UVA Today: Jeffersonian Roofs Restored Over Lawn Rooms. When I lived at 3 West Lawn, there were pitched slate roofs over all the student rooms on the Lawn at the University of Virginia. Turns out that those roofs post-dated Jefferson. His original idea? Flat roofs. And the design was ingenious: Cover a serrated wooden roof with decking. The rain water would run down through the decking and run out through the valleys of the wood roofs. Kind of like this:
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Unfortunately, Jefferson’s vision outstripped his engineering. The wood sub-roof leaked, damaging the roof over the colonnade walkway. So in the 1830s the flat roofs were covered over with pitched slate roofs.
What I find so fascinating about the story is the fact that Jefferson’s original roofs were preserved under the slate for 180 years. I also like this tidbit:
“All the single-leaf doors were replaced in the 1990s with new half-leaf doors,” Kutney said. “We’ve more recently found evidence that the single-leaf was the original Jefferson condition, so we’re going back to the single-leaf.”
When I was a student, I had a discussion with the late J. Murray Howard about the ongoing renovations of the Lawn, including his dismay that students damaged the paint of the doors on their Lawn rooms by hanging signs on them advertising various student activities. He didn’t appreciate my observation that the students who occupied the Lawn were the living embodiment of Jefferson’s vision just as much as the buildings, and that part of the vitality of that vision was the presence of advertising for the student groups who had gotten them to the Lawn in the first place. Howard was responsible for adding the half-leaf doors. It’s petty of me, but I like the reminder that even experts can be wrong.
Every time I think about how awful this world is, I stop and think, there must be something that’s wonderful out there for me to discover. Today, it’s the Isle of Wight County Museum, which features as its star exhibit the World’s Oldest Smithfield Ham. Cured in 1902 and forgotten, the ham was rediscovered in a packing house 20 years later by P.D. Gwaltney Jr.
Gwaltney fashioned a brass collar for the ham and took it to shows and expos to exhibit the preservative powers of his smoking method. The ham was featured in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” in 1929, 1932 and 2003.
The county museum web site, of course, features a Ham Cam. And there’s a contest to take the picture of Gwaltney and his ham to unusual places this summer: the Pan Ham.
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (2 packets of Sugar-in-the-Raw)
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Place mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, sugar and pepper in a blender or food processor. Start at a low speed and graduate up to a higher speed. You may need to turn off the blender once or twice and press out air the bubbles with a spatula to get it all blended well. Transfer the mix to a bowl. Stir in the 1 teaspoon of mustard seed. Put in a covered container and store in refrigerator overnight, to let flavors marry. After 24 hours, the spread is ready to use. Use as spread or dip for sandwiches. Enjoy!
The taste is quite good, especially on turkey sandwiches at Thanksgiving, but it’s not quite right. I didn’t realize the disconnect until I was able to visit Take It Away again a few times for reunions and grab another taste.
One of the most beloved traditions of the Virginia Glee Club is its mascot, the pink lawn flamingo affectionately named Wafna. She has been a tradition for “living memory,” meaning since before I was a member from 1990 to 1994. But how did such a rare and unusual bird become the mascot of a 145-year-old men’s chorus? The answer, surprisingly, is a little shrouded in mystery.
…et qui mane me quaesierit in taberna
post vesperam nudus egredietur,
et sic denudatus veste clamabit:
Wafna, wafna! quid fecisti, Sors turpissima?
nostrae vitae gaudia
But how did the name get to be attached to a pink lawn flamingo? And when? The “why” is probably the association of the members of the Glee Club with naked drinking in taverns.
As to when: on March 1, 1987, the Glee Club performed Orff’s Carmina Burana together with the University Singers, the Virginia Women’s Chorus, and the Charlottesville University and Community Symphony Orchestra. By the fall of 1987, there was a pink flamingo named Wafna who hung out at 5 West Lawn. Who acquired the flamingo and who did the naming are lost to history, but it seems pretty certain to have happened between those dates.
What is not lost is Wafna’s continued role in Glee Club lore. Her most dramatic moment was the colonization of the Lawn with more than a dozen Wafna-alikes a few years ago, but she also lives on in tour tshirts (like the one at the top), cocktail glasses, bottle openers, and of course as a pink lawn flamingo, who appeared at events at the 145th anniversary reunion weekend to lift our spirits.
