Mid-century A&M: What has changed and what endures

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

A tiny spiral-bound booklet, 1946-47 Colorado A&M Frosh Bible, recently came into our possession. Its purpose was to introduce “the class of ’50 to Aggie life, policies, ideals, and spirit.”

A&M’s library, 1947. Today, the building houses The Institute for Learning and Teaching.

Flipping through the pages of this booklet reminds us of how much has changed in the last two-thirds of a century as well as those things that have endured. The inside cover pays tribute to one enduring item—firing the cannon at the beginning of football games and for each touchdown scored. They called it “Aggie Cannon” and we call it “Comatose,” but the tradition remains. Also, listed for October 19 in the College Calendar section of the booklet is another stalwart tradition—painting the A.

The Frosh Bible contains messages from campus leaders; some are names that remained part of our campus long after the individuals had departed—Hughes, Green, and Parmelee. Most poignant in those messages is Dean of Women Amy Parmelee’s perspective: “You will graduate from this institution … at the very middle of the Twentieth Century, at the peak of fifty years marked by the greatest advancement in every field of science and also, unfortunately, by the greatest wars in history.”

Over two-thirds of the A&M students in fall of 1946 were WWII veterans. According to the booklet, the largest organization on campus was the Associated Veterans, which not only organized social events but also “brought about rent control in town.” Support for veterans is an institutional value that has endured. In 2019, CSU is ranked one of the top five public universities for veterans by Military Times.

Students model “proper dressware” in 1947

One decidedly non-poignant section that clearly would not make it into a 2018-19 booklet for first year students is the “Frosh Dictionary.” It includes such eyebrow raisers as:

BULL SESSION—Kibitzer’s Paradise. The midnight session where you can learn practically everything you’re too young to know.

CUTTING—The quickest way to make your prof your best enemy.  Go to class to do your sleeping.

DENVER—A collection of half a dozen hotels and a jail. It costs just as much to get out of any of them.

OLD MAIN—Needs its face lifted. Threatened to burn down for years but some bonehead always calls the fire department in time.

The “Social Slant” is the largest section of the book. It has advice on dress and behavior at social occasions and includes such immature quips as, your blind date “might look better in daylight.” Most startling is an entire subsection on the etiquette of smoking, leading off with the admonition: “Smoke for smoke’s sake, not to show the others how daring you are for having learned how.” Some advice, however, remains valid almost seventy-five years later: “Don’t allow the pronoun ‘I’ to clutter up your conversation.”

World War II veterans registering for classes

Coach Harry Hughes dispensed some timeless wisdom to the freshmen in the booklet:  “[T]he leadership you develop will leave a lasting mark on our institution for the years to come.” Our thanks to all Ram and Aggie alumni for what you have done to help make Colorado State what it is today!