturday, April 3, 1965. In the morning, the graduating classes of 1940 and 1915 were the first to use the new building to start their 25 and 50-year reunions, and then joined a larger crowd outside in front for the dedication ceremony, which included performances by the Longhorn Singers and the Longhorn Band.

Alumni Center Dedication.1965.04.03

Executive Director Jack Maguire explained to those assembled, “Many years ago, Edgar Guest wrote a poem which began, ‘It takes a heap of livin’ to make a house a home.’ Today we are dedicating a very beautiful house. … It’s a heap of house,and we invite you to do a heap of living in it. The best invitation I can extend to you is a line which was used to introduce the 1915 Cactus. ‘The gate is down – ride through.’ Today the gate to the Lila B. Etter Alumni  Center is down. Ride through it – any and every time you are here.”

Alumni Center.0s.300. - Copy

The Longest Race in the World

The 1927 Texas Relays featured the first marathon in Austin – for women only! – and the first timed ultramarathon in the U.S., a 90-mile run from San Antonio to UT’s Memorial Stadium.

Tarahumara Runners at 1927 Relays

Above: Six Tarahumara runners from Northern Mexico participated in the 1927 Relays.

Azure blue skies, mild temperatures, and a steady north breeze greeted more than 10,000 spectators to the third annual Texas Relays on March 25, 1927. Held at Memorial Stadium on the UT campus, the fledgling track and field meet had swelled from a few hundred participants in 1925 to more than 1,000 athletes from two countries. An intercollegiate division boasted squads from a dozen states and the University of Mexico, former and future Olympians competed, 13 records were broken, and the popular University of Michigan football coach, Fielding “Hurry Up” Yost, served as the celebrity head referee.

Newspapers across the country lauded the Relays as a tremendous success. But most of the attention was focused not on the events in the stadium, but on the prowess of six Tarahumara runners from the isolated Copper Canyon region in northern Mexico. Their debut in Texas was the result of a series of events that involved the Olympic movement, Mexican nationalism, and some savvy promotion for track and field.


1926 Central American Games LogoFor the last two weeks in October, 1926, the inaugural Central American Games were held in Mexico City. An initiative by the International Olympic Committee, it was hoped that regional Olympic-style gatherings would promote greater interest and participation in the main Olympic Games. Mexico was an agreeable host. After a 10-year, sometimes violent, revolution from 1910-1920, both the government and citizens of Mexico were eager to restore the country’s tarnished image. Though 14 nations were invited to the Games, only three – Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala – sent teams to compete in baseball, basketball, swimming, fencing, track and field, and other sports.

The final event was a well-publicized 100km (62 mile) distance race, and while it was officially a part of the Games, it had to be postponed until Sunday, November 7, five days after the closing ceremony. The race featured a pair of runners from the little-known and reclusive Tarahumara villages in northern Mexico. Starting at 3:05 a.m. in front of the city hall in the town of Pachuca, two runners – Tomas Zafiro and Leonicio San Miguel – made their way southwest to Mexico City, the pre-dawn road lit by the headlights of police motorcycles and cars filled with journalists. Because the Tarahumara had their own native dialect and spoke little Spanish, an interpreter ran alongside the other two for the first 75km and relayed comments to the reporters. As the runners neared Mexico City, an ever-growing throng of supporters crammed the route and impeded their progress. Nine hours and 37 minutes after the start, the pair arrived in a packed National Stadium, where they were swarmed by an ecstatic, cheering crowd, and hailed as national heroes.

Each runner was awarded a crimson scarf, a modern plow, and 30 yards of white cotton cloth. When asked to participate in the race, Zafiro and San Miguel initially declined, as it would mean missing harvest time for their corn crops, which they planned to exchange for 30 yards of cloth. The issue caused the postponement of the race, until the governor of Chihuahua volunteered to provide the cloth as a guarantee against any loss of the harvest.

The distance race easily received more press than any other event at the Games, and had the intended effect of both promoting the regional Olympic movement and showcasing Mexican endurance athletes. Soon after the race, the Mexican government petitioned the IOC to include a 100km race in the upcoming 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.

In the United States, the event was described as “a race which has no parallel in sporting history,” and accounts were awash with speculation. Some claimed Mexico was an up-and-coming athletic power, and Zafiro a contender for marathon gold at the next Olympics. A Time magazine reporter who covered the 100km race asked the runners how they were able to traverse such extraordinary distances. Zafiro responded:

“We are strong because we live in the open air…We eat, four times a day, frijoles and chili with tortillas. Also we like deer meat, chickens, turtles, lizards, and rabbits. We chew peyote (grilled corn meal with spices), and on feasts we drink pinole (corn-fermented beer). No one of our tribe would eat the meat of any creature that fed upon another creature. Reverence lends wings to the legs. Only thus can a man be happy.”

NYTimes Tarahumara Jan 17 1927

The New York Times ran a series of articles on the Tarahumara, including one in January 1927, which described them (incorrectly) as “cave dwellers” from the wilds of Hidalgo. “Civilization has barely touched them; they are the unsentient children of the earth.” The article provided extensive – and likely exaggerated – details of Tarahumaran beliefs and traditions. As for their endurance, “Mexicans employ these Indians to run wild horses into a corral. It may take two or three days, but the horses are driven in, entirely exhausted, while the Indians finish almost as fresh as at the start.” The Austin Statesman also published news about the Tarahumara, and mentioned a potential U.S. tour for a few of the runners, including a possible entry into the Boston Marathon.


