“Old Winter has Come Again, Alack”

“Old Winter has Come Again, Alack”

One of the best topics for conversation when nothing else is on the table for discussion is the weather.  Weather discussion offers you an endless supply of metaphor, an easy connection between strangers (who doesn’t enjoy talking about the weather?), and a huge area for opinion of one sort or another. It also offers a great way to ease into heavier subjects, such as poverty and the misery of the poor.

During the 1800s, the press offered the African population (both enslaved and free) a source for discussion of common interests, a sounding board for frustrations, and a connection to others in similar circumstances.  From this desire to connect grew several prominent black newspapers (a column from one of those newspapers, the Provincial Freeman, is shown below). And while these newspapers were dedicated to a specific audience, the editors knew that this media offered access to those who might best be able to help with social issues. In an effort to “keep an eye” on the black population, readers were often among the white community (mostly among white government officials).  In this way, black newspapers claimed a potential for understanding and perhaps a way to promote the cause of freedom and gain a powerful ally for change.

The article shown here from the Black Abolitionist Archive, is a great example of the way in which newspaper writers of the day were able to weave social commentary into banal conversational exchange.  The writer reminds readers that even though the seasons change, poverty is always there, and is always the same.

bbawinterContribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician




Close your eyes and for a few moments, take a quick trip with me back to 1968.  Could you visualize it?  Even if you were born after this time, the history of the ’60s is a pretty dominate part of the story of social culture.  Colorful time, wasn’t it?  The Vietnam war was in full swing, people young and old were taking to the streets to protest an unjust conflict, Nixon was about to become the 37th president, and the planet was in peril from a polluted and uncaring world.  Yet all this trouble, all the gloom of an unsettled global social climate, was seemingly balanced by the small things people managed to value in their lives.  A good education was one of these things.

And being in school was not just a way to get out of being drafted or meeting suitable marriage partners.  It was also a way of making life meaningful when everything outside the campus gates seemed to be falling apart.  The students of the day were determined to change the world… and this is what they did.

The 1968 Tower Yearbook focuses on the student of this period, the way they looked, played, studied, and dreamed.  The attention here is on those who worked to make sense of a senseless time, to gain knowledge that would allow them to make changes and help create the future we know now.  They paved the way and redefined dedication, honor, and freedom.  And while they may look and dress and communicate differently today, that drive and quest for knowledge still defines what being a UDM student really is.


Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

The Merry Christmas Time, 1860


The Merry Christmas Time 

There are only three small entries in the Black Abolitionist Archive associated with Christmas, so I chose this one. While this holiday was important to an enslaved people learning about the celebration of this Christmas story from the periphery of the Christian families who enslaved them, the way they celebrated this holiday was different. The celebration of any special occasion during this time was focused on Church, prayer, thankfulness, and finding joy where they could.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. In this essay (shown here), published in the Weekly Anglo-African on December 29, 1860, the writer expresses nicely what this period of time in this particular year meant to the average “Anglo-African” family. To them, it was about providing their children with a way to bring out the smiles, putting aside worries about the tense political climate to be with friends by the fire, and to focus on the poor who had far fewer blessings.

Often, it seems, you can read between the lines of these essays to discover something interesting, something of the true expression in the writer’s thoughts.  This essay is about more than a simple holiday “feel good” declaration.  It holds the seeds of discontent that would, in 1865, burst forth from a horrible war and into the end of slavery.  This was the beginning of a much longer fight for true freedom, but the truth of this couldn’t be known at that time.  While reading this essay, it’s a good idea to remember the times, think about the history, and bear in mind the struggles going on outside the walls of that newspaper office. In 1860 when this was written, the stirrings of war in an unsettled country were just about ready to move the battle forward.

Since this one isn’t long, I’ve included a transcription with the image below:

“The Merry Christmas Time

Far away from the sun, on the very verge and rim of his orbit, when a pound additional of centrifugal momentum would cause old earth to secede from the planetary union and plunge us all into a dimmer abyss than threatens South Carolina, what a nice, warm, healthful, cheery institution is this merry Christmas time.

