Thursday, January 18, 2018


Student patients and nurses in the temporary hospital
established in the gymnasium.
2018 is proving to be a bad year for influenza.  One hundred years ago the flu became so bad that the University of Kentucky closed for a time that fall.

The flu outbreak caused illness and loss of life across the commonwealth and few Kentuckians escaped its impact.  My grandmother, Leila Phillips Birdwhistell, was pregnant with her second child when she was stricken with the flu that year.  She lost her baby, and even more devastating, learned that because of complications she could not have more children.  This made my father an only child at a time when farmers had large families to help with work around the farm.

In a 2006 report Alex Azar, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Service described the devastation of the 1918 flu in Kentucky.

“Kentucky saw its first cases of influenza during the last week of September 1918. Infected troops traveling on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad stopped off in Bowling Green, KY, where they passed the virus on to a few of the local citizens.”

“By the time the first week ended, Louisville had already suffered an estimated 1,000 cases of influenza.  The pandemic grew even worse in ensuing weeks. Louisville alone lost 180 people each week from influenza during the second and third weeks after it struck.”

On October 6, the Kentucky State Board of Health announced the closing of "all places of amusement, schools, churches and other places of assembly."

By late October “state officials reported more than 5,000 cases of the flu. Over the next three weeks, they reported over 8,000 more.  Even as late as mid-December 1918, Kentucky was so overwhelmed by the disease that a local health officer sent an urgent telegram to Surgeon General Rupert Blue requesting that the U.S. Public Health Service take over the administration of health work until the influenza epidemic had abated.”

Medical staff outside the gymnasium
In his November, 1918 report to the UK Board of Trustees President Frank McVey noted that "the University closed for about a month from October 11 to November 6."  There had been "352 cases of influenza in the hospital, the total number of deaths had been 7" and "there were 43 cases of influenza at the university, 15 of which were convalescents." 

McVey added that while UK was again open it remained "under quarantine."  The "men of the Students' Army Training Corps were confined to the camp" and "the girls of Patterson Hall and Maxwell Hall are not permitted to leave the halls except to attend classes." 

By December the women's dormitories closed because of a shortage of help as nearly all assistants were ill.  The women students were sent home.

Friday, January 12, 2018

SU-KY Circle and the Origins of UK Cheerleading

Organized cheerleading at UK began with the founding of the Su-Ky Circle in 1920-21.  SU-KY stood for State University of Kentucky.  The K-Book the following year offered a brief history of how the organization came to be.
K-Book, 1921-22
Women and men students tried out and participated in activities earning points to become a member of Su-Ky and over time it became one of the most important student organizations on the campus.  Steve Clark and Barbara Zweifel wrapped streamers around a goal post in 1959 to earn points towards SUKY membership.

SU-KY founder, Stanley A. "Daddy" Boles (1887-1961), grew up on a farm in Grant County, Kentucky and attended Kentucky Wesleyan College (located in Winchester, Ky. at that time).  He earned the nickname "Daddy" as a member of the Wesleyan football team because someone observed he was so much larger than the other players.

After earning his undergraduate degree Boles received an M.A. degree from Vanderbilt University.  His first coaching position was at Locust Grove Institute in Georgia..  He later coached at Polytechnic College, now Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University before coming to UK in as director of physical education and assistant with athletics teams .
Stanley A. "Daddy" Boles
In 1917-18 Boles coached both the football team (3-5-1) and the basketball team (9-2-1).  The tie game in basketball resulted from an official scoring error discovered after the game ended.  He was appointed Athletics Director the following year and served in that position until 1933.  Boles is credited with hiring Adolph Rupp.

Boles founded the Kentucky State High School Basketball Tournament in 1919 and for many years the tournament was held in UK's Alumni Gym.

Modern UK cheerleaders have established a national reputation having won 21 National Championships including 17 of the last 23 national titles.  This year the UK cheerleaders will represent the United States at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

A recent Kentucky Kernel story by Bailey Vandiver highlighted the history of one of the most popular cheers at UK men's basketball games, the Y.  Check it out!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

New Dining Hall

A new dining hall, Champions Kitchen, opens this week in the soon to be completed UK student center.  The 750 seat facility will offer a bakery, a breakfast station, a salad bar, and a "worry free zone" where food is prepared is a special room free of gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, or shell fish. (1.6.18 Herald-Leader)

Nearly a century ago in January, 1919 UK also announced a new dining hall.  The facility was located in two rooms in the basement of the Main Building formally occupied by the stenographic bureau.  The area, which could accommodate 250 patrons, included a kitchen and dining area with small tables, newly painted woodwork, and grey furniture that made "a very pleasing appearance..." 

The dining hall, operated by the Home Economics Department, served three meals a day cafeteria style “at moderate prices" (breakfast 20 cents, lunch 25 cents, and dinner 45 cents).   However, during the first weeks of operation the new dining hall only served lunch since "the Home Economics students" were "unusually busy with the coming Farmer's Week.

