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Fridays with Fred: College life from the albums of Theodore Chrischilles (1910)

A look at a photo album from 1910.

One of the most unusual items in the Beloit College Archives is a photocopied two-volume diary by Theodore H. Chrischilles, who attended the college for two years, between 1908 and 1910. Not only was he a prolific diarist, but each day he created a wonderfully humorous full-color cartoon illustrating college life. We’ve employed a couple of his drawings previously and will certainly feature more in the future. This week, however, we include a selection of Theodore’s photographs from an album recently donated to the college by his son, Julian, class of 1950.

Theodore Chrischilles was born in 1889 and spent most of his life in Algona, Iowa, where he ran the family store, founded in 1870 by his grandfather. He continued to write and draw and published frequently in the Algona newspapers. At Theodore’s funeral in 1981, his son Julian said of him: “He was an artist, a writer and a gardener, all of which he attacked with gusto and talent.” Although he attended Beloit College for only two years, he was a proud Beloiter. All three of his sons graduated from the college, as did great grandson, Ben Chrischilles, class of 2009.

Theodore Chrischilles illustrated the front page of his small photo album in color. He was clearly a sports fan in an era when Beloit College athletic teams competed against much larger universities, often winning handily.

Like his diary, the photo album brims with Theodore’s impish sense of humor. He captioned this photograph “Freshman Class – Biggest Yet.”

An uncharacteristically contemplative expression graces Theodore’s face while lounging at the Sigma Chi house, 745 Milwaukee Road.

Another rare glimpse into the Sigma Chi house, a spot which Chrischilles dubbed “the cozy corner.”

It would be relatively easy to recreate this photograph today. Beloit College was proud of its modern science facilities. Pearsons Hall of Science was then just over 15 years old.

A campus view taken from North College (Campbell Hall), Middle College in its Victorian-era finery, with the newly built Smith Gymnasium to the right. Note both the officially sanctioned pathways and those of convenience, created and preferred by students and others.

Students linger outside the college chapel before daily services.

A Christmas masquerade party for which the students went all-out creating a dazzling array of unique costumes. By this time, campus Greek organizations were well entrenched and had begun to dominate the social scene.

This was a period when students delighted in picnics, often visiting nearby parks or natural areas, or simply finding a pleasant corner of campus.

Theodore’s album features many photographs of his Sigma Chi friends, sometimes in straightforward lineups, but more often clowning around. He entitled this photograph, “The Sigma Chi Ballet.”

A signpost provided an appropriate title for the “puckered-up” Sigs’ merry jaunt along the nearby train tracks.

We leave Theodore enjoying a fresh breeze on the back porch of the Sigma Chi house, “bucking” for an exam, as he put it, a familiar pose for every generation of students.

Fred Burwell ’86
April 25, 2014

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