In a follow up to the post about the 1953 Virginia Spectator and its booklet of ersatz carols, here’s one titled “Advice to All Those Who Think That Being a Civil Engineer is the Greatest Form of Life, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Wahoo.” Just goes to show that the fine art of taunting the toolies—er, I mean, engineering students—is not new.
A few lyric references:
Slide rule: Precursor of the computer and electric calculator. Ask your dad.
The men of Rugby Road: Then as now, the center of fraternity parties. Presumably “first base” referred to socializing with women at fraternity parties, rather than “getting to first base” WITH a fraternity member; but you never know.
Thornton Hall: UVA engineering building.
“Punch”: UVA humor magazine of the 1940s and 1950s, sometimes appearing in the pages of the Spectator.
Rudolph the red-nosed wahoo,
Was a scroungy first-year man.
Oh how his slide rule hung out,
And oh how his nostrils ran.
He never got to first base
With the men of Rugby Road.
He settled for the worst place:
And at Thornton Hall he glowed.
Then one dreary Christmas eve
F. Scott’s ghost appeared:
“Rudolph with your nose so drippy
Try to act a bit more Chippy.”
Now he’s an English major,
He’s no longer out to lunch,
Sipping his dry martini,
And reading his last week’s “Punch.”
In the 1940s and 1950s, the former Virginia University Magazine / University of Virginia Magazine, the literary magazine at the University founded by the Washington and Jefferson Literary Societies, had become a men’s magazine in the mold of Esquire. Jokes, dating advice, and parodies ruled. But I’m not sure they ever exceeded the conceptual brilliance of the December 1953 issue (volume 115, number 4), also known as “The Misplaced Mistletoe Issue.” Featuring woodcuts (which we’ll look at another time), a Christmas story, and a suggestive cocktail themed cover, the whole package provides a humorous, if sexist, dose of holiday mirth.
The best bit of all is the eight page carol book, “A Treasury of Yuletide Song,” stapled into the center. Featuring such titles as “Lament of a Reindeer at Christmas Time,” “Advice to All Those Who Think That Being a Civil Engineer is the Greatest Form of Life, or Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Wahoo,” and “Sexual Misbehavior of a Female Reindeer, or I Saw Donner Kissing Santa Claus,” the apex (or nadir, depending) is “Wreck the Halls, Carouse, and Volley,” which ends with the admonition “Neck with molls and fraus of folly … Don’t forget to use protection / Oui-oui-oui, oui-oui-oui, oui-oui-oui! / Or you’ll get a bad infection, / V.D.D.D.D.D.D.D.D.” Besides making “Rugby Road” look tame, the songbook confirms that the early 1950s at Virginia were a different time.
Below is a relatively presentable excerpt from the songbook, showing that bourbon was not always the exclusive tipple of the Cavalier. Enjoy.
This Memorial Day, I found myself thinking about those who came before, and the ways in which they gave their lives to protect our country. As I went through my archives, one name that came out from the pages of a 1918 issue of the Alumni News was Eugene Russell Wheatley.
“Bus” Wheatley had the misfortune to be the first UVA engineering student to die in the First World War. Like his more well known predecessor James Rogers McConnell, he was an aviator. Unlike McConnell, who flew for the Lafayette Escadrille, Wheatley was a cadet in the Royal Flying Corps, the predecessor to the RAF. Both died for the war effort before the United States officially entered, in April 1917. In fact, Wheatley perished nine days short of a year after McConnell, on March 10, 1918, in the most ironic of accidents: while flying a training mission, his plane caught fire. T.J. Michie Jr. relays what happened next: “Rus managed to sideslip the machine down safely, but landed on a railroad track and was run over by a train, which I think is the worst luck I have heard of in the war.”
But where McConnell is famously memorialized in the Gutzon Borglum statue The Aviator, little save the plaque above brings Wheatley to our remembrance. Perhaps it is a difference in their respective statures at the University; where McConnell was King of the Hot Feet (and, apparently, a Seven), Wheatley was an engineering student, a member of Theta Delta Chi, who otherwise apparently kept to himself. That we remember McConnell is inevitable; we should spare a thought for Wheatley and others like him, who though less sweeping in their heroic gestures still made the ultimate sacrifice.
