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“Student life at the University of Kentucky"

“Student life at the University of Kentucky” is the fourth and final Howe-Salyers family scrapbook collection post by Deana Thomas in KHS’s From the Archives blog series. Next in the series, KHS’s Casey Castro-Bracho, will dive into our Civilian Conservation Corps camp newsletters collection. Check back on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month for more from this series!     I was a student at the University of Kentucky (UK) from 2008-2014 and I fondly look back on the concerts and football and basketball games I attended; I remember reading the Kentucky Kernel for the puzzles and the gossip. I attended classes in White Hall and worked in the Margaret I. King Library as a graduate student. And even though so much at UK and in society more generally has changed since James, Mary Alice and David Salyers attended UK between 1929 and 1937, in the mementos they left behind, I can identify with their experiences.

In the Howe-Salyers family scrapbook collection, perhaps the best examples of the family’s connection to the University of Kentucky are scrapbooks 5, 9, 11, 34 and 36. These scrapbooks are mostly about UK, whether it be Mary Alice and James’s Kernel articles or football programs, their lives were undeniably consumed by their attendance at UK. Mary Alice, James, and David Salyers all wrote for the Kernel; Mary Alice was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority and a member of a student theater group called the Strollers. All three siblings kept up with UK sports (particularly basketball and football). My favorite UK mementos from the scrapbooks are a Kernel article about campus superstitions, a clipping about UK’s president canceling all social events and a clipping about UK’s “new” library.

In the clipping about Friday the 13th superstitions, my favorite “rule” is “[l]ast of all don’t go any place; stay in bed all day.” I believe this is a rule that we should continue to follow today.

In the clipping about school events being canceled, I’m reminded of the restrictions on campus life that are currently being experienced across the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The clipping, which is undated but most likely from 1935, reports that then President of UK, Frank McVey, ordered the cancellation of “all social activities outside of regular University classwork” after the death of UK student, James Worthington Wilmott (aged 17) who died of “infantile paralysis” which today is more commonly known as polio.

The clipping about the library is undated but likely from 1929-1931 and at the time, the library was the main library on campus and named University Library (which was renamed the Margret I King Library after King retired in 1948). After the William T. Young library opened in 1998, the M. I. King Library became home to UK’s Special Collections, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the King Library Press. Reading about the library’s beginning reminds me of the deep history of librarianship that is rooted in the history of the building’s namesake and UK. Honorable mentions include clippings from the Kernel announcing Adolph Rupp as UK’s basketball coach in 1930 (located on page 124 of scrapbook 9), a 1929 telegram Mary Alice sent to her brother Robert announcing she had pledged the Kappa Delta sorority (located on page 5 of scrapbook 9) and an undated newspaper article entitled, “Frat Men Are Good Students” (located on page 56 of scrapbook 9). Although I can identify with some of the college experiences of James, Mary Alice and David Salyers, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the aspects of their experiences that I cannot identify with. The most obvious difference is that until 1949 black students were not permitted to attend UK; as a result, there were no students who looked like me at UK when the Salyers were there. Additionally, the landscape of UK’s campus has changed dramatically. In truth, anyone who hasn’t been on campus since 2014, would be shocked if they returned to campus in 2020. Kennedy’s bookstore is gone, there is a new student center and new classroom and dorm buildings all over campus. In the end, regardless of how much UK and the world have changed, I can say without hesitation that the Salyers and I both bleed blue.

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