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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

WWI time of changes around Carleton campus

<w that the world is approaching the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine the world at that time. A current Carleton student might also have trouble recognizing the Carleton of the 1910’s. At that time, there was no LDC, no Myers, no Libe, not even a bust of Schiller. During the 1910s, Carleton faced changes, many of them involving the war.

Before Burton Hall was built in 1916, men had to walk a little further to get from their residence to classes. Since Nourse, Evans, and all of the other residence halls had not been built yet, there was little area to house students. In the days of single-sex dorms, only women were able to live on campus. The living quarters for men in Willis Hall had been transformed into a chapel in 1880, forcing the men to reside in various parts of Northfield. Consider that whenever you complain about living in Goodhue.

When Burton opened about 92 years ago in the fall of 1916, Carleton had a total enrollment of 501 students, 252 women and 249 men. While this number might seem small today, it was a major increase compared to 1908 when there were only 316 students enrolled. 1916 was the year of Carleton’s 50th anniversary, which was celebrated with the opening of both Burton Hall and Skinner Memorial Chapel, the latter of which held its first religious service during the 50th anniversary festivities (the college at the time was affiliated with the Congregational Churches). The two buildings were part of then-president of the college, Donald Cowling’s plan of a “greater Carleton”, which called for a completely residential college and the erection of twelve new buildings (only nine of those were actually built). The Carleton Knights finished the 1916 football season undefeated, just as they had in 1913, 1914, and 1915. One of those victories during the 1916 season was a 7-0 upset of the University of Chicago, the “most promising team of [the] Big Nine Conference [predecessor of the Big Ten Conference]” according to an Oct. 1916 Carletonia (the school newspaper did not add an “n” to its title yet) article. Other than through newspapers and occasional speakers, the Great War that had been occurring in Europe and the Middle East for over two years by the fall of 1916 was largely unnoticed by Carleton.

“At the time, it was very easy to be part of the ra-ra college experience.” Said Carleton’s archivist, Eric Hilleman, “(The war declaration) came out of the blue to students. A few weeks before, no one knew that a war was coming (for the U.S.).”

The U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. During a meeting of many of the college’s men in the chapel ten days later, 82 registered for military training and many more signified their intention to do the same the next day. By the beginning of Fall term that year, nearly 75 men had enlisted in the military. There were only twenty men left in the class of 1918. While a Carletonia editorial from October 1917 attempted to convince male students that the most patriotic act for them to expand their minds and abilities for future service, an editorial in May 21, 1918’s edition of the paper that was addressed to former Carleton students who were now soldiers stated, “It is you and your comrades from similar institutions who have vindicated the existence of the American colleges, who have enabled them to stand proudly as among the strongest and most beautiful pillars of our national structure.”

President Cowling, who was also the president of two major educational associations, the Association of American Colleges and the Emergency Council on Education, stepped the campus’s war-related efforts by the Fall of 1918. A branch of the Student’s Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) was formed on campus at the start of the school year. The S.A.T.C. required all male students who were both physically fit and of draft age to perform eleven hours of military training per week along with taking a course in “War Aims”. S.A.T.C. members were paid at the same rate as U.S. army private. A student of that time described the campus as, “Burton Hall was a barracks, surrounded by armed sentries, the gym was a hospital, and the troops double-timed through the streets of Northfield in the darkness of the early morning.” Enrollment had dropped to there being only 143 men (who largely stayed because of the S.A.T.C. on campus) and 239 women. Even though, there was about 40% less male students on campus than two years earlier, the changes caused by the war pale in comparison to those of World War II. “In World War II, the campus was just empty of men within a year after Pearl Harbor. In World War I, there were a lot of people who went into the service but it wasn’t a lot…World War I did not have as much of a demographic notability (on campus).” said Hilleman. Overall, 278 alumni, 289 current students, and 6 faculty enlisted in the armed services during the War; eleven of whom died.

While nurses were primarily the only women allowed to join the armed service, female students at Carleton still made their own contributions to the war effort. During the 1917-18 school year, Carleton’s women knitted scarves, sweaters, socks, and helmets for the Red Cross organization. In the spring of 1918, the Carleton Auxiliary of the Red Cross was organized as a branch of the Northfield Chapter. During the fall of that year, most women spent part of their time making surgical dressings for the Auxiliary. The proceeds from spring 1918 Mai Fete, an annual festival that used to be held by Carleton on Mai Fete island, went to the Red Cross Organization.

Because of the war, The Algol was postponed in 1918 and the college Glee Club was discontinued until the end of the war. Due to the lack of men on the campuses of both Northfield colleges, Carleton and St. Olaf combined their football team for a single season. After the war ended in November 1918, the campus S.A.T.C. was disbanded and many students in the armed services returned to school. Later that year, Carleton took part in a national postwar trend of relaxing moral traditions. In January 1919, the college held its first-ever dance in Sayles-Hill (No shirts were taken off to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”). In April, the girls were allowed to visit the male dormitories for an “Open House”. Carleton closed the 1910’s by looking forward to a decade without military conflicts.

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