We old folks sit cozily by the fire, pipe in hand, stirring our hot lemonade and sweeping the vistas of the past with telescopic eyes, now merry with pleasant, or brimming with sad reminiscences. How much better — don’t frown good wife! — how much better the doughnuts, the olekoks and the kroellers tasted when New-York was all this side of the stone-bridge at Canal-street!  Better, yes better, for teeth and digestion and stomachie capacity were then at an enormous premium. We can distinctly remember two dinners three teas — not counting those that fell out with us by the way — and the enormous supper comfortably put away on Christmas day and evening.

But the merry Christmas time is for the young. It is the special hour for muscular Christianity on the part of the young men, who speed over immense distances in a twinkling of time in search of dimpling cheeks and gladdened eyes — awaiting with shy dissent their welcome coming. How the poor fellow trembles, fumbles in is pocket, crumbles the package in his nervous hands, chokes as he vainly essays the well conned speech, and wishes himself through the floor or ceiling.

Merry Christmas is the children’s day! How long expected, how gladly welcomed by them. Hear their sweet voices, their pattering feet, witness their joy in gifts, their braveries, their graceful rompings and big eyed wonder. Throughout Christendom their tiny voices send up a not unwelcomed choral song to Him who has said ‘Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.

The merry Christmas time should be a season for other things beside merry making. There are precious and gentle duties which can be performed at no other time so well nor so gracefully. ‘The poor ye have always with you.’ And the poor are never so poor as at this season of the year. The special class to whom we now allude are those who have struggled honestly and faithfully in the battle of life but on whom the sun of success has failed to shine. They started out along with us, have labored as hard, perhaps harder than we, they have always kept up appearances — but oh how difficultly do they keep the wolf from the door!  Or there are those whom in our youth we knew well to do and surrounded with their Christmas comforts with their young — now, alas gone before them — as our playmates, but whom swift age has overtaken and grim poverty. To either of these classes, too proud to ask, this season affords a graceful opportunity to give what we know is needed without fear of refusal. Half a load of coal to old Uncle A., or a fine fat turkey to old Aunty B., — how well she knows how to roast it! — or, a pair of plain warm blankets to old Mr. L., would be gifts twice blessed.

Reader, with the means or even the possibility to give, you cannot imagine until you have tried, how much these little benevolences add to the joy of the merry Christmas times.”

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician


Ethics Bowl

ethicsbowlEvery year the University of Detroit Mercy students take part in a national contest named “Ethics Bowl” The Ethics Bowl is inspired by TV’s College Bowl, but modified rules adapt the game to the subject of ethics. In Ethics Bowl, a moderator poses questions to teams of three to five students. Questions may address ethical problems on classroom topics (e.g. cheating or plagiarism), personal relationships (e.g. dating or friendship), professional ethics (e.g. engineering, law, medicine), or social and political ethics (e.g. free speech, gun control, etc.). Each team receives a set of ethical issues in advance of the competition, and questions posed to teams at the competition are taken from that set. A panel of judges rates answers in terms of intelligibility, focus, depth, and judgment. No specialized knowledge in ethical theory is required to compete in or judge an Ethics Bowl.

The competition is one of the few events at Detroit Mercy that draws participants from virtually every part of the University. Many students who initially compete for extra credit in a course are surprised at how much they enjoy Ethics Bowl, and often enthusiastically return to compete in subsequent years. Judges and moderators are drawn from faculty, staff, administration and alumni, many of whom return every year. Plus, the first-place team has the honor of representing the university at a regional Ethics Bowl and may go on to compete in the national Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, which takes place at the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics in February.


No Shave November


For several years back in the 50′s, the University of Detroit Spring Carnival held a beard contest. There were categories such as Full, Unique, Van Dyke and a Special Award to the best recreation of an historical beard. The prizes included Remmington Shavers and Grooming kits by Remmington. Afterwards (back on campus) there would be a shaving contest in which there was a footrace (20 yards) to the judges stand to line up for the smoothness test by King and Queen of the Carnival.


Photo from Detroit News, May 5(?), 1958

Headache Cure

Headache Cure

folkThe James T. Callow Folklore Archive is an interesting place to spend some time.  A visitor can usually discover something interesting, funny, or amazing there.  Each entry is brief but loaded with a bit of America that few other collections offer.


