My Favorite Little Book

A request this morning reminded me of this book. I say it is one of my favorites because I recommend it a few times each year. It is from the Wild Plants in Flower series with photographs by Torkel Korling and essay and species notes by Robert O. Petty – longtime biology professor here at Wabash College. My favorite is Volume III The Deciduous Forest. Maybe this is because these are the plants that I know best; the flowers from the woods of my childhood. The excellent photography of Mr. Korling is still, all of these many years later (the book was published in 1974), just as fresh as ever. But I think the real reason that I like it so very much is because of the essays and species notes by Bob Petty.

Listen to this description of the image on the cover, “Spring light in a young forest, a crowd of trillium above decaying leaves – we have been here before. But long before us, before the millennia of glaciers brought summer as but a taunting of the sun, recurrent drought had shaped evolving strategies – autumn and spring of the deciduous forest, where to survive was to win by loss, or not at all. Slowly our curve of earth tilts south again, and here and there we find the ancient secret.”
 
The opening phrase just draws me into the remainder of the description. As I read this description I feel that out in the woods I am part of a crowd, one of the “we”. All through the book this feeling is fostered as if there were any number of good friends walking in the woods with us.
 
In one of the essays, Petty gives a full natural history of our area. He explains the various upheavals and changes in the forest over millions of years. “In the late 1700’s, settlers reaching a crest of the Wilderness Road in a notch of the Cumberlands stood blinking into the western light across the greatest deciduous forest that ever was.” This is so vivid a description that again it seems like I can see this scene.
 
In the next few pages Petty paints a picture of the clear cutting that took place in this forested area. He writes of the cutting of trees “five feet through and towering one hundred and fifty feet. How do you ‘cut the top off’ all the flat land between the Cumberlands and the Mississippi?” In these two sentences the author gives an absolutely clear sense of the size and scale of the clearing efforts which took three generations.
 
I think of these essays as I drive through the country here. In the spring I pull out my copy and wander into the woods. But of all of the species photographs I am drawn to this one…
 
I believe it was taken in the woods at my home over three decades ago. Bluebell valley we call it and it is just a gorgeous little valley when completely covered with these lovely blue flowers. A sure sign that summer is on its way. Yet, as the weather is cooling here I think about the end of this book, “By October, the forest is burning amber and crimson in the brief evening light. There is a sharp and pungent sweetness to the air – the smell of walnuts. The nights are cold.”
 
A sudden wind drifts storms of yellow leaves and tumbles fruits and seeds. A night rain breaks the last dead leaves away from ash and maple. The walnut trees are long since bare – the last to get their leaves, the first to lose them. Here and there in the dry oak woods, a clatter of acorns breaks the stillness. The youngest oak and beech trees wear their dead, russet foliage into winter.”
 
The wild flowers are only a rumor now. The plants are dormant. All the ancient strategies are one.”
 
Really a lovely book and as I return to it each spring I wonder…was Petty a biologist with poetry in him or a poet who studied biology?  
 
Best, Beth
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Homecoming in the 20s and 30s Part II

This is a continuation of the homecoming 1920s and 30s story…B

Here are a few freshmen in their pajamas and pots working their way around the bonfire.

Here is a shot of the 1939 Chapel Sing with members of the freshman class on the steps of the Pioneer Chapel. The upperclassmen, probably members of the Senior Council, are closely watching for the least mistake. Unlike the Chapel Sing of today, in this era and for decades after, all freshmen took part and it was every man for himself.

Lastly, here is a great picture of the Lambda Chi house all decked out for Homecoming 1939. Enjoy the week and enjoy the game on Saturday!!

Best,

Beth Swift

Archivist

Wabash College

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Homecoming in the 20s and 30s Part I

Note: This entry on homecoming has a lot of images with it so I am breaking it into two parts. I hope that this helps a little with load times…B

As the campus gears up for Homecoming 2009, I thought it might be fun to look as some old images of this celebration…The poster above was for the homecoming celebration of 1937. It is interesting to note that this was the Monon Bell game. I also note that no speeches and no programs were to take place! However there was lunch, then the game, then a meeting of “W” men or men who had won athletic letters. All of that fun and, just as now, there was a Homecoming Concert free to the public. This is just a great old poster filled with loads of energy!

This photo shows the homecoming bonfire built by the Class of 1925. It was the chore of each freshman class to build a bonfire and protect it from the sophomore class. These bonfires were built of anything the marauding freshmen could find and drag back to campus.

As seen in the photograph above, an outhouse was the preferred topper for a really good bonfire. I have always wondered what the neighbors thought at this time of year. Were they out in their backyards standing guard?

Continues in Homecoming part two

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College
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This is sooo cool!