Theo BellmontTheo Bellmont (photo at right), athletic director for the University of Texas, read it all with great interest, and mulled the possibility of bringing Tarahumara runners to the Texas Relays. Bellmont and UT track coach Clyde Littlefield founded the Relays in 1925, and hoped to develop it into an event with national stature, on par with the already established Penn and Drake Relays. If a 100km race generated a media spectacle in Mexico, what might a longer run do in Austin?

Bellmont contacted longtime acquaintance Enrique Aguirre, the Minister of Physical Education for Mexico and the head of Mexico’s YMCA. (Bellmont had directed the YMCA in Houston before he was hired by the University.) Aguirre was an easy sell. Having the Tarahumara race in the United States would bring added exposure to the runners and strengthen Mexico’s petition with the IOC. Though the Relays were scheduled for the end of March, only a couple of months away, Aguirre agreed to send six Tarahumara, three men and three women. To preserve their amateur status for a possible Olympic berth, the runners would not be paid. Instead, a monetary donation was given to the Mexican government to build new schools in some of the Tarahumara villages.

Plans were made for two races. The women would run a traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles that began in central Austin, proceeded north to the small town of Round Rock, and then returned to finish at Memorial Stadium, where the Relays would already be underway.

UT 1920s Main MallBy itself, an all-female marathon would be a sensation. The United States was enjoying the raucous “Roaring Twenties,” and women had not only won the right to vote at the start of the decade, but were actively stretching the limits of longstanding social mores. Skirts with hemlines above the knees, smoking in public, driving automobiles, and even cheering at athletic events were considered new and daring, and would have been branded “unladylike” and unthinkable behavior 10 years earlier.

Above: The view from Garrison Hall as students in the late 1920s change classes on the UT campus. To the right is the old Main Building. The library, now Battle Hall, is in the distance. Click on image for a larger view.

Locally, while the University of Texas had admitted women since it opened in 1883, co-eds still had to follow the strict regulations found on most American college campuses. University administrators were anxious to protect a lady’s “delicate constitution,” limited a co-ed’s social outings to three times per week, and enforced a 10 p.m. curfew most evenings. Recreation, in small doses, was considered healthy, but physicians generally advised against “undue physical exertion.” Too much running and jumping, it was thought, Anna Hissmight deny a woman the opportunity for motherhood after college. Anna Hiss (photo at right), the University’s director of women’s physical education, promoted an active lifestyle to her charges and organized sports clubs, but was adamantly opposed to intercollegiate athletics for women, as she believed the training and competition to be too stressful. For the residents of Austin, along with much of the country, the idea that three women could safely attempt to run a marathon was counter to the prevailing social and medical tenets of the time.

The men’s race would be even more astounding. The trio of men would traverse an 82-mile course from the Alamo in San Antonio north to Austin, also ending at the UT stadium. The route was hailed by the press as a record, “the longest race in the world.” Both events would begin, as best as could be estimated, so that all of the runners would arrive at the finish line in the stadium at about the same time.


On the last day of February, qualifying races were held in Mexico to determine which Tarahumara would participate in the Relays the following month. The women completed a 45km (27.9 mile) route, won by Juanita Paciencia, in four hours and 56 minutes, followed by two sisters, Juanita and Lola Cuzarare. The men ran 100km, and 38-year old Tomas Zafiro bettered his time from the previous November by an extraordinary two hours, finishing in seven hours and 35 minutes (about 7:15 per mile pace). Jose Torres and Augustin Salido claimed the remaining slots.

Zafiro’s accomplishment only heightened the anticipation of the Relays, and sparked a debate as to whether the runners’ athleticism was genuine. John Kieren, a columnist for the New York Times, claimed doubters thought the Tarahumara “ran short miles and timed themselves by phases of the moon. This time they will run a distance measured in English miles and they will be timed by a split second watch, though…an alarm clock would do just as well.”


Austin.Congress Avenue.1920s

Above: A view down Congress Avenue in the 1920s.

As the week of the Texas Relays arrived, the city of Austin found itself in the glare of an international limelight, and did its best to welcome all of the athletes, especially their guests from across the southern border. The Tarahumara were to stay at the Driskill Hotel, considered the best accommodations in town. Lamp posts along Congress Avenue were draped in colorful bunting that alternated between the red, white, and blue of the United States, and the green, white, and red national hues of Mexico. University president Robert Vinson announced that classes would be suspended on the Friday afternoon of the race, and encouraged UT students to attend the Relays or line the streets to support the Tarahumara runners.

1927 Texas Relays AdJust before sunset on Tuesday, March 22, three days before the race, six Tarahumara runners, two interpreters, and a manager disembarked a train at the Austin station and were promptly overwhelmed by curious Austin citizens, a bevy of reporters, and the inventions and conveniences of the modern world. Steam-heated Pullman cars on the train, hotel elevators, and phonograph recordings were all novel experiences.

Wednesday morning, the runners completed a brief 5-mile warm-up at the stadium, and then spent the rest of the day either relaxing at the hotel or seeing the sites of Austin. Contemporary appliances were a constant interest; the group closely inspected the gas stove in the hotel kitchen, and asked to see it lit to make sure “there was no trick about it.” Dressed in their traditional attire of shorts, blouses, and sandals (and shawls for the ladies), the entire group set off for an early evening stroll down Congress Avenue. They stared at the dome of the state capitol, gazed in amazement through the shop windows, and asked to hear another phonograph recording. Followed everywhere by a crowd of reporters and onlookers, the scene brought downtown traffic to a halt.

