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.
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.
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).
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. 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.