Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

“The Bleachers are Dead! Long Live the Stadium!”

May 10th, 2016

Ninety-five years ago today saw an impressive event at the University of Kansas. As summarized by an article by John H. McCool, “Chancellor Lindley declared May 10, 1921, to be Stadium Day and turned loose hundreds of male students and faculty who proceeded to physically tear down the [McCook Field] bleachers in only 78 minutes.”

Photograph of the KU v. MU football game at McCook field, 1910

The marching band playing at halftime of the KU v. MU football game, McCook Field, 1910.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1910: Student Activities:
Sports: Football (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

McCook was KU’s “original outdoor athletic grounds,” and by 1920 the 25-year-old wooden bleachers were considered dilapidated, uncomfortable, and inadequate. According to McCool, “these conditions, coupled with a steady rise of alumni and student interest in KU football, made construction of a new, permanent stadium a top priority, and if it also served a commemorative function [to memorialize KU students, alumni, and faculty who had died in World War I], then so much the better.”

Photograph of McCook Field bleachers, 1920

McCook Field bleachers prior to demolition, 1920. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1920 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

The University Daily Kansan announced Stadium Day on May 9th with a front page article. “Each student will have his chance to show just what his true relations to his University and his feelings toward it really are,” it read, continuing:

The removal of the old bleachers is not such an event in itself. The participation in clearing the ground for the new structure is the big feature of the entire school year. The ground is to be broken for the new stadium. The old gives place to new and every one present will witness the beginning of the biggest building project that K. U. has to date hoped to attain…This is the one big day of the entire school year, the last all-university holiday and frolic. Tuesday is the day! McCook Field is the place! You are the individual responsible! Be there!!

Reporting on Stadium Day on May 11th, the Kansan proclaimed that it was “a grand and howling success.” Below are some photographs of the event, accompanied by further descriptions from the Kansan.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “In alphabetical order, the workers gathered at various sections of the bleachers, and began their task of lifting planks, removing joists, and prying side-pieces. As soon as a swarm of students would remove the ancient timber, another group would begin to carry it off the field…While the bleachers were undergoing their last rites, an immense company of men was building portable bleachers to contain crowds at the two track meets to be held here yet this year. This bunch of men were aided by two power saws, and the short time consumed in the construction of these temporary stands was miraculous.”

Photograph of Stadium Day, bleachers being disassembled, 1921

Bleachers being disassembled, 8:30am on Stadium Day, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Stadium Day, bleachers being disassembled, 1921

Stadium Day, south bleachers at 9:00am, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Stadium Day, bleachers being disassembled, 1921

Stadium Day, north bleachers at 9:30am, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Stadium Day workers, 1921

Stadium Day workers, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Stadium Day, men carrying logs, 1921

Students working on Stadium Day, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1921: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “Although by far the great majority of students turned out to assist in the destruction, a few sluggards stayed in their homes. Toward the censure of these, a personnel squad turned out, thirty-five strong, and made a tour of the Hill. Armed with paddles, the squad discovered sixty men, and the sixty were soon with the multitude of laborers.”

Photograph of the Stadium Day paddle squad, 1921

Stadium Day paddle squad, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “But work wasn’t the main pleasure of the day. Just after a bunch of Kansas City alumni and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce pulled up Illinois Avenue headed by a band, fifteen ‘chow’ lines were put into motion, and 4,000 persons were fed in less than an hour. The fifteen lines proceeded past tables which were presided over by ten or twelve University women. Heaped upon these tables were thousands upon thousands of sandwiches – peanut butter, pimento cheese, and freshly barbecued beef, giant quantities of beans, pickles, innumerable ice cream cones, and gallon after gallon of steaming coffee. An orderly crowd then took plates to the cars and curbings on Illinois street, and was soon stuffed. ‘Seconds’ were allowed those who came back for more. Never before in the history of the University had such a feed been held, and never before anywhere had 4,000 appetites been so thoroughly satisfied.””

Photogrpah of Stadium Day barbecue, 1921

Stadium Day barbecue, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “A pushball contest was announced, the thousands adjourning to Hamilton Field. After this sport had resulted in countless bruises and boundless enthusiasm, the last scheduled event of the celebration took place.”

