Behind the Scenes

THE DORM ROOM BEAUTIES

[This guest post has been brought to you by Jillian Pullis and Dr. Lisa Mastrangelo’s Advanced Composition Class. Students in this class work closely with archival staff and items, allowing them to practice their writing and research skills, as well as learning more about their university. It’s a wonderful partnership that we look forward to and occasionally we ask one or two students to share their work on our blog. This paper in particular was impressive because we, the Archives staff, see this photograph often and wonder about the students in the picture. Pullis’ research has identified these girls and we now know a little more about this dorm room candid. We are grateful she accepted our offer of being included in the blog, and hope you enjoy learning how she investigated the visual clues this picture held to deduce its content. No edits have been made to this document, and the student’s work is shown in its entirety.]

img001The picture that I am investigating is two young ladies laying on their dorm room beds at Centenary College. Investigating this photo allowed me to turn into an archivist for a few weeks. I had to depend on my historical sources to find information, describe my findings, and provide accurate sources to allow others to find this information. As an archivist, I had to analyze my photo and find any clues that could help me date it. I also had to try and organize the information I found and communicate it in a way that would make sense. Although, in this case I was just following the steps of what an archivist would do, I was able to put my evidence together to find the year the photo was taken. By following the steps of an archivist and investigating the image, I found my photo is from the year 1957.

In the photo, the two girls laying on their dorm room beds are similar in which they both have short hair, long white socks, and plaid skirts. The way the beds are positioned directly up against each other is either trying to portray that the girls must be extremely close, and they sleep that way each night, or the photo is posed and trying to give off a  “come here and find your best friend” vibe.  On the walls, the girls have a poster and a sorority paddle hanging on the wall. These two things play a huge part in helping me date this photo. The girls also have a book – shelf with multiple copies of the same books, perfectly placed. I found this to be further evidence that this photo could be staged. The room also has two windows with matching curtains.

Centenary College was a junior college for women from 1940 to 1976. In the dorm room the girls have a Dartmouth Winter Carnival Poster hanging on the wall. On the corner of the poster it is dated February 3-5, 1956. I was able to find the exact poster on the Dartmouth Archive site. I contacted Morgan Swan, Ph.D., M.L.I.S. who is the Special Collection Education and Outreach Librarian at Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College. Morgan said, “During the early to mid 20th century, Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival was a nationally prominent event that required an invitation to attend if you weren’t already a student there. Many college students at women’s colleges all over New England (and NY and NJ) would often be invited to come as the dates of Dartmouth men.” He additionally added that it was popular for Centenary college girls to travel to Dartmouth on the train and enjoy the fun weekend in the snow. Before this email, I  had to keep in mind that just because the poster was dated and on the wall was not enough to convince me the girls were there. It could have just been a decoration or a gift to the girls.  I was very excited when I read this email because it proved to me that I was on the right track with the year.

In the dorm room the girls have a sorority paddle hanging from the wall. The paddle  was dated 1958. This led me to look at the yearbook sorority pictures from the years around 1958. This finding played a huge part in helping me identify these girls in the yearbook. I was able to find the sorority picture in the Hack yearbook of 1957. By looking at the Hack yearbook, I was able to name these two girls as Gail Zabriskie and Leslie VanNess Bush. I examined every single picture in the Hack yearbook 1957. I was able to reassure myself of a few things by looking at these pictures. In my dorm room photo and the yearbook photo of the girls, they have the same windows and curtains. I did not think this was enough to be 100% sure, as maybe Centenary provided each room with the same curtains. By looking at every picture in the yearbook I was able to find that almost every single bedroom shot with the windows in the back had different curtains. Not one of the photos had the same curtains that my two girls had. I also believed that this photo was staged by how the beds were positioned and how neatly the room was set. By looking at the other yearbook pictures I found that almost every room had tables and chairs in between the beds. No matter how close you are with someone I did not find one other photo with beds positioned that closely. It was a huge find being able to find these girls names and find information about them.

Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 11.37.04 AMGail Zabriskie and Leslie VanNess Bush were both on the Orientation Committee, Guild, Student Activity, Psychology Club, and Theta Epsilon Nu. Gail Zabriskie was the President and Leslie VanNess Bush was the Vice President of student activities. They were next to each other in the yearbook and it had a picture of the two girls together. The girls were standing next to each other smiling in front of a window. The picture in the yearbook had the same windows and curtains as the picture I was examining. This was all found in the Hack yearbook in the year 1957. It could be possible that every room had the same curtains and window set up, but I found the similarities to be significant. The girls were also in a lot of the same clubs and very involved on campus so it would make sense that they would be asked to stage a photo to promote Centenary and portray it as finding your best friend.

