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College of Forestry

Departments    Forest Engineering, Resources & Management | Forest Ecosystems & Society | Wood Science & Engineering

1920-1929: Formative

by Gordon A. Duncan, '23

THE DECADE of 1920-1929 of forestry at then Oregon Agricultural College began in September 1919, when the first normal post-war four-year class of 1923 arrived in Corvallis to become part of the School of Forestry with an enrollment of about 65 students. Dr. W.J. Kerr was President' George W. Peavy, Dean, assisted by Prof. H.S. Newins and Prof. E.M. Buol, with E.G. Mason, Instructor. Home was the Forestry Building (now Moreland Hall).

This freshman class had a large group of exservicemen from World War I, who had been discharge after the Armistice, November 1918 through July 1919. The Oregon State Bonus was of considerable financial help. Tuition was low, as was pay for part-time work -- 10¢ to 40¢ per hour; board and room was from $28.00 to $35.00 per month; social costs were extra, of course.

Transportation to Corvallis was principally by railroad. The Southern Pacific's "Westside Line" ran from Portland and points north ending at the depot building on 6th Street; part of that building remains. From the south, the Southern Pacific's main line ran from Albany to Portland. From Albany to Corvallis service was by the Oregon Electric Line, to the eastside of the Willamette. Of course, some travel was by personal automobiles, and later, by the early stage lines.

HOUSING for students always posed a problem. Poling Hall, the tarpaper from the military barracks of the array in 1917-18, provided the only college housing for men. The organized living groups, consisting of eleven national and thirteen local fraternities, were on campus, plus a few clubs that had houses.

Hard-pressed students, most of whom worked on part-time jobs, found another way to beat the depression era. They could "batch," either singly or cooperatively. This meant renting a room, with hot plate or similar cooking facilities, or an entire house, with kitchen facilities and enough bedrooms to provide space for a bed and study room for each of three of four students. With occasional forays into the countryside to poach seasonal fruits and vegetables and with regular trips to the local bakery to buy day-old bread and pastries, the "batching" standard of living was elegant.

Women were more fortunate, because they had Waldo and Cauthorn Hall, plus Snell Hall, which was to be ready for occupancy in 1922. Some 16 national and local sororities were on campus; later, the college approved cooperative living groups, which accommodated most of the student balance. Housing in private homes was only permitted by college approval.

At the entrance to the lower campus on 9th Street a cast iron life-sized statue, the "Lady of the Fountain," stood for many years. This lady had become a prize for the University of Oregon to steal and for Oregon Agricultural College to recover -- at some future time -- along with painting over with orange the Oregon "O" on Skinner's Butte in Eugene. Rivalry waxed hot! Oregon kidnapped "the Lady" and kept her hidden for several years in spite of O.A.C.'s efforts to locate and recover her. During Junior Weekend of 1923 she was brought back in triumph and set solidly in concrete, only to be demolished by Oregon when the statue could not be moved.

CAMPUS RIVALRY between the School of Forestry's Fernhoppers and the Muckers from the School of Mines blossomed annually in their football game and, on occasion, at their tug-of-war on the millrace. Fernhoppers outnumbered the Muckers, so their forces generally prevailed. During this period, total forestry enrollment was in the 75-100 range.

Academics being only part of college life, the social life in the small town mostly originated on campus. Men outnumbered women, and because they had little cash to spend, outdoor activities prevailed. Walking the railroad tracks to Cemetery Hill, to Avery Woodlot, and to Mary's River, plus associated canoeing, were the low-cost diversions. On occasion, longer trips were taken to Philomath or to Mary's Peak.

Corvallis was the mildest of the Roaring Twenties. The State of Oregon was "dry", as was Corvallis by local option, so the city's being very, very dry deprived bootleggers of a living. The more adventurous had a problem of transportation -- very few students had autos on campus or in town. Anyway, the Oregon Electric to Albany provided access to the bright lights. Eugene was too far away for most students, except for weekend dances and events on the Oregon campus. Monmouth, with its Normal School -- and lots of girls -- often often saved the weekend for a man without a date.