Phototograph of Stadium Day pushball contest, 1921

Stadium Day pushball contest, 1921. Many of the day’s activities were
filmed by a Pathé News cameraman. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus:
Buildings: McCook Field (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “Clad in overalls, Chancellor Lindley plowed a straight furrow across McCook Field. The ground for a new half-million dollar project was broken. The bleachers are dead! Long live the Stadium!” Earlier in the day, Lindley had “sounded the keynote of the holiday in a short speech. ‘The students of Kansas deserve everything that is given to the students at Princeton, Yale, and Harvard,’ he said, ‘and they are going to have it.'”

Photograph of Chancellor Lindley at Stadium Day, 1921

Chancellor Ernest Lindley (left, hat in hand) at Stadium Day, 1921.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints:
Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Construction of the new Memorial Stadium began on July 16, 1921. But, as John H. McCool wrote, “with only a quarter-million in the bank, the Memorial Corporation could only pay for the east and west sides; rounding off the U would not be possible until 1927 (when full capacity reached 38,000), and only then after raising ticket prices and floating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bonds.”

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming Queen Edition

October 8th, 2015

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 6,700 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We’re excited that Homecoming is right around the corner, so this week’s photograph shows 1938 Homecoming Queen Dorothy “Denny” Lemoine (center) and her court, Helen Johnson (left) and Elizabeth Kemp (right). Lemoine was chosen by the football team.

Photograph of KU Homecoming queen and court, 1938

The KU Homecoming Queen and her attendants with campus officials on the field at
Memorial Stadium, November 1938. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1938 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

According to an article on the KU History website, the first Homecoming Queen was crowned at KU in 1925. The “ceremony did not become a tradition until 1933. A new queen was crowned each year until 1969, when anti-war demonstrations and stormy race relations led to the committee’s decision that it was ‘more appropriate to recognize those who embody the academic spirit for which this community was established.'”

From left to right in the photograph are:

  • Colonel Karl F. Baldwin: A career Army officer, Baldwin (1885-1967) was a Professor of Military Science and Tactics and the ROTC commandant at KU from 1936 to 1941. Born in Iowa, Baldwin spent part of his childhood in Kansas. He received a B.S. in civil engineering (1908) and an M.A. (1918) from Norwich University, then The Military College of the State of Vermont.
  • Chancellor Ernest H. Lindley: A native of Indiana, Lindley received his B.A. (1893) and M.A. (1894) degrees in psychology from Indiana University before obtaining his Ph.D. in psychology from Clark University in 1897. He spent over twenty years as professor of psychology and philosophy at Indiana before becoming the president of the University of Idaho in 1917. Lindley (1869-1940) served as the Chancellor of KU from 1920 to 1939.
  • Attendant Helen Virginia Johnson: Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Helen graduated from KU in 1941 with a major in English. While at the university she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and the Young Women’s Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.). She also served on the Women’s Student Government Association (W.S.G.A.) and was the Vice President of her junior class. Helen was also a Kansas Relay Queen and a Jayhawker Queen.
  • Homecoming Queen Dorothy Deneise Lemoine: Dorothy graduated from KU in 1940 with a degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Also from Kansas City, Missouri, she was an intramural manager and a Hobo Queen, plus a member of Pi Beta Phi, Sociology Club, the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.), and French Club. She became engaged to star KU halfback Dick Amerine about a month after this photo was taken.
  • Attendant Elizabeth Ellinor Kemp: A member of the Class of 1939, Elizabeth majored in Spanish. The Kansas City, Missouri, native was also a member of Spanish Club and Alpha Delta Pi.
  • Ralph T. O’Neil, Chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents: O’Neil (1888-1940) was born in Osage City, Kansas. He obtained an A.B. from Baker (1909) and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard (1913). A World War I veteran, O’Neil was a long-time attorney in Topeka who also served as the national commander of the American Legion (1930-1931) and the president of the Kansas Bar Association (1939-1940).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants