Student Life in the 1930s: Rollins Memorabilia from Milford J. Davis ’35

The Freshman’s Don’t Book, by Milford J. Davis

A popular Rollins 360 story a few years ago featured the Freshman’s Don’t Book, a booklet offering new students “a few helpful hints on what not to do at Rollins.” At the time of its publication in 1935, the distinctive style and voice of the author would have been familiar to Sandspur readers, as Milford Davis was a regular contributor to the paper and the author of its “Rollinsania” column on campus life. He also participated in a number of other activities at Rollins:  singing in choral groups, performing in theater productions, managing the tennis team, and taking part in several clubs and other student organizations.

Milford Davis, from the 1935 Tomokan yearbook

The first “Rollinsania” column

Mr. Davis saved many mementos of his college days, including his letterman’s sweater and freshman beanie. He collected his Sandspur columns in a scrapbook and filled others with invitations, clippings, cards, and snapshots. In keeping with his advice to freshmen (“Don’t forget to write home once in a while”), he wrote often to his parents and saved the letters. All of these items help bring his student years back to life, and the Archives is grateful to Mr. Davis’s nephews, Andrew and Michael A. Wartell, for donating this collection to the College.

Some of Mr. Davis’s Rollins memorabilia

What was student life at Rollins like in those days? When Mr. Davis arrived on campus in the fall of 1931, Hamilton Holt was president, and the Conference Plan of education had been underway for five years. During his second semester at Rollins, Knowles Memorial Chapel and the Annie Russell Theatre were dedicated (Miss Russell herself served as its director). Tuition, room, and board cost $815-$870 per year (approximately $13,609- $14,528 in today’s currency), the charges depending on whether a student lived in one of the “new dormitories.”  Football and baseball were popular sports, and the Animated Magazine was an annual highlight of campus life.

Snapshots from Milford Davis’s Rollins scrapbook

A program for a local concert by pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, attended by Mr. Davis and fellow students (“The whole gang went to hear him. I shook hands with him backstage!!”)

Milford Davis (second from left), pictured in the Tomokan yearbook with faculty members and fellow students in Pi Kappa Delta, the honorary debating fraternity

Milford Davis (standing, second from the right), with the Rollins Octette, a choral group, in 1935

An event that came to be known as “The Rice Affair” occurred during these years, resulting in Prof. John Andrew Rice and several other faculty members leaving Rollins in 1933 to found Black Mountain College, an experimental school in North Carolina. Mr. Davis’s correspondence includes an undated letter from former Rollins professor Theodore Dreier, inviting him to attend “a new liberal, coeducational college” that was being “contemplated,” but could become a reality if 50 students could be found to enroll.

Portion of the letter introducing the future Black Mountain College

Milford Davis stayed at Rollins, graduating in 1935. He went on to become a cartoonist whose work appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and other publications. After working for the War Department during World War II, he moved to Albuquerque, where he illustrated several books about New Mexico and worked as a writer and editor for the Atomic Energy Commission’s Sandia Corporation. He kept in touch with the College over the years, sending lively letters to the Alumni Office. Sadly, he was unable to attend his 25th Reunion in 1960 and died suddenly the following summer. Just a few months earlier, he had sent a cartoon of himself setting out for the campus from Albuquerque.

His sister, Betty Davis Wartell ’39, wrote that “Rollins can well be proud of an alumnus such as he, for his achievements were many and his contributions to his community unlimited. He gave unselfishly of his time and his talents for the benefit of others.” She continued, “M. J. often spoke fondly of Rollins, of the four wonderful years spent there and of his many good friends.” How pleased he would be that his Freshman’s Don’t Book and memorabilia from his student days will be enjoyed by visitors to the College Archives.

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

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“Sandspur Tactics”: Lucy Blackman and the Women of Florida

Lucy Worthington Blackman, circa 1902-1915

As we observe Women’s History Month, the Archives is pleased to share this guest blog post by Dr. Leslie Poole, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies. Prof. Poole’s subject, Lucy Blackman, came to Winter Park in 1902, when her husband, William, was appointed president of Rollins. In addition to her work in the clubwomen movement, Mrs. Blackman was also an early member of the Florida Audubon Society, serving as its vice president for many years and publishing a book on its history in 1935.

Thank you, Dr. Poole, for sharing your research with us!

