Friday


5
Jul 24

The 1944 Glomerata, part one

After several weeks away from this feature, we return to the dusty old pages of old yearbooks. Pretty pictures from the Plains, incoming.

That’s the 1944 edition of The Glomerata, the yearbook of my alma mater. I collect the yearbooks. For one, they look great. For another, it’s a unique, and contained, hobby. I like that it was a finite thing. The first Glom was published in 1897. (I don’t have that one, so if you run across it … ) and the last one I’ll collect was the 2016 book. There are 120 in between. (One year they published two books.) I now have 112 of them.

I’m sharing some of the interesting images here as I digitize them, you can find them all here.

While war was raging abroad, at home, on the college campuses, a different battle was being played out. Funding was always the question, always the fight. The University of Alabama was in a near-blood feud with Auburn, and the University of Montevallo. The legislature created the Alabama Educational Survey Commission to prepare recommendations for the 1945 legislative session. The people running the campus in Tuscaloosa sent a contemptuous report to that commission, which got Auburn president Luther N. Duncan’s attention. He said he’d never seen “a bolder, more deliberate, more vicious, or more deceptive document.” Duncan turned to his alumni base and said that if supporters of Auburn and Montevallo did not rise up to combat “this evil monster,” it would consume them “just like the doctrine of Hitler.”

It would be a mistake to think the tension between the two schools was about football.

And if the war rhetoric was overcooked between state-level officials, war was almost omnipresent for the people.

Just before school started, a young John Kennedy had his PT boat rammed and destroyed in the Pacific, the Allies conquered Sicily. In September, Dwight Eisenhower announced the surrender of Italy. That fall Americans were looking for places like Bougainville, Tawara and the Gilbert Islands. Stalin, Churchill and FDR met in Tehran that November. The following month, listeners heard Edward R. Murrow’s classic report, “Orchestrated Hell.”

At the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, The Great Depression ended, the Allied slog up against dug-in Germans through Italy dragged on. The Marshall Islands, Monte Cassino, Leipzig, the Mariana Islands began to enter into the newspapers in February. By mid-March, the war talk was about the bombing of Vienna, the Russian army reaching Romania and Germany occupying Hungary. In the spring of 1944, everything was still uncertain, and this is how some young people got up and went to school each day.

In 1944, the war shadowed everything, and its all over this yearbook, too, as we’ll see.

The book I have is signed Mrs. Joe H. Page. She, or someone else, helpfully told me where to find Joe’s photo. It’s in the Army’s Specialized Training Program. We’ll talk more about that program in a week or two, but the ASTP was prompted by General George C. Marshall’s recognizing that the U.S. Army had to overcome a shortage of soldiers trained in a variety of professional and technical capacities. Most of the people that went into ASTP were active duty soldiers, and they were enrolling for up to two years of engineering, languages, dentistry and more.

It took up 20 pages of this Glom, and there are 800 headshots of the people who made up this special category of the student body. Joe Page was one of those men.

Joe was born in 1924. At least one branch of his family could trace its lineage in Alabama back to territorial days. He died in 1980. His wife, Betty, lived until 2009. I looked in a few of the other books and I don’t see evidence that she attended Auburn. Her sister did. We’ll meet her in three or four weeks. But this is Joe, and this was his Glom. He and Betty had four children, all still living in Alabama.

The first full page sets the tone. It’s bright, and also subdued. It has playful graphics. And the future they saw was in science.

Then there are a handful of well done, double-truck photos, wide shots, atmospherics, silhouettes of people walking, and buildings. It comes with a ribbon of text that runs across the four pages. Here’s one half, just because the composition was promising.

The non-poem says:

Morning’s mists disappear into the early sun and day is launched in lonely splendor ….. to ripen, then, into a brazen noon — holding its bated breath under a heated sky … and chills into the long limpid shades of evening — to remain as a memory of our loveliest village.

I never know what these passages are meant to mean, or how they come to pass, and time has forgotten the unimportant conversations that came before them. Who supported the prose, and who groaned about it? Doesn’t matter. It’s surely meant to set a tone, that earnest tone we all had at 21.

Part of that passage, the brazen noon part, is over this photo. It’s another nice two-page spread of Ross Hall. It housed chemistry and became home to mechanical, chemical and aerospace engineering in the 1970s. I was always ambivalent about the building, but it’s a lovely composition. There are nine cars in the shot. And though the modern view has lovely landscaping, there are a lot more cars in view if you stand in that exact same spot today.

