1920-1939

Plow Ahead

A two-day winter storm in early March of 1920 rendered the B&M Railroad tracks impassable. The railroad recruited help from an ample supply of somewhat idle men at the local schools.

William E. Knox '21 gathered a party of nearly sixty college students for work on the tracks near Madbury. For quite a distance, both tracks were buried under several feet of snow, ice, and water. A snowplow with two engines behind it had tried to hurl itself through the icy mass, but failed miserably. Each man was issued a pair of asbestos gloves, and a shovel or an "Irish anchor."

When the men from UNH arrived on the scene, they found a large number of students from Phillips Exeter Academy valiantly wielding the shovel and pick in an attempt to clear the tracks. The college crew enthusiastically started to work, digging ditches to drain off surplus water, and clearing the snow and ice from the tracks.

Supper was provided for all by the railroad company at the Commons (now Huddleston Hall). Returning to work at 7 PM, the east-bound track was found to be cleared sufficiently to allow the passage of a snow plow.

Is This Dance Taken?

Dance cards were once used to record the names of the people you had promised to dance with during the course of the evening. Finding your partner once the dance number came around wasn't always so easy.

For the 1921 Junior Prom, the following arrangements were made:

The letters of the alphabet will be placed around the balcony of the gym. If the initial of the last name of the man with whom you have exchanged the dance comes before yours in the alphabet, you are to meet him under his initials. If your initial comes before his in the alphabet, he will meet you under your initial. Thus, you will find your partner according to the order of the letters in the alphabet.

Campfire Cuisine

In 1921, The New Hampshire reported that twelve forestry students had filed a formal application with Miss Isa A. Greene, head of the Department of Home Economics, asking to be given lessons in cooking.

The men, who expected to spend a lifetime in the forests, explained that they want to know how to cook the following articles of food, which they consider essential to the well-being of a forester, to wit: biscuits, doughnuts, and pie. Miss Greene promised to teach them to make all these, however, Miss Greene maintained that said articles of diet, while palatable in the extreme do not of themselves constitute a balanced ration, and so the twelve novices were further instructed in the preparation of other foods, so that every meal they cook in the greenwood would have all the calories it ought to have, and even a few more.

Snow Ballgames

In February 1922, the Forestry Club undertook the first attempt at an organized winter carnival on the UNH campus. The plan was to make it an all-college outing rather than an exhibition of skill by a few experts. Events included a number of races on skis and snowshoes, and a ski jump competition, but the feature of the day's program turned out to be three innings of comedy baseball on snowshoes between the faculty and the seniors. The New Hampshire reported:

'Twas a gallant fight... The faculty started like a house afire and scored in the first inning. However, the starting pace must have been too fast, for that run proved to be the profs' lone score. The seniors, held scoreless by the superb twirling of Prof. Tirrell of the animal husbandry department until the beginning of the third inning, came out from behind with a rush and before the fireworks ceased, three '22 men had navigated the precarious path around the bases. The game ended with a 3–1 score in favor of the seniors.

Bumptious

In 1922, one of the student clubs at UNH caught the attention of the Manchester Union Leader, which deemed it "The most unique and exclusive club identified with any college in the East." The club was called the A.T.B. Club (the true meaning of which was never divulged).

The Union Leader reported: "The initiation requirements are as unusual as they are exacting. To be eligible, a student must 'bum' his way 500 miles to attend athletic events in which the college teams engage. And proof of the 'bumming' by steam, trolley, or water lines must be provided."

The purpose of the club was to foster college spirit and to assure support 'on the grounds' for the Blue and White athletes when they were playing away games. When the club needed a place to hold its meetings, the B&M railroad donated an old freight car for its use. The club was denied official recognition by the Student Organizations committee, however, and was eventually disbanded.

It's Forbidden

The official dormitory rules were first published in the 1924-25 student handbook. Here are some of the rules in abbreviated form:

  • The use of heat in the form of open flames, such as kerosene, gasoline stoves, alcohol lamps, canned-heat appliances, etc., is strictly forbidden.
  • The use of electric plates, irons, and other electrical equipment is strictly forbidden, except in rooms provided for the use of such equipment in the women's dormitories.
  • Tampering with the electrical wiring and electrical fuses is absolutely forbidden.
  • Commercial enterprises such as pressing clothes, operating a barber shop, selling goods, etc. will not be permitted in any of the university buildings except on written approval of the President of the university.
  • Radios require written approval of the Dean of Men or the Dean of Women.

Turkey Shoot

In November 1923, the University rifle club sponsored a turkey shoot as a fundraiser to complete the new rifle range being built in the basement of the gymnasium (now New Hampshire Hall). The contest was open to anyone who wished to compete. Contestants could bring their own rifles if they wished, but they had to use the .22 short ammunition supplied by the Rifle Club at the price of twenty-five cents for a round of ten shots.

Three prizes were offered: a turkey, a rooster, and a duck. The duck was given to the person who got the highest total score on a checkerboard target made of one-inch black and white squares. (Each hit on a black square counted one point; hits on white squares did not count.) The rooster was given to the one who got the highest total score on a bull's eye target. Each contestant was also given a ticket with a number on it. At the end of the evening, the holder of the lucky number won the Thanksgiving turkey.