As we are moving things around, we are encountering any number of interesting items. These films of 1928 are excellent examples of a couple of such items. These 16mm films have been kept in the Archives and, while neat to look at as artifacts, it is their content that is of real interest. A casual chat with Adam Bowen in the Media Center about how neat it would be to be able to see these movies. Adam placed a campus classified ad asking for a 16mm projector and Jamie Ross in IT found one in a closet in Baxter Hall. Better yet, it was in perfect working order.

Adam projected the movie on to a blank background for filming with a digital video camera. He called me over and for the first time ever I saw the old history move!! Right there on screen was President Hopkins, Dean George Kendall, Doc Howell and tons of others. I saw the freshman class practicing their spirit yells. I watched the football team play, including some pretty good kick-offs. All of these combined with that now rare, but easily remembered, sound a film projector makes as it plays, click, click, click…IT WAS SO COOL!!!

We will have the silent film running in the Lilly Library over Homecoming if you would like to see a little about life at Wabash in 1928. There are scenes of golf at the Country Club, football, tennis in the arboretum, Chapel, faculty members, fraternities of that era – including a very young Byron Trippet – the old FIJI house when it was new, same for the old Kappa Sigma house. This film is really just a wonderful little window on Wabash in the late 1920’s.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

Update: You can find some of these clips on You Tube. Adam Bowen posted them. Search Wabash College+1928s and you will find them. Many thanks to Adam for his tech savvy!!!

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Football in 1912

Now that it is football season again, here is a little story about a great team…

It was the fall of 1912 and the Wabash team was back on the field after a longer than usual break from football. The tragic death of a Wabash football player the year before had forced the cancellation of the remainder of the 1911 season. Ralph Lee Wilson’s story continues to inspire Wabash men yet today. As you might imagine, it was quite a blow to the school and yet the team was ready to get back to playing football.

The team of 1912 was coached by Jesse Harper, in the picture below far left, back row. Harper left Wabash later for Notre Dame where he created a football dynasty with his use of the innovative forward pass. Two books have recently been published about Harper that pull extensively from Wabash archival sources.

Here is a picture of the 1912 team…

Seated in the front row and holding the ball is team captain Morris “Doc” Elliott [W1913]. Doc was voted All-State first team for football. An article from the Indianapolis paper says of his place on the All-State team, “Elliott, the fighting Wabash Captain, is the smallest and probably the best in the bunch.”

Doc served as the class president, was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and, as the oldest of eight sons, worked his way through college doing odd jobs. Upon graduation, Doc attended Pharmacy School and became a pharmacist and drug store owner like his father. For 20 years Doc was a Class Agent keeping his classmates in touch with Wabash. In a letter to the College, his daughter said that next to his wife, Doc loved Wabash best.

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

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Progress!

Big news from the Archives…we now have more room…In fact, a lot more room. Many thanks to our Head Librarian, John Lamborn – Head of IT, Brad Weaver and Dean Phillips for their support on this expansion.

The genesis for this project was the ever increasing need for additional storage here in the Archives. We were truly desparate for the room needed to store our growing collection. Not only did we need more storage space, but we were so crowded, it was difficult to properly process a collection of any size. Stacked to the rafters is about the best way to describe our situation last year.

It was either find more space or stop the history – so we began looking around the Library. The largest single space nearest our current space was the computer lab in the basement. We started monitoring student use of the space and discovered that students preferred to use the previously small number of computers on the main floor. Not uncommonly when I would arrive in the morning the computers upstairs were nearly always occupied, if I then came downstairs to the old lab I would see a couple of fellows in a facility designed for many more users.

So this summer the work began. Our library student workers began the demolition of the wooden risers where the computers sat. They carried the mess away, campus services patched the walls and floor, did a great deal of rewiring and painted the room. Carpet was installed and shelves went up all over the room.

In the meantime, the moving of the computer lab ( alot of work by the IT team) is complete. The computers are now in place and functioning beautifully. The students seem to enjoy them in their new location. Still, it was a big project for everyone involved. .

It is not too much to say that now I can see what we have and most importantly, can begin more processing in all of this space that we are now lucky enough to have. Here is a picture of the new space and our collection all lined up and ready to be of use.

Here is a picture of the sight that now greets students as they come out of the north stairwell…

Now this is REAL progress :~)

Best,

Beth

 

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They’re here!

Campus is alive again…Classes started yesterday and there is a buzz of excitement on campus. I love this time when everything starts over for another year. This picture conveys the feeling of youthful exuberance still present on campus. This photo was taken at a courthouse pep rally in the 1920s. I wish we had more information about it, who this young man is or at least the event that prompted the gathering. Yet this picture still manages to convey a great deal and it seems a perfect metaphor for a new year, full of hope and energy.

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College
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