Origins of Jeannine Tour (7): University of Kansas
This summer we took Mom in The Epic Van on a tour of all her old Kansas haunts. We’re calling it the Origins of Jeannine Tour.
Mom’s first exposure to the University of Kansas was during five summers spent in Lawrence when she was a kid, four when her father was working on his master’s degree, one when he was rolling gunpowder for the war.
Each summer, her parents would load the car with home-canned green beans from the garden, canned food, sheets and towels, and head to the big city. They would get the morning newspaper, drive around looking at apartments and, by the end of the day, choose one to rent for the summer.
Mom and her brother, Hal, got season passes at the city pool, played in the park, read at the city library, went to the movies for a dime and, occasionally, got an ice cream cone for a nickel. Some evenings, they participated in a program for summer-school families created by “Phog” Allen, the legendary KU coach. As a KU student, Allen had played under James Naismith, who invented basketball, and later succeeded Naismith as basketball coach.
Mom remembers her father, also a coach, laughing with Allen as she and Hal played on the merry-go-round, monkey bars and swings set up at the top of the hill on campus.
“I would go stand and listen to Dad and Phog talking,” Mom said. “I was fascinated.”
Her father always said she would go to college, and there was never a question she would be a Jayhawk.
“The only thing I can leave you is an education,” her father told her.
He wanted Mom to be a teacher or a nurse. She chose nurse. He wanted Hal to be a pharmacist, but Hal wanted to be a teacher and coach like his father. After decades doing just that in Riley, Kansas, they named the stadium for Hal.
Mom and her father researched scholarships and learned about Miller Hall, one of two scholarship halls for women at KU. Students were chosen based on need and academics. Mom remembers how happy she was when she got her acceptance letter. Rock, Chalk, Jaaaaayhawk.
Mom wandered basketball’s memory lane at KU’s new Booth Family Hall of Athletics, which honors KU’s legendary coaches and athletes, including Naismith, whose invention of “basket ball” was played with two peach baskets and a soft soccer ball. Under the original 13 rules, no dribbling was allowed, only passing.
According to Wikipedia, Naismith described the first game this way: “I showed them two peach baskets I’d nailed up at each end of the gym, and I told them the idea was to throw the ball into the opposing team’s peach basket. I blew a whistle, and the first game of basketball began. … The boys began tackling, kicking and punching in the clinches. They ended up in a free-for-all in the middle of the gym floor. (The injury toll: several black eyes, one separated shoulder and one player knocked unconscious.) “It certainly was murder.” (Naismith changed some of the rules as part of his quest to develop a clean sport.) The most important one was that there should be no running with the ball. That stopped tackling and slugging. We tried out the game with those new rules (fouls), and we didn’t have one casualty.”
Mom stood by the larger-than-life photo of Phog and Naismith, and the original center court from Allen Fieldhouse, and found photos of the players she took classes with. She remembered Clyde Lovellette, the 6-foot-9 basketball player in her Psychology 101 class, who would put huge hand on the top of her head and turn it left and right for fun as they walked out of class. He copied off her exam and was thrilled to get a “C.” “I knew you were smart, Prich,” he told her.
Clyde, who died this year just 10 days before Mom’s birthday, led the Jayhawks to the 1952 NCAA title, with a then-NCAA-record 141 points. He was the first basketball player in history to play on an NCAA championship team, Olympics gold medal basketball team, and NBA championship squad.
At Miller Hall, Mom met other smart women: Doris Kendall, Bev Jennings, Caroline Hamma, and many others who would become lifelong friends. They had rooms with desks for studying, a sleeping porch with bunk beds, kitchens in the basement where each was assigned rotating ordering and cooking roles, and the living room with a fireplace where they would have candle ceremonies: passing a lighted candle around in a circle until one of the women would blow it out, revealing that she was engaged, then share chocolates.
They were watched over by Mother Roach, a very proper southern woman, who would tell the girls, “Remember, guuhls, a squeeze on the the ahhhm is sufficient.” The guuhls roundly ignored her advice, and Mom would often be assigned to break up the lovebirds on the front porch for 10 p.m. curfew, saying, “Get that one long, last smooch in.” Other assigned duties were cleaning, including bathrooms and stairs. The stairs were the worst, where white-gloved upper classmen/inspectors could always detect dust and issue demerits. Three demerits and you were in for the weekend.
Mom and her crew would climb out on the roof at night for fun, and once called the house phone to trick the student on desk duty, saying the dean of women who lived nearby was complaining about the girls on the roof.
When Mom was a sophomore, Mother Roach called her into her room and said, “Jeannine, I don’t know what has happened to you. You were the quietest guhl when you arrived and now you are soooo loud.”
When we visited Miller Hall in August, construction crews were finishing renovations of the bathrooms and let us wander the halls. We found Mom’s room and she recreated our favorite college photo of her with her saddle-shoe-clad feet up on her desk. She shushed herself outside Mother Roach’s door, wielded a gargantuan rolling pin in her assigned kitchen and posed in the garden room where she, Dad, Doris and Bob Payne, who Doris later married, had posed in formals at a dance.
It was at KU that Mom met Dad, who was a student at the men’s scholarship hall, Battenfeld Hall.
She saw him on the lawn working on their homecoming display, which he had helped design, and asked someone who he was. He originally dated one of her friends, Donna May “Dummy” Hull. But one night, in the library, he asked Mom out for a five-cent cup of coffee. They would go to dances at Miller Hall, picnics on sandbars in the Kansas River, and basketball games at Hoch Auditorium.
Dad’s mother, after meeting Mom, wrote to him telling him to concentrate on his studies. He ignored that advice, and she later became Mom’s greatest advocate.
Dad was in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps and spent his summers training on ships, He later moved off campus with his roommates Bobby Casad, with whom he sang and played ukulele at campus functions, and Jim Logan, who married Bev. At their house on Indian Avenue, they brewed beer and parked a non-running car out front for private make-out sessions, complete with a heater connected to the house by an extension cord. Jim and Bobby later went to law school, Jim becoming a judge, then dean of KU’s law school, and Bobby, becoming a law professor there.
Mom graduated from KU in 1953, and from the fifth-year of the nursing program at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City.
We visited and reminisced with Bobby, whose eyes crinkle when he smiles just like the did in college; with Bev (Jennings) and Jim Logan, who took us out for lunch and showed us their wonderful pool, where Jim swims every day; with Doris (Kendall) and Bob Payne, in Topeka, where we looked through old KU photos; with Mary (Taggart) and Wally Holderman, in Hutchinson, where stories about the KU Medical Center took on comic-movie status and often included visits to The Jigger, and with Peggy (Scott) and Paul Nelson in Concordia, where KUMC pals were recalled, including Hank Reed, Bill and Marty Hayes, and Louis Field.