Losing a friend

March 9, 2017


On January 6, 2017, a great friend of the Southern Methodist University Archives, Joe Redwine Patterson died. “Joe Red,” for those of you who were lucky enough to know him, was a walking, talking one-man promoter for “SMU school spirit.”

Joe graduated from SMU with a B.A. in Philosophy in 1948, with an M.A. in Government in 1951, and a J.D. in 1954. While at SMU, he served both as Head Cheerleader (1947-48) and Student Body President (1948-49).  Both of these positions were elected positions.  His enthusiasm for SMU athletics and passion for school spirit continued long after Joe graduated.  Most remarkably, Joe met with the SMU Student Senate in 2013 and taught this newest generation about school spirit—and what cheerleading was like in the 1940s.

Joe was an invaluable source of information for this archivist trying to learn about the history and the spirit of SMU.  At first, Joe was just another patron. Later, he became a friend. His donations of both memorabilia and memories for the SMU Archives have given us a special insight to the pivotal post World War II era.  Thank you Joe Redwine Patterson for your dedicated spirit and service to our University.

The cheer squad in 1948. Joe Redwine Patterson is at the bottom of the pyramid on the right. (photo is from the Rotunda)

Did You Know that the Library has a Very Interesting Book?

January 6, 2017

On Nov. 13, 1918, The Campus, SMU’s student newspaper, reported that the library received Bohemia. This autobiography was written by the Czech immigrant, abolitionist and doctor, Anthony Michael Dignowity. He was born in Bohemia in 1810 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1832. His stories about selling pretzels during Lent and as a snail salesman during boyhood are charming. His descriptions of Austrian military justice are chilling.


The headline of the student newspaper article was “The Libarary [sic] has an interesting book.” This particular book was a part of a very large collection from Methodist minister, publisher, magazine editor and bibliographer E.L. Shettles. At the time, Librarian Dorothy Amann “considers it a most valuable addition to the library.” DeGolyer Library still has this copy of the book, and it is still interesting, still a valuable addition to the collection, and still worth traveling to the Library to read in person.


There are several options of how to read Bohemia under Austrian Despotism: Being an Autobiography. It was reprinted by Books on Demand in 2013 and is available on Amazon for $44.95. It was digitized by the Internet Archives and is available free online. The 1859 edition was recently sold at auction for $245. Thirty other libraries in the U.S. have the 1859 edition including Harvard, Yale, and the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem Pa.


The question remains, why is important to visit the DeGolyer Library and why is it important to read Bohemia or any rare book in person? By visiting the DeGolyer, unplugging from a computer, focusing solely on reading and turning the 158 year old pages, you are transported into another time. You can immerse yourself into the words and read deeply. You feel the paper in your hands. No distractions. Time travel is yours at the DeGolyer Library.

Christmas at Southern Methodist University—The Early Years

December 19, 2016

When SMU opened in 1915, students and faculty knew that they were creating precedents and traditions about how to celebrate holidays. In the early days of the twentieth century, much like today, students learned to balance studying for exams and celebrating Christmas. And much like today, authority figures worried about the balance between secular fun and the religious reason behind the season.

In 1915, President Robert S. Hyer announced that a large Christmas tree would be installed and decorated in the Rotunda in Dallas Hall.  Saturday, December 18, was designated as the day to decorate the tree. SMU administrators gave presents to each and every student. On Sunday the entire SMU community observed the season during a special chapel service at 5:30, “emphasizing the real meaning of Christmas.” No doubt the best present for the SMU community was the announcement that construction of cement sidewalks connecting the dorms with Dallas Hall would begin the next day, Monday, December 20.

The next year, another large tree was placed in the Rotunda. All around Dallas Hall holly, mistletoe, and streamers added color. On Saturday night, a party for the whole university featured vocal celebrations as the student body sang carols, and a chorus of Mexican children performed in both Spanish and English. The program that night also included gifts for bachelor faculty men followed by a reception. The next day a special chapel was held. Music included solos of “Glory to Thee, My God” and “The Birthday of a King.” The carol, “The First Noel,” was sung by all.

One of the most impressive early Christmas celebrations was in 1924 when SMU students played Santa Claus for 50 Dallas students. The SMU Sociology Department worked with United Charities (a precursor of the United Way) to pick children who had the most needs. Under the leadership of the SMU Religious Activities Council, fraternities, sororities, clubs, town students, and theology students raised money. Students gave the children toys, clothing, and sweets, and some female students from the YWCA even made homemade dolls and clothing. Santa presided over the program for the children in the men’s gymnasium decorated with a Christmas tree.

Today, SMU doesn’t decorate just one tree, it lights Dallas Hall and the surrounding trees for the entire Holiday season.  The “Celebration of Lights,” harkens back to that first Christmas celebration and chapel service in 1915 with the sharing of hot chocolate and cider, the singing of Christmas carols by the entire SMU community, and the reading by President Turner of the Christmas story from his family bible.

Daily Campus featuring the first (and last) full-page image of Santa, 1930

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