Monday, December 13, 2010

Archives web site

A reader recently posted to this blog asking where they could see more information on the campus school. The answer was at the archives web site, There is a good bit of history of our school, it's programs and people, including photographs on those pages. We also will be doing quite a bit of expansion of the pages this winter and spring :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The library 100 years ago

This photo shows the library of 100 years ago. It was in the center section of the old Normal School building, which stood where Hartwell Hall is today. The library occupied a similar spot in Hartwell Hall for a number of years. In the early 1960s the first building designed solely for a library was built; no, not the Drake of today though! It was "Drake I," which today is Rakov, on Kenyon Street. Today's Drake Library opened in 1975.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Card Catalogs, what fun! ;-)

Remember the old card catalog? You'd have to have been here in the late 1980s, or earlier, because we switched over to an online catalog at that time. The old card catalog may seem quaint now, but just like today's online catalog it was your access to our books and other holdings.

If you knew the title or author the card catalog was easy to use, it just got a little tricky when searching by subject, because you needed to know the formal subject heading terms. With online catalogs, like the "Dynix" system we started with (and we were the first SUNY four year school to take our catalog online,) it's easier in many ways, you can do a more free form search, and pick up things more easily.

The old card catalogs represented many many hours of work to build and maintain, it was a little hard for library staff to see them go, but progress will out and we saw that the new online catalogs would serve much better.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Internet?!

Nope, no Internet at all for the first 140 or so years of the college's history. No PCs either, and for that matter, no typewriters until late in the 1800s. (In the college archives we have many large leather bound volumes of handwritten student registers etc. from that pre-typewritten era.)

But back to the Internet. The Internet came into being in the late 196os and became accessible to colleges as time went on, via teletypes and mainframe computers. This Internet was a "net" of computers that presented information in text form, on printouts or later on monitors. The library acquired it's first "dumb" terminals connected to the Internet around 1990, but they weren't all that useful really.

There were no pictures, no web sites like we know them, certainly no Google or Wikipedia! There were search engines, "Archie" was one, but it wasn't anything like as convenient as today's Internet. The "Web," or World Wide Web, came along in the mid-90s and changed everything. This was a computing innovation that basically allowed for pictures, web pages as we know them, to run on the Internet and led to the tremendous and ongoing changes to information and it's delivery we see even today, as we experiment with Kindles and ebooks in the library.

What we did have for PCs in the early stages is shown here, ca1993. The view is on the main floor by the center staircase, looking south towards the back of the floor. (We still have a large PC cluster in this area.)  None of these PCs were connected to the Internet, and as mentioned above the Web had not yet come into being. These PC's ran a variety of CDs that held some indexes to articles (some of you will remember "ERIC",) some actual full text of articles, some government documents and so forth. One wonders what the folks 175 years from now will think of our technologies, will they seem as quaint to them as the old leather bound, handwritten volumes in the archives seem to us?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Campus School

Students and many staff of today don't know what the campus school was, but for anyone who came to Brockport in the '70s or before it is a familiar concept. Basically the idea was to have an actual school running within the context of the college, where people planning to become teachers could do their practice teaching, new education methods tested etc.

The campus school was part of Brockport from the late 1860s to the 1970s, a little over one hundred years. Malcolm MacVicar, an early leader of the school, was a big proponent of learning by doing, and vigorously supported campus schools as a concept.

The composition of the school varied over the years. In earlier years it actually ran Grades 1-12! After the village of Brockport established its own high school post WWI, the campus school became Grades 1-8. It was housed on campus along with all other campus programs. Today's Cooper Hall was originally established specifically to house  the campus school.

Student teachers would teach under the watchful eye of full time "Teacher-Critics," who both supervised and taught the class itself, as well as the student teachers. Spots for school children in the campus school were long sought after, as it was considered something of  a cutting edge educational opportunity. Most of our SUNY peers ran similar campus schools. As teacher training methods changed, and SUNY cutbacks were needed, the campus schools were eliminated and today are a fond and important memory of the school.