Dances on campus were restricted to weekends. Curfew for women's living groups was 10:00 P.M. on weeknights and 11:00 P.M. on weekends -- or else! Many an "overstayed" girl was saved via a window entrance by cooperative roomies inside. On nights of major formals, some house mothers relaxed on these hours.

This was also the time of the tuxedo controversy. Women could wear formal dress -- but men could not wear tuxedos at formals, only business suits. This issue stirred up pro and con arguments, ending up with a ban on formal dress for men. This was fortunate, for the majority were lucky to have a suit, let alone a tuxedo!

ONE TAXICAB company -- with two groups of cars, the Red and Black -- had cabs available for the big formals, if they were reserved early enough. Men generally prayed for dry weather, so they could walk their dates. Often it rained, but everybody lived through it.

Downtown, the Legion Hall offered dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. The Julian Hotel provided accommodations and dining, while Andrews & Kerr, better known as As & Ks, was the student gathering place. Here were found the class tabletops so leisurely carved by seniors, nursing their malted milks -- leaving their marks for posterity.

Another popular downtown rendezvous for the well-heeled was Wagner's Restaurant, considered plush. Big ice-cream cones and milk shakes could be obtained at the Dairy Building. The downtown Whiteside theatre (not open on Sundays because of Corvallis' blue-sky ordinance) provided current movies for 40 cents admission; it was here that many students say the premier of the "talkies", with Al Jolson singing "Mammy."

Campus activities began with their "Rookhids", girls, wearing their green hair ribbons, had their "mixers", with no interference from the Vigilance Committee and Citation overseers. Sophomores had their Cotillion; Juniors, their Junior Prom and part of Junior weekend. Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C), big in those days, had its Military Ball; last was the Senior Ball. Even the foresters had their Fernhopping Ball.

Dances were largely held in the Men's Gym for the large gatherings; fraternity and sorority dances were held at the Women's Club. Dances were also held in fraternity and sorority houses if enough furniture could be moved out to accommodate the group.

CONVOCATIONS also were held in the Men's Gym, with mandatory attendance for all freshmen, with the men wearing their green rook beanies and the women their ribbons. some programs were routine, others delightful. As an example, the visit of Mme. Schuman-Heink, the great German opera singer -- who had lost her son in World War I -- sang and yodeled so beautifully that we escorted her back to Albany, filling a car on the Oregon Electric with Mme, singing all the way, while we cut classes for the rest of the day.

Growth in forestry enrollment required expansion of the faculty. Prof. Newins left in 1922 to become State Forester of West Virginia. T.J. Starker was conned into taking the job, which was the beginning of a 20-year "sentence." Dean Peavy continued until 1934 when he became President of the college, serving six years and later retiring as Dean Emeritus. John Van Orsdel and H.R. (Pat) Patterson handled Logging Engineering with Earl Mason and Harry Nettleton as instructors for General Forestry. The result of their efforts combined to produce fifteen graduates from the School of forestry in the Class of 1923.

Because the school was located in a small town and close to timerlands, it stressed practical instruction with laboratory courses in the field. Peavy Arboretum, McDonald forest and other nearby timbered areas provided outdoor labs less than an hour's trip from campus. Avery Woodlot, for timber estimating practice, was reached in even less time. At first, "Shanks Mare" was the only means of transportation. To reduce time loss, a motor truck was obtained by efforts of a good fairy. It proved to be a luxury, especially during rainy weather. Contributions by students to pay for the truck's maintenance resulted in the truck's elegant name of "Six Bits".

"Who will ever forget the Dean's camp call at dawn - Daylight in the Swamp."

IN ADDITION to the field lab courses, annual spring trips of about one week were required. these were held variously at other cooperating timberland ownerships, to gain practical experience in cruising and related courses. these were set up on a field camp basis for all phases of operation, and provided woods experience for some students for the first time. Dean Peavy's firm belief was that no student should be graduated with a B.S. degree unless he had practical experience as well as the required academics!

Prof. T.J. Starker added a new trip. It was by automobile with visits to milling plants and logging camps through Oregon down to Brookings and the redwoods. Five juniors made the trip.

And who will ever forget the Dean's camp call at dawn, Daylight in the Swamp?

Some additional notes from the typist: The Whiteside Theatre mentioned above still exists in Corvallis today. It had one theatre and plays the top current movies.