A Matter of Opinion

During a house meeting in 1924, the Dean of Women spoke to the Congreve Hall girls about their plans to sponsor a dance the following Saturday. She stated very definitely that: "Proper rules of dancing will be enforced by the chaperons. This dance must be free from criticism. The must be absolutely NO SPOONING!"

She also warned the decoration committee that the lights were not to be shaded and that there were to be no dark corners. She insisted that the girls give their word of honor not to stray from the first floor.

The students were less than enthusiastic about these edicts which raised the question: if these rules are observed, will this be a proper dance?

Pond to Pool

pool
On a spring day in 1924, 200 male students armed with picks and shovels went to the somewhat boggy area behind the old gym (New Hampshire Hall) and made a good start on what would become the College Pond.

During the twelve years it served as the local swimming hole, however, the pond gradually became a source of worry to the university physician. It was finally condemned as a health hazard and drained in the summer of 1936.

Six months later, the administration succeeded in getting the promise of WPA labor for various campus projects, including a "modern, sanitary swimming pool with granite block tiling which will be filled with chlorine-treated water to be completely re-circulated every twenty-four hours."

It took a year and a half to transform the old pond into a modern swimming pool. The university held a grand opening for the new pool during the 20th annual Farmers' and Homemakers' week in August 1938. Draped with white cloth, the diving tower was transformed into a lighthouse for the folk extravaganza "Lamp Black and the Seven Giants."

Horse Power

A novel feature of the 1928 Winter Carnival program was the introduction of a ski-joring race. In ski-joring, a skier held onto long reins while being pulled by a galloping horse.

For this race, the skiers were to be male students and the horses to be ridden by female students, beginning on Main Street by the post office and ending in front of the men's gym (New Hampshire Hall). Unfortunately, on the Thursday before the Carnival weekend, all winter sports events were cancelled due to the lack of snow.

The Carnival Ball, held Friday night, went on as scheduled, and much to the surprise of the revelers, a full blown nor'easter was in progress by the time the students left the gym for home.

The New Hampshire reported what happened next. "Early in the morning the town became alive with skiers, snow-shoers, and tobogganists, and Main Street literally swarmed with ski-jorers, frantically endeavoring to maintain a state of equilibrium behind speeding automobiles."

Easy on the Starch

In the early 1930's, the railroad system started an Express service that tapped into the special needs of the college student. Designed to transport large amounts of luggage at the beginning and end of the school year and during holidays, it also served during the school year as a courier between parents and students delivering smaller packages of necessities and luxuries.

One of its most popular uses was for shipping laundry. Using special boxes, a student could send his or her dirty clothes home to Mom, where they would be washed, ironed, folded, and returned to the student within a few days -- often with some home baked goodies tucked inside as well!

On Pins and Needles

In his 1932 annual summer newsletter, registrar Oren "Dad" Henderson informed the students that one of their classmates, Donald Smith '34, had met with a serious accident at the Central Park Theater in Dover, N.H., on Aug. 5, where he was giving a performance. "He was performing his needle-threading trick when suddenly he realized the thread had broken," wrote Henderson. "He finished the trick, then was immediately rushed to the Wentworth Hospital where two needles that had lodged in his throat were removed. An X-ray showed that he had swallowed another one. He was rushed to Boston for observation and treatment." Smith eventually made a complete recovery.

Hardier Than Thou

In February 1936, a short article on the back page of The New Hampshire announced:

Fairchild Hall [has] again come through with an original idea—the UNH Brownies. The Brownies consist of hardy Fairchilders who desire to promote health by snow baths. The initiation consists of diving into a snow bank and rolling over. The initiate is allowed to wear a bathing suit and slippers. An active member, Dean Gardner '39, has been elected president.

College Cabin

cabin in woods
In 1893, as the board of trustees of the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts (as UNH was then called) made preparations for the removal of the college from Hanover to Benjamin Thompson's land in Durham, they considered the possibility of increasing their liquid assets by cutting some or all of the timber in Thompson's woodlot.

Advice was sought from the New Hampshire Forestry Commission, which recommended that no timber be cut except blown-down or decayed trees. As a result, College Woods was preserved, to the benefit of the forestry department and the delight of countless romantic student couples.

In the fall of 1921, the Forestry Club undertook the task of building a cabin in College Woods. Using mostly slabs from logs removed during salvage cutting, by forestry professor Karl Woodward, the students were able to put up a structure that provided a space for club meetings, picnics, cookouts, and rendezvous for faculty and students for seventeen years, before it was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1938.

Back to Basics

During the Great Depression, the University community did what it could to help students remain in college. Karl Woodward, professor of forestry, did his part by allowing eight male students to build cabins on his woodland across from the dairy barn, where they could live rent-free.

One of these student, Howard A. Geddis '38, recalled:

Our cabin (shack) was equipped with wooden bunks, a stove for heat and cooking, a private bath (outhouse) and running water (you ran over to the dairy barn to fill the water bucket). It was fun on a cold morning chopping the ice out of the bucket. Oh yes!! We took showers at the gym.