Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Balopticoms & lantern slides

Pictured here is a Bausch & Lomb "Balopticom," ca1930. This antique looking device is a type often referred to as a "magic lantern" and was used to project lantern slides. If you aren't familiar with these things, the story goes as follows. Before Kodak came out with its 35mm color slide film in the late 1930s, and long before Powerpoint, if you wanted to do a slideshow, you did it with something like this Balopticom. You loaded one glass slide at a time into the projector, displaying the images for a class, a civic group etc. The slides were typically made up of two pieces of glass, one with the image on it, the other sitting on top of the image, and the two sealed round with a paper tape. One major sector of the glass slide business was educational. Companies hired photographers to shoot scenes of nature, localities and people across the world, and then produced and sold the images to educational institutions. The NY State Department of Education used to distribute slides to schools, including Normal schools like Brockport. In the college archives we have a large set of wooden cabinets with hundreds of slides, covering a tremendous range of topics, life in Hawaii or Norway, animals of North America, works of art etc. This set of equipment was a key part of audiovisual equipment here from the 1920s up through, well, perhaps the 1950s; do any readers recall using or viewing the glass slides as students or staff here?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Historical Information on the College at Brockport

The college archives has records, photographs and other materials going back almost to the founding of the school in 1835. Although visitors are welcome, and the archivist is glad to research information as time permits, a growing amount of history of the college is available online. For years we have had the archive web pages, but now in the new Digital Commons we have a whole section for the archives! Visit the site sometime and browse through yearbooks from the WWI era, or look for a relative or ancestor in one of the old Normal School alumni directories, or read one of the many excellent student papers on various aspects of the college's history.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Genial, smiling and friendly...

That's how Beryl Roberts '45 described Dr. Donald Tower in a piece in the Stylus in February 1945, when he had been here just about a year as president of the college, having taken over from Ernest Hartwell in February 1944. Tower was a native New Yorker, having grown up in Dundee NY in the Finger Lakes. He was educated in the local schools there, and then attended Albany State Teachers College and New York University. His first job after graduating Albany in 1919 was as a high school teacher in Olean NY, for $1,100 per year!  

After receiving advanced degrees he was head of the training school department at Oswego before coming to Brockport.  When he became president of this college in 1944 it was quite small, just 325 students, and the whole campus was what we now call Hartwell Hall and Alumni House (at the time, Alumni House was the president's home; Dr. Tower was the last president to live there.)

In here "Personality Plus" column, Beryl Roberts described Dr. Tower as saying that as far as hobbies went, he loved hiking, and also swimming and reading, His real hobby he said was his job, that he immensely enjoyed working with people and teaching. She noted that "Steak and French fries are Dr. Tower's favorite dish - though he admits that like most of us he hasn't partaken of them in a long time." (This was during WWII, and food rationing was in effect...) She also noted that Dr. Tower's academic interests were in English and dramatics. (Dr. Tower wrote an early book on dramatics for the college level, Educational Dramatics, 1930.)

In a Stylus article a few years later, in 1953, the writer noted that "Dr. Tower's theory of administration is one of close contact between the administrator and the administrated. At no time is the door to Dr. Tower's office closed... Dr. Tower said, 'Please don't make your story an obituary, I want the student body to know me as a person, not merely as an office holder."

When Dr. Tower retired from Brockport in 1964 he had helped establish the SUNY system in the late 1940s, and seen Brockport grow as a campus and a school much beyond what it had been in 1944. He didn't completely retire though, as he taught for several years more as an adjunct at St. John Fisher. Dr. Tower died in 1977, but is fondly remembered by many Brockport alum and emeriti to this day.