On Thursday, the men left for San Antonio and studied the route they would follow back to Austin. According to local newspapers, the runners “shook their heads dubiously” as they examined the occasional gravel-strewn sections of the road. “Sandals will be worn on the cruelest stretches,” reported the Austin Statesman, “but the Indians prefer to run barefooted.”

Once in San Antonio, most of the day was devoted to rest and final preparations. The three drank an herbal tea, likely brewed from chia seeds. “According to Tarahumara tradition, the drinking of this beverage gives the drinker speed,” claimed the Austin American. The men rubbed their skin with another herbal concoction, to ensure endurance, and then “uttered certain lucky phrases,” to give their efforts the best chance for success.


San Antonio City Hall.1920sIn a scene very similar to the 100km race the previous November, the Tarahumara men gathered in the middle of the night on the steps of the San Antonio City Hall. The start line was changed from the Alamo at the last minute, though it increased the route to Austin to 89.4 miles. Instead of their customary native garb, the three were outfitted in white track uniforms with the tri-colored shield of Mexico embroidered on their shirts. Around their waists they wore belts of small bells. The belts served a dual purpose: the jingle of the bells helped to maintain a consistent pace while running, and, as each belt had a unique tone, they allowed the runners to know the whereabouts of their companions. The men carried four-foot long canes, and as an added promotion for the race, one bore a written message of greeting from the mayor of San Antonio to the governor of Texas in Austin.

The starting gun sounded at 3:19 a.m. Friday morning. Headlights of support vehicles and the flash bulbs of numerous cameras illuminated the way. The men completed six miles in the first 60 minutes, and then gradually increased their pace to a little more than seven miles an hour. A steady headwind, warm temperatures, and graveled roads were all challenges, and as the sun rose over the central Texas landscape, the trio donned “wide sombreros” to ward off the glare. Along the way, they ate peyote, oranges, and frequently drank water from a ladle without breaking their stride.

At mile 32, Augustin Salido, the youngest of the group at 22 years, began to suffer stomach cramps. The others stopped and walked for a while to see if he would recover. Still in pain, Salido attempted to continue the run. According to the Los Angeles Times, “He stuck gamely to the pace, running 27 more miles before collapsing. He was taken into one of the official cars and had recovered by the time the race was over.”

The remaining runners, Tomas Zafiro, 38, and Jose Torres, 24, continued on to Austin, attracting large crowds as they passed through towns along the way. An increasing number of cars tried to follow along, congested the highway, and created so much exhaust that race officials became concerned for the health of the Tarahumara. Motorists were directed to keep their distance, but the growing logjam slowed the runners’ progress to just four miles an hour as they reached the outskirts of Austin.

1927 Tarahumara Womens MarathonIn the meantime, the women began their race at 11:30 a.m. in front of the downtown headquarters of the Austin Statesman newspaper. Clad in more traditional garments of loose, bright red shorts, white blouses, red bandanas, and sandals, the ladies also sported bells and carried canes. Thousands of Austin citizens turned out at the start and along the course.

Early in the race, Juanita Paciencia, 15, had trouble with her sandals and fell behind. After stopping twice to readjust them, she discarded her shoes altogether and continued barefoot. But as the temperatures climbed, the pavement became an issue, and at mile 24, Paciencia dropped out of the race because the road was too hot. The warm weather also affected Juanita Cuzarare, 16, who had led most of the way, but stopped within sight of the stadium.

Tarahumara Women Marathon Finisher.1927

Above: Lola Cuzarare finishes the first marathon held in Austin.

Fourteen year old Lola Cuzarare, the lone finisher, entered Memorial Stadium, removed her sandals, and completed the race in four hours and 42 minutes. As she approached the finish line, Cuzarare tried to duck under the tape, unaware that she was supposed to run through it. She continued running several laps, smiling to a noisy and appreciative crowd, until Texas Relays officials stopped her and escorted her off the track.

Almost two hours later, at 6:12 p.m., Zafiro and Torres reached their goal in 14 hours and 53 minutes. It was “a feat that would kill an ordinary horse,” declared the Washington Post, but the pair “finished apparently as fresh as when they started.”

Tarahumara Men Finishers.1927Details of the races were printed in newspapers as far away as South America and Europe, the government of Mexico added to their IOC petition the request for a women’s marathon, and Theo Bellmont was heralded locally as “putting Austin on the map.” But despite the popularity of the Tarahumara, the IOC didn’t include a 100km race or a women’s marathon in its 1928 Amsterdam games, as there wouldn’t have been entrants from enough of the participating nations.Two Tarahumara runners, including Jose Torres, represented Mexico in the men’s marathon, but as their training emphasized distance over speed, they finished in 32nd and 35th place.

Above: Wearing the shield of Mexico on their shirts, Tomas Zafiro and Jose Torres in Texas Memorial Stadium after their 90-mile run from San Antonio.


How NOT to Choose a University President

UT Campus.1923.

Above: The University of Texas campus in the early 1920s.

 Thursday, May 15, 1924: Lutcher Stark, Chairman of the Board of Regents, asked the doors to be locked and the windows closed. The board was meeting with the alumni association’s executive council about the selection of the next University president, but Stark was adamant that their discussion should be strictly confidential. “No word must get out to the newspapers,” he instructed. No one knew that an intrepid reporter from The Daily Texan was hiding in the closet, notepad at the ready.

Within 48 hours of the meeting, the board broke their pledge to the alumni, offered the presidency to the governor of Texas, two regents abruptly resigned, and the ambitious fundraising campaign to build the football stadium was almost derailed.

Sometimes, choosing a new UT president doesn’t go smoothly.


