Sam Houston in the 1950's

Bill Turner, Houstonian Editor: 1951-52
Austin College---A Century Old
Fall, 1951

The good news for freshmen was that they could get a one-year deferment under certain conditions. The enrollment seemed to reflect this: 918 men and 676 women were registered (10/6/51). The usual campus-wide events--the Halloween Carnival, Homecoming, and Press Capades--were on students' agenda, as well as voting for class officers and Homecoming Queen. The entire student body enjoyed the new SUB. They would frequently visit their new gathering place and enjoy some of the popular tunes from the jukebox: "Shrimp Boats," "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," most of the songs from The King and I, and Johnny Ray's "Cry." That is, except on Sundays! The closing of the SUB on Sundays caused quite a furor among the students, because a majority wanted the SUB opened all day Sunday and the school wanted it closed. This issue was tossed around all year until concessions on both sides were finally made in the Spring.

In the fall semester, the Caballeros were definitely making names for themselves, both collectively and individually. The editor of the Houstonian was Bill Turner, who was also elected to Who's Who and President of the Senior Class; Billy Curbo was elected President of the Junior Class; Dan Rather, a feature editor for the Houstonian, was elected Reporter of the sophomore class (10/27/51); Bill Sprayberry with Dr. W. W. Floyd, Professor of Chemistry, presented a paper at the American Chemical Society in Austin on December 6 (11/17/51); Roy Ralston, the new President of the Cabs, had been elected treasurer of the Business Administration Club and Herman Hitt was vice-president (10/6/51).

The Caballeros raised money for the SUB fund through their booth at the Halloween Carnival and again prepared a float for the Homecoming Parade. (10/27/51) They met on Mondays at 7:00 in Old Main. During the usual business of the semester the Cabs took seven prospective members in October: Johnny Bob Mooney, Jackie Nelson, Jackie Carroll, Billy Curbo, Bob McBroom, Jackie Havard, and George Hodges. They decided to have the Dream Girl dance in the Spring. They made a decision which put them another step ahead of the other men's clubs: they became the first men's club at Sam Houston to have club pins (12/1/51).

Homecoming activities brought back over 1000 exes. 400 attended the banquet on Friday night, and just about everybody in town turned out for the parade which had many floats and 14 high school bands. "Following the parade, some 350 exes gathered in traditional Old Main's Memorial Auditorium for the 100th Anniversary commemoration of the Austin College building." Barbecue was served on the slab and many groups then had their own get-togethers after the game against the East Texas Lions (SHA, Dec 51, 8-9).

As feature editor of the school paper, Dan Rather's first signed editorial discussed a universally timely topic--the menace of "Dope." It appeared in the November 10, 1951, issue.

The 4th Annual Press Capades on December 3, 4, and 5 was emceed by Rather. The winner was a freshman agriculture major who sang "White Christmas" (SHA, Dec 51, 21). Most agreed that the best joke of the show was when Caballero Jackie Nelson [pictured left] walked across the stage with a brick on his head as Dean "Brick" Lowry and Dan Rather's comment: "I wonder if his head is as hard as it looks!" (10/8/51)

The Korean War, like all wars, created new fads and escapes and the country was in the midst of several turmoils. The 22nd Amendment, limiting presidential terms, was passed; the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death for espionage; electric power was produced from atomic energy. People were reading war novels (James Jones' From Here to Eternity and The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk), Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, and Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. At the movies, Bogart and Hepburn appeared together in The African Queen, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire introduced Marlon Brando, and Gene Kelly created the ultimate escape with his musical An American in Paris. Television was booming and provided comedy escape with "I Love Lucy" debuting and prevailing, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx ("You Bet Your Life"), and Arthur Godfrey. NBC commissioned Gian Carlo Menotti to write an opera for television; Amahl and the Night Visitors was broadcast in December. Easing into American lifestyle was the new "language" of a new breed of teenager---the Bopper. Jack Leinfelder, a special columnist for the Houstonian, provided an example.

Stan and Art were DOWNING A BOVINE BROMIDE [drinking a milk shake] when they decided TO CUT OUT FOR THEIR PAD [to go to their apartment]. They picked up their AXES [musical instruments] and hopped into Art's SHORT [car].

"HAVE YOU CAUGHT THE NEW SPUD ORVIN COMBO ---IT'S A GAS," [Have you heard Spud Orvin's newly organized small musical group? They sound great!] said Stan.

