About a year ago, we wrote about restrictions on UNC’s female students in the 1950s and 1960s. Women were often not allowed to travel alone or after certain hours. While perusing a fraternity scrapbook from 1951, we found a telegram from a student’s sweetheart referencing these types of rules.
In the winter of 1965, the Gamma Lambda Chapter of Phi Mu Sorority had moved into their new house at 211 Henderson Street. The move was festive and joyful. To celebrate the season, the sisters wrote their own version of the poem The Night Before Christmas.
We came across the poem in the scrapbook that the Gamma Lambda chapter recently loaned to us. The clatter that awoke the sisters in this poem, however, was not from reindeer on the roof but from “caroling boys with their bottles of cheer!”
Happy holidays from everyone at University Archives and Records Management Services!
Over the past year and a half, UNC Chapel Hill’s University Archives has actively pursued student groups in an effort to better represent the history of student life. However, there are a lot of student groups to choose from on our active campus. One of our priorities has been to collect Greek life materials. Because more than 3,000 students on our campus are involved in Greek life, fraternities and sororities are a part of the Carolina Experience for many students.
This semester, Phi Mu will be the first of UNC’s sororities to deposit its materials in University Archives for safekeeping. While we have some fraternity records (including Delta Kappa Epsilon and Chi Psi), sorority records have been noticeably absent in our holdings. As the Gamma Lambda chapter of Phi Mu approached planning for its 50th anniversary in 2014, alumnae began to reflect on their chapter’s history. Realizing that historic materials were stored in several disparate places and that many items could use conservation and preservation, they were eager to find a way to store them in a single location under archival conditions. Participating in the new University Archives initiative will accomplish this and facilitate all future anniversary research.
When Phi Mu’s Gamma Lambda chapter colonized at Carolina in 1964, the Board of Trustees had just approved the admittance of women regardless of their residence or major; however, admittance was still extremely competitive because of the scarcity of housing for female students. With the loan of Phi Mu’s 1964-1965 scrapbook and other materials to University Archives, researchers and chapter sisters alike will be able to understand how Phi Mu began its first 50 years on Carolina’s campus.
We look forward to working with Phi Mu as well as other sororities this year to increase the representation of Greek organizations in University Archives!
If you are a member of a Greek fraternity or sorority and wish to deposit materials in the archives for safe keeping, please contact us!
When was the first student body president elected? Who’s a Di and who’s a Phi? What’s a Gimghoul?
A new exhibit has been added to The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History that should answer those questions and more. It highlights some of the hundreds of organizations that have been a part of student life throughout the university’s history, including debating societies, student government, performance groups like the Loreleis and the Playmakers, activist groups, Greek organizations, honor societies, secret societies, and others. Check out the new exhibit here.
Alumni–were you involved in student organizations while at UNC? Do you have photos, posters, papers, recordings, or other materials related to your organizations? If you are interested in donating these materials to the University Archives to help document the history of your organizations, please contact Jay Gaidmore (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We hope that everyone is enjoying the new semester. Hopefully you’re getting back into the swing of things without too much trouble. If everything is going well, congratulations! It turns out that you are much luckier than some of your predecessors in the winter of 1929 were.
In fact, from the very beginning of the school year, various fraternities on UNC’s campus had some pretty rotten luck. First, there were growing financial concerns and then the great stock market crash of 1929. Male students were in the position of not being able to afford being in a fraternity unless they took out a loan. Despite all of this, though, fraternities accepted a healthy number of bids that fall semester, and luck seemed to be on their side.
Their luck ran out, however, at the end of the fall semester. On Thursday, December 12, 1929 (a day before Friday the 13th), the Delta Sigma Phi house of Old Fraternity Row was almost completely destroyed in a fire early that morning. When the members of the house woke up and realized the house was on fire, they attempted to call the fire department but could not be connected because the fire chief was already having a conversation of his own. Consequently, several members had to drive down to the station to alert the chief in person. At the time, the chief said that he heard a car beeping its horn like mad and immediately thought it was a rum runner being chased by the authorities. By the time the fire was extinguished, most clothes and furniture could be saved, and it was lucky that the nine men sleeping in the house had escaped with their lives.
Delta Sigma Phi did not hold the distinction of being the only fraternity house that burned down that year though. The Daily Tar Heel was beginning to make daily quips about old fraternity row as the “hot section of town.” The Chi Psi fraternity house also burned down that winter, on Christmas night. Unfortunately for the members of Chi Psi, they were accused (rather indirectly and hastily) of setting the fire deliberately to collect the insurance money. The controversy raged until January 8, 1930 when the students were finally freed from blame of the fire. In fact, Dr. Coker took great umbrage at the suggestion that any student at Carolina would be so devious and squared off with the insurance commissioner until the whole matter was cleared.
So, count yourself lucky. If you are rushing a fraternity or sorority this semester, we are certainly glad that lady luck seems to have reinstituted herself on our campus!