Leslie VanNess Bush was sporting short and curly hair in her yearbook picture as well as the dorm room picture. This was very popular in the 1950s that was inspired by some prominent women. Beauty Launchpad explained,  “Many actresses and female singers of the 1950s, including Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Eartha Kitt, favored this shorter, slightly less voluminous version of the classic bouffant. Perfectly curled and coiffed hair was the signature of this look, though great care was taken to make hair appear to be naturally curly.” Gail Zabriskie can be found in both photos with her short brown Pixie Cut. The pixie cut started becoming popular in the late 1950s and really took off in the 1960s. Beauty Launchpad added, “Audrey Hepburn’s closely-cropped hair in the popular film Roman Holiday began a trend of super short hair coupled with soft, wispy bangs that remains popular today.” I was very reluctant to find out that the hairstyles of the two girls matched up well with what was popular during the year that I found.

In todays’ world of social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram, it is so easy to just swipe by a photo in seconds. We often will not even look at most pictures that pop up on our feeds, and if we are it is followed by a quick “like”. Examining archived photos requires the person to really look at every detail. When you think you have found all the clues, you should look again. By doing this I was able to find the key component on the sorority paddle to identify the women in my picture. If I did not room in on the paddle, I would have never seen the date and most likely would not have found the girls names.

 

Works Cited

 

“Dorm Room ; 1957” Photo. Archives and Special Collections,

Taylor Memorial Library. Centenary University

 

The Hack. 1957. The Taylor Memorial Library,

Centenary University

 

“Hair Through History: 9 Memorable Hairstyles of the 1950s.” Beauty Launchpad, 24 Oct. 2019, www.beautylaunchpad.com/hair-through-history-9-memorable-hairstyles-1950s.

Swan, Morgan. “Feb 3-5, 1956 Dartmouth Winter Carnival .” Feb 3-5, 1956 Dartmouth Winter Carnival , 25 Feb. 2020.

LIBRARY PESTS

From Spilled Ink, May 23rd, 1936

The first hint you have of her presence as you industriously look up material for your term paper, is an inane giggle, quickly smothered, followed by a swift series of semi-squelched snickers. This is ruthlessly repeated. You look up angrily and glare at her – a young person industriously – too industriously – perusing a page of the large Webster’s dictionary. She, of course, doesn’t venture to look up, and your justified glare is pitifully wasted. You go on with your interrupted work.
As soon as she thinks her untimely eruption is forgotten, you hear a cautious “Ssssss-.” Evidently the bit of information which caused the outburst is too choice not to be shared. Nothing happens, however. A louder “Ssssss-” in a suppressed stage whisper is heard. All your glaring is of no avail; she will not deign to look in your direction. Then you sigh with relief. She is leaving. You settle down to work.
But, alas, she returns; and oh, agony, she is followed by three friends. Three of them! They approach the dictionary. Our first acquaintance, giggling reminiscently, points to a certain spot on the fateful page, and watches the faces of her friends expectantly. She is rewarded. Gales of girlish laughter peal gently forth and permeate the room. The unappreciative stare of the librarian reaches its goal, and guilty silence results. Your stare still goes unnoticed – you’ll have to practice withering looks. At any rate silence finally prevails. Three cheers for the librarian!
But don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Quiet giggles are slyly resumed. You look hopefully at the librarian; she is busy, oblivious.
Way down deep inside you begin hypocritically to wonder what the cause of all the merriment can be. Craning your neck, you make a mental note of the page at which the dictionary is open, secretly resolving to peruse the page when the pests have departed. But they do not depart. Gusty giggles continue to gush forth from the interested reader of the dictionary.
You groan, slam your book, quickly glare defiantly around at anyone who might object to your slamming it, and stamp out of the room – no term paper done, time wasted, and still ignorant of the laughter-provoking word.

-Dorothy Foulds, Page Editor for the Spilled Ink, class of 1936.

 

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We will never know if Dorothy learned of the offending word.

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The Spilled Ink Board industriously working on their term papers, perhaps?