Tillie Voss

Take this post, for example.  I was searching for something to write about and typed a few lines into Google to see what I could find.  To my delight, this brief story from the collection popped onto the page:


This, to me, is why the term “holy moly” was invented.  The U of D football players of the 1920s were indeed solidly built and … um, “head strong”!

The introduction to The James T. Callow Folklore Collection tells the reader more about this unique archive:

“The University of Detroit Mercy Digital Folklore Archive, founded in 1964 by Professors Frank M. Paulsen and James T. Callow was donated to the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries /Instructional Design Studio in 2009. The archives is comprised at this point of over 42,000 folklore traditions taken from field notes gathered by UDM (formerly University of Detroit) students as part of their course work in ‘Introduction to Folklore,’ ‘Studies in Folklore,’ ‘Folk Groups,’ and ‘Folklore Archiving.’ The folklore archive covers traditions gathered between 1964 and 1993. Included in the Archive is the Peabody field note collection containing approximately 12,000 entries from Tennessee and the Southeast.”

Sounds interesting, right?  To discover more, visit this wonderful archive by clicking here.

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

A View of Past Presidential Elections

elect1The following viewpoints are not necessarily those of the University of Detroit Mercy or that of the employees of the university or library. I thought I better put that disclaimer in just in case-I don’t want anyone to think that any political bias that might get expressed here reflects on anyone but me.

While college students came out in significant numbers to support the election of President Obama in 2008 and 2012, that seems to be more the exception than the rule when it come to college students role in presidential elections in the past. Clinton does not seem to be inspiring the students to vote for her and Trump might be discouraging students not to vote at all.

Just as a quick check on what was being reported in the student newspapers just before a presidential election, here are a few observations from the Varsity News:

  • 1960-Kennedy vs Nixon: Outside of a few editorials and news items about activities of Republican and Democratic student organizations, not a lot of articles about the election. About the only voting item being mentioned is for Homecoming Queen. (Bet Mr. Trump would have liked to have had a chance to vote in that contest!)
  • 1964-Johnson vs Goldwater: UD held a mock election. Johnson (Democrat) won 501-301. There was also a Michigan governors race that year, Romney (Republican) won over Neil Steabler 608-169. Must have been a lot of ticket splitters that year.
  • 1968-Nixon vs Humphrey vs Wallace: If it were not for a big front page article on October 29th issue, on a visit by Humphrey’s wife Muriel to the Detroit area, you might not even know that it was an election year!elect2
  • 1972-Nixon vs McGovern: At least in this year, the Varsity news ran quite a few political items to inform the students of the positions of the presidential candidates. It was the first national election that 18-year-olds were given the right to vote by the 26th Amendment. Not surprising with the conflict still going on in Vietnam, the student newspaper endorsed McGovern for president.
  • 1976-Carter vs Ford vs McCarthy: Wish I could tell you, but we have no Varsity News for the 76-77 school year. If you have any, send them to us!
  • 1980-Reagan vs Carter vs Anderson: There was a mock election held by the Political Science Association (student organization). Jimmy Carter won a plurality of the vote (42 percent). It was not a big turnout. Of the ballots cast, Carter received 54, Reagan second with 33, and Anderson placed third with 29. Thirteen ballots were marked for “somebody else” which included Barry Commoner of the Citizens Party, Gus Hall, communist candidate, Libertarian candidate Ed Clark and Andrew Pulley of the Socialist Workers Party. (Wonder how many “somebody else” votes will get in this years election!)
  • 1984 and 1988 election coverage by the student newspaper seem pretty routine with articles about the candidates and their positions.elect3
  • 1992-Clinton vs Bush vs Perot: Most of the articles were very much like previous years, but they did publish a Detroit Mercy poll of the students. Interesting how Clinton is such an overwhelming favorite of the female students. Bush and Perot never had a chance. Anyone want to make any guesses on how the women will vote this year?

The remaining election years reported in the Varsity News have the usual articles you would find in a newspaper. Would have liked more polls of the students to see how it might match the vote with the rest of the nation.

Whatever your political leanings might be, I hope you will go out and vote.



Page 2 of 2312345...1020...