Tag Archives: Ruth Hines Temple

The Radiator Tax

Ruth Hines Temple

Oh, to be a college sophomore—a term said to derive from the Greek “sophos” and “moros,” literally, a “wise fool.”  You have survived your lowly freshman year, made some friends, learned your way around, and returned to campus convinced that you own the place. 

Long before she became head of WKU’s Art Department, Bowling Green’s Ruth Hines Temple enjoyed this enviable position when she arrived at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in September 1920.  In a letter to her “Dearest Darling Mother,” she excitedly reported on her financial, material, social, and—oh yes—academic preoccupations as she began her second year.

First on the list was the furnishing of her dormitory room.  Using funds from a drugget (a no-frills floor covering) bought during her freshman year, then sold (albeit at a discount), she and her roommate had purchased some blue curtains and a gray wool rug that, together with a rose-colored rug, looked “just divine.”  The place needed some prettying up, for Ruth had found herself domiciled on the second floor of Main Hall, the oldest building on campus.  Her room had a fireplace that was now blocked up, but no worries: she and her roommate had placed their bookshelves in front of “the hole,” and enjoyed having the mantel as “another place to put things.”  They had removed the back from a washstand and converted it into a desk, and covered their chair backs with cretonne (a heavy cloth used for upholstery).  Other aspects of Main Hall were more problematic, as the venerable building had been expanded over the years to accommodate some public uses.  Ruth’s room was right next to an auditorium-style chapel, so she would have to watch herself during those times when entertainments were in session and “I will want to sally forth in my kimono.”

Ruth’s room: “divine” rugs and a taxable radiator

Ruth’s academic plans for the year were eclectic but showed her tacking toward artistic pursuits. She had used her “star” status in Freshman English to insist that “girls who could write should certainly be given an opportunity to do it,” and thereby squeezed her way into a course on exposition and short story writing.  Though she had succeeded in enrolling in an interior decoration course, she was somewhat disappointed that an art professor could not take her on as an assistant—“with all my talent”—until she had a degree.

But the first weeks of sophomore life weren’t complete without a little “stunt” or two at the expense of the freshmen.  While soliciting subscriptions for the college newspaper, a classmate had come up with a way to more quickly enhance the second-year class coffers.  “Have you paid your radiator tax yet?” Ruth and her mates would ask the freshmen, who would “run and get their pocket books and fork it over.”  Some were relieved of a dime, others a quarter, but, Ruth chortled, all was fair.  “We just gave the Freshmen the experience in exchange for the money”—not to mention a scheme they could adopt next year as “wise fools” themselves. 

Ruth Hines Temple’s letter to her mother is part of the Temple Family Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here for a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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“Permit Safely and Freely to Pass”

George Crawford's 1807 passport

George Crawford’s 1807 passport

For most of us, our most-deplored photo (next to our driver’s license) is the one on our passport.  But it wasn’t until late 1914 that Americans were required to include a photographic likeness with their passport applications.

Earlier passports might simply state the holder’s name, as did the 1807 passport of George Crawford, signed by New York mayor DeWitt Clinton.  Or the document might give notice of the age and physical attributes of its bearer.  For example, the 1863 diplomatic passport of Bowling Green lawyer Warner L. Underwood described his high forehead, blue eyes, prominent nose, “ordinary” mouth and chin, round face, and “florid” complexion.  George Harris’s August 1914 passport was for a man with a medium forehead, large nose, dark complexion, and dimpled chin.  Although it included her photo, the 1919 passport of WKU teacher Elizabeth Woods also noted her medium nose and mouth, round chin, and oval face.  Like Underwood’s, her passport was not the pocket-sized book we use today, although at 8X12 inches it could be folded in quarters and kept in a cardboard cover, like that of Grayson County merchant Willis Green.

Willis Green's 1923 passport

Willis Green’s 1923 passport

What gives modern passport photos their charm, of course, is that mug-shot quality (a “neutral facial expression and both eyes open” is the rule).  But earlier specimens weren’t quite so uniformly dreadful.  From the flapper-era glory of Ruth Hines Temple’s 1926 photo, to the Cold War-era gaze on Congressman Frank Chelf’s 1959 passport (“not valid” for travel in Hungary, Cuba, etc.), these photos allowed a little of the bearer’s personality to shine through.

Click on the links to access finding aids for the collections containing the passports of these traveling Kentuckians, part of the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

Ruth Hines Temple; Frank Chelf

Ruth Hines Temple; Frank Chelf

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