I wish we knew who these people were. Or where this was. We’ll have some open questions going forward. The 1944 Glomerata, at least in the early pages, is a bit spare in terms of cutlines. I also wonder if that hat was his. I wonder which of the two was more interested in this chat. And what was their relationship? And what did it become? and could either of them imagine we’d be contemplating this one moment, 80 years later?

That page was titled “diversion,” for some reason. The next page was “aversion.” I guess we disliked shop assignments and studying and what not.

All of that comes before the foreword, which reads:

We give you this Glomerata of 1944 as a record of some of your days at Auburn, with the hope that in future years you may open it to recapture in memory the spirit of the fun and the work you knew, and the friends you made and kept here in the “loveliest village.” In a warring world some things wave and fall, succumbing to the tide of change, but those days at Auburn will remain in your mind as a brilliant ray when the dull fog of strife is long forgotten. May this book serve to help keep that memory bright. This, then, is your Glomerata for nineteen hundred and fourty-four.

There was always the war. This is Lawrence Cottle and Gibbs Ashley, the presidents of the executive cabinet. This was an undergrad organization that programmed campus activities. They also assisted in the community drives for war bonds, the Red Cross and more.

Cottle was a senior, from Montgomery, studying veterinary medicine. He married a woman who, I think, was a sophomore in 1944. He would live to 86, having run a small animal clinic in Mobile. His wife, a teacher and a tapestry artist, died just a few months before he did, in 2010. They had three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Ashley was also a senior, from a small town in Florida that had less than 2,000 people in it when he went to school. He was also studying veterinary medicine. His wife died in 1975,they had two children and four grandchildren. His wife passed away in 1975. He remarried at some point, then retired from his own clinic. He volunteered with the Humane Society and kept playing golf. He passed away in 1991, just 67.

Do you ever see photos of people you don’t know and see people you do know in them? This is Audrey Wilson, president of the women’s student government association in 1944. She was a senior. She also wrote for the campus paper. She was studying home economics, and from Evergreen, a small town in south Alabama that had about 3,000 people living in it back then, and not many more in it today. But I see someone entirely more familiar. It’s startling.

Sometimes we just wind up with mysteries. I haven’t yet found anything else about her.

This is Fred Duggar, the editor of the Glomerata. The page he’s working on here is the first one we saw today. John Frederick Duggar, III, was a senior, an architecture major from the impossibly small Hope Hull, Alabama. Fred’s parents are both buried at Pine Hill, in Auburn, at my favorite cemetery. His grandfather, the namesake, is also buried there. That man was a professor of agriculture and director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. All told, the original John spent almost 50 years on campus.

Our guy, Fred, lived in Atlanta. He published an architectural book in the 1980s that is still a prominent seller in the genre, according to Amazon. He died in 2008 and is also buried at Pine Hill.

The Glomerata lists 16 people as staff, but says the book was produced in a continual “state of flux due to the war. The guy sitting in the left foreground is Frank Benning, a freshman from Atlanta, who was studying architecture. I assume their common studies will show their influence in some of the layout choices going forward. I believe he designed a movie theater outside of Atlanta. Not sure what else he did.

That guy, standing in the background? We’ll meet him next week.

That’s enough for now. 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.


28
Jun 24

The quiet parts are always the best parts

As a friend of ours says, I have been underneath the weather. Sinuses. Allergies. Head cold. Some combination therein. All three. Who knows. I think I might have been running a slight fever at times yesterday. I didn’t feel quite as bad today.

I had an early lunch, mid-day cuddles with kitties, read a bit. it was relaxing.

This afternoon the tree people came by to chip up the brush from last weekend’s storms. They were fast, efficient. It’s a time-is-money business, one supposes. And it was just the first step in a process that will later break my heart. I’m dreading all of it.

Later I visited a store, a mom-and-pop shop. I’ve been in four times in the last year. The first three times I met the wife, who is very kind and struggles with the technology. Today I walked in and … no one was there. I walked to the back office. No one. I walked back up to the checkout counter to make sure no one was in a heap. No one.

The door was unlocked. No signs of struggle, other than the open sign sitting on the floor. I stood there for a minute or two, long enough to pull out my phone to see the time, and wonder how long I should stand there before beginning to call people.

I saw a camera just above the cash register, and if it is real, there are probably others, so there’s that.

And then the restroom door sloooowly cracked open and a man walked out.

“It’s always a risk, picking a time to go to the bathroom.”

He needs a BRB sign, and a door lock. I have, after all, been told by Republicans that the country has gone to hell. Over and over.

