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Exploring Football Materials at the Student Life and Culture Archives

By Katie Higley

With the recent Illini Spring Game and the NFL Draft, football is on the mind for many of us. If you’re missing football, especially your Fighting Illini, you should check out the many football-related collections at the Student Life and Culture Archives (SLC) in the Archives Research Center!

The Fighting Illini football team has a long, rich history documented in our collections. SLC is home to the papers of Arthur Hall, coach of the Illini Football team in 1904 and 1907-1912. The collection features hand-drawn football plays, artifacts such as Illinois athletic sweaters, and football souvenir programs [1]. Memorial Stadium officially opened on November 3, 1923, with a Homecoming matchup against Chicago [2]. Illinois Central Train Service helped fans attend the game by offering a special service from Chicago to Champaign for only $4.56 [3].

Aside from the game being memorable for the opening of Memorial Stadium, it was also a Homecoming victory for Illinois, with the Fighting Illini beating Chicago 7-0 [4]. Memorial Stadium was officially dedicated on October 18, 1924, in another Homecoming victory against Michigan. During the game, Illini legend Harold “Red” Grange ran for five touchdowns and threw a sixth. The Champaign-Urbana Stamp Club celebrated his historic performance in their Early Football Heroes stamp collection [5].


Our long historic tradition with Homecoming celebrations is illustrated in this souvenir Homecoming edition of The Daily Illini, featuring photos of George Huff, Red Grange, and Robert Zuppke from 1925 [6].

SLC is also home to audiovisual collections documenting the Fighting Illini in motion. The Football Game Films and Videotapes collection has copies of Illini football games from 1937 to 1994. Highlights from this collection include footage from the Fighting Illini Rose Bowl appearances in 1952, 1964, and 1984 [7]. The Football Highlights Films and Videotapes collection includes general Big Ten football Highlights and Illinois football highlights [8].

In late 1970, controversy erupted over the firing of head coach James Valek. In a memorandum prepared by Charles E. Flynn, the then President’s and Chancellor’s Liaison Representative to the Board of Directors of the Athletic Association, he wanted to set the record straight by laying out the timeline of Valek’s firing in response to “considerable misinterpretation” of the situation by the media [9]. On October 23, the initial decision to re   lieve Valek of his coaching duties after the Ohio State game on October 24 was made. This caused considerable upset with the team, which led to a revision of the initial decision. Valek would be allowed to continue coaching the final four games of the season. Valek’s contract was officially terminated on August 31, 1971. The public, including alumni, was angered at what they perceived as Valek being “fired twice [10].” Merrill and Zita Holden (class of 1949) wrote to the Athletic Association Board of Directors stating, “Never have we been as ashamed of our alma mater as today …it was Jim Valek who inherited the thankless job of gathering the remnants of a thoroughly demoralized team … it is not fair or honest that someone else reap the eventual benefits of his conscientious and diligent labors [11].” Bob Blackman would replace Valek as head coach in 1971.

In 1989, Illinois football almost made history by competing in the Glasnost Bowl. The Glasnost Bowl, which was planned to be an annual event, would have written Illinois and the University of Southern California (USC) into history as participants in the first football game played in the Soviet Union. The game was initially scheduled for September 2, 1989, in Moscow’s Dynamo Stadium. Illinois head coach John Mackovic stated, “We are proud to participate in a special first event for college football and the history of intercollegiate sport in this country. As a participant in the Glasnost Bowl, we hope that Illinois can be an example of what the finest in college athletics is about [12].” Despite great enthusiasm from both teams at the prospect, the game was officially canceled by Raycom Sports Entertainment on June 7, 1989. Raycom stated the reason for the cancellation was contract issues with Soviet sports authorities. The Glasnost Bowl was downgraded to a regular season game. This flyer for the Glasnost Bowl depicts what could have been [13].

If you are interested in viewing these materials or any other materials at the Archives Research Center, please give us a call at 217-333-7841.

[1] Record Series (RS) 28/3/24 Box 1, “Football Plays and Coaching Materials, n.d.” and “Football Souvenir Programs, 1899-1950.” Box 2, “Artifacts.”

[2], [4] “Memorial Stadium – Facilities,” University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics,

[3], [6] RS 26/2/5 Box 13, “Football, 1920-1929.”

[5] RS 26/20/220 Box 1, “Souvenir Stamps and Envelopes – Illinois Icons, 1943, 2003, 2008.”

[7] RS 28/3/15

[8] RS 28/3/16

[9]-[11] RS 26/1/5 Box 8, “Football Controversy, October 1970.”

[12]-[13] RS 26/2/5 Box 12, “Football – Glasnost Bowl, 1989.”