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For the past decade I have been researching the role of environmental women in Florida, which led to my Ph.D. and to my book, Saving Florida: Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century. Early in my research I learned about the terrific work of Lucy Worthington Blackman (1860-1942), who has been a muse of sorts as I have uncovered the largely untold stories of these activist women.

Blackman, it turns out, was heavily involved in early conservation efforts in the state—as well as other Progressive Era fights of the early 1900s that included education and social reform. And, like me, she was frustrated that Florida historians had largely left women out of state narratives.

She set out to right that wrong with her two-volume history The Women of Florida, published in 1940. “It is high time that this were done,” Blackman wrote, noting many local and state histories “deal in the main with men only; their authors seem to have been oblivious to the fact that in all these years there have been women in Florida…” The history, which she touted as the first of its kind in the South, offered accounts of women in Florida since its earliest times and provided biographies of middle- and upper-class white women active in different state organizations. It is notable that Blackman’s volumes did not include any women of color, reflecting the segregationist era of its publication.

The title page of Lucy Blackman’s book, The Women of Florida, published in 1940

Still, her observations about women’s actions to improve Florida have value. Long before women could vote, they were organizing in female-only clubs—notably the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs (FFWC). They raised money, signed petitions, and lobbied state legislators to do their bidding. Blackman wrote that in Tallahassee women faced the “old Adam war-cry, ‘Woman’s place is in the home’” which “reverberated through the pines and over the rivers and lakes and ocean from Pensacola to Key West.” Women were “reviled” for getting involved in the movement, Blackman wrote, adding “Thanks be, there were enough women with spinal cords starched stiff, who raised their undaunted eyebrows and said, ‘Ah! indeed!’ to this masculine mandate – and then went forth and did as they saw fit.”  Blackman recalled the “annoying habit of the women of talking aback at the legislators after they had been told politely to go home and tend the babies – this pesky, unreasonable, feminine pertinacity.” By 1940, the FFWC no longer came to the legislature with a large package of proposals; the list was shorter “because, as a result of their sandspur tactics, the lawmakers finally succumbed and cleared the women’s calendar by passing the legislation so persistently demanded of them.”

Lucy Blackman (standing, center, wearing a light-colored necklace), President of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, with fellow Board members in 1925 (from The Women of Florida)

Clubwomen across Florida and the nation made their voices heard and achieved many of their goals, despite their inability to vote. Through grassroots organizing they found and claimed power. Florida clubwomen in 1916 created, financed, and maintained the first state park—Royal Palm State Park. Three decades later it would become the nucleus of Everglades National Park, an internationally recognized gem. They also demanded better forestry practices, argued for protection of birds, pressed cities for tree ordinances, and fought the “uglification” of Florida that came through billboards, roaming cattle, and garbage in the streets.

As the century progressed, women turned their attention to the ills of air and water pollution and championed saving species on the brink of extinction. By the end of the 1900s, Florida women, reflecting changing roles in society, began to head conservation groups, lead environmental bureaucracies, and join the legislature—no longer an all-boys club.

These conservation-minded women are an inspiration and example in today’s world and I remind my students regularly of the lessons they offer: Never give up. Find power in numbers. Utilize your connections. Change public opinion. Use facts. Make yourself heard.

In today’s world that likely means using social media and platforms that these women never imagined. But I’m sure that, given the opportunity, Lucy Blackman would have employed Twitter, Instagram, online petitions, and any other means to save Florida’s natural beauty. Blackman and her “sisters” were pushing the boundaries then and we should do the same today.

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Prof. Poole’s book, Saving Florida: Women’s Fight for the Environment in the Twentieth Century, is available at the Olin Library and the Winter Park Public Library. Copies may also be purchased at .

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Theodore Mead – The Man Behind the Mead Botanical Legacy Garden in Winter Park

theowithboatercTheodore L. Mead (Photo:  Courtesy of the Willis family)

The Archives is pleased to share this guest blog post by Dr. Paul Butler, the author of Orchids & Butterflies – the Life & Times of Theodore Mead. In this new biography, he gives readers a view of the personal life of Theodore Luqueer Mead, the scientist who inspired Mead Botanical Garden. Dr. Butler was recently awarded the Rhea Marsh and Dorothy Lockhart Smith Winter Park History Research Grant in recognition of this work.

