January 16th, 2020
Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC
About this time one hundred years ago, WVU students returned to Morgantown to begin a new semester of classes. The collections at the West Virginia & Regional History Center allow us a glimpse of student and University life back then. The Athenaeum student newspaper describes student experiences, happenings on campus, and the important topics of the day.
Old issues of The Athenaeum newspaper (later called the Daily Athenaeum) are available for viewing in the Center’s microfilm collection. Microfilm is an older but durable format for preservation. Don’t be intimidated, our staff will help you learn how to use the machines to view it.
The January 12 issue of The Athenaeum was the first of the Spring semester in 1920. Classes started a week before, on January 5. The front page featured headlines about a student poll regarding joining the League of Nations, an upcoming military ball, the happenings at a recent student volunteer conference, and details about the latest basketball game. Indeed, then as now, basketball was an important topic at this time of year and was covered heavily in this issue.
On the first page, The Athenaeum lobbied for a new basketball facility in an ad that says, “West Virginia University Must Have A Real Gymnaisum.” At that time, the WVU Basketball team played games in “the Ark.” The Ark opened in 1916 and was the home court for 12 seasons until the Field House (Stansbury Hall) opened in 1929.
In a letter to the editor, Athletic Director Dr. Harry Stansbury encouraged fans to show courtesy and sportsmanship during games. He wrote, “I think I will be supported by any of our players who have made these eastern trips when I say that our reputation for sportsmanship would suffer most sadly should the knowledge of the conduct of our crowds at our basketball games become generally known.” He went on to tell students that, “it should be their duty at every game to restrain other spectators whether they be students or townspeople, who insist on conducting themselves in a manner that reflects on the University.”
An Athenaeum editor also noted that the WVU ballers became tired while on trips for away games and suggested that the team add more players for those games. The editor also covered another topic that sounds familiar: traffic issues upon returning to classes. In 1920, the problem was not that too many cars were on the roads but train cars coming into Morgantown were overfilled because of a farmers week meeting on campus happening at the same time that students were returning. The editor’s suggestion to solve the problem? WVU should hire a transportation agent. (For more on Farmers’ Week, check out our Farmer’s Week blog post.)
The Athenaeum is a fascinating look back at life 100 years ago. Read through the through the entire issue below. And please fill us in if anyone knows more about the secretive “Ketchup Klub.”