from the archives

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?

A FIRE and NEW SCHOOLS and SMALLPOX, OH MY!

After the retirement of our first President, Rev. Dr. George Whitney, the institution went through challenging times. The second President, Dr. Ferguson, spent five years improving the campus, programs, and social life of the school, but most of his hard work was invalidated by the Great Fire of 1899. While the Board of Trustees debated over rebuilding the school or abandoning its efforts, a new president was elected and the C.C.I. Day School carried on with the business of educating. With the decision made to rebuild, Charles W. McCormick, third President of Centenary Collegiate Institute, was given the demanding task of returning Centenary to its former glory.

Dr. McCormick in TGYCharles Wesley McCormick was born in New Prospect, NJ on December 14th, 1856. He graduated from Wyoming Seminary, Wesleyan University in 1881 (he received both his B.A and M.A there), Syracuse University in 1897 (D.D), and New York University in 1898 (PhD). He married Edith C. Mirteenes in Port Jervis, NY on October 5th, 1881. As an ordained Methodist Episcopal minister, he led many congregations in the New York and New Jersey area, coming to Hackettstown in 1898 (Who’s Who in New England). The following year he was hired to teach English and History at Centenary Collegiate Institute. He also held duties equivalent to a Vice-President and was in charge of the institute on occasions when the President was away. McCormick was a dedicated educator whose election into the faculty was hailed by both students and townspeople alike.

President McCormick portraitOn June 1, 1900, the position of Centenary Collegiate Institute President was officially passed on to Charles Wesley McCormick. He immediately began helping with fundraising efforts and working with the Building Committee. September 23rd, 1901 saw the opening day for the New C.C.I., although the new building wasn’t fully complete yet. Students worked “amid the din of saws and the pounding of hammers” (Custard, 93). Dr. McCormick also saw to it that a Sub-Preparatory program was added to the curriculum, so that in addition to the 4 literary courses the school offered, there was a preliminary year of instruction for those students who required it. He also improved cultural subjects, like art. Students at the time enjoyed rich academic, athletic, and social lives. According to his daughter, Josephine McCormick, “they had weekly socials (no dancing, of course), picnics, hay rides, and in winter skating on the canal. There were literary programs and debates. There was a good football team, fair baseball and track teams. Tennis courts were used by both girls and boys” (Custard, 95).

Dr. McCormick’s presidency was short, lasting from 1900 to 1902. During those two years, he dealt with challenge after challenge. After the 1899 fire, many students found places in other schools and chose not to return to Centenary. McCormick focused much of his time to raising money for the rebuilding of Centenary and on reaching out to potential new students. Then, over the Christmas break, Hackettstown was hit by a smallpox outbreak. Students were told to stay home. After six weeks, the school was allowed to reopen, but again several students did not return. Ending the 1902 school year with a substantial debt, Dr. McCormick found himself very discouraged. He felt his talents lay with teaching and governing, and with no expectation of doing either, he requested to be released from his contract to take another appointment. His contract ran until July 10, 1902, but he was permitted to leave April 1, 1902.

After he left Centenary, he returned to the ministry and again led several different congregations in the area. His ties to Centenary remained strong, though, and his daughter Josephine attended and graduated from Centenary Collegiate Institute in 1913.

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Dr. McCormick authored a small book with uplifting passages for shut-ins, aptly entitled “Little Messages for Shut-In Folk”. Sadly, Charles Wesley McCormick passed away shortly after this book was published, on October 19, 1920, in East Orange, New Jersey (“General Necrology in 1920”).

 

Custard, Leila Roberta. Through Golden Years: 1867 – 1943. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1947. Print.

“General Necrology in 1920.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac. Vol. 2, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1921, p 451.

Hack Yearbook, C.C.I. 1913.

“Little Messages for Shut-In Folk.” The Methodist Quarterly Review. Vol. 69, No. 1, Smith & Lamar Agents, 1921. Also the author of a small book with uplifting passages for shut-ins. LINK LINK 2

Who’s Who in New England, edited by Albert Nelson Marquis, A.N. Marquis & Company, 1909.

 

 

 

 

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.

BETTE COOPER

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.

BETTE COOPER 3

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;.

SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN

Commencement speeches should be thought-provoking and inspiring. The graduating students, thinking their days of education are now behind them, hopefully realize there are a myriad of opportunities to learn, teach, and grow ahead of them.

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Centenary has had many commencement speakers over the years that have talked about the future, self-reflection, and the quest for knowledge. Although the Library Archives don’t have the text of the speech given on May 17th, 1975, we can expect that it was inspiring and funny, especially with a title like “You Can Bet Your Sweet Life!”

That speech was given by The Honorable Senator Joseph R. Biden, who went on to become the 47th Vice President of the United States under Barack Obama. At the time of his commencement speech, he was a senator from Delaware serving his first term. Here is his biography from the student newspaper, Spilled Ink:

“Senator Biden, who was elected to the United States Senate in 1972 for a six-year term, is a member of the Senate Democratic Steering Committee. His senatorial activities include membership on the committees of Foreign Relations, Budget, National Ocean Study Policy Group for the Senate and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs as well as the subcommittees on Consumer Credit, International Finance, Securities, Production and Stabilization. In 1974 he was selected as one of ten ”Outstanding Young Men of the Year” by the U.S.

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Senator Biden with President Seay

National Jaycees and was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Outstanding Achievement by Syracuse University, New York. Since 1973 he has been honorary chairman of the Leukemia Society of Delaware. A native of Scranton, Pa., Senator Biden is an alumnus of Archmere Academy in Delaware, graduated from the University of Delaware at Newark with a B.A. degree in 1965 and three years later received a J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law. Before his election to the Senate he practiced as a trial lawyer for four years and served as a member of the New Castle (Del.) County Council from 1970-72.”

Senator Biden is scheduled for 100th commencement. (1975, April 30). Spilled Ink. p. 1.

 

THE DRESS CODE

Everyone has had to follow the rules of a dress code at one time or another – maybe you’ve dressed up for a religious service, worn athletic gear for gym class, or gone to a school where students wore uniforms. Centenary Collegiate Institute was no different. Some of the rules of attire were for practical reasons, but many rules were in place so that students would look presentable, respectful, and appropriate. Here are examples how students dressed throughout the years:

Centenary Collegiate Institute Catalog, 1894-1895:

June 14 1899

June 14, 1899: Students in their simple and neat clothes.

“All articles of wearing must be distinctly marked in a conspicuous place with the owner’s full name. Ladies attire should be simple and neat, not elegant and expensive.”

[It is interesting to note that no attention was given to gentlemen’s attire. In later years, the latter line was changed to “An expensive or extensive wardrobe is unnecessary.”]

 

“The Ways and Customs of C.C.I.”, 1917:

“Care should be taken that you always appear clean and neat…On all school days, wear simple, plain dresses/wash dresses/plain waists and skirts. When cold weather comes, a one piece or sailor suit of serge should be worn. Simple white dresses without colored trimmings are required for dinner and the evening. For cold days, a Liberty cape of light color will be found useful. Wear sensible shoes with sensible heels. High heels required from Thanksgiving to Easter. Slippers or pumps may be worn in the evening only. On Sundays, wear a suit and nice waist or a separate dress and coat. White is not required on Sundays. For athletics, wear plain white middy, dark blue bloomers, black stockings and black sneakers. No bare knees.”

1913 girls in white middies

1913: A group of students in their required athletic gear.

“Handbook of the Student Government Association”, Centenary Junior College (some time from 1939 – 1956, likely the 1940s):

“…Include in your wardrobe such basic things as a good tailor suit, several skirts…for dinner, simple dress will do the trick (white sports dresses and white blouses and a skirt). Bring anklets, blouses, several date dresses for informal week-ends, an evening dress that will be at home at any occasion, a strictly formal dream dress for…special occasions, an odd jacket or two, and slacks to study in.

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1940s: These girls seem to be holding their own going bicycling in skirts!

“…Don’t forget that we wear white dresses to dinner from Monday thru Thursday, and for appearance sake we wear heels and street dresses for Sunday dinner and Vespers. We are allowed to wear slacks downtown only in bad weather. [Slacks are] only allowed at the breakfast and noon meals on Saturday…No raincoats in the dining room…P.J.’s may never, never be worn to meals. Bathrobes are worn only in the dorms, but trench coasts with P.J.’s rolled up are O.K. in the grill and library.”