Initially, the University had no president. In the spring of 1881, as the Texas Legislature debated the bill that would create UT, concerns were raised in the House that Governor Oran Roberts would be named to head the University when his term expired.  Though Roberts strongly supported the university bill, opponents argued that asking Roberts to oversee UT would set a precedent and forever politicize the office. The position ought to go to someone academically qualified, not become a retreat for retired politicians.

A compromise was reached between Senator Alexander Terrell and Representative Joseph Hutcheson. Terrell preferred to have a president, but also wanted the university to be open to women as well as men, a progressive idea for its time. Hutcheson believed enrollment should be limited only to male students, and argued that UT be modeled after the University of Virginia – his alma mater – which was then the only university in the country led by a faculty chairman instead of a president. To break the impasse, Terrell agreed to a faculty chair, while Hutcheson conceded to the enrollment of women. Roberts was denied the possibility of serving as UT’s president, but was appointed as one of the two initial law professors.

Leslie WaggenerFor most of UT’s first decade, English Professor Leslie Waggener (photo at left, for whom Waggener Hall is named) served as the faculty chairman, though it became increasingly apparent that an administrator, someone apart from the professors, was needed. In 1895, Waggener was declared president ad interim as the regents began to search for a permanent chief executive. They didn’t have to look far, as an unwitting prime candidate came to them. In June 1896, the faculty invited George Winston, then President of the University of North Carolina, to Austin to deliver the spring commencement address. Winston’s demeanor and speech so impressed the regents, that Winston was immediately recruited. He was named UT’s president before the month was over.


Perhaps the most difficult selection of a UT president began in February, 1923, when Robert Vinson resigned to take the helm of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Vinson had piloted UT through the 1917 controversy with Governor James Ferguson, as well as a 1921 attempt to relocate the entire campus from its confined 40 acres to the more spacious Brackenridge Tract. (The effort was deemed too costly. Instead, state lawmakers approved funds to purchase land east of the campus. See The Littlefield Gateway for more on the proposed move.)

The board accepted Vinson’s resignation with “deep regret,” voted to award him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and named Will Sutton, the Dean of Education, as President ad interim. Almost immediately, the inevitable speculation began on who would be Vinson’s successor. The most notable came from the Austin Statesman. After the regents’ meeting, Chairman Lutcher Stark met privately with the governor for over an hour. The next day, the Statesman reported a “flock of rumors” in the state capitol “that Governor Pat Neff might resign . . . in order to become president of the University of Texas.”

Will HoggThough it was just a rumor, it persisted with enough frequency to worry Will Hogg and the officers of the University’s Ex-Students’ Association. Hogg, the son of former governor James Hogg, a UT graduate, and a Houston lawyer, had donated a small fortune to promote higher education throughout the state, was instrumental in founding the Alcalde alumni magazine, had served a term on the Board of Regents, and steered the ex-students’ efforts through the political conflict with Governor Ferguson, which prevented the University from being closed and resulted in Ferguson’s impeachment and resignation. (On campus, the W. C. Hogg Building is named for him.) When Will Hogg was concerned, the alumni tended to listen.

AAS.1923.06.05.Alumni Oppose Neff as UT Prez - CopyAt its annual meeting in June 1923, which coincided with spring commencement, the alumni association approved a resolution in opposition to Pat Neff as UT president. “For Governor Neff as a governor, a friend to the University and as a Christian gentleman, we have only words of commendation and praise,” the resolution stated, “but we do not believe that the qualities which make him an able governor in any way prove his fitness for presidency of the University.” The issue was neither personal nor directly political. The governor, a UT alumnus, was generally popular among the alumni. Hogg and Neff belonged to the same 1897 law school class, where both participated in the University’s first celebration of Texas Independence Day. Echoing their 1881 counterparts in the legislature, the alumni were simply anxious not to let the office of president become politicized.

A copy of the resolution was sent to the Board of Regents and acknowledged by Chairman Lutcher Stark, but the regents took no other action toward finding Vinson’s successor, which only prompted more gossip that the board was deliberately dragging its heels to wait until Neff had completed his term as governor.

In the meantime, attention on campus had turned to a new topic: building a football stadium.


UT Football Player.1900sBy the 1920s, intercollegiate football had gained a strong national following and developed a competitive parity between teams beyond the traditional “Big Three” of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Improvements in transportation, especially the wildly popular and affordable Model T automobile, along with massive post-World War I improvements to roads, provided rural American families the opportunity to drive in to town on a Saturday and watch a game. With better teams and more fans, college football had become big business.

To accommodate the crowds, impressive stadiums were being constructed across the country, many of them named as memorial tributes to those who had fought in the recent world war. Stanford opened a 65,000-seat venue in 1921, followed closely by Ohio State (63,000), Illinois (67,000), California (73,000), Michigan (84,000), and others. For much of the decade, stadium building was almost a mania.

1924.Clark Field

Above: Part of the west stands of old Clark Field.

At the University of Texas, football had been played on the old Clark Field since the 1890s (at the corner of 24th and Speedway Streets, where the O’Donnell Building and Dell-Gates Complex are today), but by the 1920s, the student-built creaky wooden bleachers were inadequate and always needed repairs. (See The One Week Stadium) A new facility was sorely needed.

United behind Coach “Doc” Stewart’s motto, “For Texas, I Will,” the 1923 Longhorn football team had a banner season. Opponents didn’t score a point through the first six games. Baylor fought hard to a 7-7 tie, which spoiled the undefeated record, but the next week Oklahoma succumbed 26-14. Only the Thanksgiving Day bout against A&M, to be held in College Station, was left on the schedule.

