Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Cardinal Motel

Cardinal Motel statue

Cardinal Motel statue

Architectural history is not just about icons like Biltmore, the Robie House or the Lipstick Building.  More modest, utilitarian structures also speak volumes about significant changes in Americans’ lifestyles and aspirations.  Take, for instance, the Cardinal Motel, which sits on the Highway 31-W Bypass in Bowling Green.  Like the Bypass itself, the Cardinal was a product of the automobile age, when vacationing families looked not only for someplace comfortable to spend the night but for entire districts catering to tourists where they could eat, shop and play.

By the 1940s, motel architecture had evolved from tourist camps and cabins to become more standardized, but visibility and functionality were the keys to attracting guests.  With their communal “U”-shaped layouts, ample parking and low, horizontal lines, motels like the Cardinal promised convenience and economy for travelers.  Even more important, perhaps, was signage–in the case of the Cardinal Motel, neon lettering and a giant statue of Kentucky’s state bird, the cardinal–designed to catch the eyes of passing motorists.  Once inside, guests could expect comforts beyond those of home–not just television and air conditioning, but a swimming pool, ice machine and “magic fingers” vibrating mattresses.  Eventually, however, the construction of I-65 and the rise of chain motels shifted the locus of tourist business away from the Bypass and the Cardinal.

Bowling Green’s Cardinal Motel is the subject of an architectural history paper written by WKU student Samantha Pillar and now part of the collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more information about our collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

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Library Transitions: When Helm was an Old Athletic Building

Helm Physical Education Center

Postcard of Helm Library as the Former Athletic Building

According to the Institutional Self-Study Report from 1982-84 of Western Kentucky University, the Margie Helm Library was in full service for students by 1965. Back then, Western Kentucky University was actually coined Western Kentucky State Teachers College. What’s interesting is that originally it was not a library but a physical education, recreation and varsity building. It served that purpose until 1963. I personally witnessed the gymnasium floor being uncovered last Spring of 2011 as the grounds were laid for what is now the Confucius Institute.

Swimming Pool Helm

Postcard of Former Swimming Pool Adjacent to Helm


School Emblem of the Former Basketball Court Next to the Confucius Institute

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Collection of books by Southern Women Writers given to Library

Southern Women Writers Collection

WKU Libraries recently received a major collection of the literary works of southern women writers.  The three thousand volume collection was the generous gift of the former Dean of Potter College and Department of English Professor Ward Hellstrom who is now retired and living in Florida.  The collection contains many valuable first editions and copies signed by the authors and will be an incredible asset to the library’s holdings.

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Charles Kaenzig's prisoner of war post

Charles Kaenzig’s prisoner of war post

Late in December 1944, John Kaenzig of Versailles, Kentucky received the telegram that every parent of a soldier dreads.  His son Charles, an Air Force lieutenant, was reported missing in action, his plane shot down over Italy.  As John read the telegram, a Kreigsgefangenenpost (prisoner of war post) signed by Charles was on its way to Kentucky.  “I have been taken prisoner of war in Germany,” the Postkarte read.  “I am in good health.”

In February 1945, John Kaenzig received two more extraordinary communications.  One was from the pilot of Charles’s downed aircraft, describing its destruction by anti-aircraft fire.  He had seen Charles parachute from the plane and was hopeful he had survived, because Italian civilians (who had helped the pilot to safety) were friendly and the Germans were thought to treat prisoners humanely.  The second was a postcard from a couple in New York City who had picked up a German short-wave radio broadcast carrying a message from Charles “Kinsie.”  He had arrived at a permanent POW camp and was in good health and spirits.  “With our sincere hope that he will return to you safely and soon,” the couple had addressed the postcard to his mother.

Charles did return after his liberation by Russian troops on May 1.  While he waited in Germany, then France, to be shipped home, he wrote cheerfully to his family.  “These last ten days out from behind barb wire have been wonderful,” he declared.  “Going to be mightly nice to get back on the farm for awhile.”

This collection of letters by and about Charles Kaenzig is available at WKU’s Special Collections Library.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more World War II collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

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Leisure Magazine Collection

The leisure magazine collection in Helm 100 consists of approximated 75 titles selected by a committee of students, staff, and faculty for the leisure enjoyment of our patrons. New additions this year include:

CHEESE CONNOISSEUR: Features articles on the best made cheese available.  “Don’t throw away the rind on that Parmigiano Reggiano!” and an article on the 175 year-old Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City. Ever hear the name Eggs Benedict? According to the article, Delmonico’s had a regular customer named Mrs. LeGrand Benedict and that plate was made in her name. From local growers to international hot-shots, this edition will surely make you want to say “Wine and Cheese, please!”

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Finders, Keepers

Warren County Court Stray Books

Warren County Court Stray Books

Perhaps the most famous stray animal in Kentucky history was the unsuspecting hog that trotted onto Hatfield land and was claimed by the McCoys, thus ramping up the multi-generational feud between those two families.  Most incidents regarding strays are less dramatic, but given their value, their number and their tendency to wander off, horses and other livestock have long been the subjects of “finders-keepers” law in Kentucky.

At first, Kentucky used the relevant statute inherited from Virginia, but in 1794 passed its own stray law.  Persons finding and taking custody of such animals had to make a report to a local justice of the peace, who transmitted the information to the county court clerk.  Subject to the qualifications of the finder, proper publication of notices, and payment of applicable fees, the animal became the finder’s property as long as no one claimed it within two years (for horses) or one year (for other livestock).

The collections of WKU’s Special Collections Library include several stray books maintained by the Warren County Court.  Dating mostly from 1797-1825, they include required details about the location and description of the animal, thus giving its owner a chance to identify and claim his lost property.  In February 1809, for example, Vincent Willoughby gave notice that he had “taken up one dark bay mare eight or nine years old blind of the right eye a small star in her forehead & some white spots above her jaws & saddle spots both hind feet white about fifteen hands high,” appraised at $40.  Many of the entries record single stray horses, but also included are cows, sheep and hogs.  In December 1800, Burwell Jackson took up 13 head of stray hogs “marked with a swallow fork in the right ear & a crop and half crop in the left,” and in January 1824 William Gardner took up nine head of stray sheep three miles north of Dripping Springs.

These stray books are part of a large collection of Warren County Court records held by the Special Collections Library.  Click here for a finding aid.  To explore our other collections, search TopScholar and KenCat.

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A Day in the Life

Were you there when this student laid down on that bed of nails and allowed this man to stand over him with a mallet? What happened after this demonstration? Inquiring minds want to know!  This and thousands of other photographs are available in WKU Archives.  Check us out on KenCat and help us identify some.

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