Next summer, 2011, there will be a reunion of the campus school. Watch this space and the college news for more information this spring! (Pictured here are campus school students and student teacher holding a parade ca1955. The archives has quite a bit of material related to the campus school.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


No self respecting campus should be without its resident haunts and specters, and Brockport does have its share, in our very own Hartwell Hall! Or so the stories go...

Jennifer Valitis was a student here and did a very interesting project for a folklore class with Virginia Weiss in 1993. The project involved interviewing two custodial staff in Hartwell Hall concerning the stories about ghosts in the building.

The folks interviewed had a number of stories about things like hearing voices in hallways, when no one was around other than the one staff person, or seeing a shadow move behind a glass door, and on opening the door not finding anyone in the room...

One ghost is supposed to be that of someone who died in the building. No one has ever died in Hartwell Hall, but Julius Bates, the first principal of the school died in the building which preceded Hartwell Hall, in the 1840s.

Another ghost is said to be that of someone who drowned in the pool in Hartwell (years ago there was a swimming pool in the basement of Hartwell.) Again, no one ever died or drowned in Hartwell - but a workman, Edward Rowley, did drown in an accident in the 1880s when the cover of a large cistern collapsed and he fell in. (The cistern was behind the old "Normal School" building and supplied water to the building.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Technology changes are nothing new...

It may seem like things are changing a lot with computers and the Internet, and they are, but people in years gone by experienced change too. An example from the 1950s  is shown here. Three librarians, Stevens, McCrory and McPherson, are standing around a brand new microfilm machine in the library, which at that time in the 1950s occupied the center section of the 2nd floor in Hartwell.

Microfilm was invented long before the 1950s, but it was only after WWII and the growth of higher education that took place then that microfilm really came into its own. Libraries needed more and more materials, and one space efficient way to house newspapers and magazines is to film them onto a roll of film.

Not so long ago, at least not so long to your blogger, a major portion of the back of the main floor of the library was taken up by banks of microfilm readers, and masses of file cabinets housing thousands of rolls of microfilm. As part of his job one of the technicians in the AV/Tech unit would periodically visit the library to adjust the readers, replace bulbs etc. We even had some portable microfilm readers that came in a briefcase set up that you could check out!

We still have some of those materials and readers, but so much is available online nowadays that microfilm no longer has the central place it once did. One wonders what current cutting edge technologies of today will seem as quaint in the future as the microfilm machine does today?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Archives Ribbon Cutting Ceremony !

The college archives, which are housed on the ground floor of Drake Memorial Library, moved into a new and bigger space this summer. Please join President Halstead, Mary Jo Gigliotti, college archivist and all who "cherish this heritage" at the official opening of the space this week Thursday at 11:30.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Faculty Athletes of Yesteryear

In the March 15, 1933 Stylus there is a fascinating article about two faculty of the day and their athletic careers. They were Charles Cooper,  director of student teaching and the campus school, and Alfred Thompson, the "principal" or president of the school.

Charles Cooper had played baseball at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania where he played on the baseball team with fellow student Christy Mathewson, who later became a  famed pitcher with the NY Giants in the "dead ball" era. Cooper also played football in an era when the game was even more physically dangerous and challenging than now, and the article noted that he still carried scars from a game with the "Indians," that is the team from the Carlisle Indian School (think Jim Thorpe...)

Alfred Thompson was a lineman on the Yale football team in the 1880s in the infamous era of the "flying wedge," when injuries to players were common and they were even several fatalities. Thompson was also on the Yale rowing team, and coached the football team at Brockport in the years before  WWI., at which time declining male student numbers and controversy over the violence of the game led to football being abandoned, not to resume until the late 1940s.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Heading west...