Off the field, the campus chatter was about building a new athletic stadium. Some thought the estimated $500,000 cost was too ambitious a goal. Nothing close to it had been attempted. Others believed a new venue was overdue, and if the team continued its winning ways, alumni support would make the difference. If Texas prevailed over A&M, a stadium campaign was likely. But there was a catch: Texas had never won on Kyle Field since games were first played there in 1915.

On Thanksgiving Day, thousands of UT fans either drove their Model T’s or boarded trains for College Station. Many wore orange and white armbands that read, “Win or Lose, a Stadium by Thanksgiving, 1924.” Walter Hunnicutt collaborated with Longhorn Band director Burnett Pharr to compose a new song. A friendly spoof on A&M’s “Aggie Taps,” the pair called it “Texas Taps.” The band introduced the tune at the game, and it was an instant favorite. (Today, fans know it as “Texas Fight.” Listen to the earliest recording of the song.) Texas won the day 6-0 over the Aggies, and the fundraising campaign to build a stadium wasn’t far behind.


Feb 25 1924.Stadium Kickoff Rally

Above: With snow falling outside, students launch the fundraising effort for the stadium.

At 2 p.m. on Monday, February 25, 1924, in the midst of a rare Austin snowstorm, almost 2,500 students – out of an enrollment of 4,400 – trudged through icy slush to attend an unprecedented rally in the wooden men’s gymnasium. The goal was to build Memorial Stadium, named to honor Texans who had participated in the recent World War. In just over week, the students hoped to raise $100,000 in pledges on the campus. The citizens of Austin would be called upon for another $100,000, and then the alumni would need to donate the remaining $300,000. The east and west stands would be built first, with the north end zone and overall façade to be completed later. For the stadium to be ready by the 1924 football season, construction needed to begin in June.

To no one’s surprise, the leader of the stadium drive was Regent Lutcher Stark. “I will make you this proposition,” he announced to the crowd, “Lutcher Stark will donate to the stadium 10 per cent of what is raised on campus by the students.”


Lutcher StarkBorn, perhaps appropriately, in the East Texas town of Orange, Stark was the heir to a vast lumber and oil fortune. He arrived at the University in 1905 as the first student to own a car, graduated in 1910, and became a whirlwind of business activity, involved in banking, real estate, insurance, manufacturing, and petroleum. His family home has been preserved as a museum, along with the Stark Museum of Art just across the street.

Texas Longhorn Blankets 1915Outside of business, Stark’s great interest was the University of Texas sports program, and was its first super-booster. A Saturday Evening Post article would dub him the “Archangel” of UT athletics. Though the football team had been called “Longhorns” since 1904, Stark provided the 1915 squad with blankets embroidered with “Texas Longhorns,”
the first time the team had publicly sported its name. A generous donor, Stark also found summer jobs for many student-athletes. (Stark’s mother, Miriam, was also a contributor to the University, including the valuable Stark Library, located in the president’s suite in the Main Building.) In 1919, Governor William Hobby appointed the 31-year old Stark to the Board of Regents, where he would remain for 24 years.

But as Chairman of the Board of Regents, his passions sometimes led to controversy. At the July 1923 regents’ meeting, Stark oversaw the creation of a new College of Physical Activities, which would coordinate men’s and women’s intramural sports, P.T. classes, and offer a degree in physical education. It was no secret that Stark wanted to promote Athletic Director Theo Bellmont to Dean of the college, but this was controversial with the alumni, who thought it placed too much emphasis on athletics. As Bellmont had no advanced degree, the idea didn’t sit well with the faculty, either. (Two years later, the college was reorganized as a subsidiary of the School of Education and is now the Department of Kinesiology.)


For Texas I Will.Stadium Drive.Lunch Meeting Above: A 500-member student committee held daily lunch meetings in the gym.

With the stadium drive underway, 500 students were divided into 68 teams to solicit anyone and everyone on campus. The group met for lunch daily at the men’s gym, under an enormous “For Texas, I Will” banner hung on the east wall, and reported on pledges from the previous day. Each morning, The Daily Texan published a different slogan above its masthead, while the contributor won a pair of tickets to a local movie theater. Among the refrains:

Fall in Line! Don’t Lag Behind – This is Stadium Time!

Let’s Give our Roll to Build that Bowl

Don’t Pass the Buck – Pass Several Bucks to the Stadium

Come, Chum, with a Maximum Sum for the Stadium

DT Headline.1924.02.16.

Above: Before and through the student pledge drive, The Daily Texan published stadium slogans above its masthead.

The campus drive ended March 4th and exceeded all expectations. The students, faculty, and staff had together pledged $166,000, and Lutcher Stark promptly wrote a check for $16,600.

Alcalde.April 1924A month later, from April 4–11, it was Austin’s turn to take up the project. With the help of a 300-person organizing committee, and rallied by a parade of UT students down Congress Avenue (unfortunately in a downpour), the city contributed $115,000. The crucial alumni pledge drive was set to begin in mid-May.

To prime the ex-students, the Alcalde alumni magazine published a special stadium edition in April. It featured articles on the successful campus pledge drive, and was filled with supportive letters from faculty, coaches, and prominent alumni. The back cover compared building the stadium to the construction of the Roman Coliseum. “Our Memorial Stadium,” the magazine predicted, “will command the admiration of generations unborn. Like a mantle of ivy, time will weave o’er its beloved walls a soft halo of tradition.”