I’m a little frustrated. I know that Coy Barefoot had been working on an online museum, which went password only not long after I found and pointed it out back in 2015. Now the scanned versions of all 120 volumes, which were previously accessible via the UVA library catalog, are offline.
If someone is going to index them and re-add them, I’d be obliged, but I’d love to hear a timeline for when that will happen.
UVA Today: Renovated Rotunda returns as element of UVA graduation. As promised, the University’s yearslong renovation of the Rotunda is wrapping up in time for students to begin using the new spaces in the fall. I’m excited by the progress and eager to see an old friend renewed, but I’m also a little wistful.
The picture above is from the tour of the Rotunda that I took Reunions weekend 2014. The tour allowed alums an unusual amount of access to the building, even including normally off limits rooms like the north clock room. That was because the interior had already been emptied in preparation for the second phase of the Rotunda’s renovation, which included major overhauls of many interior spaces… including the dome room.
I’m not especially nostalgic for the acoustic tile shown on the Rotunda ceiling in the photograph above, but it makes me somewhat melancholic that it’s gone—along with some other familiar features of the interior, like the double-curved ground floor staircase (introduced in a post-Jefferson renovation, and a copy of the ones Jefferson did design on the second floor). The Rotunda will still be there—but it will be changed in a thousand small ways.
But… that’s the passage of time, and the story of the University of Virginia as a whole. We want to hold onto the familiar, not recognizing that doing so may hold back progress. I’m really looking forward to students using the space again, and only a little melancholic about the loss of aspects of the space that will now only exist in my memory.
Following up on Don Loach’s comment on my post about Edwin S. Williams, the Virginia Glee Club‘s first black member, I dug into some of the back story. It turns out the Glee Club wasn’t the only organization helped through the pains of integration by UVA president Edgar F. Shannon’s assistant Paul Saunier.
An article in UVA Today about Saunier from 2014 gives the highlights of his career. Arriving at the University to advise Shannon about public relations, his first advice was that race was, in the early 1960s as the Civil Rights movement unfolded, the biggest single public relations issue that the University faced—and it couldn’t be fixed by PR alone.
One of the first targets was life on the Corner, almost entirely segregated in 1962—until Saunier visited merchants one by one and pointed out that, given the international enrollment at UVA, they might unwittingly be refusing service to a prince, resulting in a PR nightmare. The Corner, with the shameful exception of the White Spot, was duly integrated two years before required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. One imagines that the conversation with the Route 29 truck stops went similarly, only backed up by the force of the newly passed act.
There’s plenty more in the article about the real, pragmatic work done by Saunier to ensure that black students not only matriculated but graduated. It’s well worth a read, and a realization that the transition from the UVA of minstrels and blackface didn’t become the diverse place it is today without considerable work. We owe a debt of thanks to Saunier for helping the University enter the modern era.
On Saturday afternoon, we were wrapping up a tour of Virginia Glee Club archives in the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. I had just taken about 50 alums, friends, conductors and family through the items, which I knew quite well having reviewed all of them—and donated some of them myself. We had also just ceremonially donated former Glee Club director Donald Loach‘s collection of concert programs to the library, and I was feeling pretty good about myself as a historian.
Then an alum asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. “Do you know who the first African-American member of Club was?”
After a pause, I replied, “No, but we should.”
The Virginia Glee Club is part of the larger story of the University of Virginia, and that story includes discrimination against African-Americans. It wasn’t until 1950 that Gregory Swanson, a graduate of Howard Law School, applied to take graduate courses at the University of Virginia, was denied admission, sued and won, becoming the first black student at the University—only to drop out in the summer of 1951. The University’s president, Colgate Darden, said he “was not well prepared for the work.” In the early 1950s two other African Americans followed in Swanson’s footsteps, and Walter N. Ridley became the first black student not only to gain a degree at the University but also the first black student to receive a doctorate from any Southern university.
It took the undergraduate schools a few more years, but in September 1955, following on the heels of the 1954 Brown vs. Board decision, three black students matriculated in the engineering school. Theodore Thomas and George Harris dropped out by the following spring, but Robert Bland continued on and was the first African-American undergraduate to graduate from the University in 1959, nine full years after the struggle for integration started. Also at the end of the fifties, Edgar F. Shannon took over as University president, and that’s when things started to get rolling.