For over a century of the college's history the campus was the original 6 acre plot donated by village founder Hiel Brockway. Much of that time there was just the one academic building, Hartwell Hall being only the most recent in a line of such buildings. (One earlier building burned in the 1850s, the successor building was torn down to build Hartwell in the late 1930s.)

Ernest Hartwell wanted, in the late 1930s, when a new building was being planned (which later was named for him,) to not build it on the current spot but to move west, beyond Kenyon Street, where there was open land available. It was decided to build on the original plot however, and it fell to Hartwell's successors, like Donald Tower, to see the school move west and acquire land for new buildings and facilities.  Following is an aerial shot looking west from Hartwell in 1958.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Textbooks & a pack of smokes

Some things sure were different once upon a time, for example in this picture of the campus bookstore in the '50s, when you could buy cigarettes there, as well as other personal items. Of course, this was the same era when cigarette salespeople were welcome to visit the student union and pass out 5 cigarette sample packs of Lucky Strikes etc.! (Note the L&M cigarette ad displayed in the upper left of the photo.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

When they lived at West Hall

Our last post about basket boarding drew a response from a reader who was a student here in 1950 and basket boarded. It prompted us to think of West Hall as well, and here is what the catalog of the late '40s tells us about this temporary women's dorm that was built.

To better understand, one must realize that Brockport was largely the same size school for decades, a student body of less than 1000, attending a school that was basically the one building. After WWII though higher education enrollment took off in a dramatic way, and Brockport, like other schools, entered into an exciting period of growth for the next 20 years.

"In the fall of 1948, West Hall, a temporary dormitory for women, one block from the College, was opened for occupancy.  West Hall houses 112 women students, 98 freshmen and 14 upper-classmen who serve as counselors.  A resident manager is in charge. Other women students of the College reside in carefully selected homes in the village.  Regulations governing rooming houses are set up by the State and by the College Committee on Housing.  Satisfactory conditions as to heat, sanitation, lighting, furnishings and social features of each home are checked before the house is recommended as a student residence. Men students live in similarly approve rooming houses in the village or in the veterans housing project.


  • Room in West Hall $180 a year

  • Rooms in private homes $150-180 a year

  • Apartments in veterans housing for married vets $18 monthly

  • Rooms in housing for single veterans $16 monthly average

  • Estimated College cafeteria prices Breakfast $.30 per day Lunch $.45 per day Dinner $.75 per day

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dining: a brief history

Before 1900, there were dormitory areas in the building, and a dining room. But in 1900 classroom space was expanded, and the dormitory rooms provided the space. From then on students boarded off campus or commuted, and there was a lounge where they could eat, but no dining facilities for many years.

In 1928 Principal Thompson worked with the Greek letter societies then at the school, in particular Phi Alpha Zeta, and a lunch room was opened in the building that served hot lunches. In 1941, when the old building was torn down and what we know as Hartwell Hall put up in its place, a cafeteria was provided for in the basement.

Later on, as the campus expanded in the 1950s and '60s, separate buildings for dining were established. Pictured here are students in Harrison in 1970. Nowadays students and staff can enjoy the award winning services and food of BASC across campus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Basket boarders

Back when the "The Bunch" were here in 1916, it was common for students to do what was called "basket boarding." The thing was that the school itself had no dorms, so students chose among several options. If you had the money and wanted to, you could rent a room in a house, get meals there or in town, somewhat like many students do today. Or if you lived nearby, you could easily commute. But if you lived farther away, commuting was just not possible, not back then. The roads were too primitive, cars too expensive...

One option many students followed because it solved both the commute problem and was relatively inexpensive was to basket board. Your blogger once interviewed a woman who did this. She lived on the family farm east of Rochester, and each week took the trolley to Brockport, carrying her books and yes, a basket of food for the week! Every weekend she would go home, replenish her basket, and then return to Brockport and the room she rented at the beginning of the week. (The family she rented from supplied some perishables, like milk; the basket would be packed with things like bread, cheese, apples...) That student was Ethel Henning '20, who went on to teach for many years in the Walworth schools.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Football at Brockport!

