Oregon State University Libraries and Press

Beulah and Helen Gilkey interviewed by Betty Lynd Thompson, 1966. With comments by Harriet Moore, May 1984.

Oregon State University

Transcript Index
Search This Transcript
Go X
0:00

 Betty Lynd Thompson: I was over at the archives a while ago and the most that I could find, I mean the earliest physical education I could find, was in 1899 when they actually had a department of physical culture. It used to be, well, before that they didn't mention it, and it was under an EJ Lea. I suppose she was a woman, and it said physical training has been recently introduced into the college course as a regular drill for all lady students who are not physically disabled. And they had dumb bells and free exercises and lively games and then they added bowling and fencing and free movements and gymnastic games. Then they made reference to all the girls living in a hall which by 1902 they 1:00named "Alpha Hall" for young ladies. They had tennis courts and croquet sets. For the men an athletic field all fenced in and secure and one of the best in the northwest. Now, can you tell me anything about the kind of activities they had while you were in school, Helen?

Helen Gilkey: Well, we used the dumb bells and Indian Clubs. That's all that I can remember about our classes. There was much marching.

Beulah Gilkey: You wore bloomers.

HG: Yes, we wore bloomers. Most of us were ashamed to put them on at first [laughs].

BLT: Uh-huh. Big, voluminous.

HG: Yes, uh-huh. Came to our knees.

BLT: Uh-huh, and stockings and shoes.

HG: Mm-hmm black stockings.

BLT: And middies with our names on it.

HG: Yes, we had middies.

BLT: Uh-huh.

HG: Tell you I have a picture of the physical education class when I was in it.

2:00

BLT: That'd be really fun to see sometime.

HG: I wonder whether I can look it up.

BLT: If ever find it, I'd like to see it.

HG: I'll see that you get it. I--

BLT: Oh, fine. Uh-huh. Now, as I remember it you said you were excused in your sophomore year because of a back injury and then you had to go back and pick up your physical education.

HG: At the beginning of my senior year I had to go back and make up all I'd missed.

BLT: What'd you have to do, two or three hours a day of Indian Clubs?

HG: Yes. Mm-hm.

BLT: Did you not take part in any of these free movements or bowling or any of those things? Do you remember those being--?

Beulah Gilkey: You conducted a track meet one time.

HG: Yes. There was a women's track meet, then, regularly, annually.

BLT: Yes, well that's interesting.

BG: You were one of the judges.

HG: Yes.

BG: Maybe I shouldn't be talking.

BLT: That's alright. I'm just not sure I'm picking it up.

HG: I always had those about 5:00 in the morning so there wouldn't be any boys around, and somebody always leaked the news.

3:00

BLT: Oh [laughs].

HG: And somebody always leaked the news, and we always had the boys circled all the way around the field by the time the girls were assembled.

[Break in Recording]

BG: -- of girls, and it was competitive with other schools, but one year the girls had gotten into a discord with some of the other schools, so they discontinued their competitive teams. They still played basketball, but not with other schools.

BLT: Which other schools did they play with?

BG: I can't remember now.

BLT: University of Oregon? Or schools closer to us?

BG: No, I think University of Oregon. It was just a short time after I entered that they did that. Did they while you were there, Helen?

HG: Yes. Ah, yes while we were there.

BG: We have pictures of one group of girls.

4:00

[Break in Recording]

BLT: Did you say you had track meets and things of that sort? Could you tell me more about the girl's athletics, Helen?

HG: Yes. They had an indoor track meet. The 1911 annual describes one in which they had 100-yard dash, quarter mile hurdles, high jump, broad jump, discus, shotput, hammer, relay, and it states the distances and the winners. The Waldo Hall girls lost to the Talon girls that time, apparently.

BLT: What year was that?

HG: 1911.

BLT: It would be 1910.

5:00

HG: It'd be 1910, mm-hmm.

[Break in Recording]

HG: This in your first Orange, which would have been 1907, I noticed that they had an annual faculty football game. This was for the men, I guess. But here's something interesting--the physicians in attendance list Margaret Comstock Snell, M.D. (from Vassar), formerly Professor of Operative Surgery Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. I didn't realize that Margaret Snell was that important a person, had had so much training.

HG: She was an M.D. Did you know her pretty well, Beulah?