Photos above: The front and back cover of the April, 1924 Alcalde magazine; a color rendition of the proposed stadium by Dallas architect Herbert Greene. Click on image for a larger view.


 The same edition of the Alcalde also issued a complaint: “Month after month there is talk of the election of a President of the University by the Board of Regents, but month after month nothing is done.” As the spring continued, questions arose about the board’s lack of progress. The Students’ Assembly approved a measure in favor of Dr. Sutton as the permanent chief executive. Alumni around the state started petitions for other candidates, including one for Lutcher Stark, and rumors persisted that the board still planned to name Governor Neff. To press the matter, the executive council of the alumni association requested a conference with the regents. The meeting was scheduled for the evening of May 15th.


1923 Board of Regents

Above: The UT Board of Regents in President Sutton’s office, spring 1924.

On a warm Thursday morning, May 15, 1924, the Board of Regents convened in President Sutton’s office in the Education Building. (Today, it’s the architecture graduate student lounge on the ground floor of Sutton Hall.) The regents spent the day discussing University business, and then adjourned for dinner. They planned to return in about an hour to meet with the alumni executive council, though the engagement was to be in executive session and not open to the public.

Biological Labs.1924While the office was empty, a freshman reporter from The Daily Texan quietly entered and hid in a closet that adjoined the room. Notepad at the ready, he concealed himself among the architectural drawings for the Biological Sciences Building, then under construction (photo at right), and plans for the new stadium.

An hour later, the alumni joined the regents for a closed-door conference. Chairman Stark asked the details of their conversation not be made public, and all agreed. Will Hogg spoke on behalf of the alumni, and outlined the objections for appointing Governor Neff as UT president.

“Well, you have sufficient confidence in us to believe that we won’t select Neff, haven’t you?” responded Regent Frank Jones. “Well, Neff is not the first governor of Texas who has wanted the presidency of the University. We won’t give it to him.”

The alumni were assured that Neff wouldn’t be selected, and the conversation turned to the board’s two “real” candidates:  Guy Stanton Ford, then head of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, and Herbert Bolton, a previous member of the UT faculty who was then a history professor at the University of California in Berkeley. The regents were leaning toward Bolton. With the alumni satisfied, the regents retired for the night, set to continue their official meeting the next afternoon. The Texan reporter, who had recorded the entire discussion, waited until the building was quiet before he made his escape, but not before he helped himself to a few of the regents’ cigars.

DT.1924.05.16.Bolton to be Elected

Friday morning, the Texan printed a complete account of the meeting and predicted that Dr. Guy Ford would be UT’s next president. The identity of the reporter was never revealed “for the sake of his university career,” though the Texan added that the regents smoked “bum cigars.”

That afternoon, the board reconvened as scheduled, promoted Theo Bellmont to Dean of the new College of Physical Activities, and then, contrary to their verbal pledge to the alumni the previous evening, promptly voted 7-2 to tender Governor Pat Neff the position of UT president. Stark telephoned Neff, who was then in the town of Eastland, and informed the governor.

Regents Sam Cochran and Frank Jones, who had voted no, immediately resigned from the board. A statement to explain their position was included in the minutes: “We believe it contrary to the best interests of the University and of the State, and wrong in principal, to select as the President of that institution the Governor of the State, who holds the appointive power with respect to the Board of Regents.”

“No, Neff’s election was not a complimentary one,” Stark later explained. “We wanted him to be president of the University.” Within an hour of the vote, the board received a telegram from Neff, who politely and tactfully declined.

The seven remaining regents went into executive session and unanimously elected Ford as president, with a $10,000 annual salary and a house. A telegram was sent to Minnesota before the board adjourned.



The regents’ actions were public knowledge by 4 p.m. that afternoon, and Will Hogg was furious. At 6:30 that evening, Hogg fired off a caustic telegram to Stark on behalf of the entire alumni council. Still preserved in the UT Archives, Hogg wrote, in part: “All here feel that while Neff’s declination on that evidently framed honorary election does his common sense a puny mite of credit, the contumely of that smear will be justly heaped on all of you … for as Ex-Students you failed to defend the constitutional sanctity and tritest ideals of your Alma Mater … If you truly desire to serve the University, you should at least resign from the Stadium Drive, or complete it out of your own pocket as a trifling tribute from a contrite conscience for the shameful thing you have done, for you as Chairman of the Board and leader of the Stadium effort can’t get a sou marque from Houston … until this personal and official obloquy is totally erased by your abject personal abasement.” The text of Hogg’s telegram found its way into the newspapers.


In what might best be described as a great family quarrel, the entire University community was suddenly in an uproar. Alumni demanded Stark’s resignation from the Board of Regents and the stadium drive. The students, more interested in completing the stadium to which they’d just pledged $166,000, rushed to defend Stark. The faculty openly criticized the regents’ choices and called Bellmont’s promotion to dean “absurd.” Bellmont, who was content being the athletic director, learned the news of his new title by reading about it in the Texan, and found himself in an awkward situation. Meanwhile, Guy Ford wanted nothing to do with the University of Texas. Less than 24-hours after his selection, Ford sent his wife to tell reporters that he planned to stay in Minnesota.

1924.Stadium Site

As steam shovels cleared the site for the stadium and horse-drawn carts carried off excess rocks and soil, alumni pledges slowed to a trickle throughout the state and ceased entirely in all-important Houston. Contract work was to begin June 1st. If the situation wasn’t resolved quickly, the stadium effort would unravel and be delayed at least a year.

