Throwback Thursday February 18, 2020

The University of Montana Western is currently in the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year. On this Throwback Thursday, let’s go back 100 years and see what campus life was like during the 1919-1920 academic year.

Sheldon Davis was in his second year as president of the college. He would serve until 1946. He is still the longest tenured president in the history of the school. And, this was the year that the ‘M’ made its debut on the hill.

The campus population included 731 students (697 females and 34 males) 17 faculty members and 10 support personnel. Classrooms, faculty offices, administrative offices, the library and auditorium were all located in Main Hall. The residence hall was only a year-old. The assembly hall in Main Hall was the scene of many campus and community events. The music for the dances was by local orchestras and bands one of which was the Trixie Jazz Band.

There were 53 graduates in the class of 1920. The class included two men and 51 women. The majority of the graduates came from Montana along with one from Idaho, one from Colorado, one from Missouri and one from Ohio. In addition to official colors, a motto, a will, a class prophecy, a class history, a class flower, the class of 1920 even had a class baby, Ralph Howard Light, the six-month old son of Lee R. Light, professor of rural methods.

On campus there were several notables that would make their mark in Western’s future. Of course, Dr. Sheldon Davis who accomplished much during his historic tenure. He is remembered by future generations with a residence hall named for him. Robert Clark was a professor of psychology and history, later served as president and also has a residence hall named after him. He was a very popular professor with an excellent sense of humor.

Lucy Hamilton Carson was one of two English professors. She began teaching almost from the beginning days of the college and continued until 1941. Carson’s impact on her students and the college was immortalized on Oct. 25, 1969 when the school named the new library after her.

Mary Baker graduated in the spring of 1920. As a student, she showed the leadership skills that would later make her one of the most iconic figures in the school’s history. Baker was president of the KZN sorority and the Y.M.C.A. She played on the senior basketball team and on the tennis team. In addition, her artwork decorated the 1920 Chinook yearbook. It was just a few years later that she went from student to teacher. Her Mary Baker Emerick art scholarships continue to help Montana Western students.

The year’s calendar featured some very interesting events. In January, the school had their own version of a ‘snow day.’ School was cancelled for two days due to a steam main breaking. In the fall, it was noted that Professor Clark entertained his physiology class at Lover’s Leap. October was the busiest month of the school year with events ranging from the first dance of the year to a campus wide Halloween stunt party. Also in the fall, a Y.M.C.A. sponsored taffy pull was held. The Chinook writer reported that everyone became “properly stuck-up.”

In 1920, it wasn’t called student senate; the ruling organization of the students of the Montana State Normal College was called the student government committee. Ellen Corregan was the chairman, Mary Kiermyer was the secretary and Florence Patterson was the treasurer. There were five additional members and one advisor.

Looking at the advertisers featured in the 1920 Chinook, there were 82 from Dillon, 26 from Butte, 10 from Anaconda, 10 from Twin Bridges and one from Boise, Idaho. The Boise Advertiser, The Northwestern Teacher’s Agency. Just reading the ads gives one a good glimpse into the culture and lifestyle of living in 1920. I am taking a bit of freedom to feature an advertisement from one of my relatives, a long-time and loyal college supporter.

Comparing the two academic years, yes, 100 years apart. Fashion, entertainment culture different but when you look at it close, it is all very much the same. Students away from home in a new environment featuring new challenges with one goal in mind, a college diploma.

The original post can be found on the University of Montana Western Alumni Facebook Page.