BG: Well, I had worked under her my first year of college and that was her last year here. But she was an M.D., and--

6:00

BLT: Was she head of the Home Economics Department?

BG: Yes, she was. Helen knew her better because Helen had her all through school.

HG: Her idea in teaching home economics was that women should be trained in home making, and she felt that even the profession of medicine could do more, or should turn its attention at least in part to, prevention rather than curing after it. And she felt that the right kind of home life and the right kind of food and exercise and all those things were important to health and that school should be teaching those. So she entered Home Economics and was one of the first on the west coast, one of the first home economics teachers. This was one of the 7:00first home schools/department at that time.

BLT: I noticed in one of the old catalogues, I believe it was in 1894-95 that Margaret Snell was head of household economy and hygiene, and they had lectures on hygiene, which included hygiene and daily precepts. Then they also had lectures on etiquette. When I came in 1927, the Dean of Women was still teaching a course which must have been an outgrowth of that one, where the freshman went twice a week and they didn't get any credit but they had these lectures on poise and etiquette and what to eat. I don't know what all it was, but it was in addition to their physical education. Did you ever have to take any courses like that? That was invented later, I guess?

8:00

HG: Well, we had work along all those lines during Mrs. Snell's sewing classes. We'd sit and sew and she'd talk to us on those subjects and read to us. She quoted poetry. I remember that we had considerable on etiquette and on food and the home in general and I wondered what she'd think today of girl's smoking, because just gum chewing was banned those days. One of her precepts was if you must chew gum do it in the privacy of your own room.

BLT: [Laughs] I feel that way, too. In fact, I'm real strict in my dance classes that the girls do not chew gum, and I use as my reason that if they get in the 9:00habit of chewing while they practice they may be out on the stage someday and not realize it, and they would be chewing gum in front of the audience. But it does seem an unnecessary rhythmic accompaniment when we furnish them with a really good accompanist to play for the exercises and the dancing. How's that you were saying about the chewing gum, Helen? Tell me that again.

HG: [Laughs] I better-- [microphone movement]. Oh, a few years ago we met a Dean of Women who was chaperoning a group of girls from an eastern girl's college, and they were all chewing gum, even the dean. And when someone remarked about it they said, "Oh, we don't dare do this in the east in our school, but we came out west where we felt we'd be free to do anything."

BLT: [Laughs] I guess that's an attitude a lot of people have. Do you remember 10:00anything about Helen Crawford? What she looked like or what sort of a person she was? I'd like to know about her. She taught elocution, didn't you say?

HG: Yes, elocution and physical education.

BG: And physical culture.

HG: Yes, physical culture.

BLT: Did she do anything with starting a rhythmic movement?

HG: Yes. I don't know that I can describe how she looked. She seemed old to us when we were freshman, but I have an idea she wasn't more than 45 perhaps.

BG: She never put on a gym suit. She wore a long dress clear to the floor all the times she conducted.

HG: I did see her in one once.

BG: Did you? I never did.

HG: But she was a very interesting teacher in both subjects, and she was graceful herself. I remember that in our gym class, when I was a freshman, she had two sophomore girls lead the marches. And because these two girls were 11:00especially graceful and did all this well, I used to marvel at them.

BLT: Did she do anything like dowel [unintelligible] rhythmics, the dancing where you pull [unintelligible] and try to express various emotions with your arms.

HG: I think she had some classes for girls who wanted to do that, just special classes. But they were not required. Yes, I'm quite sure she did have.

BLT: Beulah, do you remember where they did the bowling? It says here that they had bowling classes.

HG: Well, I wondered about that, because I don't remember anything. It must have been just the--did it say the women did too?

BLK: Yeah.

HG: But did it say in Alpha Hall?

BLK: No it didn't. Maybe it was bowling on the grass, bowling on the green 12:00[trails off].

HG: I don't know. That's in that old one that I--

BG: I surely didn't any time that I know of.

BLT: Helen Gilkey were you a freshman in 1902 at Oregon?

HG: Fall of 1903.

BLT: You were a freshman?

HG: Yes.

BLT: At Oregon Agriculture College?

HG: Yes.

BLT: And which year was Beulah out there?

BG: 1906.

BLT: I saw some reference to tennis, their playing tennis and croquet.

HG: Yes.

BLT: Where did they have those?

