Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's That Little Green Hat All About?

by Colton Hengesbach and Bryan Whitledge

The Clarke recently received a donation of an interesting little green beanie that holds more CMU history than one might think. The hat, which belonged to Central State Teachers College alum, Myron Georgia (BS 1935), was a freshman cap from 1932. Back in the day (1920s-40s), freshmen at Central were required by upperclassmen to wear green caps while on campus as a way to distinguish freshmen from the rest of the student body. To the freshmen, it was hazing. But to others, it was tradition and a fun way to create class rivalry and distinction.

At some point during the academic year, the upperclassmen would designate one day "Cap Day," a day in which freshmen could shed their badge of dishonor and publicly burn the hats. Or, in the case of this cap and luckily for the Clarke, a student might keep it as a fun memento of his or her freshman year. To prolong the amusement of the upperclassmen, you can bet that "Cap Day" was delayed until the last week of classes each year forcing the freshmen to walk around with their ridiculous hats for as long as possible. Girls who didn’t want to wear the hats were allowed to wear green ribbons to signify their freshman status at Central.

Freshman with their caps being hazed, CM Life, 9/28/1938, p. 4

The green cap was not exclusive to Central during the 1920s-40s. Other college campuses such as Penn State, University of Kansas, and Purdue University had similar traditions. Some consequences of being caught without your green cap could include an involuntary dip in a nearby body of water or a minor beating, all at the hands of upperclassmen who enforced the tradition

Since receiving it, the Clarke has transferred the cap to CMU's Museum of Cultural and Natural History where it will be stored with a multitude of other objects related to Central's history. For a variety of very good reasons, the green cap tradition is no longer with us -- and we are sure that the thousands of incoming freshman this fall appreciate that. But the memory of past injustices committed against young and naive freshman can be remembered forever thanks to a small amount of green felt and some digging in the archives.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Remembering Clarence Tuma: His First Visit to Mount Pleasant

by Frank Boles (adapted from Clarence Tuma's memoir, The One Pound Pork Chop)

Central Michigan University lost an alumnus and a good friend yesterday, when Clarence Tuma, long-time owner of Mt. Pleasant’s fondly remembered Embers Restaurant, died. CT (as he was often called) was not your traditional student. A veteran of World War II, he returned home from the War uncertain what to do with his life.

Clarence Tuma
CMCE Senior Portrait
To help find a direction, he visited his old high school football coach, Robert “Pop” Lewis. “Why don’t you go to Central Michigan College of Education?” Pop asked. “Pop, I’m not college material” replied CT quickly. “Hell, how do you know if you don’t try?” was the equally quick reply.

Clarence decided to try but he went back to Coach Lewis with another question, “Just where is this Central Michigan College of Education?” “Go to Lansing and turn right. It’s in Mt. Pleasant.”

With these detailed instructions, Tuma rounded up two old high school buddies, borrowed his brother’s car, and headed north to take a look at the place. He got as far as Alma when he heard “a bad noise” in the motor. He managed to reach a garage where the mechanic asked if he had put oil in the engine. After learning that he hadn’t, the mechanic explained that engines needed oil, the crank shaft was burned out, and CT was stuck in Alma for the next three days or so while they got parts and made repairs.

Luck didn’t seem to be smiling on CT that day, but Tuma and his buddies decided to hitch hike the rest of the way to Mt. Pleasant. They were lucky enough to be picked up by a man not only going to Mt. Pleasant but familiar with the campus, who promised to drop them off just where they needed to go. He left the young men in the office of head football coach Ron Finch. Finch knew Pop Lewis and his recommendation that CT visit Central to play football carried considerable weight with him. Finch called his line coach, Doc Sweeney, to come over and take a look at the fellows. Sweeney liked what he saw. Finch then called the Dean of Men, and said he had a couple of fellows he wanted to introduce. Again the talk went well, and the Dean said, “Let’s call President Anspach.”

1948 Central Michigan College of Education Football Team
Clarence Tuma in third row, near center, Number 32

Despite the day’s problems in Alma, things now were going pretty good. In 45 minutes the young men had met the head football coach, the line coach, the Dean of Students, and were on the way to meet the school’s president. Oh, and the helpful man who picked them up when they were hitchhiking turned out to be CMU Athletic Director Dan Rose! As Tuma wrote later, “not bad for a bunch of city boys on their first day in the country.” Anspach, instead of visiting with them in his office, invited them “Ma Grimley’s soda bar” in Keeler Union, his treat.

