This piece by former Texas Collection director Kent Keeth originally was published in The Baylor Line in August 1975, then was reprinted in Looking Back at Baylor (1985), a collection of Keeth and Harry Marsh’s historical columns for the Line. Blogging about Texas periodically features selections from Looking Back at Baylor, with hopes of sharing Keeth’s work with a new audience.
Today students grumble about the challenges of finding a parking spot on the Baylor campus, but back in the 1920s, the issue with cars was different. Enjoy a ride back to the days when cars were relatively new on the scene and students found creative ways to protest strict university policies. We’ve complemented Keeth’s piece with photos from a student album depicting a buggy ride to Cameron Park—you’ll see that students took this opportunity for romance. Happy Valentine’s Day!
If Baylor’s administrators give much thought to student-owned automobiles these days, their chief response is a sigh at the number of parking spaces they require. Fifty years ago, however, the student-operated motorcar elicited more than just a sigh from the university’s officials. The freedom from supervision which the automobile permitted seemed highly suspect to an institution which proudly stood “in loco parentis” to its students; and as the number of vehicles increased, the administration took action to safeguard its position.
In September, 1925, the dean of women, Miss Edna McDaniel, called a meeting to announce a new prohibition against “car riding” by Baylor girls after 6 p.m. “This is done, not because the women of Baylor can’t be trusted,” said Dean McDaniel, “but because they have the reputation of a Christian institution in their care.” President Brooks, who also spoke at the meeting, cautioned the young women to “avoid anything that begets gossip,” and assured them that “every gentleman will respect the wishes of a lady.”
For a time the new ruling went unchallenged. However a steady diet of evenings spent on campus soon began to pall on the students, and within two or three weeks men and women alike began to prepare counter-measures. On Saturday, October 10, senior women presented a unanimous petition to President Brooks. They were old enough and had been Baylor girls for long enough, they said, to know how to behave themselves. They therefore requested for themselves “the privilege of riding in an automobile to and from engagements after six o’clock p.m.” President Brooks promised to consider the petition.
In the meantime the men of Baylor had not left the initiative entirely to the ladies. They had proceeded on their own to organize for the same Saturday night an excursion which the Daily Lariat later described as follows:
Buggies, wagons, hacks, and surreys of every description were called into service by enterprising Baylor youths who evidently sought to prove that while night auto riding may be under the ban for women of the University, night riding of another kind is interpreted to be on the “permissible” side of the list.
Riding in every kind of a dobbin-drawn hack, some forty Baylor boys drove up to Burleson Hall shortly after six o’clock, claimed their dates, then untied their nags. ‘Giddap Napoleon’ through the streets of Waco followed.
Headed by a phaeton with glaring headlights and drawn by a blind horse, the procession set off up Speight Street, came back to the University campus, and then proceeded down Fifth to town. There the bright lights illuminated a sight long out of vogue and therefore exceedingly amusing to all motorists, shopkeepers, and street corner ornaments.
After the “drag” had been made twice and three cheers given for Baylor, the fiery steeds were turned back toward the University and the procession broke up at the campus where a rush was made for the one surviving hitching post
The report of the buggy ride was picked up from local newspapers and humorous accounts of the students’ ingenuity appeared nationwide and in at least one Canadian daily. According to Mr. R.G. Winchester ’27 of Yoakum, who recalled the incident for this column, the students’ prank inspired a popular song, “Thanks for the Buggy Ride,” [see p. 6] which was published in San Francisco in the same year. Click on the YouTube video below to hear a recording of the tune.
While university administrators may have been amused, they were not swayed. On the following Friday President Brooks refused the senior women’s petition and the ban on evening automobile rides remained effective. Though the ploy failed, the effort was not without its rewards. The students made their point, a good time was had by all, and the buggy riders clip-clopped their way into Baylor legend. (To see more photos from the Cameron Park buggy ride, click on the flickr slideshow below.)
Photos selected and prepared by Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator