December 18, 2008
Long before SmithTV, MP3s, social networking sites and other electronic media entertained students, an odd creature called the ‘variety show’ was popular. A hodge-podge of talented students and faculty would get together to entertain the Smith community, and show off their own talents.
A country-wide radio program called the “Pontiac Varsity Show” sponsored by General Motors showcased the talents of many collegians. A show was broadcast on-air from John M. Greene Hall on December 10, 1937, with a packed house. For several weeks before the show, ads appeared in the Smith College Weekly like the one below, seeking auditions from Smith talent.
Tryout ad for Pontiac Variety Show, 1927
By the time the show aired, the Glee Club, under the direction of Ivan T. Gorokhoff sang Fair Smith and other songs; Mary Jane Ripley ‘1938 & Charlotte Wirsing ‘1937 played a piano duet; Clara Taplin ‘1938 sang a Strauss song; and the Smith College Orchestra played the final movement of Mozart’s Symphony in E Flat Major, under the baton of Werner Josten. In addition to Smith’s talented, Catherine Craven, who was NBC’s only female commentator at the time was featured in the show.
Ads in the Smith College Weekly urged everyone to come to the show to enjoy the excitement.
Pontiac Varsity Show announcement, Dec 8, 1937
Both students and faculty of Smith College have a long tradition of creating their own shows. More about these shows will be addressed in a future blog column!
December 11, 2008
Records in the Archives reveal student activists have been working hard at Smith throughout its history, to bring awareness of and change to social, political, consumer, racial and gender challenges in the world.
The following images reflect some of the activist work by students on campus. They have worked for women’s suffrage;
Student Petition to Organize Suffrage Club 1915
led boycotts against purchasing Japanese silk products as a way to curtail the Sino-Japanese War. The boycott lasted a number of years and hit the Smith-fashion crowd hard, as this editorial cartoon from a December 1937 issue of the Smith College Weekly suggests.!
That Japanese Boycott, 1937
Marching to Support Hungary, 1956
Students marched in sympathy for Hungarian students in 1956 when the Soviets invaded the country.
Voting Rights march in Northampton, 1960
They took up political protests for African-American voting rights in 1960. This image shows Smith students marching in downtown Northampton.
Occupation of College Hall re: divestiture 1986
Students participated in the Strike of 1970 activities against the Vietnam War and forced the College to consider divestiture of its South African ties in 1986. Today’s students are more likely to protest corporate injustice, labor relations, and push for ecological sustainability. Come view records of all sorts regarding student activism in the College Archives!
December 9, 2008
For those of you who may believe that yoga is a relatively new offering to campus, the December 1, 1937 issue of the Smith College Weekly announces a lecture by Kovoor T. Behanan, of Yale University’s Institute of Human Relations titled, “the Mysteries of Yoga” where he discusses the ‘psychology of yoga and it’s allied potentialites of the mind.’ Behanan wrote two best-selling books on the subject: Yoga (1937) and Yoga: A Scientific Evaluation (1957).
December 5, 2008
This weekend the College will hold its annual Christmas Vespers service in John M. Green Hall (Dec 7, 2008 4:00pm and 7:30pm). Did you know that the Vesper services were held from early in the College’s history?
An entry in the diary of Lydia Kendall, Class of 1895 for December 1892 describes then-president, L. Clark Seelye “His face fairly shown with the joy that he felt…He spoke to us very tenderly and very sweetly and left us with many lovely thoughts.” The musical portion of the service had a soloist, organ music, a violinist, and the choir.
Christmas Vesper Service 1892
Antiphonal singing between the choir and congregation began in the early 1900s. This program documents the songs and verse used in the 1906 service:
Christmas Vesper Service program 1906
Once John M. Greene Hall was completed in 1909, the service was opened up to members of the Northampton and surrounding communities. If you attend this weekend’s services, you may see scenes similar to these from 1947:
Smith-Amherst Glee Club performance, 1947
Audience at Christmas Vespers in John M. Greene Hall, n.d.