Friday, October 5, 2012

Archive Adventures: Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah!

It's that time of year again at PSU! As the trees shed their verdant color for more flamboyant hues, a chill takes the air, and coffee shops offer everything in pumpkin flavor, we start to look fondly back on yesteryear. That's's Homecoming. This weekend, in a flurry of blue and white, alumni, students, and fans alike will flock to the University Park campus to raise the song. It's a time filled with celebration, reminiscing, and hope. So what better way to get in the State spirit than to take a trip down memory lane with the nearest and dearest friend of the early PSU student!

The student handbook. In the early days it really was a "hand book" in that it fit easily in a pocket or hand, and would have been the underclassman's touchstone. These books introduced the students to college life, from the expectations in behavior, dress, and social etiquette to information about the surrounding area, "village" (aka State College) publications, and local or university activities. They also advertised...a lot.

Our handbooks, the oldest we have being 1894-95, provide enthralling glimpses of what was important during certain eras. In a few of the earliest, the largest sections are dedicated to information about religious organizations around or on campus, and encouraged the student...well, required find a place of worship and participate. Religion, to the late 19th/early 20th century student, was an important facet of his or her education, and a place to make important connections, both spiritually and socially. One handbook even suggests that you should put your books under your bed on Sundays, because you need a day of rest in order to tackle the rest of the college week. As time goes on, pictures, more rules, athletic/Greek directories, letters from the Deans and President, and cheers/songs were added into the books and the religious aspect was dropped completely.

It was also a class custom that underclassmen had to have these books on them at all times and could be asked--a la "your papers, please"--to produce them at any moment by upperclassmen. Freshman today, you think you have it bad trying to find your classes, move-in, and get all your books in the first week? Try being a freshman in 1926-27. Here are some of the more outrageous (by today's standards) year-round customs that were required:

1. The privilege of going bareheaded is limited to seniors.
16. Freshmen shall at all times keep off the grass and on the cinder paths.
25. Freshmen shall not be associate with ladies within a three-mile limit of Old Main except at regular house party periods, or when attending authorized dances, or when escorting to and from such dances...

Dinks, the caps worn by Freshmen men during the early 20th century

On that note, women had their own separate rules to abide by when at college. As late as 1939-40, strict curfews abounded and the times they started depended on the occasion and your class standing (freshman vs. senior). Ladies of PSU not only had codes that applied only to freshmen, they had codes that were strictly enforced applying to their entire gender!

6. Freshman (first semester) may have association with men off campus or in dormitories up until 5:45 p.m. on weekdays, after which time there will be absolutely no association with men.

Dormitory rules: ...Any girl leaving town for the night or week-end must secure permission from the hostess and sign out with the checker-in of her dormitory...

General rules: All girls are subject to the W.S.G.A. regulations while in State College. Girls may not remain away from the dormitory overnight or stay in fraternity houses during Spring or Fall Houseparty. Girls may be in fraternities only when two or more couples are present.

If freshmen missed all the rules in their handbook they could also be reminded of their place via Proclamations. These were made by the upperclassmen and reminded the incoming class of their tenuous position in the university pecking order. So, if you were caught without your handbook, you could always look to the walls of campus to find these posters.

Uh, I guess they really mean business!

If the skull and crossbones didn't get it across, this other poster illustrates the consequences of freshmen transgressions.

The pictures on this one are a laugh riot. Crying babies capped in dinks!

You really couldn't miss their point. You were going to make a mistake at some point, and when you did...there would be an upperclassman to see it, and they were going to punish you. I mean, seriously. Look at all those rules! College really was a way of life to the student back then.

The rules, rendered into delightful prose!

All in all, today's PSU is a different place. Our handbooks are no longer hand-sized (they are 8.5"x 11"), and they don't cover curfews or rules about campus etiquette. So freshman of the 21st century, fear not. You won't be paddled for walking on the green or forgetting to wear your dink. However, I'm sure (though I don't speak for all of us) librarians and archivists alike would agree with this section of the old handbook:

Okay, so there's no more card catalog; it's now the CAT. You get what I mean.

Enjoy Homecoming Weekend and Fight on, State!

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