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Springtime at Illinois: The 1927 Roller Skating Craze

Siren Cover, 1927
Siren Cover, 1927

Written by Ellen Swain

In March 1927, UI students took campus by storm–  on their roller skates!  The roller skating fad was “unbelievable,” Merle Boren ’34 remembered.  He and his family moved to Champaign that month to operate a student boarding house on the corner of Springfield and Sixth streets.  “Every weekend there were various places on the campus … the public street that would be lined off for races or exhibitions, always involving the students on their roller skates.  Hard to imagine!”1

Roller skates were not a new phenomenon — students in the early 20’s had given them a try.  And, the fad took hold nationally as dirt streets gave way to asphalt, making it easier for skating to happen anywhere.2   The spring of 1927 was special though– the craze swept campus, as men and women alike strapped wheels to their shoes.  The Daily Illini reported on March 12:

“The roller skating fad has increased in popularity until now it is quite common to see men and women skating from their homes to classes.  Roller skates were making a strong bid as the successors to the student car as students overcame their self-consciousness and took to the new locomotive machines.” 3

However, skates could be a nuisance:

“But alas, the roller skate has been placed in the class of the motor car that blocked campus traffic and endangered students’ lives.  Prof. James M. White, supervising architect, yesterday forbade roller skating on all campus walks until after 4 o’clock in the afternoon “to relieve congestion.”  This lowers the utility of the roller skate to a margin since it cannot be used in going from class to class during the day.” 4

<strong><em>Daily Illini</em> advertisement, March 19, 1927</strong>
Daily Illini advertisement, March 19, 1927

Businesses took advantage of the new pass time, although it wasn’t profitable for all:  “Shoe repair men are shaking their heads sadly.  This roller skating fad surely saves the leather… and hardware men are declaring a dividend.”5

Continue reading “Springtime at Illinois: The 1927 Roller Skating Craze”

Working at the Archives as a Student Employee

Football reels organized by opponent, offense, defense, and special teams.
Football reels organized by opponent, offense, defense, and special teams.

Written by Zachary Lindeman

My name is Zachary Lindeman, and I have been a student employee at the Student Life and Culture Archives here on campus for the past four semesters. As a new employee my responsibilities were limited while I was learning how everything worked and functioned around the archives. I began by pulling and putting away boxes of materials for researchers, putting documents back into their proper boxes, and even shredding documents with restricted information on them that were no longer needed. Even though these tasks seemed straightforward and elementary, I was so glad to have done them because it helped me learn how important it was to be precise and organized while working with such delicate, informative materials. Just as I was getting comfortable with everything, I was given my first big project. After working on more basic tasks for two semesters, I was allowed to start processing my first archival materials. Continue reading “Working at the Archives as a Student Employee”

The James Watson Snively Papers

A photo of the Snively family, sent to James while he was a POW.
A photo of the Snively family, sent to James while he was a POW.

Written by Caitlin Stamm

The Student Life and Culture Archives recently processed the papers of James Watson Snively (RS 26/20/198), a University of Illinois student who served during World War II. James Watson Snively was born in 1924 in Rockford, Illinois. His parents, John Rowe Snively, Jr. (Phi Alpha Delta, Pre-Law 1921, Law 1923) and Mabel Ruth (née Holland) Snively (LAS 1924), both attended the University of Illinois.[1]  In addition, SLC has also acquired John R. Snively’s scrapbook from his time as a U of I student(41/20/246).

James “Jimmie” Snively attended West High School in Rockford and entered the University of Illinois in 1942, where he was a member of the University R.O.T.C.’s Pershing Rifles. [2]. This new collection contains the letters that Mr. and Mrs. Snively wrote to Jimmie while he lived in Urbana-Champaign, as well as the letters he wrote back to his parents, describing his life as a student.  Continue reading “The James Watson Snively Papers”

Fight, Illini! The Stadium Song

Cover for the sheet music to "Fight, Illini!" 1921
Cover for the sheet music to “Fight, Illini!” 1921

Written by Denise Rayman

The University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium turned 90 years old last year, as it was officially dedicated in 1924, but planning and fundraising to build the stadium began long before that. The Memorial Stadium was intended as both an athletic field and memorial to the fallen soldiers of WWI, whose names are inscribed on the columns around the stadium, and it was built through the donations of UIUC students, alumni, and others, including corporate donors from Illinois. While both the need for a new athletic facility and a desire for a campus WWI memorial had been recognized before, in December 1920 the students voted to combine plans for a war memorial and new athletic field into one project [1]. The fundraising campaign to build Memorial Stadium started shortly thereafter. Fundraising efforts took different forms, but one particularly unique fundraising push was a song contest, the winning song then used to raise money through sheet music sales, and this resulted a newly composed Illini fight song – “Fight, Illini! The Stadium Song.” Continue reading “Fight, Illini! The Stadium Song”