May 24

The 1934 Glomerata, part one

We’re going back in time 90 years so we can see, just a bit, of what college looked like at my alma mater in 1934. Some of the great old buildings are there, and so parts of the place feel familiar, but nine decades is 20 or so generations of student churn in a college town. And we’re more interested in the people, anyway. What was life like, in a cash-strapped university, in a poor state, in the middle of the Depression? Before the war, before the growth that came with the G.I. Bill, it was a different world — but some of this is going to look familiar.

This isn’t a complete examination, just a quick flip through some of the images and names that jump out. Even still, we’ll be looking through this for the next few weeks. Let’s see what’s inside the first few pages.

This book belonged to a student named Bruce Johnson. I include this inside page because it amuses me, the big bold label, and the chalky material he used to stencil his name. Sometimes these books, when I got them, didn’t have names inside. I presume those were seniors, or people who didn’t worry about mixing up their belongings with their roommates and friends. But Bruce felt a need. Maybe he was a freshman.

I looked ahead. Bruce was a freshman. He was from Montgomery, Alabama, the state capitol. He majored in electrical engineering. I looked ahead into his senior yearbook, the 1937 edition. He was still an electrical engineering major. He played polo — the kind with horses and sticks.

Here he is, freshman year.

Beyond that … well, the guy’s name is Johnson. Not the easiest name to dig up.

I love these humble little pages. Some real thought went into this. Living — joyous and irresponsibly .. the sacred tradition of the past … the challenges of the future … when memories have been dimmed remembrances have faded … the joys of service will have been ours.

Someone was feeling poetic when they pulled that together.

The 1934 edition of The Glomerata, the 37th volume, was dedicated to this man, Wilbur H. Hutsell.

An international figure in the coaching world.

A modern moulder of men and an inspirational guidance to all, beloved by student and colleague, we proudly dedicate this volume.

Hutsell was born in Missouri, attended Mizzou and was a quarter-miler there. He coached track at his alma mater, and then became Auburn’s first track and field coach in 1921. He stayed on until he retired, in 1963. In between, he won three conference titles, won 140 dual meets, losing only 25. He coached four Olympians: Snitz Snider, Percy Beard, Whitey Overton, and Jim Dillon. He also coached three NCAA champions, five AAU champions, and saw five of his high hurdlers win national championships. He also served as the trainer for the 1924 Olympic wrestling team and was an assistant track coach at the 1928 Olympic Games. He was the university’s athletic director, twice. Hutsell is honored in the Helms Track & Field Hall of Fame, the University of Missouri Hall of Fame, the Alabama Hall of Fame and the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame. The track on campus is named after him (and also the coach who succeeded him). And all of that pales in comparison to having this book dedicated to him.

And that wood engraving. Isn’t that something?

There are more. This one was opposite the foreword, which we just saw.

Remember, we are in 1934, so we’re full up on art deco. The bottom panel is campus specific — that’s Samford Hall and Langdon Hall, the administration building and the theater/large lecture hall, respectively. Perhaps the yearbook people allowed for customization for each campus. The larger, top panel, though, is generic, or emblematic. The great man, pushing open the doors from campus, and is preparing to stride into the world.

This one looks equally generic, but no less lovely for it. It is opposite the table of contents in the book. Our great man is hammering something.

And whoever Davis is, he’s not on the staff of The Glomerata.

Here’s another generic one. Our great man is embracing the world. It’s lovely, and it’s stock.

Is that the Lyceum in the lower pane? Whatever it is, it isn’t from our campus.

This is the official coat-of-arms of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. (API was renamed as Auburn University in 1960, though it had casually been referred to as Auburn by everyone for decades.)

This is a bit of a one-off, and there’s not a lot of information out there about this, so I wonder how official it is. (It was designed by a member of The Glom’s art staff, John Spearman, a junior studying commercial art, from Birmingham.)

The 1872 above the eagle head refers to the year the school officially adopted the Agricultural and Mechanical College name. (Auburn is, in fact, the fourth name of the campus.) It is always kind of amusing to see these older publications move between the 1856 (or 1857 or 1859) and 1872 founding dates. Both are viable, depending on how you like your history. It started as a Methodist school, as East Alabama Male College. Then came Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama when the state took control of the school, in 1872, under the Morrill Act. It was the state’s first land-grant university. API was the name from 1899 to 1960, and it has, of course, been Auburn for the last 64 years.

As for Spearman, he was the son of a steel man. John Thurston Spearman was born in 1912 and died in central Alabama in 1987. He married, buried his first wife and then married again in his late 60s. He’s buried in Hoover, in a cemetery I drove by regularly for years and years.

Even if there isn’t a lot on his coat-of-arms, I really thought I’d find more about him, but alas.

Finally, for the day, we come to The Glomerata’s staff, hard at work in this not-at-all posed photograph.