A few days after the regents meeting, Stark issued a 1,500 word statement to the press, and blamed the controversy on a small group in Houston. University graduate Maury Maverick of San Antonio (a future U.S. Congressman) countered to the Associated Press that Stark’s claim was a “smoke screen” and thought Stark still wanted Pat Neff. In the Dallas Morning News, Richard Fleming, president of the Houston chapter of the alumni association, said Stark’s claim was “unfounded,” and explained, “The opposition of the ex-students has not been directed personally toward Neff, but it has been solely directed toward the proposition of the selection of a man not fitted by education or training for the presidency.”


On Sunday, June 1st, after two weeks of dispute, and as alumni gathered in Austin for spring commencement and the ex-students’ annual meeting, Lutcher Stark, Will Hogg, and several members of the alumni council met at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. After three hours of discussion and negotiation, differences were put aside. Stark resigned from the stadium project, but remained Chairman of the Board of Regents. Hogg pledged to promote the stadium drive in Houston and throughout the state to ensure its success.

AAS.1924.06.13.Bolton tells off ReportersThe regents also announced their selection of Herbert Bolton as University president. Bolton, on the history faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, had tentatively accepted, and planned to visit Austin in two weeks to finalize the details.

Any celebration that UT finally had a new leader, though, was premature. Bolton arrived in Austin and met with the regents on June 12th, but when later asked by a reporter from the Austin Statesman as to whether he would formally accept the presidency, Bolton responded, “Go to hell.” (What was discussed with the regents is unknown. Unfortunately, no Texan reporter was hiding in the closet.) Ultimately, Bolton returned to California. The regents went to their next choice: Walter Splawn.

Walter SplawnAn outstanding UT economics professor and an expert in transportation and labor, the 41-year old Splawn (photo at right) had been on a leave of absence since 1923 after Governor Neff appointed him to the Texas Railroad Commission. Splawn accepted the position in July, which ended 17 months of uncertainty, and served as UT’s president for three years.



Meanwhile, Texas Memorial Stadium opened on time for the fall 1924 football season, and in 1932, Pat Neff was appointed president of Baylor University, his undergraduate alma mater, and held the position for 15 years. Baylor’s main administrative building was named for him.

1924.Texas Memorial Stadium

A reminder: The UT History Corner is not an official publication of the University of Texas. The views expressed are those of the author.

Found! 1909 Physics Lab Reports

1909 Phycis Lab Covers

A few weeks ago, I attended a “book and paper show” in Austin, where booksellers from around the country gathered to sell old and rare books, magazines, sheet music, postcards, and similar items. Because most of the vendors were from Texas, there was an emphasis on books about the Lone Star State and the Southwest, and it was a good place to look for old UT stuff.

In the far corner of the back room, a gentlemen was unloading boxes of photos and papers, things he’d collected at estate sales over the years and were usually stored in boxes in his garage. It was a wide variety and completely unorganized; show attendees just had to hunt through it. After a few minutes, I hit upon a few things that were about to be thrown out: a series of lab reports from a UT physics class in the spring of 1909.

LeRoy Hamilton and A T Elliott

Above: Physics lab partners LeRoy Hamilton (left) and A.T. Elliot, sophomores in the Engineering Department.

The reports were all written by the same lab partners, LeRoy Hamilton and Aubrey Tinsley “A.T.” Elliott, who were then sophomores studying electrical engineering. Each report was handwritten – likely by Hamilton – and enclosed in a tan folder. Printed on the front was the “School of Physics,” and blanks to fill in student names, experiment and table numbers, and dates assigned and completed. Inside the cover were instructions for the lab class and guidelines for writing a report. The grade was marked on the top right hand corner. Hamilton and Elliot received mostly 8/10, but one was a perfect 10.

1909 Physics Lab Cover.Close up.

Above and below: The “School of Physics” lab folder. Close-up of the front and instructions on the inside cover. Click on an image for a larger view.

1909 Physics Lab.Inside Cover.

From the covers, it looks as if nearly 50 experiments were performed through the spring. Among them: to measure the radius of curvature of a convex lens, the absolute determination of the volt, to measure the resistance of a coil of wire at different temperatures, and to measure the EMF [ electromotive force – another term for “voltage” ] of a cell by the Potentiometer Method.

Old Main.1910s.Postcard.2.In 1909, the physics lab classes were held in the basement of the east wing of the old Main Building, where the UT Tower stands today. The department was scattered on several floors throughout the building until the early 1930s, when it moved into the new Physics Building, today called Painter Hall.

Below is the complete write-up for experiment 42: the absolute determination of the volt. It earned a perfect 10 points. Would you give it the same grade?

Physics Lab 42.Cover and Inside Cover

Lab Report


Dr. Battle vs. the Jitneys

Battle vs Jitney.2

It was a pleasant spring evening in Austin, just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, 1915, as Harry Benedict and Will Battle were sharing a jitney ride to a meeting downtown. Benedict was the dean of UT’s College of Arts and Sciences, while Battle had recently been named Acting President of the University after the departure of Sidney Mezes the year before. Their driver was a young man, about 18 years old, with a friend of the same age sitting in the front passenger seat.

Heading west on 11th Street, in front of the Texas Capitol between Congress Avenue and Colorado Street, the driver suddenly accelerated, swerved abruptly to the opposite side of the road, almost collided with a car coming from the other direction, and took aim at a group of small dogs loitering near the curb. Benedict and Battle gasped as their driver, “greatly to his own delight and that of his companion,” managed to hit and kill one of the dogs.