Anyway, he seemed like a nice fellow. We conducted our brief business and I left for my next stop. I hit up a Walmart. I don’t go to Walmart that often, or any great big store, really — nice, medium-sized grocery store is my biggest shopping experience these days. So this isn’t snobby. Probably it is my routine. Simon Pegg should set his zombie sequel at Walmart. Any Walmart. Maybe the most charming and disconcerting thing about the store is that customers are exactly the same, everywhere in the country. They are out and about, living the lives Springsteen sings about.

“Born to stand in the crosswalk, as a family, staring up into the sky as if looking for an eclipse for 45 seconds” is a great song. Everyone thinks of the classic, “Dancing at the end caps.” And, of course, “Sad eyes can’t see that I’m in the way of everyone” is an underrated deep cut.

And then I visited the medium-sized grocery store. Aisle one for granola … they’ve apparently stopped carrying one variety I prefer. Aisle two for raisins. The produce section for strawberries. In, out and on to the car wash. Ahhh, the finer points of life.

When I got home I set out for a bike ride. It’s been two weeks — our recent trip, the weather, the aftermath, being underneath the weather — and I have lately realized that if I don’t go, I can’t ride.

And maybe, I rationalized, this will help my nose and cough.

I set out around 6 p.m., by which time everyone has gotten to where they need to be and all of these country roads are free of traffic and it is quiet. There’s just the breeze, a perpetual headwind, the humming of the wheels, and the creaking parts of my rusty old bike. I love that feeling, those minimal sounds. Well, maybe not the creaking my bike makes.

Even the cows were quietly appreciating the silence.

This was the big traffic jam, and not the biggest tractor I saw.

Not too long after that, I had a flat. Rear tire, and there was no inflating the dead tube to limp home. So there I stood, swapping out Contis, pumping, and failing at pumping, until I was finally able to get a little air in the new tube. I need to add a mini-pump to the things I need to buy. Mine is almost 12 years old, I guess, and it’s served it’s purpose. Hand pumps fit in the pocket. They are small; they are light. Most won’t fully inflate a new tube. What you get is enough air to ride carefully home. And a good bicep workout. This one has become a frustration. It seems now I have to hold it just so to get any air into the tube at all. Just another thing on the list of old and worn out things I need to replace. It’s a list that’s now far too long.

The scene of the re-inflation … sort of.

So now I’m shopping for a pump. If anyone has any recommendations, or wants to buy one for me, the key features are they must fit in a jersey pocket, and it shouldn’t make me want to quit riding bikes when I have to use the thing.

Anyway, have a great weekend! Riding and swimming and cleaning around here. Back to normal next week.


21
Jun 24

Diving Cozumel, part two

The weather was no better today. Ports were closed again, both on the mainland and over on Cozumel. Already we had decided against trying to go over there for more dives, even if it was an option. It was a bit of a hassle, and the visibility wasn’t that great. And this was about as good as it got from our balcony view.

So we’re going to be getting some money back from this trip. But we’re mask half-full people. While this was supposed to be a 24-dive trip, it became a vacation with four-dives tied into it.

And here are the photos from our second dive yesterday, the the second in the sea and fourth overall. My lovely bride wanted to a see a turtle that was at least this big.

(And she did. I have video. You’ll see it next week.)

I found a lobster out in the open in the daytime, a rare sight.

And, of course, the ever-present brown bowl sponge.

And another one.

And one more.

I let the current — more accurately, I wisely agreed to not fight the inevitable — float me over one outcrop, between two others and looked to my left to see these grunts hiding out from the water’s energy.

A few more reef fish.

I don’t believe I’ve ever noticed a conch quite like this.

And now I get photobombed at 50-plus feet.

I think she was trying to say, “You have enough photos of these things.”

Some sort of triggerfish. This one always stumps me.

But we all know what kind of ray this guy is. Rays are intriguing and weird and beautiful, all at once.

How many different kinds of fish can you name from this photo? I have four.

At our safety stop we took an anniversary photo. Fifteen years! Almost to the hour.

A few moments later, my dive buddy is at the surface.

And one of the saddest photos you can take on a dive. Here’s the bottom of the boat, and the end of our dive.

Tomorrow, we’ll head back home, and start planning our next trip — probably not to Mexico — which is already a long wait away.


14
Jun 24

Our 30-hour tour of southwest Connecticut

Having come up for a quick visit yesterday, we slipped away under cover of rain and darkness tonight. And then went back, for I realized I had forgotten my wallet and keys. It was one of those things where I looked directly at them, said aloud “Don’t forget your wallet,” and then … forgot them.

