Select Page

Antiochiana – Songs from the Stacks

Gloom, Study, Grades Forgotten As Social Events Fill Holiday

Happy New Year, Antiochians! No aspect of American life escaped the impact of the Great Depression, especially the Christmas holiday. Life at Antioch College in the 1930s was certainly no exception: cooperative education jobs dried up as unemployment rose to a paralyzing 25 percent and employers had to decide whether the few jobs they had left went to students or the heads of increasingly needy households. More and more students withdrew as their increasingly scarce funds went to their own survival rather than tuition, not to mention the needs of their families. Many of the students that managed to stay did so through “hard times” housing, off campus residences where they were responsible for their own board and housekeeping to defray costs. The faculty went on a sliding pay scale based on the size of their households that resulted in the president, Arthur Morgan, taking home less salary than Professor of Economics William Leiserson, who had six children. 

Not that the season wasn’t still silly, it just suffered from economic conditions so severe (the US monetary supply had shrunk by over 30% between 1929 and 1933) that holiday spirit didn’t include much gift buying. Great Depression Christmas recollections are replete with what people didn’t have. Presents of the time were often things like fruit (oranges were a favorite), homemade clothing and toys, and hand me downs. The era is nonetheless frequently remembered as a happy one for the one thing that Christmas has always been about: fellowship. The following reprint from the campus weekly bears much of that out. 

The torrent of names dropped in the article beg to be identified. Caroline Norment was Dean of Women and had a dormitory named for her that was torched in a Miami Township Fire Dept. exercise in 2006. “Lady Alice” Bingle, the College Nurse, was called “Lady” for being British. Spruce Cottage, now a private residence, still stands at the corner of Livermore and Whiteman Streets. Bishop Paul Jones was the first College Pastor and a very interesting figure. Adele Bassett was secretary to the Admissions Committee of the Faculty. Ernest Roy Stempel was the Associate Director of the Antioch Industrial Research Institute whose daughter Judith attended 1933-1935, Joseph Bartlett taught French, and Ava Champney taught piano. “Faculty Row” refers to the homes built by the College in the 1920s along Limestone and Davis Streets. Genevieve and Natalie Cowling graduated in the classes of 1937 and 1938, respectively and “Twin Oaks” was off campus housing. Raymond Stites taught Art & Aesthetics. Sewannee was a residence unit in West Hall. Sadly, researching Danny Casasanta, Julia Levant, and Walter Short yielded no results.

From The Antiochian, vol. 14, # 13, January 6, 1933

Gloom, Study, Grades Forgotten As Social Events Fill Holiday

With “gloom,” “study,” and “grades” just words in the dictionary the Antiochians who remained on campus over Christmas and the New Year made merry throughout the holiday season. The festivities began with a dance in the gym Friday, December 16, with music by Danny Casasanta. One lonely stag attended, and was kept busy all evening.

The following Sunday, Miss Norment and Lady Alice entertained with high tea at Spruce Cottage. About fifty people were served, and later, some of the group adjourned to Bishop Jones’ residence for carol-singing.

On Wednesday afternoon Mrs. Bassett sponsored a tea in the girls’ parlors in honor of Miss Judy Strempel, daughter of E.R. Strempel, who has just recently become a member of the research faculty. Miss Strempel and Julia Levant poured.

Thursday night was the occasion of Miss Bingle’s annual party for Mr. Bartlett. An informal supper was served, and afterwards the group, together with a group from Mrs. Champney’s, joined in touring the village and singing carols along “Faculty Row.” Genevieve and Natalie Cowling also held open house at Twin Oaks, and true to the spirit of Christmas, caroling proved to be the diversion of the evening.

The Community Christmas pageant, under the direction of Mr. Stites, took place Friday evening at the Opera House. Many students assisted in the staging and the costuming.

Christmas Eve Saint Nick reigned supreme at the dance held at the gymnasium. The revellers were invited to Spruce for refreshments during the intermission. 

Most of the faculty members held open house on Christmas day, and each student was invited to have Christmas dinner at some faculty home.

In addition Miss Norment served tea at Spruce each Monday and all were welcome. Two informal dances on successive Wednesday nights, one at the gym and the other at Sewannee Hall, made up in gaiety what they lacked in numbers. 

A New Year’s Eve party at the tea room concluded the vacation entertainments. The party was given by the social committee; Walter Short furnished the music. No admission was charged and everyone was invited.

As a Christmas gift to all the students, Santa Claus contrived to change the rules so that eleven o’clock, instead of the usual ten-thirty, was the deadline for freshmen and sophomores, and special permissions were in great abundance for all who desired them.

The bygone Women’s Athletic Association’s annual Christmas party held in the old Antioch Tea Room. Professor of Biology Henry Federighi as Saint Nicholas.