Tag Archives: Ivan Wilson

Camp Zachary Taylor

Barracks at Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky

Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky

“Some things I’ve seen here I [wouldn’t] believe if I hadn’t seem them.”  So declared an awestruck soldier on finding himself in Louisville, Kentucky, for military training at Camp Zachary Taylor.

After the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Camp Taylor (named for the U.S. president and former Louisville resident) materialized in a mere 90 days.  The largest of 16 such camps across the country, it grew to the size of a small city, with more than 2,000 buildings and a population of as many as 47,000 troops.  As they passed through the camp, soldiers wrote to family and friends with their impressions, and the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections holds many such letters.

Some noted the rigors of their training.  “We hiked about three miles with all of our equipment,” wrote “Mack” Muncy, “and I have been tired ever since.”  Arthur Miller, an enlistee from Connecticut, complained of “the nervous tension” resulting from a three-month crash course in artillery.  But other aspects of military life drew more frequent comment as young men were ushered into a new world of routine and regimentation.  Part of their “processing” ordeal was receiving vaccinations, which left many of them light-headed, sore-armed and sick.  Of his two shots, Wilson Sprowl wrote “that first Doce [dose] made some [of] the Boys sick and some fa[i]nted.”  Several of his mates, confirmed Grant Sorgen, “laid down from the vaccination, but I got thru O.K.”  Contagious illness, nevertheless, plagued this large group of assembled humanity from all parts of the country.  Fay Alexander found himself part of a quarantine “because one of the fellows got awake with the measels.”  Jim Grinstead had already had measles, but was worried that if too many of his fellow soldiers fell ill, “they will keep all of us in and that will give me hell” for “I have a date with my girl.”

Soldiers training at Camp Taylor

Soldiers training at Camp Taylor

Other aspects of camp life were more satisfying.  From most accounts, the food was tasty and plentiful.  “This morning we had coffee, biscuits, fried potatoes, cream of wheat and bacon,” wrote Fay Alexander.  “They sure do eat up the grub.”  Grant Sorgen was happy with “a fine shower bath to-day and three good meals.  So far, ‘This is the life,’” he declared, “but may not last long.”  Just as memorable was the hospitality of the local citizenry.  Arthur Miller enjoyed regular Saturday entertainment at the “Hawaiian Gardens” dance hall, courtesy of “numerous, sweet and innocent southern maidens.”  Mack Muncy concurred: “Yes the girls are pretty free with us boys it is no trouble to get acquainted down here; if a fellow hasn’t got a girl it is his fault I am shure.”

On September 9, 1918, Private Ivan Wilson arrived at Camp Taylor.  Wilson, who would go on to a long teaching career in WKU’s art department, was a diminutive 5 feet 4-1/2 inches and just over 100 pounds.  Nevertheless, the gentle Calloway County native resolved to meet the challenge.  Though consigned to clerical duties, he found the Army “thrilling”: “When I really did get my uniform on,” he wrote in his diary, “I knew that Germany would soon surrender.”  And Germany did.  On February 24, 1919, Wilson was discharged from Camp Taylor a “150% better man than when I came.  I am going back into civilian life much better prepared to face the issues of life: to pass things which formerly have depressed me and has caused me to pine my life away in vain.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  In this centennial year of the U.S.’s entry into World War I, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat for more of our war collections.

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It’s Donald Day!

No, not that Donald.  June 9 is National Donald Duck Day, marking the screen debut in 1934 of the sailor-suited and often “fowl”-tempered Disney cartoon character.

Cartoons created by both professionals and amateurs can be found in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.

Some, like the sketches of Kentucky governor James Proctor Knott, could be both artistic and satirical.  There’s also Richard Outcault, who sent a get-well wish to his friend’s young daughter via his famous creations, “Buster Brown” and his dog “Tige.”

Buster Brown and Tige

Buster Brown and Tige

And there’s Bill “Whitey” Sanders, cartoonist for WKU’s College Heights Herald and later longtime editorial cartoonist for the Milwaukee Journal, who depicted the joys of student life.

