Month: January 2014

THE WAYS AND CUSTOMS OF CENTENARY COLLEGE

Things were very different for Centenary students about a hundred years ago. C.C.I. (Centenary Collegiate Institute) was an all girls school, following the trend at the time of same-sex schools. C.C.I. expected that its girls would not lend out or borrow clothes, eat candy, or show their knees.

Image        In order to teach students the proper etiquette, the college used to publish a pamphlet stating the rules and guidelines set forth to create “happiness, health and finest development”. This document was called “The Ways and Customs of C.C.I.”. The three main tenets of this document were fair play, courtesy, and unselfishness. Girls were expected to show fair play: in the description of this idea, C.C.I. asks that girls not be slackers or grumblers, but to do whatever task they are given with honor and determination. Girls were expected to be courteous and considerate of others.  They were also to be unselfish and to do their full share in being a good comrade and room-mate, and according to “The Ways…”, not to be a snob.

This was a time when the girls would have written home to tell them how things were going, and C.C.I. suggested they write home regularly. They cautioned against writing a homesick letter during the first few days of school, because by the time the letter arrived at home the girl may have forgotten she was ever homesick.

Later issues of this pamphlet focus more on activities and wardrobe. Girls were expected to be dressed neatly at all times, and suggestions for the wardrobe included: a tweed suit, top coat, raincoat, wool sport dress, one or two silk dresses, lots of sweaters and skirts, ski clothes for cold weather and snow, a formal evening dress and an informal one, plain lingerie, and pajamas and slippers. Take note that at no point did the suggestions include pants! Girls were to be dressed in skirts or dresses all the time.

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This is the front lawn. As well as being available to the students for their free time, it was used for events such as Commencement and May Fete, a May celebration.

         Students who attended Centenary in its early years were expected to spend a minimum of two hours out of doors every day from 3:30 – 5:30 pm. In the fair weather their options were nearly limitless. The girls would have picnics, swim, play tennis, go horseback riding, or take bike rides or walks. Weekends at C.C.I. (and later, C.J.C. – Centenary Junior College) were always full of fun. The girls would take hayrides to Budd Lake, train trips to the Delaware Water Gap, and (much like today) trips to NYC. In the wintertime, they ice skated on the Morris Canal, went on sleigh rides, and took plenty of ski trips (To learn more about their winter activities, see this post).

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Here is a view of the back of the campus. You can see the tennis courts and a part of the school farm.

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“…dinner is served on Hallowe’en, at which the girl who cannot hold her tongue is called upon by the tinkling of glasses to give a toast”. An excerpt from “The Story of C.C.I”. It gives a short history of the college and a description of the programs offered, as well as activities and events provided to the students. It resembles a prospective student guide.

According to a 1940s edition of “The Ways and Customs of C.J.C”, the girls were required to attend lunch and dinner during the week. On the weekend, the students could sign in the supper book and eat at one of eight approved local eating places. The girls would have to get permissions for many things; the main three were “smoking permission, permission to motor unchaperoned with men, and a list of men friends who were approved as callers and escorts.” Students had to request to spend a weekend away because the administration recognized the importance of the relationships made at college and did whatever it could to promote close friendships. Low grades could prevent students from leaving the campus to go into town.

      All these restrictions didn’t stop the girls from having a marvelous time. Every student was a member of a sorority: Callilogian, Diokosophian, or Peithosophian. Every year the sororities would have their “Anns”, when each sorority would celebrate its anniversary with a play and dance. Image        C.C.I. and later C.J.C. tried to foster the complete development of its young ladies in an attempt to create well-rounded women. Although its guidelines may seem strange compared to today’s standards, these were probably no different than normal moral standards of the time. It’s very funny to consider what Centenary would be like today if similar guidelines applied.

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“The Millionaire Straphanger”: John Emory Andrus

ImageJohn E. Andrus, the son of a Methodist minister, was an American businessman and investor who made a fortune in chemicals, minerals, and land deals. His nickname, the “Millionaire Straphanger”, came from his habit of riding the subway when he had business in New York, part of a lifelong habit of thrift. He served as mayor of Yonkers, New York and in the U.S. Congress.

Three of Andrus’ children (he had eight or nine altogether  – – depending on which source one uses) attended Centenary College: May D., William L., and John E. Andrus. May Andrus met William H. Taylor at Centenary where they became interested in each other in their second year, sat opposite one another in the dining hall, and were ”steadies” socially.  May and William both graduated in the Class of 1890 and were wed in 1895.

In 1917 John E. Andrus established the SURDNA Foundation (Andrus, spelled backward). The Surdna Foundation made a gift of $125,000 for a new library – – at the time it was the largest single gift ever presented to Centenary College. This donation, along with others, made possible the building of the Taylor Memorial Library, named for both May and her husband, William, who also bequeathed a portion of his estate to the college – – having expressed his wish that Centenary build a memorial building in the name of his wife.

The library’s construction began in 1953 and was completed in 1954. Dr. William P. Tolley, Chancellor of Syracuse University was the speaker at the formal dedication exercises and stated that the Taylor Memorial Library would be “the heart of the College . . . where intellectual curiosity is aroused.”

The Surdna Foundation is still in existence today.

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