Fifteen women students worked in the dining hall at least six hours each week and received credit toward laboratory work and were also paid.  Any profits from the dining hall were used to purchase new equipment with the remainder going to the Home Economics Department.

Kentucky Kernel, January 23, 1919

ExploreUK, SCRC, UK Libraries

Kentucky Kernel, January 23, 1919

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Turn Towards Science and Research

As the calendar turned to 1898 the University of Kentucky began a new era in scientific education and research with the dedication of the new Natural Science Building.  President James K. Patterson gave the welcoming address at the dedication ceremonies.  Unfortunately, he had broken his left leg over the holiday break.  With no use of his right leg which had been injured in a childhood accident, Patterson was unable to walk and "was carried by four stalwart soldiers (student cadets) to the dedicatory exercises."

In his dedicatory speech President Patterson reflected on the lack of attention paid to scientific discovery and education in Kentucky's past.  But with the new science building he predicted that the University of Kentucky (then known as State College) "must take the lead in the field of scientific study and investigation in this Commonwealth and among her sister States of the South."  The President called upon the state legislature "representing the intelligence and pride and patriotism of Kentucky" to provide the "material resources by which this may be accomplished."

The editors of The Cadet (student newspaper) joined in the celebration of the new building by noting that, "Not only is the study of natural science enhanced, but the work and reputation of the college will reap beneficial results.  We tip our hat to the new Science Hall.  Long may she stand."

The new Natural Science Building (now Miller Hall) was completed December 10, 1897 at a cost of $27,000 which included $5,000 for equipment.  The building "was erected by Lexington contractors" and all of the electrical wiring "was done exclusively by the students of the college."  All of the brick work for  the new building "was contracted for and done exclusively" by African-American workers.

Included in the three story building were botany, zoology, anatomy and physiology, and geology and paleontology.  The basement was "to be used for fish ponds and incubators."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Medical Center Moving Day, 1959

Fifty-eight years ago a Kentucky Kernel headline announced that, "Medical Staff Begins Trek To New Home."  The move actually began a month ahead of schedule on December 16, 1959 after arrangements were made with the contractors to allow staff and equipment to begin moving into the lower floors even as construction continued on the upper floors of the six-story structure.

Medical Center under construction in 1959 on former College of Agriculture land.  Within a decade the field behind the Medical Center would become the Kirwan-Blanding Complex now designated for demolition.  Commonwealth Stadium (now Kroger Field) opened on the land in the upper section of the photograph in 1973.
Prior to the move the first medical departments created at UK had been housed in "borrowed facilities across the campus including a basement, an old farm house, a converted classroom, a livestock pavilion, and storage areas"  Research equipment would be ordered new and installed directly into the new medical facility.  The medical library was also one of the first units to move.

The creation of a medical center at the University of Kentucky during the mid-twentieth century became one of the most important decisions in Kentucky history.  There were many people at UK and across Kentucky who made this extraordinary achievement possible.  Today, Kentuckians across the commonwealth benefit from the medical care and research provided by the A. B. Chandler Hospital and UK Healthcare.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Sounds of Campus

Cadets 1906
UK Cadets with their Bugles
The early years of the UK campus resembled an army camp almost as much as a college.  All men students served in the Cadet Corps and wore their uniforms.  Marching drills were held on the large lawn in front of the Main Building.  In line with this military environment a bugle rang out on the hour to indicate the time to change classes.

By 1911 the university introduced a new way of letting students and faculty know it was time to change classes - a steam whistle.  Apparently the whistle was so loud that it not only alerted UK students to changed classes but annoyed most of the citizens of Lexington. Nevertheless, the whistle continued its hourly alerts for 7 years.

In 1918 a new bell system was introduced to the campus which, I suspect, students, faculty, staff, and townspeople all welcomed!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The not so tranquil Thanksgiving of 1959

When someone mentions students riots one immediately thinks of students in the 1960's and early 1970's demonstrating in support of the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the anti-war movement, or any number of student movements from that time.

At least some UK students decided to disrupt the "tranquility" of the 1950's by engaging in a demonstration on the UK campus and through the streets of Lexington which was reported in detail in the November 24, 1959 Kernel.  What major societal issue could cause such a student disturbance in 1959?  Well, students wanted a holiday from class the day before Thanksgiving. 

The problem began a year earlier in 1958.  Following UK's 6-2 football victory over Tennessee.  Governor Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, a huge UK sports fan and Chair of the UK Board of Trustees, proclaimed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a state holiday in recognition of UK's victory over the Vols effectively dismissing classes at UK that day.  Governor Chandler claimed to have no knowledge of the UK faculty's earlier decision not to dismiss classes that day.  All of this placed UK President Frank Dickey in a nearly impossible position.

In 1959 some students requested that classes be dismissed again on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  The UK faculty voted not to dismiss classes and the trouble ensued.

The day after a demonstration through downtown Lexington a second protest march by the students was held on campus.

To this day a debate continues among most colleges and universities about how best to handle classes the week of Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.