I do a ritual pat down to make sure I have all of my things whenever I head out from A to B. This evening I waited until I was in the car, and we were leaving the neighborhood, before I realized I wasn’t sitting on my wallet. Well, then, quickly back up the drive, collect the essentials, give one more hug, and then slip off into the darkness and rain.

We outran the rain, and made good time all the way home. The GPS is set to military time, and the initial projection was an arrival at 00:00.

Today we had lunch at a waterside seafood hut. You know the sort of place. You, or one of the people in your group, worked at a joint like this in school. That person also lost nine pounds a week over the course of the summer owing to the fryer in the back, and no cool breeze anywhere. This place specializes in fried seafood. It’s OK. I get a shrimp sandwich and some fries. Hard to go wrong. But you go there for the quite views.

A half-block up the hill is a beloved ice cream stop. And woe to those who must read everything on the menu and the signage.

Some people just know what they want, and they can order it straight away. No need to complicate things.

Sometimes being a kid again is as easy as going to your ice cream shop and getting the usual.

We had dinner with the in-laws, and then I washed the dishes and then we prepared to leave, and then left again. (See above.)

We drove by the George Washington Bridge, a double-decked suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River, considered the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge (carrying more than 104 million vehicles in 2019) and the world’s only suspension bridge with 14 vehicular lanes.

I mention that because I got a fairly decent, from-the-hip, between-the-trees-and-street-lights, nighttime shot of the thing.

I did the dutiful thing of reading all the news of the day aloud while my lovely bride drove. It’s an important job, entertaining the pilot.

Into our neighborhood, into the drive, collect the things delivered to the front porch and garage and mailbox and then, inside, to attend to the handful of things one must do before one calls it a complete Friday night, on Saturday morning.

And, now, wait for sleep.

Have a great weekend!


7
Jun 24

The 1934 Glomerata, part four

We turn our attention, one last time, to a time 90 years behind us. We’ve spent the last three Fridays looking at my alma mater via the 1934 yearbook. (Part one is here. You can find part two here and, from last week, part three is right here.) This is about the people living their young lives during the Great Depression.

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.

These are but a few of the photos and the very abbreviated stories that jump out to me, not a complete look at the book. There’s 300 pages and more than 1,400 photographs here, most of them the traditional headshots, which we generally avoid. It was, at that time, the largest yearbook the students had produced, and it’s an interesting glimpse of a familiar world in a different time.

There’s one last engraving, this one is titled features, and the buildings in the lower part of the art have nothing to do with the campus. But I did figure out who the artist, Davis, was.

And it was a real “Of course!” moment. This was Charles F. Davis, Jr. who was in the class of 1932 and still in town. His wife, Helen, was also an architect, the first licensed female architect in Alabama. (She’s a senior in this yearbook!) They would eventually join an architectural firm in Birmingham that would eventually come to be known as Davis Architects. Helen eventually started her own firm. They had three children, who all also went into architecture, and one of them runs Davis today. Charles was also the principal designer of a campus in Birmingham that I knew well.

This is Julia Pace of Anniston, Alabama. She studied business administration and was elected Miss Auburn in her freshman year and then named Miss Anniston. She married John William Mallory Jr. in 1937.

They had three children. He ran a big appliance store, she worked in a bank. Apparently they played golf together well into their golden years. She died in 2002, at 88.

This is Mary Barr Prince, and we know very little about her. She was descendant of an important Carolina family, and was apparently a socialite in her day.

She doesn’t appear elsewhere in this edition of the Glomerata. In her marriage announcement, we learn she went to Converse College, in Spartanburg. Her husband, a man named Henry, also of South Carolina, graduated from UNC. They married in 1937. They had three children — one of them became a prominent attorney and local judge. She died at 79, in 1993. She is buried in her native South Carolina.

Some times you run across a photo that just doesn’t seem to belong in their time frame. I’m not sure if she was mod, or this was as fancy as she could get, but this is Alice O’Donnell of Mobile.

There’s virtually nothing available to us about her, but I presume that’s because she was a time traveler, and has come to our time and is now making making TikTok videos.

My thinking is that not all of this studio portraiture came from the same studio. And that, I figure, is why Theresa Hamby is in such a soft focus. The campus paper, The Plainsman, tells me she’s from Smyrna, Georgia. But that’s the only thing I know about her. She doesn’t seem to appear elsewhere in this yearbook.

