Isabel Dubert, Contributing Writer
Among the younger members of any community, there can often be a tendency, due to ignorance or apathy, to ignore the old in favor of the new.
Particularly in our own post-modern age of technological and scientific advancement, no one would ever dream of reminding us of the ’50s, a period of the past which may (quite forgivably) seem like such an impossibly long time ago.
Be that as it may, it is always a good practice to remember and to cherish the origins from which we have come.
The “nifty ’50s” was an era, believe it or not, when midwives still delivered babies at home; frozen dinners were a novelty; the baby boom was still gaining its momentum; mothers wore pearls and oven mitts at the same time; tonsillectomies were a rite of passage for children; Matchbox cars, Barbie and Mr. Potatohead were the desired Christmas toys; school buses were just beginning to be commonplace; Greek life meant dinners and teas, focusing on comradeship and character-building; tape cassettes were first invented; a loaf of bread cost 14 cents, a gallon of gas 24 cents and a dozen eggs 28 cents; the first “Peanuts” cartoon strip was published; the first organ was transplanted; McDonald’s Corporation was founded; Disneyland was opened; and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.
As difficult as it is to imagine this, it is even more difficult to believe that the University of Dallas was founded during the same decade, on a windswept prairie overlooking the city of Dallas and the Trinity River.
The other day, I was glancing through our own history book, published for the university’s golden jubilee, “50 Years of Vision and Courage: 1956-2006”, written by Mrs. Sybil Novinski, the university historian, and edited by Dr. David Sweet of the classics department, among others. I was surprised to find several traditions from UD’s past that have long since died out from everyday life, and even from some of our memories. The older and more veteran professors no doubt recall these traditions — reminders of a time when UD was the home of the fighting phenomenologists, and Groundhog tickets cost $5 — with fondness and mirth.
For example, there was the Italian Festival of 1983, when flag throwers from Gubbio, Italy came to the university and paraded down the Mall, throwing flags, naturally; the unusual student newspaper called the Outgribe of the early ’70s; the late ’60s Spirit Weeks, which included a bonfire, mock pep-rally and caravan to a powderpuff football game against Southern Methodist University; possibly most (in)famously, “The Groundhogiad”, an epic about beer co-authored by alumnus Joseph Kelly and members of the class of ’84, chronicling the history and festivities of UD’s Groundhog Day celebration; and most recently, during Charity Week 2005, the shave-off where the male faculty of the Theology Department shaved their heads after the student body raised $1,500 (this included Professors Malloy, Fr. Kereszty, Lowery, Goodwin, Norris and Brownsberger).
As professor emeritus Lyle Novinski once remarked in correspondence with a current student, “Our campus history has many short-lived and effective organizations that have benefited the students over the years: The spirit band for athletic events called Pandemonium existed for some years, the Players Guild that produced plays for the campus before the drama department was formed, debating societies, chess clubs, military paintball in the woods, festivals like the Burning of the Trees after Christmas, the all-day reading of the “Iliad” or Shakespeare in some years, Sarge Ball (a touch football team gathered by an ex-sergeant with all of the shiest misfits on campus, especially chosen because they were the last picked in any playground experience, welded into a real fighting force by an enthusiastic special forces veteran). All bloom with enthusiasm, and die when interest fades, or the [instigators] graduate.”
Our quaint little university may not be much older than the Frisbee and the hula hoop; Stephen Fry and Hans Zimmer; and “The Cat in the Hat” and “Atlas Shrugged” but her life has been full and her history plentiful.
At a Catholic college, where tradition naturally and inevitably plays such a significant and undeniable role in university life, one can hope that the danger of forgetting would be not quite as great as at a secular college. And yet we will gradually slide into a state of forgetfulness if we do not purposefully remember and preserve the individual slices of UD’s history, which serve as reminders of what has gone before, and representations of what is yet to come.