LIBRARY NEWSLETTERS AND INFORMATION

The library has started publishing a newsletter we’re calling Unshelved – in it you’ll find information about events at the library, projects and initiatives we’re working on, and features on the staff and library work-study students you may meet here at Taylor Memorial Library.

newsletter headerMany public and academic libraries have newsletters, magazines, or pamphlets that talk about library happenings, and over the years we have seen our fair share of them!

library handbooks1Early informational handouts came in the form of library handbooks, which served as an introduction to the library. The 1955 Taylor Memorial Library Handbook includes a foreword that states, “before you have spent many days at Centenary you will find that this building is the center of many of your activities. If you are willing to devote a short time to becoming acquainted with its resources and arrangement, you will be able to find quickly and efficiently the material you wish.” These handbooks were published for several years, and included a description of the main areas of the library, a guide to using the card catalog and finding books, articles, and other library materials, and finally, a summary of library services and policies. As new library instruction programs were developed that took over many of these roles, we began printing different pamphlets that focused on specific library services. At one time, this library had several pamphlets on services and resources that included requesting an item from interlibrary loan, using specific databases, and on library policies.

library instruction menu snippetLibrary instruction programs are now more commonplace than ever; we actually offer several different types of instruction that range from a simple drop in visit to introduce library resources and services, to resource overviews that go in-depth on citations, plagiarism, researching, and other library skills. The need for a printed library handbook is largely non-existent, but in its absence, we’ve developed new ways of imparting information to our communities.

Over the past ten years, the library has created many different versions of a newsletter. Six years ago we published Shelf Talk, which talked about new library acquisitions and library events. The first version of Shelf Talk was created by a work study student named Sarah Malcolm. She delivered a new issue every month and dedicated a lot of her time at TML to the success of the newsletter. After her graduation from Centenary, we had difficulty selecting another work study who could focus on Shelf Talk with as much enthusiasm and talent as Sarah, and decided to put the newsletter on hiatus. Shortly afterwards, library assistant Jack Wooldridge ‘adopted’ Shelf Talk and created several issues. Unfortunately, with his departure, Shelf Talk was ‘shelved’ once again.

The idea to revisit Shelf Talk was always in the back of our minds, so the library staff decided to try a different type of newsletter. Instead of book reviews and new acquisitions, we are focusing on the events and initiatives of the library. With this new incarnation, we are hoping to show our community who we are and encourage people to learn more about the library – not just what we have, but what we do. Libraries have always adapted with the times, and Taylor Memorial Library is no stranger to that! We’re always experimenting with different ways of reaching out to our patrons, and we hope they enjoy learning more about the people behind the circulation desk!

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To read the digital version, complete with clickable links, go here!

THE FILM LIBRARIANS CONFERENCE

This post is going to be different from the majority of posts on this blog – we don’t usually discuss things using personal pronouns or even really identify ourselves. The archives is supposed to be the focus of the blog. However, I (Wendi) plan on telling you all about an amazing conference I went to in Los Angeles called Documenting Cinema: Film Librarians Conference 2019, and to do so, I need to talk like me.

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My dumb face not caring that my face looks dumb.

I first heard about the conference from a classmate at Syracuse University, where I am getting my MLIS. My classmate works, in some capacity, for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She encouraged the class to apply for a travel grant to attend this year’s conference, and, having a deep love of cinema (especially the Golden Age of Hollywood), I immediately memorized the website. I ended up winning one of the travel grants, meaning my travel to and from Los Angeles was paid for, as was the attendance fee for the entire conference.

 

The Film Librarians Conference (FLC) was held over the course of three days at the Academy’s Pickford Center for Motion Picture Studies in Hollywood, CA. The conference itself lasted two days, followed by one day of optional tours. Every session was fascinating and taught me something about archival techniques or practices, film history, and current projects from archivists, museums, libraries, and guilds around the world. Although every session is memorable, there were four that I wanted to highlight. These sessions either helped me identify paths to follow in TML’s archival journey, were just super cool, or both.

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Also super cool? This view down a hallway at the Pickford Center.

Of Pigs and Pixie Dust: Tailoring Descriptive Vocabularies for Disney Animation Artwork

In this session, the presenter explained the process by which the Walt Disney Animation Research Library created a list of terms to use for organizing, cataloging, and identifying items. There were two main categories: work type and keyword. I was fascinated to learn what other practices were out there, as TML doesn’t have any system as comprehensive or refined yet. We’re definitely not there yet, but I’m hoping we’ll be making some headway soon. This presentation gave me ideas on how to approach naming conventions, something I was admittedly stuck on.

 

Providing Access to Media Related Collections: Dictabelts, Posters, and Paperwork

We got to hear actual dictabelt recordings from Rod Serling in this session! I wrote this in my notes and I’ll repeat it here: SO COOL. The process to digitize these recordings is expensive and, if the items have not been maintained properly, difficult or impossible. We also learned about the digitization of movie posters. I saw what happens when items were not stored properly, were folded or bent, or held together with paperclips. I shudder to think of how many items we have in our archives that are combined with paperclips or identified with post-it notes. The first thing I did when I got back to work was start advocating for the expulsion of paperclips in favor of sheets of interleaving and clamshell boxes, both of which we have, neither of which we use to the fullest.