And, to show the extent of my searching, I’m using a newspaper database, general searches, looking through the next two editions of the yearbook, and an archive of The Plainsman. And to show that I’m not just including the successful searches, I give you Elizabeth Cryer.

We don’t know anything about her, not even where she was from. I did find a contemporaneous mention of an Elizabeth Cryer who was destined for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art. No idea if it is the same student.

This is Jessie Lee Raines, she was from tiny Fyffe, Alabama, which wasn’t even a town in the northeast corner of the state when she was a child. There’s less than 1,000 people there today. She was a senior, but she was at Alabama College, the modern day University of Montevallo. She was the vice president of her class, in an honor society and a speech major.

All of this makes me think they only found themselves in this yearbook because they were someone special to someone on campus. But who else she was, and what she would become, is a mystery.

And with those mysterious still being mysterious, we’ll move to something else we know a tiny bit more about.

Homer Wright was a longtime merchant, and he had one of the first phone numbers in town. Why he never ran an ad that said, “If you’re feeling less than fine, call nine,” escapes me.

All of the intricacies of installing the phone system are beyond me, but I assume the number means he had one of the first phones in town, making him quite the innovator. (Indeed, the first gas pump in town was installed in front of his store, in 1909.) He was also the postmaster general in his later years. He and his wife raised three children, two of which survived well into the 20-teens. Wright lived here. He died in 1943, age 57.

The industry that will be “the feature of tomorrow.” Be familiar with it!

I wonder if any of those engineering majors, or people studying architecture or business read this and then stormed into their professors’ stuffy offices. “You’ve never told us about this!” Let’s assume they were all at least passingly familiar with the concept, even if they had no idea of the ubiquity that was coming.

Unassuming advertisement aside, students of 1934 who got in early could probably do well for themselves.

Birmingham, by then, was easily the largest city in the state. (Strictly by a city’s population, that’s no longer the case.) The Birmingham Electric Company was organized in 1921. (Not to be confused with the 1890 Birmingham Railway Electrical Company, which would become Birmingham Electric Company in 1940.) Both had similar purposes, streetcars, with some electrical distribution on the side. The second one, the 1921 concern, was able to use that electricity side hustle to survive the Depression. Maybe that’s one reason they saw great things in conditioned air. Both companies suffered similar fates.

The 1890 version saw their rider numbers decline after World War II. Cars and buses took the demand away, and the streetcars were sold to Toronto in 1952. Around that time they changed their name to the Birmingham Transit Company. Two decades later, the local transit authority took over. Today, they run 109 buses on 38 routes and see about 6,800 customers per day.

Economics got the 1921 company, too. Alabama Power bought them when it got lean. Their vehicles were sold for scrap.

There must be reasons!

And I want to know why, if they are so popular, the photographer stopped by on the slowest day of the year. Today, the university records 1,510 students were enrolled in 1934. That’d mean everyone was in and out of Benson’s, every day, and this strains credulity.

I would have enjoyed watching an orchestra you could just stroll in and listen to for hours at a time, while meeting friends, getting food and candy and so on. It was probably a small band, but that would have been fine, too.

Benson’s was, primarily, a drug store. (There were three, all clumped together on the same block.) These storefronts are long, narrow shops, and so you see pretty much the whole place in that photo, if you squint. They stayed open late on the weekends to serve students coming and going from dances. A few years later, in 1940, milkshakes cost a dime. Regular sandwiches were 15 cents. A ham and cheese was twenty, or you could splurge for a club sandwich for a quarter.

And here’s our last page of ads, and the last entry for the 1934 collection. I’ve searched all of the names on this page and with the exception of the directors names from the bank, I’ve come up empty.

Now, to a man, all of those bank names are important local people. Most of them are affiliated with the university, the rest are pillars of the local community. It was a big deal putting these names in the ad. You knew these folks, and your money always felt safe with the people you saw every day. And if you can’t trust your neighbors with your money in 1934, there’s always a jar you can bury in the backyard.

Even as you were urged to look to air conditioning, you were still buying the black rock and the frozen water for all your domestic needs. Looking back, the 1930s sometimes seem like a time between times. It didn’t feel that way to them, of course. No one thinks like that in their moment. Apparently Homer Wright, the druggist from above, was also involved in Auburn Ice & Coal. The web tells me it was a company that registered with the state in 1925. Ads a few years later list the Ice & Coal phone number as 118. I wish I knew more about the Auburn Ice & Coal Co. Perhaps I’ll find out more about it in other places.

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.