The history of football at Brockport goes back a long way. Pictured here is the team ca1900. (The gentleman in the second row, standing, with beard and wearing a bowler, is Charles MacLean, the head of the school, and avid football fan.) The local newspaper, the Brockport Republic, has a mention of football at the school as early as 1889. Within a few years the team was regularly playing other teams and enjoyed some successful seasons. In 1915 though the sport was dropped, in part because of a shortage of players, but also because this was a time of controversy for the sport which was under fire for the many injuries and even occasional fatalities that took place in that era.

After a period of some years football was revived at Brockport in 1947, under coach Bob Boozer, who was to become a legendary figure in campus athletics with his "Boozermen" football team.

Monday, September 20, 2010

89.1, The Point

Like anything, Brockport's radio station, The Point, has a history. The story of radio at Brockport goes back to the early 1950s, when the Stylus noted that both Fredonia and Oswego had radio stations, and urged the establishment of one at Brockport. WBSTC began broadcasting on a closed circuit in 1957, and is the predecessor to today's station. Pictured here is the radio staff in the early '60s!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First African American graduate

The first African American to graduate from Brockport was a woman, Fannie Barrier, in 1870. She was a native of Brockport, growing up at 57 Erie Street. Her father was a barber and coal dealer, and her brother and sister also attended Brockport.

Fannie went on to have quite a significant public life. Starting as a teacher, she married, and as Fannie Barrier Williams become for many years a noted speaker and activist. She and her husband were also friends and supporters of Booker T. Washington.

In the late 1920s she retired, a widow, back home to Brockport and lived with her sister Ella at 163 Erie Street, where today a historical marker commemorates her life. You can learn more about her in this online entry from Notable American Women.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Constant Companions

One might say that trees can be our constant companions, sometimes coming before us and living on after we are gone. The college has some wonderful such companions, the lovely old trees on the lawn surrounding Hartwell Hall.

Unlike much of the rest of the campus, which was residential or agricultural use in the past, the land where Hartwell Hall stands has been campus lawn ever since Hiel Brockway, founder of Brockport, donated the land for the school in the 1830s. While it is hard to say if any trees on the lawn are quite that old, several of the sycamores may come close, and the venerable maple pictured here is easily 125 years old or more. When you next cross the lawn at Hartwell take a moment to greet these companions of our school!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Diaper Alley"

Never heard of Diaper Alley? Well, not many nowadays know of it, but it was quite something in its day. Diaper Alley was the fond nickname given to some temporary married student housing that once stood on campus. It was in the parking lots on the north side of Hartwell Hall, by the railroad tracks.

Back then the campus wasn't anything like the size it is today; Hartwell was still the main building. With the GI Bill though student numbers were growing, and some of these WWII vets were married and had young families. So a temporary building was set up, and "Diaper Alley" was born! This building is long gone of course, but there are still some around who recall it, including one of our library retirees.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"...our little untried craft, 'The Stylus..."

Although there was an earlier student publication, the "Normalia," today's Stylus dates back to 1914. In the early years it was not a newspaper, like today, but a magazine that came out several times a year. The first issue was that of May 1914.  The editors wrote that:

"We are starting our little untried craft, 'The Stylus,' upon its first voyage... (our) earnest endeavor is to launch it right... keeping it far from the rocks of failure."

They surely succeeded, for here we are, almost a century later, and the Stylus is still going strong! Pictured here are two of the 1914 staff, Dorothy Harsch and Louis Meinhardt.

That first issue, like subsequent ones through the 1920s, was a mix of news items, short fiction pieces, humor columns, sports news and so on. Among the news in that first issue was that the basketball team had enjoyed a winning year, there were several pages of foreign language submissions, in German and French, and one student wrote a brief history of the school. To further it's appeal, each June issue was longer and served as the school yearbook.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"O! Tis excellent to have a giant's strength"

This quote from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, was Vic Tanny's senior quote in the 1935 Saga (the former yearbook of our college.) In a school like ours with such an active physical education program it is good to recall something of Vic Tanny's accomplishments.