HG: Well, there was a tennis court near Alpha Hall, wasn't there?

BG: [Noise of agreement].

HG: I don't remember where they played croquet, do you? But I remember seeing pictures of them.

BG: I think so [inaudible].

HG: I think so. Do you know where Alpha Hall was?

BLT: Well, was it somewhere near Shepard Hall?

HG: Well, it was near where the, what is now the old library, was. The heating plant was near there. And Alpha Hall was in an open space between what is now 13:00Benton and Cauthorn.

BLT: Oh I see. Do you remember when they first built that swimming pool that is still over in Shepherd Hall?

HG: Yes.

BLT: Do you remember about what year that was?

HG: Was that before you were a freshman? Shepard Hall was built.

BG: I just saw a record of that the other day.

HG: I did too. Where did we see that?

BG: I don't know.

BLT: Did you girls ever take swimming?

BG: [Chuckles] Yes.

BLT: How was it?

BG: I don't think they taught swimming, but we used to go down there and go in.

BLT: You just did exercises in the water, was that--

HG: No, we'd just jump in. We didn't have any supervision at all, and we lived one year--do you want to hear this [laughs]?

14:00

BLT: Mm-hmm.

HG: Right next to Shepard Hall, a house there. So we put our bathing suits on and run across, put our bathrobes on and go across. One evening two or three of us went over to have a swim and just as we got in Coach Angel was just pulling a girl out of the pool. She'd gone down three times, and he got there. He had gone in to swim too, and he said if he hadn't come in just then she would've drowned. But they had no supervision of any kind at that time. They'd could just go when they wanted to and leave when they wanted to.

BG: That's kind of a weird--

HG: Yeah, he jumped in with his bathrobe on just in time to save her.

BG: Later there was supervision there, and I had classes.

BLT: Did they teach swimming techniques, strokes, and [inaudible].

15:00

HG: Yes, but I think that was after I had graduated in 1907, because I was here teaching for some time after that.

BG: Now this was 1909 and '10 that this happened.

HG: Well, it was later than that, then.

BG: Because after I graduated. That next year was when I think Mrs. Thayer came.

BLT: Well was that the Mrs. Thayer who was head of the Women's Physical Education Department?

BG: Yeah.

BLT: What year do you think she came?

HG: Yeah, she was head of physical education.

BG: That's a different Thayer then--

HG: Yes, Ruth graduated with me and was in physical education later, but what was Mrs. Thayer's first name? Everything was changed when she came. That was after I graduated college. She must have come about 1911, I think, and she had 16:00classes for girls who were not able to do strenuous exercises and remedial work and that sort of thing. She completely reorganized the whole thing. Frances Houston was her assistant.

BLT: Do you remember where she took her work? What school she--?

HG: No I don't. She was married while she was here. Married Mr. Seeley. And during the war she and Mr. Seeley went east and there was a doctor, the head of the health department here. The two couples were very close and they went east together that year, and Mrs. Seeley died and this doctor died and then his wife 17:00and Mr. Seeley were married.

BLT: Oh I see. Mrs. Thayer died and she--

HG: Yes, she was Mr. Seeley's wife. But she must have been here about 6 years, I think.

[Break in Recording]

HG: I can tell you when Shepherd Hall was built.

BLT: When I came in 1927 there was quite a lot of music in the dance studio with Mrs. Thayer's name on it, so.

HG: She put on real pageants in the spring.

BLT: Oh, did she?

HG: They had a beautiful pageant one spring and held it out on the campus in front of what is now called Benton Hall. It was called Administration Building in those days. It was, it followed a theme all the way through and was very 18:00beautiful. The girls were all dressed in costumes. That was the first I think that they ever had that sort of thing. That must have been about 1914, I would think.

BLT: Did she have anything to do with the planning of the present Women's Building? The one where I teach now?

HG: No, I think that was long after she left.

BLT: That was dedicated in 1926.

HG: But she left here in 1917.

BLT: Did she?

HG: Mm-hmm. About that time, anyway.

BG: What was the name of the woman who followed her? Do you remember?

BLT: Mrs. Thayer? Or Mrs. Seeley? I'm not sure. I know that there were several people here. Mabel Lee was here for a year. Did you ever know Mabel Lee? And the year before I came in '27, Ruth Glassow had come as head of the department.