Student Handbook of Centenary College for Women, 1957-8

Moving the books

1954: Students wearing campus clothes as they move books to the new library with President Seay’s young son.

“Centenary girls dress simply. Use as much as possible of your present wardrobe…Remember that good taste, cleanliness, neatness, and simplicity are the foundation of that well-dressed look.”

Students were encouraged to bring items for specific purposes:

In Class: Socks – knee high or anklet, Loafers or some type of campus flat, Cottons – simple dresses, skirts, and blouses, Woolens – skirts and sweaters

On Campus: Bermuda shorts, Dungarees, Slacks, Casual coat and jacket

Dating: Hose, Dress shoes, Evening slippers, Woolen dress, Dressy dress, Suit, 1 or 2 formals, Dressy coat, Accessories – hat, gloves, etc.

Dinner: A simple dress or a skirt and sweater or blouse will do the trick.

For Special Occasions: A white dress or a white skirt and sweater or blouse

At that time, the college felt that the students were representing the school as much as they were representing themselves when they were off campus, and they were always expected to look respectable. Suggestions and/or requirements on what to bring were for their benefit and the benefit of the school.

The 2018 Student Handbook does not include wardrobe restrictions or requirements, and students have the freedom to dress how it suits them (pun absolutely intended). Of course, some aspects of a dress code remain in place, as our sports teams still have their uniforms, students bring business attire for important academic events, and there will always be dances to get dressed up for!

WINTER AT CENTENARY UNIVERSITY [updated repost]

Trying to think of something to do in the short time before the next semester begins? Here are some activities students at Centenary enjoyed throughout the years.

SLEIGH RIDES:

A 1923 student included in Leila Custard’s history Through Golden Years writes:

One of my pleasant recollections is a sleigh ride we went on – horses, bells and all. It was beautiful. The country was glistening with snow and made a lovely sight.

ICE SKATING, SLEDDING, TOBOGGANING:

There was plenty for students to do on campus and off. During the Winter Carnival of days past, students would go ice skating, sledding, and tobogganing. The school would also host ski trips to nearby resorts.

 

ICE SCULPTURES:

Forget about snowmen, follow in the footsteps of Centenary students and personalize your artwork. One of the highlights of the Winter Carnival was the Ice Sculpture Contest, where dorms would create something unique out of snow.

Make the most of your time before the semester begins! We’ll see you soon!

 

IRENE CASTLE

A letter from the Archives:

“Dr. Cummings [sic] said:

Back in 1902 one of our students at C.C.I. was Irene Foote who was and is a splendid athletic girl fond of sports including swimming. She liked to take a plunge in the finest swimming pool at C.C.I. The only trouble she had was to take a swim and get her hair dry for the next recitation. One day she said “I am going to fix that!” So she took a big pair of shears and cut off her beautiful long hair, then took her swim and when she came out she shook her head a couple of times and was ready for recitations – all but dressing. And if the styles of 1902 had been like those of 1927 her bathing suit would have been just about the right thing without any change at all, although the skirt might have been longer.

The next day six other girls who liked to swim cut off their hair, and the vogue of bobbed hair was started and has been going ever since. It spread in this way.

The next year Miss Foote married Mr. Castle and became Irene Castle Foote (that you have all heard about). These two, Mr. and Mrs. Castle, danced their ways into the hearts of every body here and abroad.”

This letter was dictated by Mrs. Annie Blair (Titman) Cummins in May 1950, regarding a story from her late husband, Dr. George Wyckoff Cummins. To learn more about them, click here.

There are some discrepancies about dates in the letter; Irene Foote was a student here in 1906, not 1902. Born in 1893, she was thirteen when she attended Centenary Collegiate Institute. At that age, she was probably a member of the high school academy and also a member of the Diokosophian Society. The other discrepancy is that Miss Foote married Mr. Castle the following year – they actually met in 1910.

These slight variations in time bring into question the validity of the letter; a recollection told by a husband to his wife and written down almost a decade after his death may contain some errors. We still enjoy the mystery this item brings and are very pleased to have found it.