The Longhorn Post

These burnt-orange postcards from the collection of professor emeritus Waneen Spirduso offer a colorful look at UT history.

1967

Ah, the humble postcard. Americans mailed some 1 billion of them last year. Postcards are by nature convenient, quick, cheap, and visually appealing—traits that may contribute to their persistence in an age of dwindling snail mail. For centuries people have been using them to share travel memories, advertise businesses, and stay in touch. And for postcard collector Waneen Spirduso, they’re part of UT history.

Spirduso, BS ’57, EdD ’66, is a professor emeritus in UT’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. She’s also a deltiologist, or postcard enthusiast, who’s curating a collection of more than 100 UT- and Austin-related postcards spanning over a century. Spirduso is at work on a book of UT postcards, and she shares some of her favorites with us in these pages. For her, the informal, unedited nature of postcards is part of their appeal. “I think postcards were a bit like email or Twitter before those things existed,” Spirduso says. “They give a window into what life was like.”

Message - I passed!

From 1883-1935, Old Main was the heart of the campus. The building featured a 2,000-seat auditorium, a chapel, a dressing room, and a ladies’ study room with rocking chairs in addition to ample space for classrooms and lecture halls. “We felt that every other student in the country would envy us in the possession of such a magnificent building,” wrote student Will Vinning in 1884.

But the building’s Victorian Gothic turrets and spires were already looking dated by 1934, when it was razed to make way for the Colonial Spanish Revival-style Main Building that stands today. This undated postcard, which shares a student’s relief after an exam (“Passed!”), must have been sent sometime before then.

C Jet Drive-in

Drive-in diners were all the rage in the 1950s and ’60s, and Austin was lousy with them. This postcard was an advertisement for the Jet Drive-In, located near the old Bergstrom Air Force Base where the Austin airport now stands.

While drive-ins were convenient, they were also a stylish gathering spot for young people to show off flashy cars and impress their dates—something that the message printed on the back of the card gleefully points out. “Bright, natural light from mercury vapor Wide-Lites invites customers into the attractive Jet Drive-In,” reads the blurb. “Their color-corrected light flatters food. Flatters faces, too.”

A Student Union 5 girls w many pettycoats

This 1950s postcard shows the typical dress for female students at the time: full skirts with crinoline petticoats and leather loafers. Men didn’t dare get caught in women’s dormitories, curfews were strict, and hemlines were long.

All this sexual repression boiled over in the bizarre trend of panty raids, when crowds of libidinous men gathered outside the women’s dorms and demanded that the coeds toss down their underwear. Panty raids cropped up at UT from the 1950s-60s, and in one of the nation’s largest, 3,000-plus men chanted “We want panties!” outside Kinsolving in 1961.

Deep Eddy

The oldest pool in Texas, Deep Eddy began not as a pool but as a privately owned swimming hole along the banks of the Colorado River, as this 1920s-era postcard shows. Students and locals alike flocked to the Deep Eddy Bathing Beach not just to swim, but also to rent cabins, ride a zipline, go down a slide, and watch shows like Lorena’s Diving Horse—a steed and rider plunging dangerously off a 50-foot diving platform.

Museum

The Texas Memorial Museum on the UT campus opened in 1939 after nearly two decades of planning and fundraising. It was Austin’s first public museum, and that made it a landmark event. President Franklin D. Roosevelt even spoke at the groundbreaking and lit the dynamite to start construction in 1936. This postcard features a photo from the 1950s—but the text and the pterosaur (drawn by John Maisano) were added in Photoshop by Louise Meeks, who manages the museum’s gift shop.

Funding woes have always dogged the scrappy museum, whose original blueprint called for the construction of additional exhibit halls. The plans were abandoned after state funds fell through. Last August, after additional funding cuts, the museum started charging admission ($4) for the first time. Its holdings include some 5 million wildlife specimens, and the museum continues to host events like Identification Day, when anyone can bring in a natural object for a UT scientist to identify.

PC fr Pres UT Front

These days, admitted students get a “Gone to Texas” banner perfect for Instagram and Twitter in the mail. In 1896, they got a postcard from the president, along with a printed course catalog.

George Tayloe Winston was UT’s first regular president, serving from 1896-99, and he had a dry sense of humor. On March 2, 1897, when students defied the administration by shooting off a cannon in honor of Texas Independence Day, Winston famously said, “I was born in the land of liberty, rocked in the cradle of liberty, nursed on the bottle of liberty, and I’ve had liberty preached to me all my life. But Texas University students take more liberty than anyone I’ve ever come in contact with.”

Perip

Before cars were widespread, college students had few opportunities to find a private moment with a sweetheart. At UT, the solution was often a romantic stroll on the Perip, or Peripatos, a wooded footpath around the edge of the Forty Acres. It wasn’t always quiet, though: The Longhorn Band (then called the Varsity Band) often marched around the Perip for impromptu concerts. The path was paved in 1913.

OldLawBuilding
Printed in 1909, this postcard depicts the first law building, completed just a year earlier. It was one of the earliest buildings constructed on the campus. Full suits were de rigeur for class, and although the student body would be mostly male for years, two women made history when they graduated in 1914.
Law Building, back

This postcard is undated, but its 1-cent stamp means it must have been sent before 1952, when the Postal Service raised the rate to 2 cents. The message this student wrote, perhaps to a parent or relative, seems timeless.

UT Cheerleader Postcard 600dpi

Cheerleaders and fans were dressed just a tad more conservatively around the turn of the century, when this postcard was printed. Note that the lady’s banner is bright orange, not burnt orange, and features a “T” rather than the now-ubiquitous Longhorn logo. Although the football team briefly wore burnt orange in the 1920s and ’30s, the university would primarily use the brighter shade until the 1960s.

Dormitory Room

This postcard shows a typical dorm room in the year 1910, although the wide variety of scholastic banners (not just Texas, but also Franklin and Marshall, Lehigh, and Columbia) makes us question the loyalty of this particular student.

 

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