BG: There was another one. The one who planned the Women's Building was here for 19:00several years. I can't think of her name now.

HG: That was after I left the campus. I was on the campus for several years.

BLT: I'll ask Natalie Reichart Cahoot.

HG: Yes.

BLT: Because Natalie was here as a student and then later as a faculty member, and I think she'd remember. I know Natalie has mentioned Mrs. Thayer, and she thought she contributed so much to physical education.

HG: She told me that she felt she had.

BLT: That was in the days when they had physical education in the old women's gym, which was formerly the men's gym.

HG: It was the armory--

BLT: Yes.

HG: --when we came.

BLT: But did the women mostly have their classes in the basement when the men were using it as a men's gym, or did you have classes all over?

BG: No, we always had the classes on the main floor.

BLT: Did they?

BG: I don't know when the men practiced.

BLT: Then when they built the men's gym, then the women had the whole building 20:00to themselves.

HG: Yes, mm-hmm.

BG: I don't know when the men's gym was built, but it was built quite a while before-- Shepard Hall was built in 1910.

BLT: You've got to give us these dates, Helen. Give us these dates, yeah.

HG: Shepherd Hall was built in 1908 [sound of page turning]. The Women's Building was 1926.

BLT: You remember when the men's gym was built?

HG: Well, it should be here. Men's gymnasium--1915, and they remodeled somewhat in '21 and again in '53. Built in 1915.

BLT: So the women used that old gym, which later was called the "Old's Women's Gym." They used that from 1915 on to about 1926. I remember when I came the 21:00tennis courts were out on what we now called the quad. The Memorial Union hadn't been built then.

[Break in Recording]

BLT: What about the--how long did they use the old women's gym?

HG: Of course the women and men both had used it until 1915 and the women used it then until their own building was--

BG: '26.

HG: In 1926.

BLT: But was it the building which was first the armory, when was it built? Do you remember?

HG: I can tell you. See, what do they call it now? I think women's gym.

BG: What do they call it?

BLT: I don't know. They call it now, it's called a playhouse.

HG: Oh it's a playhouse.

BLT: I don't know when it was built as an armory. I guess it's due for being 22:00eliminated soon, so.

BG: Is it?

BLT: I mean, it's been condemned, but I don't know when they'll get a new theater, so we've got to keep using it.

HG: Well, it was used as an armory until 1910.

BG: Yeah, that's when the new one was built.

BLT: And the new armory was built and became the men's gymnasium.

BLT: That's interesting. While she's going to look that up, Beulah can you think of any other things we failed to mention?

BG: Well, what was it you just said? The new armory was built in 1910, finished in 1910. That's where our graduation exercises were held.

BLT: Oh, were they?

BG: Its first use was our graduation class in 1910.

23:00

BLT: And then they later moved into the men's gym graduation exercises.

BG: Yes, mm-hmm. But I was thinking that they may have used that for the men until their building was built in 1915, then.

BLT: You mean they might have used it for men's athletics?

BG: Yes, I was wondering if that was true.

BLT: It gave the women more use of the other building.

BG: But they still used the old armory for graduation exercises until the men's gym was built.

BLT: When I came we were using the old armory, I mean the present armory, which is still old, for horseback riding. They used to have a Calvary and they let the faculty have riding lessons every Wednesday night and we had lots of fun riding in there.

BG: Did you know Ruth Thayer?

BLT: Yes, she was on the staff when I came. Then she took a year off and was 24:00gone. And I've sort of lost track of her now.

BG: She is in--lives in Terwilliger. Had a severe heart attack this year.

BLT: Oh did she? Too bad. Well I knew her pretty well. Have you found some more information, Helen?

HG: Yes. The college playhouse, which was originally the armory and gymnasium and later called the Old Women's Gym, was built in 1899 and then remodeled in 1950 for playhouse.

BLT: Well, that's interesting. That was a long time ago. Well, this has been a lot of fun to talk to you people: Beulah Gilkey and Helen Gilkey, formerly Oregon State students and then on the staff, and I'm Betty Lynd Thompson, an old timer too who's still teaching in the Physical Education Department in 1966.