First you have to understand that in the 1930s there was little in the way of gyms or health clubs as we know them today. A young man who wanted to work with weights might find himself, like Vic, in his garage, using sandbags tied to broomsticks and other home made equipment!

Although he trained as a junior high teacher, Vic Tanny was passionate about exercise, weight training and body building, and these became his career. His greatest accomplishment was to be a pioneer of the modern health club movement.

He opened his first gym shortly after WWII in Santa Monica, near the original "Muscle Beach." It was the 7,000 square foot basement of a USO club, and became fondly known as "The Dungeon." It was the place to train for weightlifters and body builders in the 1940s and 1950s. Members included actor Steve Reeves and Joe Gold, who went on to establish the famous Gold's Gym.

From this beginning Vic established a chain of clubs, moving away from the "dungeon" model to one where more ordinary men and women might feel at home. Among other things he pioneered the idea of paying membership fees by installment, making membership more workable for people.

Although in later years financial problems led to his chain of clubs being sold, mostly to Bally's, Vic Tanny '35 remains to this day a respected figure in the history of physical training and health clubs. (Pictured here is Vic in the one of his clubs in the early 1960s.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Malcolm MacVicar

Yes, MacVicar, as in MacVicar Hall, one of our residence halls. He was "principal," that is president, of our school 1858-1868. This was a key transitional period for the school, where we went from being a private "collegiate institute" to being a state "Normal School."

MacVicar was a Scottish immigrant to Canada and came to this country as a teenager to work as a ship's carpenter, but discovered a calling to preach and became a Baptist minister.  He found though that his real calling was in education, and he was a capable and astute educator, leading Brockport through some difficult times, where as a private school we were in real financial difficulties, to a secure place as a state supported school.

He then went on from Brockport to run Potsdam, and later several other colleges. Subsequently he was involved in higher education for blacks in the American post Civil War south. As superintendent of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, he oversaw the operations of a seminary, seven colleges, and a number of academies across the south.

MacVicar finished his career as president of the newly formed Union University in Virginia, which is today Virginia Union University - and they also have a residence hall named after MacVicar!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our school, from an early catalog

[caption id="attachment_13" align="aligncenter" width="470" caption="The Brockport Collegiate Institute in 1842"][/caption]

Thursday, July 8, 2010

1835 - 2010!

From  "Academy" to "Normal School" to "Teachers College," and on to today's comprehensive school, it has been a long and rather intriguing road. Many of us enjoy reading about dramatic historical events and periods, wars, revolutions etc., yet how many of us actually ever take part in such things? On the other hand, we all go to school, and yet most people know little about how education, especially higher education, has developed and grown in this country.

Here's a (greatly!) simplified overview:  in 1835 public schooling covered grades  1-8, and there was no high school as we know it. Colleges, schools that granted the bachelor degree or higher, were extremely few in number, expensive, and generally for men only. They also tended to focus on a classical curriculum, Greek, Latin, rhetoric etc.

As the country expanded, the perception grew that more educational opportunity for its citizens was needed. People wanted better trained teachers for grades 1-8,  higher education that included more science and practical subjects, and schools more accessible to ordinary people.

This led to the development of the "academies," an early educational form that combined elements  of both today's high schools and colleges. Such a school was started here in Brockport in 1835, on land donated by Hiel Brockway, founder of Brockport. The six acres he donated are still part of the campus, the area where Hartwell Hall is now. The original building was in the same general location as Hartwell, as were subsequent buildings. (Hartwell Hall followed these earlier buildings in the late 1930s.)

So ends this initial history lesson :-) Please follow this blog over the coming year as we explore the many facets of our school's history!