I knew that the first black Glee Club member had to have joined sometime after 1959. I knew the story of David L. Temple, Jr., class of 1969, who was a member of Club from 1967 to 1969 and desegregated the fraternity system at the University, but I believed the first African-American member of Glee Club came earlier.
My second thought was that he would have joined during Don Loach’s first season as conductor, 1964-65. There’s a story in our archives that the Glee Club went on tour that fall, only to have their bus refused service in a truck stop on Route 29. After the tour, Loach raised the issue with President Shannon, and subsequently the truck stops got integrated. It’s a great story, and I assumed that this young man (whose name I’m still working on identifying; I have a bunch more candidates to work through with yearbook pictures) was the first student. (Update: I was closer than I thought. See below.) But as I was flipping through the 1965 yearbook, I found a picture of one of the graduating students of the Class of 1965 and knew we had found our candidate.
In 1961-1962, the group picture of the Glee Club for the first time has a black face. (That’s the picture up above.) The young man standing on the second row to the left side of the stage of Old Cabell Hall is Edwin S. Williams, of Smithfield. He stayed in the Glee Club for two seasons—as did most members, since it could only be taken as a graded course for two years—and completed his BA in chemistry, graduating with the class of 1965. And I believe, based on the evidence I have so far, that he was the first African-American member of the Virginia Glee Club.
There’s certainly more of his story to be told, and I will continue to look for more information. But one of my first questions is: if the truck stops on Rt 29 were first integrated in 1964-65, what did Williams do when the Glee Club got on a bus in 1961-62? I think we have a lot more to learn, but I’m glad we’ve taken the first step.
Update April 28: Donald Loach filled in the missing pieces by confirming that Edwin S. Williams was still in Glee Club in 1964-1965—was the baritone section leader, in fact—and was the Club man not served at the truck stop. So the stories are connected! And we need to fix our roster information.
I’m still coming down off the high of last weekend. What an amazing 145th anniversary celebration for the Virginia Glee Club. And yet it was comfortable and relaxed in a way that I didn’t think it could possibly have been. We had friends and family there, and alums from the early 1950s all the way up through last year in attendance.
Things that were surprisingly great: having older fossils (and Glee Club honorary grandmother Bonnie Ford!) in the Glee Club House on Friday night, and not having the house fall down under her; in fact, the house didn’t even smell bad. Showing up as alums for the party with a keg and a dozen College Inn pizzas. Watching the eyes of the older alums light up as they experienced the magic of “songs on the bar.”
Getting up early on Saturday morning and watching the Lawn wake up, then watching all the alums spontaneously appear. Don Loach showing real fire as he led us briskly through “Hark, all ye lovely saints” and two numbers from “Summer Songs.” Singing the first movement of Testament of Freedom with alums from seven decades. Watching John Liepold absorb what Club tradition had done to “Winter Song,” which he introduced into active repertoire almost 25 years ago, then conveying everything he wanted done with rubato and dynamic without saying a single word. Singing the James Erb “Shenandoah” facing the back of the hall and hearing John’s occasional finger snaps clarifying the beat as we listened closely to each other. Singing the Shaw/Parker “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor” at maximum velocity and finding it lay ready for me, more than 20 years after we toured it. Hearing the conductors trade stories about having sung with Shaw. And doing the Biebl with over a hundred current Glee Club members and alums.
Marching a crowd of alums over to the Small Special Collections Library and watching them absorb a small portion of the treasures from the Glee Club’s archives there. Seeing Tyler along with a crowd of 1990s alums at the Biltmore. Choking up during Don Webb’s toast at the banquet. Watching the current Virginia Gentlemen sing “Perfidia” with three alums from the 1950s, including two of the original eight members. Jumping up with them and the current Club to perform “Shenandoah” as an entire Glee Club army.
I’ll post more but wanted to get a few thoughts out today. And the great thing is that we get to do it again in five years!
There have been two interesting appointments (or proposed appointments) in the world of librarians recently, one at the Library of Congress and one at the University of Virginia. Interestingly, both appointments revolve around the transformation of libraries from physical to digital.