Ford Model T Assembly LineA century ago, the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914 triggered an economic recession in the United States, but out-of-work entrepreneurs discovered a business opportunity using Henry Ford’s Model T automobiles. Introduced in 1908 and regarded as the first car priced for the middle class, the Model T was famous for its mass production. By 1914, Ford’s refinements to his impressive assembly line in Michigan had reduced construction time to 93 minutes, and a new car rolled out of the factory every three minutes.  With the cost lowered to just under $400, thousands of Model T’s flooded the streets of America’s cities.

But the growing popularity of the automobile began to challenge the trolley as the traditional form of urban transportation. Late in 1914, some enterprising Model T owners in Los Angeles discovered they could offer seats in their private cars for the same fare as a trolley: a nickel, or in the slang of the time, a “jitney.” Riding in the comfortable seat of a car was preferable to the crowded trolleys, and the cars – dubbed “jitneys” to distinguish them from the higher priced taxi cabs – could reach their designated stops faster. As The Nation reported, “This autumn automobiles, mostly of the Ford variety, have begun in competition with the street cars in [Los Angeles]. The newspapers call them ‘Jitney buses.’ ” By December 1914, the city had issued more than 1,500 chauffer licenses to jitney operators. Within a year, the idea was popular from coast to coast, more than 62,000 jitneys carried millions of passengers daily, and the Jitney Craze was born. “From hence to thence for five cents!” was the popular slogan.

From 1915 to 1918, the jitney was the new, convenient, trendy way to get about town.  In some ways it resembled an unregulated taxi service, as jitneys often survived by siphoning off streetcar passengers. Full-time Jitney drivers followed the routes of the trolleys, pulled over wherever a group of people were waiting, filled the car with customers, and took off for the riders’ destinations. For others, it was the first form of a ride-share or carpool. Some drivers who were commuting or otherwise going into town anyway would pick up a passenger or two and make a little pocket change on the side.

The jitney fad inspired a series of popular songs, a new dance called the “Jitney Joy,” a Charlie Chaplin film titled “A Jitney Elopement,” and plenty of original fashions for women’s hats.

Jitney Sheet Music.

jitney Lunch ad

Above: The Jitney Craze brought with it new popular music. Click on the title to listen to “Gasoline Gus and his Jitney Bus.” Also above: The Jitney Lunch café opened in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1915. All items on the menu were purchased a la carte for five cents each – the price of a jitney ride.

Austin Jitney Ads

Above: Locally, Joe Koen Jewelers promoted the “Jitney Plan” to purchase pocket watches, while Scarbrough’s Department Store advertised the “Jitney Knockabout” hat for women. A century later, Koen’s is still in business on Congress Avenue, while Scarbrough’s closed its last store only a few years ago.

In Austin, as elsewhere, trolley operators and jitney drivers didn’t get along with each other, and were attentive of the others’ customers. For riders, choosing a jitney over a trolley, or vice versa, was potentially perilous. “The matter of transportation makes life one thing after another,” explained the Austin Statesman. “If one rides the jitneys and criticizes them, he cannot ride them anymore. If he rides the jitneys, the street car men take his name in a book and remember him afterward as a patron of that iniquitous automobile institution.”


William BattleHarry Benedict and Will Battle were understandably upset with their jitney driver, both for his reckless driving and for killing a defenseless canine. “I indignantly reproached him,” recalled Battle (photo at left) in a letter written to Austin Mayor Alexander Wooldridge, “and told him I was going to report him and asked his name.” The young man refused to identify himself, though Battle managed to get the license number. Instead, the driver demanded that Benedict and Battle exit the car. Since the two had already paid their nickel fares, they refused, and the unhappy driver was forced to take his passengers on to their destination along Sixth Street.

Two days after the incident, a description of what had happened, along with Battle’s written complaint, found its way into the Thursday morning edition of the Statesman.  “[Battle] did not necessarily determine that he would boycott the jitneys,” the newspaper cautioned. “He wanted them reformed for his own comfort.” The timing, though, could not have been worse for local jitney drivers, as the City Council was just then considering its first ordinance on jitney regulations.

AAS Headline.Jitney Gets Even

Thursday afternoon, while the news story was still part of the gossip of the day, President Battle and government professor Charles Potts were downtown along Congress Avenue. They stepped off the curb and waved to the nearest jitney for a ride back to campus. “Jauntily did [Battle] walk in to the street … with Professor C.S. Potts to get into a jitney,” reported the Statesman. “And just as jauntily did a jitney driver hail him with the salutation, ‘We know you!’ and leave the University president standing blankly in the street, controlling his temper perhaps, but probably not in the most satisfied mood in the world.”

Poor President Battle! Because of his note to the mayor, he was no longer a welcomed jitney passenger. Though Battle could still ride the trolleys, the newspaper stories let everyone know that Battle actually favored the jitneys. The offended trolley operators, then, had the name of the University president in their “book,” and gave him cold stares when he boarded.

In a few years, the jitney all but disappeared from the urban landscape. While streetcars were taxed and provided income to their host cities, jitneys initially had no such obligations, and because they took passengers away from the trolleys, city budgets were ultimately affected. An abundance of regulations, some legitimate – standards for qualified jitney drivers, the safety of passengers, and so on – combined with some less fair – jitneys were not allowed to deviate from trolley routes, could only operate at certain times, etc. – made the jitney less profitable. By 1918, more than 90% of the jitney services that opened in 1915 had ceased operations.

In the meantime, Dr. Battle continued to be a faithful rider of Austin trolleys and, later, the city bus system. Though he lived another 40 years after his jitney adventure, Battle never learned to drive a car.