The Mirror Room

Dear Friends,

One of the most important venues on the UCA Campus, since 1934, has been the Mirror Room in McAlister Hall.  The Mirror Room has long provided UCA students with a formal place to meet other students, as well as their professors.  Soon after its construction, the Mirror Room was used as a gathering place for new students to meet the faculty.  Typically, at the start of each new school year, a reception was held in the Mirror Room for new students.  The purpose was for the new students to be officially introduced to the college faculty.

It was a very elaborate affair and the male faculty wore tuxedos and the female faculty members wore long evening dresses.  The new students were very impressed that the reception was being held in such a proper setting, and they were also impressed that the faculty wore tuxedos and evening dresses.  The students wrote home to their parents and told them about the formal reception and the elegance of Arkansas State Teachers College.  Due to Arkansas being primarily an agricultural state, and the vast majority of the students were from a farm background, the reception that took place in the Mirror Room was a new and positive experience for those students.

The Mirror Room has been immensely important to UCA for many decades as a gathering place for male and female students.  Countless married couples first met in the Mirror Room;  as is the case with my wife’s parents, who first met there and were soon married.

Equally formal was the dedication of McAlister Hall, which was a rather lengthy and elaborate ceremony.  During that time period, building dedications were important social events that were taken quite seriously and lasted for about two hours.

McAlister Hall was dedicated on May 20, 1934.  U.S. Senator Hattie Caraway, the nation’s first elected female U.S. Senator, gave the dedicatory address.  Senator Caraway was introduced by Arkansas Governor Marion Futrell to the crowd of over 2,000 people.

Music for the dedication came from several sources, including the band of the Arkansas National Guard’s 153rd Infantry.  Frances Burt performed at the dedication by playing Mendelssohn’s “Concerto in G Minor.”  Other musical selections were performed by the College Chapel Choir, directed by Homer Hess, and by the Girls’ Orchestra, also known as the String Sextet, under the direction of Mrs. W.C. Thompson.  The dedication program ended with the singing of the Arkansas State Teachers College (now University of Central Arkansas) alma mater by the female residents of McAlister Hall.

The photographs below are of the College Chapel Choir, the Girls’ Orchestra, Senator Hattie Caraway and Mrs. W.C. Thompson – violinist and director of the Girls’ Orchestra, also known as the String Sextet.


The photographs of the Chapel Choir, Mrs. W.C. Thompson and the String Sextet, are Courtesy of The Scroll.
August 18th, 2017

1970s UCA

Dear Friends,
Attached to this email are two items of interest that were created in the early 1970s.

One is a statement from the president of State College of Arkansas (now the University of Central Arkansas) that was in the SCA Undergraduate and Graduate Bulletin.  President Snow stressed the friendly atmosphere of SCA.  As a student, Snow’s statement resonated with me, and I believe at the time it was a very apt description of the college atmosphere.  I still believe it to be accurate.

The other is from The Echo and is a photograph of a sign that used to sit at the Tastee Freeze, just east of the railroad tracks, and where the Fish House is located today.  UCA’s slogan at the time was, “The Friendliest College in Arkansas.”



July 17th, 2017

Letter From King George V

Dear Friends,
This year, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I.  Several members of the Arkansas State Normal School (now the University of Central Arkansas) faculty participated in the Great War.

One of those was Heber McAlister, who later became UCA’s third president.  McAlister had accepted a teaching position at UCA in 1917 and was to begin his duties in September 1917.  However, World War I intervened and as a member of the Arkansas National Guard he was activated in August 1917, and later sent to France.  He entered the war at the rank of captain, but was quickly promoted to major.  One year later he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

While serving in the war McAlister received a letter written by King George Vth, King of the United Kingdom and British Dominions and Emperor of India.  Many U.S. soldiers received the same letter, which was distributed to show support from the King.  The UCA Archives has President McAlister’s letter.  We scanned the letter and it is attached to this email.  Please feel free to print this letter on a color printer.  King George signed his name, George, R.I.  The R.I. stands for Rex Imperator, or King and Emperor.

After the war ended, McAlister finally began his career at UCA and was the first head of UCA’s Extension Department.

July 14th, 2017

UCA Circa 1910

Dear Friends,

This photograph shows the office of President J.J. Doyne, who is seated on the left in front of what appears to be a roll top desk.  To the right is his administrative assistant, sitting in front of a typewriter.  On the table is a small set of scales to measure postage and a large journal typically used at that time (circa 1910) for bookkeeping purposes.  The two basket trays are probably marked IN and OUT.

On the far right is a leather upholstered sofa with a large coffee table in front and on the wall on the right side of the doorway is a wall mounted telephone;  the only telephone on the campus at that time.  Note how the administrative assistant is dressed as well as the female students in the library.

The room in the background is the Arkansas State Normal School Library.
The photograph is circa 1910.
June 5th, 2017

Summer School at UCA in 1927

Summer time was always busy at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) during the early years.  In fact, more students attended UCA during the summer than in the fall and spring semesters.

Public school teachers from across Arkansas attended UCA to further their education and either receive the Licentiate of Instruction (L.I.) or the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Education.  For those teachers who had no credentials the L. I., a two-year course of study, was greatly valued.

There were two summer sessions held at UCA during 1927, and 1,165 students were enrolled during the first session and 426 students were enrolled during the second summer session.  By comparison, the enrollment for fall 1927 was 905 students, with 2,245 students enrolled in correspondence courses.