The “Wind, Motion, and Freedom” of Lillian Gatlin, UIUC’s Pioneering Aviatrix

This guest post was written by Nathan Tye. Nathan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Illinois and the Assistant Book Review Editor of Middle West Review.

Lillian Gatlin in the Los Angeles Herald, March 1917

The early history of aviation is filled with pioneers and “firsts” whose accomplishments were quickly overshadowed by more impressive feats. Lillian Gatlin, a UIUC student from 1906-1908, is rarely remembered today, but in the fall of 1922 was the toast of the nation when she became the first woman to fly across the country.[1] Although Gatlin did not graduate from UIUC, transferring to Michigan for her senior year where she received an A.B. in English in 1909, she maintained a long correspondence with her old Rhetoric professor, Thomas Arkle Clark.[2] A lifelong writer and aviatrix, it was at Illinois that Gatlin discovered her love of writing. As she told Dean Clark, “I think it was Rhetoric 10. The number is of no consequence – it was where you encouraged me to write.”[3] Although Edward Bok, editor of Ladies’ Home Journal gave Gatlin her first big break, “he did not ‘discover’ me – entirely.” As she informed Clark, “Much to my mystification, you did – that: and trained me for him[.]”[4] Gatlin and Clark’s letters, recently identified in the General Correspondence of the Dean of Men, reveal a woman set on breaking free from society’s expectations, first as a writer and later as an aviation pioneer, whose life of adventure was started at the University of Illinois.

The Life of an Aviatrix


By 1915, Gatlin was an established aviatrix and author living in San Francisco. That March her flight instructor (and possibly fiancé), the famed barnstormer Lincoln Beachy, died in a crash at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.[5] Beginning in 1916 Gatlin flew over Beachy’s crash site just off the coast of the Exposition Grounds (now the Marina District) and dropped flowers on the anniversary of his death. As untold numbers of pilots began dying in the World War the event became a citywide and eventually national event commemorating dead aviators. In 1921 it was officially reorganized with city sponsorship as “Aerial Day.”[6]

Continue reading “The “Wind, Motion, and Freedom” of Lillian Gatlin, UIUC’s Pioneering Aviatrix”

Reflections on Opening Day 150 years Ago – 2 March 1868

Gregory Behle, Professor at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, California, and kick-off presenter of the Archives Sesquicentennial Speakers Series, March 2, 2017, authored this post at the request of the Student Life and Culture Archives to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first day of class.  Behle’s research focuses on accessibility, student life, and campus culture at the University of Illinois from 1868 to 1894.  Slides from his 2017 presentation are available HERE.

For more information about campus during these earliest years, see the Archives’ Mapping History at the University of Illinois project website, including interactive histories and maps and a campus and community map digital archives.

Between 50 & 60 students appeared on the ground[s] this morning.  Fine energetic young men. More are coming with every train.[1]

John Milton Gregory to Mason Brayman, March 2nd, 1868.

Continue reading “Reflections on Opening Day 150 years Ago – 2 March 1868”

“A Mad Mixture of Sleigh Bells and Telephone Bells”: The History of Dial-a-Carol at the University of Illinois

Written by Anna Trammell

The holiday season is once again upon us and along with it an Illinois tradition returns. From December 7 until December 13, thousands of callers from around the world will dial in to Snyder Hall 24 hours a day to be serenaded with yuletide tunes.

An advertisement for Dial-a-Carol (Daily Illini, 12 December 1975)

Betty Gordon is commonly credited with conceiving of the Dial-a-Carol idea around 1960 when she was working as a clerk in Snyder Hall. “The story goes that she was speaking with a friend on the phone and her friend mentioned she could hear Betty’s radio playing while they were talking. Betty was inspired and thought it would be a neat idea to play carols on the phone to friends. She started Dial-a-Carol with the help of Snyder Hall residents and the rest is history,” said Snyder Hall RA George Carrera in 2008. [1]

Snyder Sanctum member Steve Price participates in Dial-a-Carol in 1962 (Daily Illini 11 December 1962)

Traditionally, the student volunteers have kicked off their 24 hour carol hotline with a call to Gordon at 12:01 am on the first day of the event. “As the students always do, they asked me if there was anything special I would like to hear,” Betty said in 1982, “Then no matter what I said, they sang ‘Jingle Bells’ at the top of their voices… After they sang, I told them the same thing I always do: what you lack in talent, you certainly make up in volume.” [2]