25:00

We've all seen quite a lot of changes here on this campus. When I went into the library this morning to look up some material there was a professor there working frantically on the history for his department, and he said, "Oh, you've got a lot to do if you're going to start working on yours." And I said, "Well, I've been here since 1927, and I can remember an awful lot about what's happened." And the young woman who was in the archives there helping us, she said, "Yes, Mrs. Thompson, she's been making history" [laughs]. So I thought that was kind of an interesting way to put it. We've all had our little hand in making the history of this institution.

26:00

[Break in recording--Beginning of added comments by Harriet Moore (1984)]

Harriet Moore: About the bowling alley. The Armory-Gymnasium, that was a hyphenated title, was built, started in 1898. It was not finished until 1899. With the main floor opening out to the front for the armory and the lower floor opening out to the east for gymnasium. And that was the gymnasium for both men and women. The bowling alley was completed at the same time that the rest of the gymnasium was completed, and it served both men and women groups until 1902. And in 1902 the bowling alleys (they used it in the plural, so there must have been 27:00more than one), were removed in order to make room for shower rooms, which had not been a part of the gymnasium setup before that time.

Alpha Hall stood on the ground that later housed the Dairy Building which became the social science building, which may be something else by now. Directly to the west of the administration building, which is now Benton Hall, and in between Alpha Hall and the administration building were the tennis courts and the croquet ground. There are pictures in the archives to show that relationship. 28:00Alpha stayed there until they were ready to build the dairy building. Then Alpha was moved to the north. There was not a street at that time, and the dairy building was completed in 1911. Alpha had another move when they were getting ready to build the commerce building that is now Bexell Hall, and again, directly to the north Alpha was a t-shaped building, and on that second move the 29:00top of the T was placed facing the short street that goes in there and the base, the stem of the T, was towards 23rd street. But there was no connection in between. There again, you may find pictures of the construction of Commerce Hall that show how the two parts of alpha were separated. Later, your head of the T was moved again towards Monroe Street, and one of the town builders and movers tried to get a store to go in there and later to get a fraternity to go in, and did not succeed. So that part was torn down. And a house was built on that 30:00corner facing Monroe Street.

[Break in Recording]

A biographical sketch of Ellen Chamberlin indicated that she lived on Faculty Row and Apple Blossom Way, and as nearly as we could find out that was this little short street that still exists between the chemistry buildings. The stem of the T which was across the street from where our present infirmary is, was moved out to Orchard Street approximately halfway between 27th and 30th street 31:00on the south side, and there it for years it was a boarding house, a young men's boarding house.

No mention is made about the type of physical education classes that were held, and marching was mentioned. Dumbbells. They had dumbbells, Indian clubs, and wands. Those were about 3 ½ feet long, just round wooden things and they were used for rhythmic work. Betty Lynd should note that as a forerunner to her 32:00natural dancing thing, that those wands were used always to music and various movements that were made. The marching that she mentions I think the Gilkeys mentioned, that there was a great deal of marching, and there was. But most of that was part of the Swedish calisthenics that were emphasized during that period up until way late in the '20s when they more or less changed the physical education program. The track meets that were mentioned were held at 5:00 in the morning, and that was because, as she said, they didn't want the young men to know about it, to see them. There are still pictures available showing some of 33:00the events that took place and the crowded condition. And those usually were held right back, well in later days, back of Waldo. I don't recall having heard about any real early ones. But at the turn of the century and from that time on, see Waldo went in there in 1907, and they were held in that opening, with lots of shrubbery around, and we are told that the boys would get word through their girlfriends at the time of the track meets and congregate back of the shrubs and 34:00peek through at them.

A question was asked about Helen Crawford, the teacher of elocution. She came from one of the eastern schools, Emerson I believe in Boston, but I haven't had a chance to verify that and look it up. But when Helen Crawford left the campus she went to Lebanon, Oregon, where she either inherited or had purchased a fruit orchard and she ran this orchard. That's the last that I remember hearing about her.

35:00

As to Mrs. Thayer. The Mrs. Thayer, the first Mrs. Thayer to teach in physical education was Miriam Thayer. And she came in 1912 and was there through 1912 to 1916-17 year. And she was the one who married Milton John Seeley who was an instructor in chemistry. And they left, as you heard in the tape.

The other couple that was mentioned on the tape there I think must have been the young doctor who was the health service doctor, and I have not checked on this, but my remembrance is that he was a war--he went into service and was a war casualty.

