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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Vol. 73, Number 1 (Oct. 1971)

Shepherd, Samuel C., Jr.
The Wisconsin jazz age student,   pp. [4]-11

Page 7

M Fords
A recent popular history, Time-Life's Fabulous Cen-
tury, asserts that "many students had cars and used them to
take dates to rowdy roadhouses and for crashing parties in
distant cities." Those words only slightly exaggerate the
importance that historians have assigned to the youth-driven
automobile. Ernest Earnest claimed that cars spread
student life over an area with a 100-mile radius.
Automobiles easily became a part of the collegiate
syndrome. College novelists often employed cars for the
truly exciting escapades of their books. Because cars
potentially provided both speed and privacy, educators
viewed them as monumental nuisances. Distinguished
administrators such as Yale's Robert C. Angell, Princeton's
Thomas A. Clark, and Wisconsin's Nardin, joined early
critics in condemning student use of automobiles.
Clearly, the existing cars caused some excitement. Yet,
the important question remains: exactly how many students
were driving cars on campuses?
   Unfortunately, the question cannot be answered precisely
 for the University of Wisconsin. Since student vehicles
 were not registered in the '20s, little direct data exists to
 verify the apparent increase in auto usage. A 1916
 Cardinal article counted 44 nonresident campus vehicles,
 and in 1919 it advocated banning cars from certain parts
 of the campus. Throughout the decade its editorialists
 continued to favor such a change. The writers argued that
 auto noise interrupted professors' lectures and that
 pedestrians were threatened by reckless auto drivers. Yet,
 other evidence indicates that very few students drove cars.
 The 1922 Commerce Magazine staff initiated what they
 claimed to be "the largest and most comprehensive
 survey ever conducted in any American undergraduate
 school." Over 3,500 of the 7,500 questionnaires were
 returned. From that poll the staffers concluded that less
 than one percent of the out-of-town students had cars
 at school. By June 1924 the campus paper felt that the
 number of cars necessitated parking permits. A weary 1927
 editorialist wrote that every other student seemed to have
 a car. Another writer claimed that 150 cars were rented for
 student parties and dates every week. Significantly, cars
 were not banned from campus, and University officials
 did not voice concern about the number of vehicles.
I        Frolics
S ince the arrival of This Side of Paradise few analysts
have questioned Fitzgerald's claim that petting parties
were the "great current American phenomenon." Indeed,
a standard description of youthful morals has become
entrenched. Promiscuous sexual conduct was no longer stig-
matized in an environment of Freudianism, "lascivious"
dancing, flapper dresses, and illegal alcohol. Historians have
disagreed only about the degree of deviation from past codes.
College novels presented historians -with cogent themes
of sexual immodesty and immorality. Percy Marks's
gin-soaked coeds maneuvered innocent males into empty
rooms and whispered "--le's pet."
   In the wake of three spectacular incidents, Wisconsin
citizens might well have questioned the moral code of the
state University. In January, 1925, Judge 0. A. Stolen
told reporters that 60 percent of Madison men suffered
from venereal disease. The magistrate further asserted
that women wrapped in blankets were carried from
men's rooming houses at 2 a.m. The judge did not blame
students specifically, but he did add that such affairs
occurred mainly in the student inhabited "Latin Quarter."
The scandal spread quickly throughout the state and
nation. The May, 1929, New Student magazine provided
a second controversy. A former Wisconsin coed attacked
"Our Dean-Natured Morality" and included remarks
about student mores. The writer implied that well over half
the women petted and that probably 15 percent were
not virtuous. The famed "Rocking Chair Scandal"
provided the press with another shocking story. On Satur-
day morning, December 7, 1929, Dean Nardin telephoned
Dean Goodnight with a report of student misconduct. She
advised Goodnight to check the sleeping porch of a local
apartment. Received there by two young men, he found
nothing amiss. However, when he asked to see their
student roommate, he learned that the man was on the
sleeping porch. Upon knocking at the porch door,
Dean Goodnight overheard whispers from within. The
student refused to open the door, and Goodnight refused
to leave. After telephoning the police, the dean sat
in a rocking chair near the sleeping porch door.
Finally he was admitted, and the couple was instructed
to meet with Nardin and Goodnight at a later date.
The affair gained widespread publicity when English
professor William Ellery Leonard protested the students'
  dismissals. Leonard maintained that the students were
  deeply in love, had exchanged wedding rings, and had
  "only postponed the legalities of marriage for practical
  purposes." The story circulated quickly, and Dr. Leonard's
  so-called advocacy of free love did little to reassure the
  more conventional moralists.
October, 1971                                                           
           About the Author
Mr. Shepherd, of Alexandria, Va., did
his undergraduate work at the Univer-
sity of Delaware, and is currently work-
ing toward a PhD in history, under a
Ford Fellowship, here at the University
of Wisconsin.

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