Whitey Sanders, College Heights Herald, Nov. 19, 1954

Whitey Sanders, College Heights Herald, Nov. 19, 1954

And there’s WKU art professor Ivan Wilson, who passed the time during a long illness drawing whimsical cartoons featuring himself and his good friend, English professor John H. Clagett.  The two enjoyed hunting, fishing and hiking together, and apparently Wilson also grabbed some shears from time to time and trimmed Clagett’s hair (no word on whether the mane was a comb-over).

Ivan Wilson and John Clagett

Ivan Wilson, barber, and John Clagett

And there’s Staff Sergeant Jay Maschak, serving in 1990 with the 101st Airborne during Operation Desert Shield, who drew his own version of Donald Duck for his pen pal, Elizabethtown, Kentucky Girl Scout Kelly Butler.

Jay Maschak to Kelly Butler

Jay Maschak to Kelly Butler

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more collections about artists and cartoonists, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Dog Days

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

With National Dog Day (Aug. 26) recently past, here are a few items in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections that feature appearances by man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Bertha Lindsay (1897-1990), an eldress of the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shaker colony and a friend of WKU Shaker scholar Julia Neal, had a silhouette made with her golden retriever, Penny.  Bertha played Frisbee with Penny until she (Bertha, that is) was well into her 80s.

Jiggs

Jiggs

While on vacation in 1945, WKU librarian Margie Helm received a long report (no doubt at her insistence) from her dogsitter in Bowling Green.  “Now Jiggs is fine,” she assured Margie.  Despite a bout with fleas, and once scampering to the door when he thought he heard Margie’s car horn, the little fox terrier was content with his temporary family, sharing their meals of corn bread, muffins, baloney and chicken, and displaying some jealousy when the household’s children got a greater share of attention.

In letters from Alaska, gold prospector Abram H. Bowman of Louisville took a more utilitarian view of his dogs.  “Anyone coming into this country should bring lots of dogs as you can always sell them for a good price,” he wrote his uncle in 1898.  “You have no idea what a tremendous load these little dogs can pull,” he added.  “But they are like lots of people.  When you want to hitch them up you better not have the harness in your hand or you will never catch them.”

And for WKU art professor Ivan Wilson, dogs were both helpmates and beloved members of the family.  Enduring a long hospitalization in 1927, he dreamed of roaming over the countryside with his colleague, English professor John Clagett, and their favorite hunting dog, “Boy.”  Wilson’s papers also include a eulogy for his Irish setter “Rufus the Red,” better known as “Poody.”  Warning: readers should have a hankie ready when they peruse this tender tribute.

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and "Boy"

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and “Boy”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more on dogs and other pets, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Ivan the Terrible”

Ivan Wilson and his watercolor of Helm Library

Ivan Wilson and his watercolor of the Physical Education Building (now Helm Library)

“I am 5 ft. 4-1/2 inches high, and weigh 125 lbs.–sometimes,” Ivan Wilson confessed in 1955.  This quiet, gentle watercolorist, who nevertheless was fond of calling himself “Ivan the Terrible,” served from 1920-1946 as head of WKU’s art department and remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1958.

A collection of Ivan Wilson’s papers documenting his professional and personal life is now available at WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Containing more than 800 items, it includes correspondence, sketches, travel journals, and clippings relating to Wilson’s exhibits.  Once reluctant to show or sell his artwork, Wilson eventually exhibited in numerous universities, museums and galleries including the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City and the Raymond Duncan Gallery in Paris, France.

Interesting items in the collection include Wilson’s diary, which he kept in 1918-1919 as a 103-pound army recruit at Camp Zachary Taylor; his impassioned letters about art written to the president of the American Watercolor Society; his letters to a former student, Chicago architect Edward Austin Duckett, who helped him sell his paintings; and a tribute to his Irish setter “Poody” that will bring tears to the eyes of all dog lovers.  An avid naturalist, Wilson spent long hours gardening, hiking and fishing with WKU English professor John H. Clagett, and pursued hobbies as diverse as etymology, piano and the study of snakes.  Professionally, he experienced the trials of many a faculty member: campaigning for more resources for his department, trying to motivate a student athlete, and coping with the dislocations of life after retirement.

A finding aid for the Ivan Wilson Collection can be downloaded here.  For more on art and artists in the collections of the Special Collections Library, search TopScholar and KenCat.

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