"Yes," replied Art, "but his trumpet is NOWHERE ON AD LIB. HE CAN'T EVEN BLOW HIS NOSE [His ability to improvise a melody is very limited], BUT HIS BONE IS THE END [The trombonist plays very well]. WHAT'S HIS UPHOLSTERED SEWER?" [At what night club is he playing?]

"He's got a TWO-WEEK'S GIG [A two-week's engagement] at the Rooney Plaza." answered Stan. "LET'S DRAG SOME COOCH AND DIG THE MAYHEM THIS A.M." [Let's invite two young ladies to this place for some after-midnight clubbing.]

"CAN A STUD MAKE IT WITH FOUR BALLS?" [Can a fellow gain entrance to this club with only four dollars?] questioned Art.

"GET WITH IT [Don't ask such foolish questions], MAN [Any male person]," retorted Stan.

Pioneer Roundup Begins
Spring, 1952

Officers elected for the Spring semester were Bill Johnston [pictured left], President, and Bob McBroom, Secretary. The pledges taken this semester included Bill Dietz, Willis Gresham, David Hicks, Jerry Inman, Charles Johnson, Jerry Martin, Dan Rather, and Larry Rice.

A new Sam Houston tradition, Pioineer Roundup, which lasted until 1960, began during the Spring semester for the 1,442 students (2/9/52). It was described in the Alumnus as follows:

The show, patterned after the Frontier Fiesta of the University of Houston, is not one show by itself but many productions put together. When a person steps onto the practice football field where the show is held, he is taken back to the pre-statehood days of Texas.

It reminds you of a typical Texas town on a Saturday night when the people come to town to celebrate their week's work being done.

The town, Pioneer Gulch, has its own money, its own buildings, including a jail, and a real old-time Western atmosphere. "Easterners," that is people who don't wear western clothes in Pioneer Gulch, are put in jail. Cowboy boots, blue jeans and western clothes in general are the order of the day.

The shows are staged by the various campus clubs, usually by an alliance between one of the women's societies and one of the men's clubs. The men build the "saloon" and do the heavy labor, while the women are in the chorus and other parts of the show.

The clubs participating in Pioneer Roundup have the chance of getting a sheriff from their club if they sell the most tickets. After the sheriff is named, he appoints his deputies. This activity goes along with the student election of the Pioneer Roundup Queen (Feb 53, 8).

The Caballeros were distinguishing themselves both as a group and individually. This Spring they would run Lloyd Grubbs for President and Bill Johnston for Vice-President of Student Council; Bill Dietz and Jimmy and Jerry Inman would run for cheerleaders; Dan Rather would run for Editor of the Houstonian. They decided to combine with Anne Gibbs Girl's Club for Pioneer Roundup (2/16/52). The Cabs congratulated Jackie Nelson, who was awarded Huntsville Rotary's first exchange study grant to the University of Mexico; he left in February and, since he was a journalist for the Houstonian, he wrote back articles weekly (2/2/52). Herman Hitt was elected president and Roy Ralston reporter for the Business Administration Club (2/9/52).

Many of the students were turning 21 and would be able to vote for the first time in November. Much dissatisfaction was expressed nationwide over Truman and his policies and so a change was felt. In a general campus poll in February, the students were asked who they though would be a good president; General Eisenhower was first choice and Estes Kefauver was second (2/16/52).

The new music building was dedicated on March 30: the 550,000 square-foot structure was "the only building in East Texas devoted exclusively to music." The new Graphic Arts building was the most complete in facilities of its kind in the country (3/29/52). Dr. Lowman had brought back the news from Washington D.C. that Sam Houston would likely have ROTC in the fall semester and this would definitely be an attraction for Sam Houston (2/22/52).

The annual Coronation Ball was threatened with cancellation unless more students participated. Last year the school paid for losses, but "we can expect no such action this year." The admission charge was raised to $2.50 per couple (SHA, Apr 52, 6). Bill Turner had been elected King of the Spring Coronation Ball; Dan Rather and Virginia Pardue, Caballero's first Dream Girl, were elected All-College Favorites. (3/1/52).

On April 26, the Houstonian reported that the Houstonians would play for a "sport dance at the SUB tonight from 8 to 11, jointly sponsored by Anne Gibbs and Caballero, sister and brother organization" (4/26/52). The Dream Girl dance was held on Tuesday, May 6, at the SUB; admission was 75 cents. Caballero president Bill Johnston crowned Nancy Hendley the Dream Girl of 1952 (5/3/52).