After a day like that, Clarence later reminisced “Hell, it was a no brainer.” Seventy years later he felt the same way. He wrote, “It was a great choice!”

It was a choice everyone who met Clarence Tuma also felt was great. He left his mark on the town and the campus. We will miss him.

Friday, July 15, 2016


By John Fierst

Of the four lithographs that the Clarke Library recently added to its collection of Native American prints, the one entitled “Tshusick,” was painted by the American portraitist Charles Bird King.  “Tshusick” is a portrait of an Ojibwe woman who visited Washington D.C. in the winter of 1826-1827.  King’s portrait of Tshusick was reproduced in McKenney and Hall’s 1836 History of the Indian Tribes of North America, along with a description of her visit to the Capital.

In 1826 this remarkable woman traveled, on foot, from snowbound Michigan to Washington, hoping to meet the first lady, John Quincy Adam’s wife Louisa.  She knew the first lady’s sister Harriet, who was married to George Boyd, the U.S. Indian agent on Mackinac Island.  Tshusick, ragged and worn from her journey, found her way to the home of Thomas McKenney, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  She explained to McKenney that she had recently lost her husband and that she had come to Washington to be instructed and baptized in the religion of the white people.  She convinced him of the truth of her story by answering questions about persons McKenney knew in Detroit. 

According to James Hall, who wrote the sketch that accompanied Tshusick’s portrait, McKenney “conducted her to a neighboring hotel, secured her an apartment, and placed her under the especial care of the hostess.”  Later he provided her with blue and scarlet cloth, feathers, beads, and other "finery," etc. and Cinderella-like Tshusick created the outfit she is shown wearing in Charles Bird King’s painting.  She was “introduced in due form at the presidential mansion, where she was received with great kindness.”  Louisa Adams apparently was delighted to hear fresh news of her sister Harriet.  Tshusick was then introduced to many of McKenney’s friends and to others “whose patronage might be most serviceable” to her.  Hall claimed that she was an immediate favorite, the belle of the Capital for a while. When it was time for her to depart Washington, her new friends showered her with gifts and introductions and sent her on her way.   

Just as remarkable as Tshusick herself, is the exaggerated style in which James Hall described her, an effusive style that at the same time reflected Hall's racial and class biases. Tshusick “had the unstudied grace, and her conversation the easy fluency, of high refinement,” wrote Hall.  “There was nothing about her that was coarse or common-place.  Sprightly, intelligent, and quick, there was also a womanly decorum in all her actions, a purity and delicacy in her whole air and conduct. . . . So agreeable a savage has seldom, if ever, adorned the fashionable circles of civilized life.”  By the time Hall began writing Indian biographies for his and McKenney’s History, he was already a popular writer of western tales—western in the 1820s and 30s referring to the Old Northwest, today’s Midwest.  Edward Watts (in "The Indian Hater” and Other Stories by James Hall, p. xxii) points out that Hall's style was a “smudging of fact, fiction, and narrative.”   In the case of Tshusick's biography, Thomas McKenney undoubtedly supplied the facts; Hall the embellishments.
Despite Tschusick’s beauty and her charm, the Cinderella-like fairytale failed to end happily. Thomas McKenney received a letter from Lewis Cass, Territorial Governor of Michigan, telling McKenny in essence that McKenny and all of Washington had been had.  Tshusick was a fraud, an "imposter."  Her husband had not died.  He was “a short squat Frenchman, who officiated as a scullion in the household of Mr. Boyd, the Indian agent at Mackinaw.”  Cass at the time was beginning to take a hard line toward Native Americans that would lead to his support for the Indian Removal Act.  In the North American Review a few months earlier, he had ridiculed British societal elites for having been taken in by John Dunn Hunter.  Cass, Hall stated, found the gullibility of his sympathetic Eastern friends amusing.   Cass held that Easterners (like Tshusick's admirers in Washington), who had little exposure to Indians, had no appreciation of the Indian's inveterate and surreptitious nature.

Unfairly, Tshusick comes to us defined by Hall, Cass, and McKenney—shaping her story to their purposes.  We do not really know how she thought or what she sensed she needed to do to survive in the era of removal.  At this distance we can only reflect on the painting Charles Bird King has left us and imagine.