Integrating Greek Life
Jim Moon’63 loaned me the informative video We Lived Civil Rights produced by Eric Hetland’12. Hetland’s film doesn’t quite reach back to my era, but in 1955 Charles “Bud” Barnes’57 and I resigned from Sigma Chi partly because of its national whites-only policy. Soon after that the fraternity’s national president came up from Evanston, Ill., and told President Miller Upton that Bud and I had pledged to lifetime membership, and if we didn’t pay our annual dues the fraternity would take us to court for breaking our contract. President Upton threw him out of his office, helping to establish a precedent for the integration of Greek life at Beloit.
I very much enjoyed your story on the power plant in the spring issue. It brought back memories of Physics 110, for a lab assignment in Dr. Dobson’s class was to measure the dimensions of the plant’s chimney without setting foot outside of Chamberlin Hall.
One of the members of my team borrowed a surveyor’s transit from the geology department. We used the length of the chemistry department’s stockroom for a baseline. Besides the height of the stack, we were able to determine the degree of taper of the stack and the width of the cap on top, which was pretty heady stuff in 1972!
Thank you for the stroll down memory lane.
Reading Susan Kasten’s story on the Blackhawk power plant (spring 2014) brought back memories. I was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Our house was behind and up the hill from the Fieldhouse and the men’s dormitories, Haven and Wood Halls. The house faced east. To the north, across a street, was the transformer yard for the power plant and the plant was down the hill.
In 1951, give or take a year, I was sitting in the living room chewing the breeze with brothers when all hell broke loose. There was an explosion, the lights went out, the night sky turned brilliant blue, and a harsh screeching sound prevented anyone conversing except by shouting.
In those fearful days of the Cold War, everyone’s first thought was that an atomic bomb had blown up. We fled the house into the street. There, we could see electricity arcing in the transformer yard, creating the blue light. We quickly realized that the problem was with the power plant and not a bomb. We later learned that a transformer failure had caused the plant and electrical circuits to shut down. That required the immediate release of the built up steam to drive the turbines, hence the loud screeching noise.
But not all students had our view, and they didn’t know what the problem was. Dormitories and frat houses were evacuated throughout campus, with students fleeing from the light and sound. One story was that a student was taking a shower when the power failure occurred. Scared witless, he fled the dorm naked, and didn’t stop running until he almost reached the Phi Psi House, then located several blocks east of campus on Emerson Street.
I was impressed by the story’s statistic of a train carload of coal burning every 90 minutes. Living under the smokestack, I do not recall smoke or soot ever being a problem. But at that time, most homes were still heated with coal and fresh snow would quickly blacken from coal soot. It was the way of life.
Fortunately, I still have good lungs.
What an interesting and wonderful issue the spring issue is! It explains the changes that the physical plant is going through, but leaves so much of the old that those of us who graduated a long time ago can still relate. That is so valuable to us, whose memories are still strong.
I also loved the tribute to Johnny Orr, who we thought, when he graduated, would take with him our dominance of the basketball league. But it didn’t happen. Thanks to [coach] Dolph Stanley it wasn’t a question of whether we would win or not, but whether or not we would get 50 points in the first half.
Carolyn Osborne Bidlack'52
When I received the spring issue of Beloit College Magazine, I was elated to see the article “In Remembrance of Johnny Orr.” He was very personable and well-liked by everyone who met him. I met him in 1949 and knew then that he would be a success as a first-class basketball coach if he decided to become one.
My college years at Beloit were cut short because of the Korean War. At that time, a deferment was not permissible, so I chose to enlist in the Navy. Upon discharge, my wife, Doris, and I stayed in Alabama. We were born and raised in Illinois but liked the South.
My thoughts are still with Beloit College. I tell everyone I meet what a great college it is and how happy I am to have attended there. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the article on Johnny Orr.
Elden W. Burrow’53