DeGolyer Library SMU Archives

Joining the SMU Community

Preparing students to join college life has always been a concern to university administrators.

In 1915 (and for some years after), freshmen at SMU were called “Fish.” During that first spring semester, seniors pranked two unsuspecting classes with fake finals.  As early as 1919, incoming freshman had mandatory psychological tests. These tests (although updated) remained in place until the mid-1970s.

The first formal freshman orientation was in 1924 and it lasted one day.  It began with a devotional exercise, and President Charles Selecman spoke on the ideals and traditions of SMU.  By 1928 that freshman day had expanded into a five-day-long orientation.

Beanies were a part of freshman life from 1916 until 1963. The first-year student were required to wear beanies until the end of the fall semester or if SMU won the homecoming game—whichever came first.  Beanies had one’s name printed on the front of the hat—and were not the most “fashion-forward” items.  Anyone caught not wearing their beanie was tossed into the fountain.   In 1963, a beanie cost $1.28.


In a book called, “The Freshman Girl,” published in 1925, there was no talk about a formal orientation program, but deans and professors from different colleges and universities discussed how to acclimate new students on how to study, survive social life, budget, and take care of their health.  “There are few groups of human beings more interesting than a class of schoolgirls going out into the new world of college or of society. There are few hearts of men or women that do not yearn toward them, longing to help them….”

Fifty years ago, in 1967, the SMU’s orientation process included a Tuesday to Sunday program-filled schedule.

Freshman in 1967 moved in to their dorm rooms on Tuesday morning. After their first lunch in the cafeteria, they were welcomed in an assembly by Provost Neill McFarland.  Another meeting at 7 pm introduced the group to the Student President.  At 10 pm, men in their dorms, women in theirs, learned their “respective rights and privileges.” Wednesday and Thursday students pored over physical and psychological exams deeming them “fit to be a Mustang.” An all-university street dance was held Thursday night behind Boaz Hall. On Friday, students registered for their first semester of classes.  After learning the SMU cheers on Saturday, students attended a 10 pm until midnight dance. Women had a special curfew of 1 am that night.  On Sunday, students went to religious services.

Today, in the late summer SMU first-year students still take part in an orientation to college life.  Today that process takes place in two steps, AARO  (Academic Advising, Registration, & Orientation) and Mustang Corral.  At AARO, a two-day event, incoming students are advised on classes, and parents are counseled about student life.  During Mustang Corral, a five-day event, first year students are introduced to Dallas, each other, SMU policies, and traditions.

No matter how or when you became a Mustang, we are happy that you joined Southern Methodist University. To relive some of your glory days, you can always visit the SMU Archives in the DeGolyer Library in person or online.


DeGolyer Library SMU Archives Uncategorized

Losing a friend


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)
DeGolyer Library SMU Archives

Christmas at Southern Methodist University—The Early Years

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
DeGolyer Library SMU Archives Uncategorized

SMU’s First Official Holiday

Rather than waiting for Thanksgiving to enjoy their first holiday during that first semester in 1915, overjoyed students were treated to a day off on Tuesday, October 19 that year, courtesy of President Robert. S. Hyer. This first official holiday at Southern Methodist University was on “Dallas Day” at the State Fair of Texas. Classes were cancelled at SMU. Extra street cars took students and faculty to the fairgrounds to enjoy the festivities. Many students attended the TCU vs. Austin College football game, located on the grounds, seeing TCU win 28 to 0.  The Dallas Morning News reported that the SMU students were totally impartial in their cheering, but they did gave some SMU yells. Only eight days later near the end of the State Fair, Austin College beat SMU 21-0 at the Fairgrounds.

“Dallas Day” was heavily promoted. Many businesses in downtown Dallas were closed. Highlights that day included a Confederate Veterans parade and the newest technology—an air show by pilot Art Smith who swooped right near the grandstand. SMU students were just a few of the 93,700 visitors to the Fair that day.

For the next three years, SMU celebrated at the Texas State Fair as a holiday. The football team practiced in the morning, so that players could go to the Fair with classmates. So successful was the holiday that The Dallas Morning News reported in 1918 the campus was practically deserted when the day rolled around.




Today students enjoy a fall break, among other days off, and Dallas Day is a memory. Each year interested fairgoers can still attend the same fair their predecessors frequented more than a century ago, and this year they have the opportunity to wander no further than across campus for a flavor of the fair.

The DeGolyer Library is celebrating the 130th anniversary of the State Fair of Texas with an exhibition in the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall. Highlights include State Fair photographs by Dallas photographer Lynn Lennon, as well as several cases of related ephemera, like fair tokens, badges, pamphlets, brochures, postcards, handkerchiefs and more dating from the 19th into the 20th century, all from various DeGolyer collections.


DeGolyer Library Exhibit, September 8 to December 16, 2016

Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, Fondren Library Center, SMU

Hours: 8:30 to 5:00, Monday to Friday