Davidson College in the Late ’20s
An interesting digital document in the Davidson College Archives is the scrapbook of Aubrey Brown of Mineral Springs, Texas, who graduated in 1929. The following excerpts from his letters describe life at the college during his first days there in September 1925.
“9-?-1925: Have been in our room all evening except when we had our first hazing. Two fellows took about 15 Fish (freshmen) out on the golf course and made us carry wood and trees for a big bonfire that the football men will have tonite. We were the third ones here at the house and got the best room. Have three chairs, dresser, two beds…a good big study table (best in the house) and a good big closet…The only objections are that we will have stoves instead of steam heat and the bathtub is just about big enough for our feet…Went to classes today and found out the books to use and had lessons. Got some of my books this afternoon $8.50. Still have five or six dollars’ worth to buy…In this house we have 4 boys from NC, 2 from Tex., 2 from Va., 1 from Fla., and one from La. All are pretty good fellows. We sure do have good eats. Ice cream every day, good meat and everything I like…We had a 15-minute pep meeting tonite to learn songs and yells…
9-12-1925: Had physical exam last night…While I was there the rest of the Fish were being whipped right after the pep meeting. George got his. I have to help put up some of the bleachers this afternoon. A job for Fish. A boy came in last night after we had gone to bed…and invited us to Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity house to a social fair next Mon. night…The Chambers Building (South Wing) is certainly fine. Just 1/3 as large as it will be when completed. Practically all classrooms are in here. 3 stories and basement. The library is just as nice as any public library I was ever in… [Chambers Building was being rebuilt at the time after a recent fire]
Sept. 1925: We went to the reception last night. Everything was real nice. Had to walk down a line of professors, doctors and wives ’till I got dizzy. Had brick ice cream…We stayed for the picture show a while and then went to the frat house with the boys. Had punch and cakes, some music…All the fellows were real nice to us…Had another pep meeting tonight and the Sophs wanted to make us parade and whip us, but some of the upper classmen said not tonight that we would have a couple of parades the last of the week. The first football game is Saturday…Something new — There are no white barbers here. Negroes run both shops. Had my hair cut this afternoon. Sure seems funny to have a negro do it. 25 cents.
We are having a lot of fun in the house here with our old maid. She is typical. Cranky and everything. They have picture shows every Sat. nite in the Gym but we are spending as little as we can and can’t go. It will be lots better for us if we can get in a dormitory. Can know so many more boys and there are lots of advantages.
9-26-25: I heard that mother sat down with my letters and had a good cry every now and then. I can’t see what’s the use. There is nothing the matter with me and I am better off here than…places close there for I would be wanting to come home all the time and here I know I can’t and don’t think about it…Had a big pep meeting last night after which we had a snake dance all over town going to some of the professors homes and yelling. The Sophs went along beside us to see that we kept the line together and yelled loud enough. Boys here dress anyway. Of course some go in for style but most of them want no ties, hats, coats, and lots of them wear army shoes.
Everyone in this house except about 4 of us are rich. One of the boys spent $1000 [which would be $15,000 today] up ’til Oct. 1st just on going and having fun. Buying little things he didn’t need. Some of them are spending money all the time. Glad I haven’t got any because what I do get I appreciate more and take care of better.
I have to read a book and report on it before next Wed. Am going to read Kidnapped. I wish that instead of reading [Horatio] Alger books long time ago that I had read Treasure Island, Ivanhoe, etc. Lots of books that everyone ought to read that I haven’t.
Will give you just a sample of our meals. Today dinner: Roast, sweet pots, gravy baked corn, fresh butter beans, rice, chow chow (you know how I liked that), light bread, butter and apple pie. For breakfast and supper every time we have grits. Some call it hominy. Have hot chocolate, rolls, and preserves extra. (I mean besides meat, pots, etc.) for supper.
[Brown, Aubrey Neblett, Jr. (1929), “ANB page 035,” Davidson Archives & Special Collections, accessed September 17, 2021, https://davidsonlibraryexhibits.net/archives/items/show/556.]
Nancy Griffith lived in Davidson from 1979 until 1989. After a career as an archives and special collections librarian, she retired to Davidson in 2015. She has published a number of books and articles on local history, and has just completed a history of the Ada Jenkins Center.