The early years of Dial-a-Carol were managed by members of the group Snyder Sanctum who occupied the second floor of East Snyder Hall. They cleared out the furniture in freshman Gary Allen’s room and filled the space with telephones, turntables, and holiday records. [3] The Daily Illini described the scene as “a mad mixture of sleigh bells and telephone bells.” [4] Callers would be greeted with a volunteer saying the name of the next carol that was to play. They would then hold the receiver up to the turntable for the duration of the song. “We hope you have enjoyed listening to your carol. Good evening and Merry Christmas,” ended the call. [5]. Over the years, the students put the records aside and began singing the festive songs to callers. By 1966, residents from all over Snyder Hall served as volunteers and “carol headquarters” had taken over the lounge. So many students wanted to volunteer, organizers were forced to limit shifts to hour long time blocks. [6]

By 1962, the group was already answering nearly 4,000 calls. While most calls came in from Illinois, callers did ring in from other parts of the country. After a New York radio announcer mentioned the event, calls came in from those who “just wanted to find out if it was really true.” [7] A 1966 United Press article generated calls from Miami, Alaska, and Hawaii. [8]  In 1973, a Dial-a-Carol alum paid a hefty long distance fee to call in from Austria for a carol. [9] As the tradition gained notoriety, calls began pouring in from all over the world.  In 2015 alone, students answered 16, 354 phone calls from 70 countries. Calls had come in from all 50 states within 14 hours. [10]

Some members of the 2015 Dial-a-Carol Team (@DialaCarol Tweet 30 November 2016)

Champaign-Urbana residents are the most frequent callers, and early volunteers were particularly excited about the cheer they were able to bring to area children and hospital patients. “Little kids call Dial-a-Carol before they go to school in the morning and when they get home in the evening. It’s really funny to hear them- especially when a group call together- fighting over whose turn it is to listen,” a Snyder Sanctum statement said in 1962. [11] That year, the Dial-a-Carol phone number was very similar to the number of a local professor who found himself singing holiday tunes to the mistaken callers. [12]

You can join in on this Illini tradition by dialing 217-332-1882 24 hours a day from December 14 to December 21. For more information, check out the Dial-a-Carol website.

[1] “Carols and Carolers Just a Phone Call Away at the University of Illinois,” University of Illinois News Bureau Press Release, 9 December 2008. Record Series 39/1/1 Box 51.

[2] “Dial-a-Carol,” University of Illinois News Bureau Press Release, 17 December 1982. Record Series 39/1/1 Box 51.

[3] “Latest Christmas Idea: Snyder’s Dial-a-Carol,” Daily Illini, 11 December 1962.

[4] “Call it a Sing-a-Thon? Dorm Furnished Round the Clock Carols,” Daily Illini, 13 December 1962.

[5] “Latest Christmas Idea: Snyder’s Dial-a-Carol,” Daily Illini, 11 December 1962.

[6] “Dial-a-Carol Booming,” Daily Illini, 9 December 1966.

[7] “Dial-a-Carol Still Strong,” Daily Illini, 14 December 1962.

[8] “Dial-a-Carol Booming,” Daily Illini, 9 December 1966.

[9] “Snyder Residents Continue Dial-a-Carol,” Daily Illini, 19 December 1973.

[10] @DialaCarol Tweets, 19 December 2015 9:05 am and 9:07 am.

[11] “Call it a Sing-a-Thon? Dorm Furnished Round the Clock Carols,” Daily Illini, 13 December 1962.

[12] Ibid.

Campus Life on the Silver Screen: The 1916 Film “Pro Patria”


Inez (played by Zelomia Ainsworth) and Dale (played by Heinie Sellards), 1918 Illio

Written by Anna Trammell

Betty Gibson, a University of Illinois freshman, is attracted to a wealthy classmate named Eduardo Salazar. Between registering for classes, attending parties at fraternity houses, watching baseball games, and conducting experiments in the chemistry laboratory, Betty realizes her true love is actually fellow student Happy Harding and the two become engaged. Meanwhile, Dale tries to win back the affections of Inez after she returns his pin. This is the plot of Pro Patria a movie filmed at the University of Illinois in the summer of 1916.[1]

Advertised as “the first all-University movie ever attempted,” virtually ever aspect of the film was connected to campus. The writer, director, and star of the film was student Vivian Kay and it was produced by alumni. [2] The rest of the cast consisted of members of the Illini Photoplayers student organization and other dramatic societies on campus.  Special cameo appearances were made by Dean of Men Thomas Arkle Clark and his wife Alice, Athletic Director George Huff, and Coach Bob Zuppke. [3] Even University President Edmund James appeared on horseback in the film. [4] Scenes were filmed all over campus including the Boneyard Creek, Illinois Field, and the Sigma Chi and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity houses. Chicago filmmaker R.E. Norman, who would go on to direct many important silent films including The Flying Ace, served as the cameraman for the production. Continue reading “Campus Life on the Silver Screen: The 1916 Film “Pro Patria””