The courses that were offered during the summer session of 1927 included courses in agriculture, history, drawing, education , English, expression, foreign languages, home economics, manual training, mathematics, piano, public school music, science, and New Testament Bible. The Department of Education offered the most courses of any department including educational psychology, mental measurements, high school administration, observation and plans, standards and measurements and several methods courses.

The reason so many teachers were coming to UCA during the summer months was because the vast majority did not have a degree of any kind.  Statistics for white teachers’ qualifications were compiled on 16 rural counties in 1927, regarding teacher education for the elementary schools.  It was determined that of the  class “A” elementary schools (class “A” schools were considered the best) only 11% of teachers had four years of college training, 11% had three to four years of college training, 47% had two to three years, 21% had one to two years, and 10% had one year of college training.

In class “C” elementary schools only 1.4% of teachers had four years of college training, .5% had three to four years, 20% had two to three years, 25% had one to two years, and 52% had one year of college training.  The principals of class “B” and class “C” high schools were only required to have two years of college training.

The progress of African American public high schools was slow during the 1920s, and it was 1924 before African American high schools in Arkansas were inspected and given a classification.  The vast majority (98.2%) of the 110,853 African American students enrolled in Arkansas public schools during the 1927-1928 academic year were enrolled in grades one through eight.  Only 1,976 students or 1.8% of African American students were enrolled in the high school grades.  Records show that 494 African American high school age students were enrolled in private schools.

A situation that was problematic during the 1920s was the number of agencies that awarded teacher certificates; there were 78 agencies that granted teacher certificates in Arkansas.  Each of Arkansas’s 75 counties had a certificate requirement, as did the University of Arkansas, UCA, and the State Department of Education.  To complicate matters further, there was no uniformity in the qualifications required to grant teacher certificates.  The 1928-1929 Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction included an article that asked the Arkansas General Assembly to create legislation that would place teacher certification under one central agency, thus creating a certificate system that was uniform in nature.

UCA continues to stay busy educating students during the summers.  According to the UCA Office of Institutional Research, during the summer of 2016 there were 4,665 distinct students enrolled in at least one summer session.

Sources for this article included: Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1926-1930; Arkansas Department of Education; A History of the Arkansas State Teachers College by Ted Worley-1954; and the UCA Office of Institutional Research.
 Summer Session - ASTC - 1927 300dpi

This photograph is from the 1927 summer school at UCA. Due to the size of the group I suspect it’s from summer session one, which was the largest with 1,165 students taking classes.

Additionally, the photograph appears to have been made by a camera that took photographs as it rotated. The several photos were then put together into one big photograph.

Happy Days at UCA

Dear Friends,

Attached to this post is a PDF of a promotional brochure that was distributed by Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in 1933.  In 1933, the unemployment rate in the United States was at its highest of the Great Depression, between 24.7% and 24.9%.  The promotional brochure was designed to bring in students during the worst economic crisis in our nation’s history.  Note the cost of attending UCA, especially the rate of tuition, on the third page from the end.

All of the employees of UCA had their pay cut by 10% on two separate occasions, and they were also paid in warrants.  A warrant is not a check, and cannot be cashed immediately.  On average, the warrants were cashed no sooner than 30 days after they were issued, and never for the amount on the warrant.  Warrants were worth about 85% of their face value.

After the pay cuts, and after being paid in warrants, the Bank of Conway failed, taking UCA’s money with it.  President McAlister then went to the faculty and explained UCA’s financial situation.  McAlister said that it was imperative that the faculty loan money to UCA, or the institution could close.  So, the faculty, even though they were hurting financially, loaned money to UCA to keep its doors open.

I hope you enjoy this promotional brochure from 84 years ago.



Happy Days at UCA, 1933

Good English Week

Dear Friends,

Much of today’s short article comes from the book, “The Centennial History of the University of Central Arkansas.”  Since I authored that book, I don’t think the author will mind if I borrow some of his lines.

You will find attached to this post a pamphlet on Good English and why a Good English Week was held in various parts of the country and at UCA.  The pamphlet will tell the reader why we did it and how we did it.

According to “The Centennial History of the University of Central Arkansas” bottom of page 34 & top of page 35, “During the Torreyson administration, there was a valiant effort to improve the language of the Normal students.  To address the problem of poor grammar, Professor Andrew Jackson Meadors explained the importance of using correct English to the students in a morning talk at chapel.  Good English Week began on December 8 and ended on December 12, 1919.  Professor Meadors pointed out that Good English Week was a war on cheap slang and incorrect English.  He went on to say, ‘The chief aim and ideal set for the student body is to create a language consciousness on its part which will tolerate only that cultured usage of the English language which has been universally accepted by leading students of English.'”

“Good English Week may have made some students more cognizant of the importance of better grammar, but on others there was little or no positive impact.  Meadors related his experience to a Normal Echo reporter after he had asked a female student for her thoughts concerning Good English Week.  She had replied, ‘It ain’t goin’ to do no good.’

“Meadors went on to say, ‘On individuals of that type…the object and purpose of the campaign has been lost.  There is a vast majority, however, who have caught the full significance of this praiseworthy movement, and who will carry on the fight, even though Good English Week proper has passed.'”

I hope you enjoy reading about Good English Week that was observed almost 98 years ago at UCA.



Good English Week, UCA 1919