I never worked on a yearbook, though I have, in my professional capacities, casually watched a few staffs put them together over the years. This is about the right level of industriousness.

The editor was a guy named Joe Ledbetter, a senior from Anderson, South Carolina, a pre-law major. He was an ROTC captain, and a member of the Glee Club. And then, after he graduates, he just seems to have disappeared from view.

But I’ll keep looking. And you will too. We are, after all, just getting started. What’s in store for us in the coming weeks of our glance back 90 years ago, into a 1934 yearbook? You’ll have to come back next Friday to see.

The full collection will live in the Glomerata section, of course. You can see others, here. Or, to just see the beautiful covers, go here.

May 24

At least the UV score is low

Would you like to know my feelings about today’s weather? They are similar feelings as to many of the days since mid-March or so. Please refer back to most any post I’ve written between now and then. Odds are good I was observing the conditions, or filling this space, or perhaps grumbling, or resignedly accepting the pleasantly mild, gray days for what they foreshadow, or with a mind toward what an uncomfortable alternative might be.

There will come a day when it feels like we share a ZIP code with the sun, and I’ll miss 62 degrees and overcast on that day, after all.

But the visceral isn’t always logical, he says to people that know that.

Also, on Monday afternoon we went and watched part of a softball game. It was warm and sunny. We were on the third base side of the field, and facing east. My face got a little sun.

My skin is so fair that I can turn red when facing away from the sun.

So these clouds? This weather? It’s doing me a favor, really. I should be embracing it. And that’s what I’m going to do. The forecast suggests I’ll have a few more days to practice this new approach before the meteorology suggests that summer will arrive next week.

So a few photos from this evening’s bike ride. First, here’s today’s barn by bike. I was enjoying a nice little stretch, sheltered from a crosswind and averaging about 21 miles per hour through here. But you have to sit up and admire the barns.

A bit later — after a climb that slowly keeps pointing up for about a mile, I realized that it wasn’t the climb that was slow, but it was me — I ran across these chickens, which ran across the road in front of me.

According to the principles of rural bike riding, if the people let their poultry run free, it is a good road to ride on. This fowl observation has never failed me. And now that I’ve realized it, right here, in real time, it is a notion to be respect.

Considering that I’m lousy on hills lately and this is a good road to ride, I should spend a lot of time here in the weeks to come.

Elsewhere, but still out in the country, I found a most curious bit of lawn decoration. I guess the farmer’s work was done, or he knew he right where to pick up when he came back.

This was a 20 mile ride and, for now, a new one to put in the rotation. Have a quick 70 minutes to ride? I now have three different routes for that. This is a good thing.

That sky? Good as it got all day.

May 24

Do you know what parados means?

Rainy again, today, and just barely into the 60s. And at least four or five more days of the same. It has been, on balance, a wonderful way to experience … let me just check the calendar here … May.

At this point it’s just funny, really. I’m not even sure, as I type these letters into the word box, what the ideal weather would be, or if it matters. I don’t have to wear a heavy coat or stay under a blanket or shovel anything, and there’s no dangerous storm bearing down on me, so any manner of weather is fine, I suppose.

We’ve got a sign on the front porch, and it says “Hello, Summer!” It is prepared for the somewhat plausible eventuality.

I went for a bike ride this evening. First one in weeks. First there was work, and then there was grading and then I spent all my time visiting with family. So, it was nice to get outside, and nice to have another restart to riding. (This is the way it always works: stops and starts.)

It was cool at first. Almost chilly, even. And then the rain started. I just rode around a few neighborhoods for an hour to wake up my legs and practice clearing the rain droplets from my glasses.

You don’t always appreciate the small skills in life. There’s an art to taking off your glasses, banging them against your person, shaking them at arm’s reach and then trying to put them back on your face. It’s nothing, really, but you must do it every so often because the things you do while riding a bike aren’t always just like riding a bike.

Here’s the thing. It’s the height of style to make sure the arms of your glasses are worn outside the straps of your helmet. This is easy when you have standard, rigid glasses. Place, then slide. But since it was late and gray and raining, I did not wear my usual glasses, but, instead, I was wearing a pair of clear lenses.

They’re actually safety glasses, just about the cheapest pair you can buy at a box store. I probably wouldn’t wear them when real eye safety was a concern, but I picked them up for working under a kitchen counter. If all you must do is keep rust and things from falling into your eyeballs, they were worth the six bucks. But I’d wear something a bit thicker if things were flying with more speed than gravity or had more heft than crumbs of ruined metal. They are terribly, wonderfully lightweight, which, when the repair job was done, made me think I could use them for bike rides. Sometimes you don’t want dark lenses, but you do want to keep bugs or rain out of your eyes. So clear lenses! And these, again, were cheap. And lightweight!