Thank you, Dr. Butler, for sharing your research and insights with us!

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One of the major collections in the Rollins Archives concerns letters, orchid memorabilia and other papers relating to the life of Theodore L. Mead, whose legacy garden is here in Winter Park. Mead was one of the most distinguished entomologists and horticulturists of his day (1852-1936) and his achievements in establishing a world-class butterfly collection and a host of horticultural breakthroughs that fundamentally changed the floriculture of Florida have been well documented – see for example his Wikipedia page. In my new book, Orchids & Butterflies – the Life & Times of Theodore Mead, I’ve offered for the first time insights into Mead the person–how he lived and what made him tick, using as a basis much of the Rollins archival material.

meadbook             Dr. Butler holding a copy of his new biography of Theodore Mead                               (Photo:  Courtesy of Paul Butler)

The incentive in writing the story of Mead came from my interest in horticulture, the discovery of Mead’s letters in the archives, and a chance encounter with a well-known Winter Park resident, Ken Murrah, performing a captivating historical reenactment of Theodore Mead. The historically accurate biography paints a vivid picture of what life was like as a Central Florida pioneer and citrus grower in the late 19th century. The documentation of most of Mead’s life is still in Central Florida but an important later component resides at Coalburg in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia, the ancestral home of his wife, Edith Edwards Mead. This was a treasure trove of photographs and letters that allowed documentation of the last twenty years of his life.

mrstheodorelmead37wpplEdith Edwards Mead at Wait-A-Bit,  the Meads’ home in Oviedo, circa 1902. (Photo:  Courtesy of Winter Park History Center and Archives)

For Mead’s story, a “life and times” narrative seemed particularly appropriate. His lifetime achievements in entomology and horticulture were substantial and significant. As were his generosity of spirit and concern for others less fortunate than himself that endeared him to the communities in which he lived. The times in which he lived—the environmental, technological and cultural changes that took place during his eighty-year life—provided a fascinating backdrop to the narrative. He experienced the birth of photography and became an enthusiastic early adopter; he witnessed the harrowing death of his only child from scarlet fever, the scourge of juvenile mortality with at that time no known cure; and he became embroiled in the heated religious arguments that followed the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In this debate, from his own studies of environmentally-induced changes in butterfly variants, he took the side of Darwin and that brought him head-to-head in conflict with his evangelical mother.

Orchids & Butterflies is the story of the man who kept Florida a “Land of Flowers” – a hybridizer of plants more skillful than Luther Burbank. Edwin Grover, Professor of Books at Rollins College for many years, was of the opinion that there wasn’t a garden or public park anywhere in Florida that didn’t bear his mark in some form or another.

meadholdingallamandawatermarkedTheodore Mead holding an allamanda (Photo:  Rollins College Archives)

Mead’s horticultural legacy garden opened to the public in 1940, proclaiming itself as “Florida’s Finest Garden Spot.” Among the things to see and enjoy in this paradise of tropical plants were 5,000 orchids, rare plants, ferns, club mosses, cycads and palms. The garden had large plantings of azaleas, gardenias, camellias, daylilies, caladiums and roses, clumps of candy-striped ‘Mead-strain’ amaryllis, and a winding half mile trail bordering a creek complete with miniature waterfalls. Highway maps at the time, given out free to tourists, showed the Garden as the only sight worth seeing in the Greater Orlando area, together with Sanlando Springs.

entrancetomeadc               Entrance sign for the future home of Mead Botanical Garden                        (Photo: Courtesy of Paul Butler)

floridamap1940A tourist map showing area attractions, from Scenic Florida (Tallahassee, FL:  Florida State Department of Agriculture, circa 1940)

Today it is a peaceful, natural oasis of calm that has largely returned to nature, but in some of the quiet corners of the Garden, near the main entrance, the curious-minded can stumble across some of the plants that Mead was famous for.

monarchiiibykarenklelsA Monarch butterfly at Mead Botanical Garden (Photo by Karen Klels, via Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

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Dr. Butler’s book is available at Olin Library (call number QH31 .B88 O73 2016) and the Winter Park Public Library. It will also be available for purchase from local retailers.

