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TODAY'S editors of THE MICHIGAN DAILY recently asked a number of their former staff members to contribute articles which would re-evalute their college life in terms of their later experience.

This piece by Arthur Pound, '07, LL.D. (Hon.)'52, the third to be published in the series, appeared in THE DAILY a fortnight ago.

Dr. Pound has been, for more than three decades, an influential and highly-regarded member of the writing profession, as editorial writer, magazine and newspaper editor, essayist, biographer, and historian. He was Managing Editor of THE DAILY in 1907.

Now, In My Day..

An Informal Comparison Of Student Life, 1907-1953

By Arthur Pound

YOU requested a Daily piece; but your letter went to an abandoned rooftree down East, whereas we are in winter storage at the Madelon Pound House here in Ann Arbor. So instead of pontificating on one of your serious themes, let me rack up a few informal comparisons between your University of Michigan and the quite different institution in which I enrolled fifty years ago come September.

In 1903 this state was still in the lumberjack era, and its 5,000 University students were shock troops of culture tangled in a backwoods swamp.  Here were as yet no dormitories, no Union, no Stadium, no platoon system,  no de-emphasis. "Hurry-up" Yost had just arrived, fetching with him the nucleus of his point-a-minute team.  I was a Junior before I had an automobile ride — in a one-lunger Cadillac owned by a rich '06 named Baker, a true pioneer who rates a statue on North Campus as the first student car owner and as such author of a mighty trend that now makes mass migration necessary. In all my undergraduate days I never saw a woman smoking in Ann Arbor. Women went in for pipes and cigars, pure Havanas at ten cents when in the chips, Red Roosters at two-for-a-nickel when flat. Graduate students were scarce and heartily scorned as serious contenders for knowledge who neither smoked nor drank.

Few in numbers though we were, we overflowed our miserable accommodations. The factory code did not protect us. We went to classrooms in basements and foul, decrepit buildings and dwelt — I do not say lived — in characteristically ugly and jerry-built frame houses, some of which still affront the eye, in quarters which were plain, spare, crowded and unsanitary.  Distance paid off; I kept moving west and eventually found quarters on Liberty near Main where I was properly babied. Fraternity members were better housed; yet a good one—my own, in fact—had only one bathroom for twenty-eight men. But there were compensations. Costs were low, tuition around $30.00, with two men in a room $2.00 a week each sufficed for shelter and board when I arrived was only $2.25 a week—twenty-one meals of full courses from soup to pie, heaped plates and second helpings if you hollered. For breakfast, after applesauce, oatmeal, toast, milk and coffee,  you could finish off with a small steak or two eggs.

Maybe it's your lower diets, but today's studious young gentlemen seem less hearty than we were. More serious,  more responsible, but not as gay. No doubt war has left scars, if not of conflict, then of foreboding and disappointment, which can also wound. As a people we have grown older, more weary, less certain that all is for the best. By contrast, we of 1907 arrived here in a blessed interregnum after America had blossomed forth as a world power by victory over Spain but had not yet been required to pay the price of that painfully high status in World War I.

Then, too, you worthies work harder than we did. I cannot recall any 1907 Lit being busted for poor work; instead an ancient and understanding Dean shifted our loafers and dullards into suitably soft courses. The precision departments such as medicine and engineering dusted off their tens and scores; but we Lits were mercifully endured and eventually gowned and crowned, so that education never seriously interfered with our college days or nights. This may account for our enduring tenderness toward an indulgent Alma Mater, whose spoiled brats we were. No senior was expected to do any substantial work; but those so exempt were bound in honor not to appear on campus inebriated. I am sure we did more drinking and played more poker then, but other recreations were few and dismal.

Although we had the better of it in food and leisure, our fortunate successors have won their way to certain privileges undreamed by the likes of us. I note that a touching cordiality marks the progress of youth here-abouts. Enviously I behold young lovers perambulating in distorted embracements. No such opportunities lay open to us. Why, I recall a personable young lady who was bounced for good merely for a little eye-to-eye flirting, just that and nothing more! Think what an Eveless Eden this would be if such harsh judgments now prevailed!

Corsets Were Confining

Our co-eds dressed well, but not expensively, for money was then a scarce article of known worth. There were no beauty parlors in all Washtenaw County, cosmetics were taboo, and corsets were designed to conceal rather than reveal the mammalian features of the form divine. Our girls wore pompadours above, high button shoes below, and between ankle and ear they were masked by long, dark skirts and white starched shirtwaists, overlaid by short jackets in cold weather when hand-muffs were also in favor.

Our co-eds, dormless like ourselves, dwelt just anywhere. Often they were ridiculed by our boorish selves and sometimes even derided by smart-aleck professors. This seemed to increase their ardor for learning, in which they out-distanced us hands down. Across the years I can testify to their good conduct far above and beyond the call of duty. Dean Mosher may have improvised a mild honor system known only to the sisterhood and she may have introduced some degree of supervisory responsibility into the naturally censorious minds of their landladies.  But I judge the true effective censor was a serene moral climate which made for inner modesty and outward order.

Moreover, these were maids with a mission, front line troops in an urgently revived battle for women's rights and opportunities the world over, since our class entered college the very year Mrs. Pankhurst began hammering London bobbies with her famous handbag which concealed 'arf a brick. Some of our girls were rabid suffragettes, some not; but the strong ones argued themselves into leadership and held the faltering in line for the cause. How precious for youth is a cause, any cause! All of our girls knew there was a fight to the finish for the liberation of women, and that in this fight every coeducational college was at once a political battlefield and a social laboratory.

Come to think of it, and many of us backward males did eventually rise to the challenge of independent thought, it was absurd to keep votes and opportunities from these cool, poised, neat beings, who were obviously our superiors in manners, morals and marks, while we crude merrymakers could vote early and often. Although the manifest aim of the Lit department was a well-rounded citizen with a firm grip on a slippery and elastic existence, none of us at the age of twenty-one looked or acted like responsible citizens. We gents were then the sloppy sex. Our ruling garb was the turtleneck sweater; and since we wore our hair long, parted in the middle and plastered down, it was always a problem whether to remove the good old turtle-neck between one Saturday night bath and another, or just sleep in it through the week. So when our neat, clean and willowy damsels tripped into view, we came gradually to a secret conviction that they represented a better world than ours and eventually would rescue some of us from low bachelorhood.  Oddly enough, marriages born of such distant views have proved remarkably durable.

The DAILY Crusaded

Our little Daily of 1903-07 had no such quality or quantity as yours. Ours was a mixture of town crier and village scold, with no wire news and no opinions beyond Campus. Within that circle, however, we were as saucy—or shall I say radical—as you are. We jousted against the established order on a narrow field, won some victories, lost others, came some croppers, shed some fool notions, and through trial and error learned ever so little of the noble, slapdash art of journalism. By contrast, you whack manfully along the edges of larger fields, and no doubt will survive to recall fifty years hence how gorgeously you slugged it out with the everlasting dragon of reaction on issues long since forgotten. After a like interval I have learned at least this, if no more:

The world do move and moving lugs along with it universities and all other institutions live or fossilized.  Some of us drag our feet in the procession, some push enough for two and some enough for a dozen; but the momentum of the whole tumultuous enterprise is ample that no difference whatever would be manifest if you and I and everyone we know 'by reputation, hearsay or first name were to quit cold. Therefore I quit. Slug it out, brother, while you can. Then go sit in a corner and take it easy.

The Michigan Alumnus

March 14 1953, page 288

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