Also, the arms of the glasses are basically the cheapest, most flexible bits of rubber the 20th century ever devised. And they don’t easily go over the outside of the helmet straps. So, for a time, I was riding and breaking one of the important rules. Yes, it’s in the rules.

Rule 37 // The arms of the eyewear shall always be placed over the helmet straps. No exceptions.
This is for various reasons that may or may not matter; it’s just the way it is.

It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. We do it anyway.

Let us, one last time, return to California. This is my last video from our trip in March. If stretching things out two months seems excessive, it is!

I made this video for our friends’ daughter. She loves all the fish in my SCUBA diving videos, and she asked, specifically, if we found Nemo in the Gulf of Mexico when we were diving off Cozumel and Quintana Roo. I did not find Nemo there. I found Nemo, instead, in central California.


I’m hoping this video will make her smile.

I’ll let you know.

It’s time once more for We Learn Wednesdays, where we discover the county’s historical markers via bike rides. This is the 35th installment, and the 63rd and 64th markers in the We Learn Wednesdays series. I’m grouping them together because there’s not a lot to say about this particular set.

So, we’ll return to our tour of Fort Mott, where we have recently we saw the old gun batteries and then the observation towers that helped them in their work of defending the river and Philadelphia, beyond.

In its day, Fort Mott was a self-contained military community featuring more than 30 buildings here, including a hospital, a PX, a library, a school and more.

Here’s a not-bad map that’ll give you some idea of the layout. The river is on the left side of this drawing. You can see the pier jutting out into the water. Just above that you’ll see the long row of gun placements. Let’s look behind them. Note the blue bit in the map.

That’s the moat. The engineers had the idea that while the big weapons were defending against vessels sailing up the river, they needed to protect themselves from anyone sneaking up behind them.

On one side of the fort is the river. Since it sits, essentially, at a point on the shoreline, the river also shields another side. Still a third side looks protected by thick wooded terrain and narrow creeks. That one direction opposite the moat is about the only approach an enemy would have, though it is difficult to imagine how anyone could get there to begin with. So we need a moat, and a parados.

The workers dug, by hand, 200,000 tons of sand, soil, and rock. Apparently $1.25 in 1897 is worth less than 48 bucks in 2024 money.

That doesn’t strike me as a lot for moving 10,000 pounds of earth a day.

The parados (Spanish for rear door) is the earthen hill adjacent to the gun battery. It serve as a shield against gunfire from the rear. Construction of the moat and parados at Fort Mott began in 1897 and took over two years to complete.

The earth used to build the parados came from digging the moat; 44,500 cubic yards of earth, over 200,000 tons, was moved with grapples, wheelbarrows, and shovels. The work was grueling. Each man was expected to move nearly five tons of earth daily for a wage of $1.25.

The moat was constructed by hand using shovels and wheelbarrows. Mules were used to help move soil and shape the parados.

The parados originally reflected the “mirror image” of the moat. This feature provided a substantial obstacle to help thwart the advance of an enemy force attempting to capture the main gate line, as well as protect the gun crews from enemy artillery fire.

Here are some of the still standing and preserved barracks the soldiers lived in, just behind the gun emplacements.

I’m pretty sure this window unit was standard gear at the beginning of the 20th century.

An important part of their creature comforts …

Two latrines were built within the parados for soldiers assigned to the gun batteries. The bathrooms each had several toilets for enlisted men, a private stall for officers and a large cast-iron urinal.

Toilets were similar to our modern flush toilets, except that the plumbing took the waste directly to the moat and not to a septic system. Since the moat was tidal and controlled by a sluice gate, the sewage was flushed out into the Delaware River with each tidal change. In addition to the practical necessity of the latrines, this system also served as part of an overall defense strategy: any enemy who tried to cross the moat first had to get through the sewage.

First … eww.

Second … also ewwww.

Thirdly, what if this one engineering choice prevented any invasion plans anyone was considering in the early 20th century. Suppose some Spaniards or Canadians came down, saw that and realized they couldn’t get their men to sneak through a stinky sewer moat to capture a fort so their ships could sail up the river.

Also, the insects out there are pretty intense, too. Not only would you have to wade through that moat, you’d have all sorts of insect bites.

Finally, the state put these signs in. The state needs to update them.

Made obsolete when nearby Fort Salsbury opened just after World War I. The last soldiers were removed in 1922, the fort became a state park in 1951.

If you’ve missed any markers so far, you can find them all right here.

More tomorrow. Another bike ride! And maybe some other things, too!

May 24

First you make it, then bake it, then you eat it, and do it again

I decided to go for a run today. It was, I figured, too gray and chilled and wet to ride my bike for the first time in forever. So I may as well try my first run in forever.

Just at the bottom of the driveway I received a text from my lovely bride. She was trying to figure out dinner, and did I have any ideas. I thought and I thought, standing there by the road feeling quite silly about the whole thing, and then said, “What about a ziti? And then we can have several dinners planned out.”