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The Roots of Global Citizenship: Rollins’ First Latin American Students, 1896-1897

cubanvillageontherollinscampus1902watermarked-jpegRollins students from Cuba, 1902

The Archives is pleased to share this guest blog post from Susan Montgomery, Public Services Librarian at Olin Library. Prof. Montgomery’s recent scholarship includes research on the first international students to attend Rollins, who came from Cuba in the late 1890s.  Thank you, Susan!

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From September 15 to October 15, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month.  During this time, we recognize the contributions Hispanics have made to our history and culture.  More than food or dance, it is about people.  People who have either recently moved to the U.S. from Spanish speaking nations or those raised here in Spanish-speaking households. As the library liaison to Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, I am passionate about learning more about the countries of the region and the relations between the U.S. and these countries.

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with 11 colleagues.  Before leaving, I wanted to explore the connection between Rollins and the island country.  During my research I learned that the first internationals students to study at Rollins were in fact from Cuba.  Members of the Gonzalez family, Eulogio and Jacinto, arrived in the 1896-97 academic year.  Subsequently their sisters, Trinidad and Francisca, joined them.  Of course, questions followed. Why did they come to Rollins? How did they learn about Rollins? Do we know anything about their experience?

gonzalezfrancestomokan1917watermarked-jpegFrancisca Gonzalez studied at Rollins from 1897 to 1899 and 1900-1902.  She also taught Spanish at the College for two years (1916-1918).

I uncovered some of the answers but am still looking for more.  George Morgan Ward first served as President of Rollins from 1896 to 1902.  Rollins was a young institution then and looking for new ways to attract students.  The island of Cuba was in the midst of war, the Spanish-American war or the Cuban War for Independence, depending on whose perspective.  Nonetheless, violence was rampant across the island.  The young Gonzalez children traveled to Rollins to continue their education.  Others followed.  It is still unclear how these students learned about Rollins.  President Ward hired Dean Elijah C. Hills, who had traveled and lived in Cuba prior to joining the Rollins faculty.  According to Ward’s papers, he was involved in recruiting Cuban students to Rollins, but to what extent is not clear.  There are notes from a man named B.L. Gonzalez, presumably the Gonzalez family patriarch, who also recruited Cuban students.  Among the documents I found newspaper advertisements about Rollins translated into Spanish.

cubannewspaperadsept1897Rollins advertisement from an unnamed Cuban newspaper, September 1897

For these Cuban students, Rollins College provided an escape from the violence in their home country and an opportunity to continue their learning.  They became immersed in U.S. culture and received instruction only in English.  These students came from successful Cuban families whose financial security was compromised due to the war.  Not surprisingly, serious emphasis was placed on their appearance.  One note from B.L. Gonzalez to Dr. Ward dated May 29, 1902, describes a young man who is traveling with him from Cuba to Rollins.  In it, Gonzalez describes the student: “The boy is 17 years old, white boy and his name is Jose Manuel.”  I am exploring more in-depth their experience in Winter Park while they studied at Rollins.

boysofpinehurst_002watermarked-jpeg

Students at Pinehurst in 1899. Their average age was 14; most of the boys pictured here were enrolled in the College’s preparatory division and came to Rollins from Cuba,                             under the Latin American Program created by Pres. Ward.

So as my research continues, I find it inspiring that Rollins has maintained some of the values that began in the first years of the college.  Our commitment to global citizenship and responsible leadership was probably not at the forefront in the minds of the first college presidents.  However, Dr. Ward’s willingness to enroll students from another country without strong English comprehension skills demonstrates Rollins as a place of inclusion and acceptance.  The recent resettlement of a refugee family from Colombia, another Spanish speaking country, further demonstrates that commitment. Thus during this month when we celebrate Hispanic culture in the U.S., it is important to remember that it is more than food and music.  It is about people, what we can share and learn from each other and how that relationship is central not only to the past but also to the future.

bretosmiguelwithbaseballteamcroppedwatermarked-jpgMiguel Bretos (front row, left) from Mantanzas, Cuba, played on the Rollins baseball and basketball teams in 1908. In 1925, he wrote fondly of his student days at Rollins and of “Winter Park itself with its beautiful sites,” adding, “I can emphatically say that Rollins is well engraved on my soul.”

~by Prof. Susan Montgomery

Note:  To learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month activities at Rollins, please visit Chase Hall. To read more about Rollins’ connection to Cuba, please see Rollins360.

 

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