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The Way Life Used to Be

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 3, 1999
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Photos Courtesy of Special Collections
Arizona Daily Wildcat

This picture (above), taken in 1967, was for the Red/Blue Scrimmage game. Women, until the late 1960s, came to college to get married, not to get a degree.

During the past 100 years, Old Main, the University of Arizona's first building and centerpiece, has stood silent witness to fleeting moments in the lives of ambitious youths: the all-too-short period often called "the college experience."

When the UA opened its doors for the 1891-1892 school year, it was home to six faculty, 32 students and one building - Old Main.

The 1920s

Thirty-three years later, when Roy Drachman attended the university, it had grown to include 21 buildings, 130 faculty and 1,617 students.

Compared to today, Drachman entered a radically different university.

Editors note:

The Century
1999, the turn of the century and the millennium will be a worldwide year of historical reflection and celebration. The Arizona Daily Wildcat today features the third in a weekly series of stories examining the events that shaped the university of Arizona community.
"Everybody knew everybody on the campus," Drachman said. "It was close - we felt close to each other. Then the president of the university lived on campus too."

Drachman was forced to leave the university and enter the work force in 1925 because his father fell ill, but he remained involved with the UA.

At the time Drachman entered the UA, fraternity affiliation was common, military service was mandatory and freshmen occupied the bottom rung of the university food chain.

Men dominated campus leadership positions and women "didn't have much to do with the power structure in those days." Hazing was a fact of life.

"We (freshmen) had to wear green beanies up until about the middle of the second semester," he said.

An unofficial group of junior and senior men called the "Traditions Committee" enforced rules for freshmen such as a ban on dating junior or senior girls, Drachman said. In those days, the Agriculture Building was "kinda the center of campus" and the committee was housed there.

"Sometimes the Traditions Committee would list names of freshman that had broken rules to be paddled," he said. "We had to go over and assume the position.

"Sometimes they hit pretty damn hard," Drachman added. "We all went through it, we all did."

There was an especially fierce rivalry between the freshman and sophomore classes.

"They would battle," he said. "Sophomores would kidnap kids (freshmen) and dump them out in the desert."

Drachman added that freshmen would return the favor when the opportunity presented itself.


Photos Courtesy of Special Collections
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Painting "A" Mountain (left) has been a tradition at the UA for many years. Here, women pose next to a poster for the event that took place during Freshman Week.

An official "Bury the Hatchet" ceremony was actually held every spring, after the freshmen took off their beanies, in order to formally end violence between the two groups.

The UA also had an active social scene. Sabino Canyon and pool or dance halls were all popular weekend destinations.

"They did a little drinking and a little playing around," Drachman said, emphasizing that education was always a priority. "Liquor was not the important thing - it was during prohibition of course, but they would mix up what they called bathtub gin. There were quite a few bootleggers around."

The 1930s

In 1933, there were 166 faculty members and 2,291 students.

When Jim Ewell came to the UA from Chicago, Arizona had been a state for less than 20 years and the whole area was "pretty much country," he said.

Pursuing a career as a military officer was a particularly smart choice at the time, said Herb Macia, who attended the UA from 1935-1938.

"As the war started heating up in Europe, it was a damn good idea to be an officer rather than be drafted," Macia said.

Women of the 30's were a big part of the campus, but their job options were limited.

"You could be a school teacher," said 1939 UA graduate Mary Macia, who added that opportunities for women were increasing. "There was a couple real strange women who were in the Engineering School."

Nevertheless, embarking on a career was not something that women commonly thought about in those days.

"Whenever you talked to a girl, you didn't ask them what they were studying," Herb Macia said. "They all were in school to get married."

The traditional road trip to Nogales, Sonora, may have its origin in the period before the end of Prohibition. The border town was a popular spot with students because the ban on alcohol did not apply in Mexico and there was a favorable peso-to-dollar exchange rate.

"About half the school would go down to Nogales (on weekends)," Ewell said. "Of course the stuff you got in Mexico was better than the bootleg stuff you got in the U.S."


Photos Courtesy of Special Collections
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rivalry between the freshman and sophomore classes was notorious prior to the 1930s. Every spring there was an official "Bury the Hatchet" ceremony to formally end the antagonism between the two classes. This picture was taken around 1917.

Most students suffered from money problems because the Depression was in full swing.

"People went to school because they didn't have anything else to do," Herb Macia said. "Everybody worked to go to school. There wasn't any money."

Tuition then was $25 each semester and "some people didn't have it sometimes," said Mary Macia.

"Life was very, very different," Herb Macia said. "There's no comparison between life then and now."

The 1940s and 1950s

World War II and the Korean War were big news on campus.

"Everybody was in, had been in, or was going in the service in those days," said Tom Fannin, who was at the UA from 1950-1951.

The post-WWII period saw a dramatic increase in the number of college students nationwide. The UA's enrollment jumped from 3,445 students during the 1945-1946 school year to 5,062 students in the 1946-1947 school year.

UA Head Count

95 faculty
1,171 students
182 faculty
2,164 students
468 faculty
6,227 students
25,633 students
30,486 students
Many of these students, fresh from the battlefield, had a whole new outlook on life.

"I think it makes you grow up faster when you're carrying 500-pound bombs as an 18-year-old," said Frank Barreca, a former Navy pilot. "It changes the world when you have a conflict like that."

Students like Barreca wanted to jump head-first back into their lives when they returned from the war, he said.

"People that went to war were making up for lost time and had a different attitude about what education could do for them," said Barreca, who attended UA from 1946-1949. "We had a lot of fun, we partied a lot but we wanted to get out. It was a fun time to be in school."

However, for the UA's black population, segregation was the law until 1954. As a result, this era's black students do not have quite as many fond memories of college as their white counterparts.

"There was plenty of segregation on the U of A campus - just no doubt about it," said Laura Banks, a 1943 graduate.

Because segregation was a federal law, almost any attempt to fight it was futile. Only the smallest gains were possible.

"You might think it sounds bad, but that was the way it was all over the country," said Morgan Maxwell, a 1949 graduate.


Photo Courtesy of Kurt Cooper
Arizona Daily Wildcat

One type of hazing ritual for incoming freshman was called the Freshman Roundup. Sophomores grabbed the freshman when they got off the train and shaved their heads. This picture was taken around 1915.

Blacks were not allowed to swim in the UA pool until 1939, when Banks challenged the university's policy.

"I was one of those that had to push the issue in order to swim in the pool," she said.

Aside from that relatively minor victory, black students were not allowed to live on campus or offered student jobs. They were forced to eat outside the dining hall until 1946 when Student Body President Morris Udall and his brother Stuart invited Maxwell to come eat with them at Louie's Lower Level, then the only restaurant on campus.

"That changed the policy," Maxwell said.

Despite small victories, there was no opportunity for blacks to take part in student life. Membership in fraternities and sororities, student government and other student organizations was closed to them.

"Fraternity and sorority members and then residence halls were a part of the activities on campus," said Anna Jolivet, who attended from 1946 to 1950. "You have a certain culture that you associate with a university, and certainly back at that time it was basically white male."

The 1960s and 1970s

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, student activism brought change to the UA campus. Hippie culture and student protests began to thrive.

Students at this time demanded more representation on campus, more respect from the administration - and basically set out to change the world.

"The time that I was there was a time of struggle," said Salomon Baldenegro, a student from 1965 to 1971. "We created a lot of change - those were exciting times."

Students from all walks of life and various backgrounds would come together for rallies and sit-ins, many of which were held on the UA Mall. It was common to see Associated Students senators, fraternity and sorority members, black and Hispanic activists all cooperating together for the same cause.

"I think I was there at a big turning point," said John Turner, a UA student from 1969 to 1974.

A large number of students were interested in the social and political issues of the day, and were willing to do something about their feelings.


Photo Courtesy of Special Collections
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona did not see much in the way of activism until 1969, with the height of activity in 1971. Students are protesting on the UA campus.

"We would have rallies of three, four, five thousand people," Baldenegro said, adding that each student protest covered a wide spectrum of complaints.

If not for the activists of this period, today's minority student resources would not exist, he said.

By 1970, the UA had expanded to a point comparable to current enrollment. That year, 25,633 students were taking classes on campus.

However, during most of the 1960s, students were not as radical. The UA's location in a conservative and remote town in a conservative and remote state caused change to be slow.

"Nationally, civil rights was a significant issue, but Tucson was a small western town and therefore wasn't experiencing some of the problems that major urban areas experienced," said Pat Murphy, who went to the UA from 1964 to 1968. "Hippie culture came after I had left. Drug use was not a significant problem when I was there."

In 1960, enrollment was less than 14,000, ROTC was mandatory and dorms had curfews.

"Dorms were terrible places to live," Murphy said.

And while Vietnam was "a strong motivation for students to maintain their grades and stay in school," the UA campus was more conservative than other schools such as Kent State, Murphy said.

But, whatever the University of Arizona lacked in activism it made up for in partying.

"I think at one point the U of A appeared as the number one party school in the nation," Murphy said.

The 1980s

In 1980, the UA boasted 30,486 students and found itself still on the list of America's top 10 party schools. Dorms commonly passed out fliers for their keg parties.

"A lot of our parties used to end with someone being dunked in the (Old Main) fountain," said Fred Ronstadt, a student from 1981 to 1986 and former patron of the Yavapai Residence Hall's gatherings.

Cars were allowed to drive along the entire length of East University Boulevard between North Park Avenue and North Campbell Avenue, but parking was still hard to come by.

"Oh yeah, parking was a problem, yeah it was," said Ronstadt, now a Tucson city councilman. "You could drive anywhere on campus but you had to try to get a parking space where you could get it."

Michael Lafleur can be reached at Michael.Lafleur@wildcat.arizona.edu.

Information about the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study is available online.
The National Drug Strategy Networks's online alcohol news briefs commonly focus on drinking at college campuses but also provide information on other alcohol-related issues.