First, UVA’s selection of John Unsworth as the next University Librarian and Dean of Libraries (UVA Today, Cavalier Daily). Unsworth’s selection makes sense on a number of levels. Back when I was an undergraduate, he was a founder of digital library sciences and the use of digital technologies in research at UVa with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. More recently, as the dean of libraries at Brandeis he oversaw a large library system. Interestingly, from the CD article, it seems he’s stepping into a student-led debate over the role of libraries and the transition from physical to digital, with students protesting the sending of books from the stacks to long-term storage. I can’t think of too many other people I’d like to have thinking through the considerations in that debate.
Second, President Obama’s nominee for Librarian of Congress, Carla D. Hayden, got her Senate hearing yesterday (New York Times, Washington Post). As expected, the nominee’s bona fides as both a librarian and her capabilities in extending libraries into the digital future went unchallenged by the committee, though the relationship of the Copyright Office to the LOC was raised as a possible issue. Her smooth hearing was a nice update to her previous history in 2004 with the federal government, when in her role as head of the ALA she went toe to toe with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft over the library records provision in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. In fact, aside from the usual partisan carping in right wing blog circles, there seems to be remarkably little argument with the position that Dr. Hayden is precisely the right candidate for the job.
Why do issues of digital literacy and concerns about transitioning to digital humanities figure so largely in both these selections? I’d argue that they are the right questions for all libraries and other professions which rely on data, which these days includes just about … everyone.
The Virginia Glee Club has a long history with the celebration of Founder’s Day, the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia. While the Glee Club does not dress up in purple robes for dawn rituals (at least, not that we’re aware of), the group has been associated with the holiday for decades, and some of the Club’s most significant moments date to Founder’s Day celebrations. A few examples are below.
1943: The Testament of Freedom
The 1943 Founder’s Day concert was one of the Glee Club’s earliest Founder’s Day triumphs. The Club’s 1930s impresario, Harry Rogers Pratt, had resigned as director in 1942 to contribute to the war effort, and Randall Thompson, the head of the music department, had stepped in. He also brought along one of his young professors, Stephen Tuttle, who would become the permanent director of the Glee Club in 1943. Thompson was approached by the president of the University, John Lloyd Newcomb, to write a work for the celebration of Jefferson’s birthday. He responded with The Testament of Freedom, which set passages of Jefferson’s writing to music for men’s chorus and orchestra, and dedicated it to the Virginia Glee Club.
The first performance was recorded by CBS for nationwide broadcast, since the work’s text provided an uplifting message of patriotism and resolve, and it was subsequently transmitted over shortwave to Allied servicemen stationed in Europe.
By 1981, the Glee Club had undertaken three international tours in less than a decade and was starting to see the necessity of establishing a fund to support members who could not afford to pay their own way. In the late 1970s the Glee Club endowment had been established to support touring activities, and it received a boost in 1981 when the Seven Society, following their award of the James E. Sargeant Award to the Glee Club (given for organizations who made outstanding contributions to the University), made a donation to the fund of $777.77.
1993: Thomas Jefferson’s 250th Birthday
Probably the most spectacular Founder’s Day (other than 1943) was the 1993 celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s 250th Birthday. On that day the Glee Club rolled out of bed early, put on our orange and blue ties, khakis and blue blazers, and took a bus up the mountain to Monticello to join a live broadcast of the Today Show. There we stood on risers in the pre-dawn moonlight with Jefferson’s home in the background and sang several numbers from Neely Bruce’s “Young T.J.,” commissioned for the day.
There was a certain amount of standing around and waiting, and at one point several of us had to make a trip to the restroom, where we found ourselves standing next to Willard Scott making awkward small talk. A few guys had an encounter with another Today Show personality when they met UVA alumna Katie Couric after the taping and gave her a VMHLB hat.
After Monticello, everyone piled into the bus (and an overflow car) and drove like crazy. We only had two hours to get to DC and the Jefferson Memorial, where we were to sing for the President. Traffic mostly cooperated and we arrived later than planned but in time to sing in the ceremony. I’ve written about that part of the day before.
We closed the day with a bus ride to Richmond, where we sang for a group of UVA donors at the Jefferson Hotel, somehow changing into our tuxedoes somewhere along the way.
This is one of two issues of the University of Virginia’s magazine (variously titled the Spectator, the Virginia University Magazine, etc.) for which I would pay a high high price. The other, of course, would be a copy of the January 1871 edition that gives us the founding date for the Virginia Glee Club.