Back to the Glomerata section, where I share the covers of all of the yearbooks from Auburn, my alma mater. The one I’m showing you here is the 1924 edition. If you click this book’s cover you can see the 1920 Glom.
It was only 94 years ago when this 1920 book was landing in students’ hands for the first time. Teddy Roosevelt was gone. Woodrow Wilson, himself ill, stepped down. World War I was still very much on the top of minds, even as the wartime economic boom evaporated. Treaties, the League of Nations, and non-intervention policies were the big national topics. The year previous there were widespread streaks in meatpacking and steel. Race riots in major cities and anarchist attacks in New York. Warren G. Harding would that fall be elected president. Thomas Kilby, a Tennessee boy, was a railroad agent and successful businessman who had made his living in Anniston. He became mayor, a state legislator and then the lieutenant governor. In 1919 he took the oath as governor of Alabama. The next year he ended the deadly 1920 coal strike. No one ever talks about that. It is easy to see why.
Numismatic trivia: Kilby was put on the Alabama centennial half dollar in 1921, making him the first living person to appear on a U.S. coin.
Across the state, lawmakers and the University of Alabama were playing political games that would cripple Auburn for years. It hampered and highlighted the administration of the university president, Charles C. Thach. He served as president from 1902 until 1919. When he started the university’s only income was from a fertilizer tax. An illuminating oil tax and a barely upheld contribution from the state legislature helped. A little. Also, in the teens:
Not long after the Carnegie Foundation report appeared in print, an employee of the Montgomery Advertiser forwarded to API a draft article President Denny had submitted for publication in that paper. The informant believed the article contained thinly veiled attacks on API. Among other things, Denny wrote that the “choice young men and women” of the state wanted to attend the University of Alabama because it was known throughout the country, not within the “narrow confines” of a single state. He charged that some of the “so-called colleges” had been accepting students without adequate high school preparation. Shortly thereafter, API began to require the standard fourteen units of high school work for unconditional admission. Under President Thach’s calm and cool leadership, Alabama Polytechnic Institute weathered the storm of criticism with dignity.
By the time of the 1915 quadrennial session, API still had not received the $200,000 approved by the legislature in 1911.
And that’s the way it went for Thach. When he stepped down for health reasons at the end of 1919, and died the next year, that state money was apparently still out there, somewhere. It was all just the opening act for what would be a tumultuous decade in the 1920s.
In the fall of 1919 the first Army transcontinental motor convoy, an expedition across America, reached San Francisco. A young unknown lieutenant colonel, Dwight Eisenhower, was a part of the 3,251 mile, 62 days journey. Chicago had its Black Sox scandal. The Spanish flu petered out. Andy Rooney, Jackie Robinson, Pete Seeger and George Wallace were born in 1919. In the first half of 1920 API students heard about the New York Yankees acquiring that guy, Babe Ruth from Boston. Prohibition began. That June, The United States Post Office Department ruled that children could not be sent via parcel post. Apparently that happened, and it is important that you know it. James Doohan and Jack Webb were born in 1920, as was Karol Józef Wojtyła, who you would know as Pope John Paul II.