One week later the election results were in: Bill Johnston was elected vice-president of Student Council; Jimmy Inman and Bill Dietz were cheerleaders. Dan Rather was the new Editor of the Houstonian; he outlined his policies in May just before school was over.

To begin with, we want to bring to light as often as possible the human side of this college. Every single person on this campus has a story, and we'd like to tell each one of them. . . .Also there are a lot of things on this campus that need improving. And through the lines of the Houstonian we plan to work on as many of them as possible.

That doesn't mean we won't back down if proved wrong. It does mean we intend to be right before going out on a limb. More important, it means we won't be afraid to tie into any person or condition that is hurting the reputation or students of Sam Houston (5/10/52).

In the same issue of the Houstonian was an editorial by Cecil Tuck, who was not a member of any social club, in which he criticized the social clubs, especially their "backbiting" and their initiation activities. "One of the criticisms of this campus offered by outside observers is that we possess entirely too many social clubs." Tuck's conclusion was that "the student body is broken down into small segments whose sole purpose appears to be to bicker with other segments (societies and clubs), to initiate pledges and to raise money for social functions which will provide entertainment for members and increase their social prestige." Accusing the clubs of "segmenting" the student body, Tuck admitted that if a club is run properly it "can be a great asset to a college." As an example of their worth he pointed out that the recent Pioneer Roundup would have been impossible without the social clubs, but if they had not had the proper guidance by outside persons, Pioneer Roundup "would have been a stupendous flop," because during the planning stages one group was fighting another, "trying to keep the other from participating in the show."

Tuck lambasted the sororities in particular for their initiation practices. "From the time a student pays his or her initiation fee until the end of the term (and this is especially true in the girl's case), the pledge is subjected to a series of initiations which include everything from wearing outlandish costumes to stealing the sign off the men's room in the courthouse or riding piggy-back across every street on the way to class. The pledge undergoes pledge day, favor day, shoe shine day, sewing day, informal initiation, formal initiation, and any others the individual society sees fit to hand out. . . Several girls were too sick to go to class here recently after they were forced to eat alum as a part of their initiation. This however, is only one of the lurid examples." The other criticism Tuck lodged at the clubs was their bidding process, mentioning, in particular, those who were denied bids. "Due to circumstances or uncontrollable acts of nature, entirely too many students never have the `privilege' of belonging to one." He appealed to all the students "who feel left out or who are dissatisfied" to band together; this group would be large enough to "stand in the way of whatever [the societies] wanted to do."

Tuck closed his editorial by offering a suggestion. "Tone down the initiations which are at best time consuming. Convert the wasted energy which goes into the initiation process into something which will be of benefit. Elect leaders who have more to do than just kill time and who wish to do more with the organization than that. Combine some of the various clubs so that there will be no more than three or four and last but not least, combine with the spirit of the competition a spirit of cooperation with an overall goal in mind" (5/9/52).

Of course, there was no combining of clubs; they were too well established. In fact, more clubs would form in later years. Perhaps some of the offensive practices would be curtailed. However, the impact of the clubs on Sam Houston's campus could not be denied, and the eventual affiliation with national fraternities and sororities only proved the lasting impact of these organizations in the 1950's.

The Caballeros had made definite strides in being recognized as an organization of importance. More and more Caballeros were becoming visible, viable parts of Sam Houston's life. During the summer months, Bill Curbo was president of the Senior Class [pictured right] and Johnny Bob Mooney was Student Council representative (7/25/52). Many of the Cabs went to summer camp as they had done the summer before. Jackie Nelson returned from his exchange experience in Mexico. Among the many columns written for the Houstonian, one entitled "More Notes on Mexican Love Tactics" had an unusual ironic twist to it, since Jackie was a Caballero! (5/17/52)

1952 Alcalde Picture

Seated: David Hicks, Bill Curbo, Lloyd Grubbs, Bill Johnston, Herman Hitt, (Unknown), Roy Ralston
Standing: Johnny Bob Mooney, Bill Sprayberry, Bob McBroom, Larry Rice, Wilton Robinson, Jerry Inman, (Unknown), Ronnie Patton, Ed Dougherty, Joe Stutts, Willis Gresham, Richard Greenwell, Bill Dietz, Jackie Havard, Charles Johnson, Jackie Nelson, Jerry Martin, Dan Rather
Sponsor: DeViney Dawson