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This picture is small but mighty.

Archiving, Advocacy, and Collaborations: Preserving Guild Histories

Four different unions described their collections, archival methods, and collaborative efforts to continue preserving their history. It was very cool to see perspectives from different entities, how they differed and how they were the same.

Filmmakers Roundtable Discussion

This was another great opportunity to hear different perspectives from five people who work in different areas of filmmaking: production design, still photography, composing, and costume design. Unfortunately, one of the participants was unable to make it to the conference, but the remaining five did a great job at explaining their processes and systems! It was interesting to hear how each one maintains a personal work archive (and if they’re even allowed to!). We also had showings of library-related movies: I watched The Music Man, sang to every song, and laughed along with the rest of the audience. It was a singular movie-going experience that I want to replicate again and again.

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An impossibly blue sky above the Margaret Herrick Library.

Tour: Margaret Herrick Library and Paramount Pictures Studio

The last day I signed up for a tour of the Margaret Herrick Library, the host of the FLC, and Paramount Pictures. We were given the chance to wander around, look at everything they had out, and asking employees a bunch of archives-related questions. I saw where and how their items were stored, got to ask about their periodicals and archival boxes, and took way too many pictures. I used up all the space on my phone, but it was worth it. Then I had to delete photos to make space for the Paramount Pictures tour. I didn’t really need those pictures from my sister’s wedding, right?

 

After the library, we went to Paramount Pictures. We got a tour of the lots and their archives. I learned about the types of projects they work on, and got to see some of the items in different stages of cataloging and preservation. We went into one of the film vaults where they keep every version (I repeat, EVERY version) of a movie or show – theatrical cut, director’s cut, shortened-for-tv cuts, foreign language cuts… It’s staggering. After I found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was content to go on to the next room. We went through several rooms that housed memorabilia from films (props, costumes, jewelry) as well as photographs, musical scores (including the score for the horse head scene from The Godfather), ads, periodicals, etc., and we learned about what each member of the staff does, their major projects, and their favorite parts of the job.

I am so lucky to have had the chance to see these pieces and hear these stories – Attending the Film Librarians Conference was one of the highlights of my year (maybe of my life) and I am so eager to start putting some of my new knowledge to good use!

 

THE ACCIDENTAL MISS AMERICA (REPOST)

[Originally posted in September 2015]

It might surprise you to know that Centenary University had its own Miss America! Her name was Bette Cooper, and she was Miss America in 1937. The story of her reign is an interesting one.

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Bette Cooper in costume while performing at Centenary Junior College.

Bette Cooper and three fellow students in a nativity scene at Centenary Junior College

Bette Cooper and three fellow students in a nativity scene at Centenary Junior College.

Life was uncomplicated for this girl from Hackettstown, New Jersey. She attended Centenary University when it was called Centenary Junior College1. She excelled in school, loved to play sports, and enjoyed participating in theater productions. In the summer of 1937, she went to Lake Hopatcong’s Bertrand Island Amusement Park with some friends. As a joke, the girls dared Cooper to enter the park’s beauty pageant. She entered for fun but got the shock of her life when she won! Winning this title also guaranteed her a place as a contestant at the Miss America Pageant.

This is where the story starts to get complicated. Cooper had entered that first pageant on a lark. She didn’t expect to win, and she certainly didn’t want to compete for Miss America. Her family was humble and religious; they didn’t approve of beauty pageants. Although her family was reluctant to support something they considered distasteful, they chose to travel to Atlantic City for the pageant, expecting nothing more than a nice vacation.

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Bette Cooper with all the adornments of a proper Miss America.

Upon arrival, Bette Cooper met Louis Off, a young man who had signed up to be a bachelor escort. Each Miss America contestant had been paired with a gentleman who would accompany her to and from pageant festivities. When the contestants were given an afternoon off, Cooper and her escort took a drive. Cooper confided in Off, telling him that she hadn’t anticipated winning the first pageant, and didn’t want to compete for Miss America. Off, who had already seen the other contestants, accurately guessed that she stood a good chance of winning.

Bette Cooper won Miss America that night. She sang a song (A Star-Ledger article states that she sang “So There”, but internet sources state that the song was called “When The Poppies Bloom Again”) while wearing an evening gown purchased for her by a female chaperone. The excitement of winning wore off very quickly, and by the next day Cooper and Off had disappeared, leading many to believe the two had run away and eloped.

Bette Cooper and Louis Off walk the boardwalk in a publicity shot. Cooper's fur coat was one of the prizes from the Miss America Pageant. She refused the coat and the other prizes when she decided to return to school

Bette Cooper and Louis Off on the boardwalk in a publicity shot. Cooper’s fur coat was one of the prizes from the Miss America Pageant. She refused the coat and the other prizes when she decided to return to school.

In truth, Bette Cooper was only a 17-year-old high school student and panicked at the thought of leaving school to perform her Miss America duties. Photo shoots, public appearances, screen tests, and interviews held no appeal for her. Cooper called Off in the middle of the night distraught over winning, and he and a friend hid her on a boat until after pageant crowds scattered.  She slept while the gentlemen fished, and after returning to shore, the men drove Cooper back to Hackettstown.

Bette Cooper decided to remain in school, and was able to strike a deal with red-faced pageant officials that entitled her to “all of the benefits, none of the negatives” of being Miss America, according to Louis Off. She kept her title and stayed in school, participating in only a fraction of the expected duties. Off escorted her to appearances and guarded her from the press. The events of the 1937 Miss America Pageant prompted officials to institute new rules: They created a hostess program and prohibited contestants from spending time alone with any man during pageant week. They also started requiring contestants to sign agreements acknowledging their understanding of the duties of Miss America.

After Bette Cooper’s reign ended, she distanced herself from the pageant and focused on her schooling. She graduated from Centenary Junior College’s Academy in 1938 and then from C.J.C. in 1940. She was a dedicated student, participating in several school activities.

From the 1940 Hack Yearbook:

Bette Cooper's senior year photo. [note: The Kin Klub is mentioned on a later page of the yearbook as the Kin Club. The club was comprised of members of the student body who were relatives of former students.]

Bette Cooper’s senior year photo. [note: The Kin Klub is mentioned on a later page of the yearbook as the Kin Club. The club was comprised of members of the student body who were relatives of former students.]

After graduation, she married and moved to Connecticut, where lived until her death in 2017. In 1953, she attended Hackettstown’s Centennial Celebration to crown the Centennial Queen, but that was the closest she ever got to acknowledging her involvement in beauty pageants. She never publicly discussed her time as Miss America.

The story of Bette Cooper’s reign as Miss America was recently featured in a segment of the Travel Channel show Mysteries at the Museum. We were so excited to have the crew come film, and we think they did a great job telling her story.

Bette Cooper at the Hackettstown Centennial Celebration

Bette Cooper at the Hackettstown Centennial Celebration in 1953.


1 At this time in Centenary’s history, the college educated two distinct student populations: the Academy, which was the equivalent of the latter years of high school, and the College, which provided more traditional college instruction. Both ‘schools’ were two-year programs. Freshmen and Sophomore classes attended the Academy and Juniors and Seniors attended the College. You’ll see two graduation dates for Bette Cooper, one for each school.

Braun, Jenifer. “The night Miss America ran away from the throne.”
Star-Ledger [Newark] Sept. 1997: 1+. Print.

“On Campus.” The Bulletin of Centenary Junior College Winter 1953: 5. Print.

Pageant Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2014. <http://pageantcenter.com/pageant%20results/Miss_America_Pageant/1937_miss_america_pageant.html#.VA3v9YKJ3E8&gt;.

LIBGUIDES FACELIFT

The library’s website got a bit of a facelift recently! Well, just the Archives page, but still, it’s pretty exciting! We’ve added images of archival materials and expanded our digital media – now you can interact with a map of the trees on Centenary’s campus and check out our newest feature, digital exhibits! We’ll be highlighting some of the collections we have that you might not be familiar with – should we do that on the blog, too?

digital exhibits

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It’s not much, but it’s ours.

 

THE NEW PRESIDENT’S HOUSE

The President’s House, which tragically burned down in January 2015, has been rebuilt! President Haney and his wife, Lisa Baldwin, wanted one of the first events held in the new home to be a thank you party for everyone involved in trying to save the old house and in building the new one.

The First New Pres Res 5Responders’ Party welcomed members of all 22 agencies who worked to save the house and contain the fire that raged three years ago, as well as everyone involved in the construction of the new house. Dr. Haney and Lisa Baldwin thanked the firefighters and construction workers for all their hard work, and invited the attendants to tour the new house.

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Dr. Raymond Frey and Library Archivist Colleen Bain, experts on Centenary history, were on hand to guide tours and answer questions. Guests enjoyed seeing the archival pictures of the house displayed throughout the new residence.

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We’re glad tNew Pres Res 4o have been able to provide the archival photos and the expertise of our archivist to the First Responders’ Party, and we are forever grateful for all the work that’s been done to bring the President’s House back to life!

 

 

Photos of the new President’s House and First Responder’s Party graciously provided by Erbach Communications Group.