We run a menu calendar for dinners at home, and that’s my job. Every so often, I take all of our regular meals, there are about 90 of them, put them in a randomized order and then load them to the calendar. I might be behind on it just now. That would mean we have to make up ideas, and that means I get that question a lot, and I don’t always have great answers. But ziti, I figured, gives us leftovers, and that means I won’t get that question tomorrow.

You’re playing checkers, I’m playing Parisses squares.

That answer was agreeable, so I set off on my run. Four-tenths of a mile later, I got another text. Could I check on the supply of ricotta at home, and also the sauce. So I turned around and ran back. No ricotta, no sauce. And then I set off on my run again.

I was sure to run extra fast, so that I could get in the run, such as it was, before any more requests came in.

It was a short run, I still beat her home.

The rose bushes, we have about nine of them, are all flourishing. Well, eight of them. One is potted, and I have given up on that quitter. But just look at these others.

And they smell soft and delightful, like a nice tea bathed in an old perfume. Whatever that means.

It’s funny, all of these just stayed outside, in the ground, all winter and we did nothing at all to them and now they’re in full bloom. The potted one I brought inside, put under a grow light and watered and misted all winter. It’s barely hanging on.

Maybe it’s the soil, or the pot, or me.

Let’s now return to the Re-Listening project. This has become an irregular feature, which explains why I am behind just now. The Re-Listening project, though, takes place in the car. I am playing all of my old CDs, in the order that I acquired them. I am writing about them here, sporadically, to add a little content. Also, we can play some music. And, sometimes, there are some memories. These aren’t reviews, because none of us care about that, but it might otherwise be fun.

And so we go back to 2004, so that we can revisit 2003’s “Some Devil” by Dave Matthews. I think I got this from a library sale, or someone burned it for me. It was a solo release, and the tone is a bit different than DMB’s signature style. I don’t remember this, but Wikipedia tells me fans were skeptical of the solo release, but it nevertheless debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts. It took Outkast’s diamond-certified Speakerboxxx/The Love Below to keep it from the top spot.

“Gravedigger” hit 35 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 and on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. It won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Not bad for an almost “Eleanor Rigby” story. The album went platinum. It is, to me, a mostly forgettable record? Which is to say I never really attached any meaning to it.

I like this one.

And here’s the title track, which does indeed sound different from what you’d expect of 1990s DMB.

The incomparable Tim Reynolds and Trey Anastasio, and a host of other talented people are on the album. And the whole thing is just the sort of thing I can put on and ignore. There’s nothing wrong with that. It seems like I’m always on the search for just that sort of thing. But I’m mystified as to why this never made a bigger impression on me — and why it still doesn’t. That probably says more about me than the ones and zeros encoded on the disc.

Also, as of this writing, it is the last Dave Matthews CD I ever picked up. I guess I just had enough of the catalog to serve my needs.

Dave Matthews Band, of course, is touring this summer. I saw them a few times before concerts got outrageously priced. It was them, I am convinced, that started that trend. It looks like you’d pay $200 a pop for balcony seats at one of their shows near us this summer. That’s become my biggest Dave memory, sadly.

Anyway, time for dinner. The first ziti of the week.

(Ha! She made two casserole dishes. We might not have to decide dinner until Saturday!)

May 24

And how was your aurora?

Not sure what all the fuss was about. This was our view Friday night, and Saturday night. Seems like we never get the good views. Meteorites, eclipses, auroras, there are always clouds in the way. But the chimney looks cool.

I’m not jealous of the incredible photos I’ve seen online. I’m glad everyone got to see the celestial light show. Now, they can tell me all about it, and that’s nice.

Sunday was a first for us. My lovely bride and I were able to see both of our mothers on Mother’s Day for the first time since we’ve been together. They live about 900 miles apart, so there are always logistics and schedules and logistics. But this year, my mom, of course, was visiting with us for the last few days. We took her to the airport on Sunday afternoon, after a nice deli brunch. From there, we drove up to see my in-laws and had a lovely dinner with them. So it was just lovely all the way around.

And for all of you other mothers out there, happy belated Mother’s Day, please enjoy this virtual flower.

The rose bushes look great just now, here on the inner coastal plain — where the heavy land and the green sands meet.

Standing in my in-laws yard last night, there was still no luck. But the stars look nice.

We drove back to our place today, because the cats will want our attention. Which is a nice way to work into the site’s most popular weekly feature, our check-in with the kitties.

I opened a new box of food for them recently and, as ever, the most important thing was the box itself. Phoebe approves of her new hiding place.

And, right now, Poseidon is wondering why I am busy pecking away at the keyboard. That’s probably a cue.

There’s a fun-filled week ahead here. I hope that’s the case for you, as well. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk flowering things and music and probably one or two other things that come up between now and then.