36:00

To come back to our armory-gymnasium building, which is now the playhouse. That in 1910 our present armory was built, and Beulah mentioned the fact that they had the 1910 commencement exercises in there. That's the only time, the one and only commencement exercise held in the armory and at that time they were celebrating a 25th anniversary, campus anniversary. And it was a very big affair. They had people from all over the United States, different heads 37:00of--deans, college presidents and deans and VIPs from all over who came in for a week-long ceremony of celebration, one of President Kerr's concoctions. But from that time on, well, before that time they had had commencement exercises, the earliest of the course down in the Opera House downtown. But after the armory gym went up they held them in the assembly room, the armory part, the main floor of the building. Then the building became the gymnasium, both men and women, and 38:00they had all of the dates that they were using that facility. In 1914, they held the first commencement in the present men's gym and from that time on commencements were held in that building up until the time that Gill Coliseum was built in 1951. And the old building became the Old Lady's Gym, the Old Women's Gym. Those terms were used facetiously and otherwise--the Old Women's Gym. And the women used that gym facility, both floors, until the present women's building was erected in 1926.

39:00

Edna Agnus Cocks was the head of the Physical Ed [education] Department, the planner, and the one who went out and did all of the pressuring of the legislature and everybody else to get the funds to get that building started. And she had visions of that building as one that would have all kinds of women's activities. It was planned as such. When you go into the building, the new building, and see it, you'll see that it's not the usual gymnasium and swimming pool. The steps in the beginning, the activities in the open space in the entranceway, all were used for women's dances and for women's plays and various 40:00women's activities.

And she was the one who said that building should remain "The Women's Building." You'll find it in the region's minutes that when they were asking about if they should name it for someone, she said no. No woman's name. That it should remain "The Women's Building." And not a gymnasium, you see. It was "the Women's Building" that was the name. Mrs. Cocks was not able to stay through until the building was actually finished. So Mrs. Glassow was the one who came for the last stretch of that building program and the dedication. Mrs. Cocks's mother 41:00who lived in Southern California became very ill and she had to leave to go down to stay with her, which she did and of course never returned. And she gets lost in the shuffle here. Very few people remember her, but in that period of the early '20s and through into the '25-'26 year, she was the head of the department and very efficient and capable. Her name was spelled C-o-c-k-s, by the way. Edna Agnus Cocks.

[Break in Recording]

42:00

She was the one who initiated what she called "play days." She advocated going to the different campuses around about but not in a competitive way, and so they had intramural sports for women with the different living groups and then the different class groups and then tourneys and then they would pick an all-star team, and the all-star team would be the one that would go to the other campuses for an all-day play time. But whenever the team went, they didn't play as a team. They drew lots for competitive teams, and then you played on one or the 43:00other of those teams if your team was one that was taking part in that. You might have two or three of the other people with you from that. Basketball was played and hockey was played. Field hockey was very, very prominent in the scheduled program in the early '20s. They had archery teams and a running team. And by the way they had classes in canoeing and every graduate from this institution had to, and I think still has to, take a swimming test. In that period of her regime they had to be able to pass both swimming and canoeing 44:00because canoeing was very, very active on the Marys River, and there were canoe parties, picnic parties, and they would go down to the landing right by the bridge and then commute up to the dam--I started to say dam site, but actually the dam in the early 20s the dam was still there, but that was a stretch they would canoe. And there had been accidents and fatalities as a result of that. Then there was another thing. There was a canoe fete every spring and the houses had decorated their canoes and they had a canoe parade on Marys River and people 45:00lined up in that whole stretch between what is now the 15th Street bridge and the old highway bridge. The canoes would come down from, they would assemble up by the dam and then come down.

[Break in recording]

Canoeing was an active sport, shall we say, or recreation, whichever way you want to put it.

[Break in recording]

It was on this same stretch on Marys River that the parade used to come after any time that Oregon State would win a football game against the University of Oregon. Dr. J.R.N. Bell, the old Presbyterian minister who became the mascot of 46:00the football team, would ride in a little coupe with President Kerr and head the parade from Bell Field down to the bridge up the river and he would throw his fedora into the in Marys River. That was an event whenever they would win, of course. And that Bell Field, by the way, was named for him and not for the track coach whose name was Bell who came in the later days.

All of these added comments on this side of the tape have been made by Harriet Moore in May of 1984.

47:00