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Fridays with Fred: Getting our winter chill retroactively

Beloit College and its winter activities.

The snow is receding. The sunlight feels a tad warmer than it did a few weeks ago. You hear water trickling into gutters. Campus squirrels take on ever more squirrely energy and cardinals are testing out their cheerful songs after months of silence. But paw through the folders labeled “Winter Activities” in the Beloit College Archives and the chill returns.

Taken by an extremely cold photographer from the cupola of Middle College in 1877, this view shows President Aaron Lucius Chapin’s house on the left and Professor James J. Blaisdell’s house on the right. Today we know them as the President’s House and the Blaisdell Guest House. To the back and left of the Blaisdell house stands the home of the college’s first janitor, Johnny Pfeffer, affectionately dubbed by 19th-century students as the “professor of dust and ashes.” Pfeffer apparently vowed to build a house “bigger than President Chapin’s.” Today his house lives on as faculty and staff apartments. When the college constructed a path from Middle College to College Street, Professor Joseph Emerson and his father Ralph contributed additional funding to ensure that the path branched around the Indian mound, rather than damaging it. Because the college campus proved to be a convenient shortcut for local farmers driving their cattle and pigs to market, college authorities erected a fence encircling the entire campus.

Another 1877 view from the cupola of Middle College depicts the Rock River, with Big Hill Park in the distance and the natural wetland which, via a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps project, became the lagoon at Riverside Park. This particular view would markedly change over the years, beginning with the construction of Pearsons Hall in 1892, followed by Chamberlin Hall in the late 1960s, and finally, the Center for the Sciences in 2008.

In the midst of the upheaval of World War I, students looked for fresh ways to entertain themselves. The scrawl on the back of this photograph reads: “Piling up snow on the campus to form a skating rink. Beloit Wis Jany. 1918.” Note the power plant with smokestack on the left, the old Chapin Hall dormitory in the center (torn down in 1965), and Campbell Hall, then known as North College, on the right.

Many Beloit College students served as soldiers in World War I. However, the college contributed in numerous other ways, including hosting a branch of the Student Army Training Corps, shown here parading on a frosty Pearsons quad in 1917 or 1918, when Middle College still wore its Victorian finery, and onlookers parked their automobiles on the lawn.

Students Robert Tucker, Betty Kullman, and Priscilla Borgersen rented a sleigh in January 1935, trotting past Morse-Ingersoll with Eaton Chapel in the background.

Robert Cleveland’42 snapped this photograph of happy Beloit tobogganers. Cleveland went on to a distinguished career as an architectural photographer.

Students in the 1950s and early 1960s fought the winter blues by hosting a winter carnival each year, including snow-sculpture contests. The event afforded the opportunity for creativity and humor, such as this unfortunately stalled snow-car from 1957.

Fred Burwell ’86
February 03, 2012

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