Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Union

Students at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) enjoyed fun activities like the decorated float parade featured in the last post.  But they also pursued more serious pursuits, especially during the World War I period.  By the terms of the 1862 Morrill (Land Grant) Act, federal lands were donated to the states to provide for instruction in agriculture, mechanical arts (engineering), and military tactics. Two years after becoming a land grant institution, Oregon Agricultural College began requiring all male students to join the cadet corps, a forerunner of ROTC.  They had daily military drills as shown in the photo.
O.A.C. cadets, Corvallis, Oregon
During World War I, men from the cadet corps volunteered to served in the war, some joining Allied Forces even before the U. S. entered the war. Nationally the rate of volunteer enlistments was too slow to meet manpower needs. Consequently, in May 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act. It required all men between 21 and 30 (later 18 to 45)  years old to register for possible military service. Unlike the volunteers from the cadet corps, few draftees had any military training.  The army not only had to provide basic training but increase the number of officers, medical, and technical people. The federal government called on the college and universities to use their existing resources to help train.  Under the Students' Army Training Corps (SATC), men who had not yet been drafted could enlist and enter a training program until called for active duty.  Those who had  not completed high school were trained on college campuses in technical skills such as auto mechanics, machinists, or radio operators. Those 18 and older who had graduated from high school would study standard college courses or special courses in subjects such as sanitation or military engineering.  A portion of future officers were expected to come among this second group. Men in both groups received a uniform and military pay, free tuition, and free room and board.  OAC's unit was authorized in August 1918. Anticipating as many as 2,000 students in the SATC, OAC hurried to find housing, eventually putting up a large barracks hall.

A total of 1,931 OAC students, faculty, and alumni served in the World War I. The SATC participants added nearly 1,600 more.  Two faculty members and 62 alumni and students lost their lives either during the war or as a result of injuries suffered during battle.

After the war two students in a sophomore organization proposed constructing a student union as a memorial to those who had died in service during the Spanish American War or World War I. In 1921, the student body approved  a $3 per term fee to fund construction.  Alumni and other donors also contributed. The building, designed by architect Lee A. Thomas, was completed in October 1928 at a cost of  around $750,000.  At the dedication ceremony, General U. G. McAlexander read the names of  those men associated with the college who had died during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Others described some of their heroic efforts.

O.A.C. Memorial Union dedication ceremony
Souvenir tile from Memorial Union dedication
The building, still called the Memorial Union, represents just one of many ways Americans have remembered those who served.  
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Oregon State University Canoe Parade

During the 1915-1925 period, Oregon State University was a much different place than it is today.  Enrollment in 1910 was 1,591, increasing to 3,347 by 1930. There were many traditions which have since disappeared. For example, at that time all freshmen women were required to wear a green ribbon and the men a green cap.

Another traditional activity was Junior Weekend. 

Oregon Agricultural College
Junior Weed-End program
Celebrated toward the end of the academic year, it represented transition to the next level that would follow successful completion of exams.  Freshmen got to burn their green caps and ribbons.  They also competed against the sophomores in a tug of war across the Marys River millrace.

Another feature of the weekend was a canoe fete-- a parade of decorated canoes and floats along the Marys River.  Here are photographs of some of the more imaginative floats.
Other activities included a concert, a play, a junior picnic, a junior prom, and a convocation of the school as a whole. The weekend, and its traditional activities, seemed to have died out sometime between 1938 and the early 1940s. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Friday, May 11, 2018

WWI U.S. Navy First-Hand Account

The last post includes Major Allworth's description of his experiences in the Meuse Argonne Campaign while the subject of the April 26 post was the role of the U.S. Navy during World War I.  The Benton County Historical Museum's collection includes a number of other first-hand accounts of resident's experiences during World War I.  The following account includes portions from the transcript of an interview of R. C. Dickinson, U.S. Navy, by Jane Van Sickle. (2013-073.0001)

...when I was still in training in Key West, Florida, the only backdrop they had for bullets that we were shooting at the target was just the ocean.  So we were shooting at targets at 600 yards with an old Springfield rifle, and they put me on the stand down there...and [the officer] said, “If you see any fishing boats come by, the command is cease fire” so you don't want to shoot the fishing boats.  So I'm up there and sure enough here comes a motor boat towing six fishing boats and a man in each one and he's coming right—the boats were splashing out there in the water.  So I yelled, “Cease fire!”....He didn't hear me. “Cease fire.” Nothing happened.  So I was    getting pretty desperate so I hollered, “Hey, cut it out!” So...the drill officer, comes running down there...he said, “The command is cease fire.” I said, “I know that, but you couldn't hear me.” ....So he put another man up there that was more voice than anything else.
A 1903 Springfield model rifle, standard equipment for the U. S. armed forces in World War I, from the BCHM collection.
I became an engineer office in the black gang they call it—the engine room—and on the   submarine I just kept the diesel engine going and if they said to stop it I knew what to do, and if they said half speed I knew what to do.  I didn't need to know very much but I couldn't have used a voice in the engine room anyway because the diesel engines were making so much  noise nobody could hear so it wasn't necessary....

They put us in a shipping out company.  Here'd be the name of they ship—they wanted 300 men or so. I didn't want on a battleship cause that's too many men in one place.  You have to get in    line for everything, from washing your teeth to eating to washing your one day the bulletin board said, “Two men wanted for dangerous duty in the North Seas on U. S. Submersible K-7” It didn't say submarine, it said submersible, and, well,it knew what it was, there was nobody there.....[So he signed up]

In the Caribbean Sea there was a German ship they called a Q boat. That's a freighter with eight-inch guns that are not visible...if you look at the ship.  But we knew the Q boats were waiting for us because it was going from Germany to Old Mexico to get supplies that Germany couldn't get anywhere else. This was when the war was getting critical...there were 800 men on there, and we're just traveling at periscope depth, and the only man  that can look outside is the captain.,,,he sees the Q boat and ...he calls these figures and the man that's navigating heads the boat in that direction.  Then he says, “Fire #1 torpedo.” They fire and immediately after you make what they call a crash dive—that is done not by taking on ballast but by turning the horizontal rudders, ... the tail of the submarine comes up—you really go down quick....then we wondered what happened to the ship....But you can walk up and see what they wrote on the log book.  Then you know you killed 800 men....

[another time] We were down at 200 feet—ashcans (300 pounds of TNT) began to drop around us and explode.  And the ship would tremble so it was terrible. I was young—I was 17 so I look at these regular Navy men and they're not bothered a lot but one of them came up to me and he said, “Have you got a sharp knife? “
            I said, “Well I have this knife they issued me when I joined the Navy.”
            “Oh,” he said, “you should keep one blade razor sharp; it's better than smothering.”

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon