Riley Jackson’s Script Collection

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A recent archives researcher helped shed light on a mysterious collection of books in IWU’s Special Collections. Why do we have a set of scripts from radio and TV mystery series that were produced on the West Coast?

We now know to thank Riley Jackson’s (’38) work in radio and television for donating more

1948 Suspense episode

A 1948 Suspense episode (click to enlarge)

than five year’s worth of the original scripts for the Suspense radio series, as well as the screenplays for the entire series of The Front Page Detective. These scripts and screenplays contain unique details about the production of these series, such as the actors, air time and dress rehearsal times, as well as directions related to the cuing, staging, and camera angles. Several of the Suspense scripts and all of The Front Page Detective screenplays are rare. Illinois Wesleyan is one of the few locations in the United States known to hold copies. Some recordings of these productions are available through the Internet Archive.

The following guest post was researched and written by Archives Student Assistant Katharine Teykl, Class of 2019.

Riley Jackson 1936

Riley Jackson, Freshman Class photo, 1936 Wesleyana

Riley Jackson came to Illinois Wesleyan in 1935. Although he never graduated from Illinois Wesleyan, he is considered a member of the class of 1938. He was actively involved in campus activities, particularly with the radio station and the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity (1936 Wesleyana, p. 123). One of the most distinguished roles he took on at Illinois Wesleyan was radio announcer for the 1937 Homecoming program, which included the Homecoming parade and football game (Argus, p. 1, Sept. 29, 1937). After leaving Illinois Wesleyan, he took a position at WJBC radio, located in Bloomington, IL, as a radio announcer (Argus, p. 3, October 17, 1939). In 1938, he left WJBC and began working for WIND, a Christian-based radio station located in Chicago (Argus, p. 1, April 6, 1938). There, he took on the role of radio engineer, working behind the scenes. This experience would serve him later, as he took on various roles in production and management for different media companies.

Margaret Reeser Jackson, 1936

Margaret Reeser Jackson, Freshman Class, 1936 Wesleyana

In 1951, Jackson and his wife Margaret (nee Reeser) ’37 moved to North Hollywood, California. There, he became the radio and television manager for Cecil & Presbrey (IWU Bulletin, p. 11, Aug. 1954). In this role, he supervised the production for several radio and television series. Many of the series that he helped to produce and supervise dealt with suspense, mystery, unexplained phenomena, and science fiction. Among the most well-known were Suspense, an immensely popular radio mystery series on CBS, and The Front Page Detective television series, which ran from 1951 until 1953 on the DuMont Television Network. After The Front Page Detective finished its run in 1953, Jackson worked in the film industry in Hollywood, serving as the executive producer for films such as Storm over the Pacific (1960) and Mill of the Stone Woman (1960), and serving as the post-production supervisor on the US version of King Kong Escapes (1967) and dialogue supervisor for the US version of The War of the Gargantuas (1966). (compiled from information on Jackson’s IMDB page, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0413979/).

Despite living and working on the West Coast, the Jacksons returned to Illinois Wesleyan on multiple occasions, maintaining a close connection with their alma mater. On their visits, they took interest in various student activities, such as the Spotlight Alley Theatre, run by the Illinois Wesleyan School of Theatre Arts, in addition to attending dinner at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house (IWU Bulletin, p. 15, Aug. 1956 and Argus, p. 3, Dec. 6, 1938, respectively).

As radio productions become all but extinct, looking at these scripts and early TV screen plays provides an interesting look into the history of popular culture and a fresh perspective on the ways in which Americans engaged with the media available to them at the time. Anyone interested in viewing the scripts for the Suspense radio series or The Front Page Detective should come up to the archives (The Ames Library, 4th floor). You never know what sort of mystery could be waiting inside!

Two “new” alumni interviews

Last summer a diligent student assistant started evaluating our analog audiovisual recordings. Old media formats deteriorate or sometimes becomes unplayable just because the machines are no longer available. Before that happens we want to make sure we transfer content into new formats that are not media-dependent. Thanks to funding from the library we have started to digitize these selections.

The two interviews linked below were conducted by Development Officer Yvonne Jones in 1999 for the Minority Alumni Research Project. More information on the project is available in archives Record Groups 4-3/1/9 and 12- 2/1/3.

We don’t have transcripts for them yet but I’ve created robust abstracts and added links to related material whenever possible. Enjoy!

Edelbert Rodgers, Class of 1933, during a campus visit in 2001

Rodgers during a campus visit in 2001

 

Edelbert Rodgers, Class of 1933

This photo of Rodgers should be familiar to anyone who has visited Hansen Student Center. Dr. Rodgers is part of the mural that’s behind the information desk!

He was a Sociology major at IWU and in a previous blog post I provided links to campus news sources he appeared in. Rodgers earned a Ph.D. in Psychology at New York University and had a career in both private practice and teaching.

 

 

 

Below are two photos of Luther Bedford, Class of 1959. Bedford was a Physical Education major who lettered three times in varsity football and was also on the track team. After graduation he taught at Marshall High School, Chicago, IL and was Athletic Director for 33 of his 40 year tenure.

Luther Bedford in football uniform

Bedford in the 1958 Wesleyana

Luther Bedford receiving diplomma from President Eckley in 1959

Bedford in 1960 Wesleyana

 

 

On the value of 50-year-old advertising

A local store purchased an impressive full page ad in the August 25, 1970 Argus — no doubt a back-to-school style advertising strategy! The last page of that issue caused an alumnus to reminisce on campus life and the value of research to cultural studies. The following comments are posted here with permission of Larry Ekin, Class of 1970.

Cigarette ad

An ad from the Discount Den store in the first Argus issue of the 1970-71 academic year

Looking through a 1970 Argus, I was struck by an ad offering three packs of cigarettes for 89 cents! (that’s three packages of 20 cigarettes each). This prompted several lines of thinking. First, I hope students (and faculty) realize they have a potential trove of research material within easy grasp — I think a really interesting study — or series of studies could be designed using ads in the Argus as an indicator of merchants reaching out to a student audience. This could be done both in-depth in a year or two, or across several decades.

Second, I have long believed that if we were to identify the most striking social changes in American society over the past 20 -30 – 40 years, of course technological change would probably be number one, and I could easily see women’s role in society being second. However, I think a close third might well be tobacco. I’m sure most students today would be shocked at the thought of a student-run and student-oriented publication promoting cigarette use thought its advertising. But that would only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In 1970, you could smoke almost anywhere, even at IWU. Students smoked in their dorm rooms, in their fraternity and sorority houses. Faculty smoked in their offices. And, while I don’t believe you could smoke in class, every classroom building would likely have several standing ashtrays on every floor. You could smoke in the student union. I seem to recall a cigarette vending machine in the student union, but that should probably be checked against other people’s memories. In Magill, one of my floor mates came across a discarded toilet that he somehow dragged up to his room and used as a giant ashtray until the dorm mother (yes, we still had “dorm mothers”) made him clean it out because it really did stink up the whole dorm. My memory is vague regarding whether or not smoking was allowed during Student Senate meetings as well as in the cafeteria, but the point is that the norms were entirely the opposite of what exists today — the assumption was you COULD smoke. As a side note, my parents were considered somewhat eccentric because if someone visiting our house asked to smoke, my parents provided them an ashtray, but then told them to do it outside the house.

Out of curiosity I did a little research — at that time, a pack of cigarettes cost between about 35 to 60 cents, which was consistent with what popped into my mind — which was a cost of 50 cents a pack — 2 quarters pumped into the cigarette vending machine, which likely carried at least half a dozen brands. So, three packs for 89 cents was still quite a bargain — a rough adjustment for inflation would mean that it would be approximately 3 packs of 20 cigarettes for a total of $6.00. Big tobacco always worked to make their product cheap, plentiful, and easily accessible.

Medieval manuscripts in IWU’s Special Collections

The Ames Library is pleased to participate in IWU’s “A Year with The Saint John’s Bible”! The first volume completed for The Saint John’s Bible project, Gospels & Acts, will be a featured part of many campus activities and presentations in Spring 2018. From June – December 2018, we will have the Pentateuch Heritage Edition.

Illuminated initial letter Q

16th Century illuminated Q

The original is on vellum and was created in using traditional medieval techniques of calligraphy and illumination. Illinois Wesleyan’s Special Collections holds 11 vellum leaves of medieval manuscripts (see more images below) and one bound folio of liturgical music created in that same era.

Manuscripts, meaning documents created by hand, are part of the historical evolution of books and one of the many book arts traditions used to enhance the way we convey information. Some manuscripts like The Saint John’s Bible are illuminated, or decorated, also by hand and hand bound.

The Special Collections vault in Tate Archives & Special Collections on the library’s 4th floor holds these and thousands of other unique items that curious minds are welcome to explore.

Centennial of Advising

Here’s a serendipitous find: While looking through the 1916-1918 Faculty Meeting Minutes I came across the entry below that indicates this year could be the centennial of academic advising at IWU! (I haven’t read every meeting’s minutes back to 1850…any volunteers?)

October 29, 1917 p. 1

October 29, 1917 Faculty Meeting Minutes (click to enlarge)

About midway down on the page number 61 it says,
“The committee on Advisers made a report and the faculty passed the following points. 1. That advisers be appointed for students in the Freshman year to serve until the student has elected his major. These advisers are to be appointed by a committee of which the President is a member.”

October 29, 1917 p. 2

(click to enlarge)

The minutes go on to state, “2. The duty of the adviser is to k [sic]
(a) To know as much about the student as possible, such as his previous training[?], special talents or inclinations etc.
(b) To help him select his major.
(c) To receive reports of the work of the student in his charge.
“The following action was taken.
No student shall be permitted to change a study without the consent of the adviser.”

The recording Secretary that day was Pearl Cliffe Somerville, Professor of English Literature.

Here are the Advising Center’s services today

Advising Center homepage

Advising services today

Visit them at http://www.iwu.edu/advising and wish them a Happy Birthday!

Research Files: Gwendolyn Brooks @IWU

In honor of this year being the centennial of Gwendolyn Brooks’s birth, Ross Hettinger from the English Honors Society Sigma Tau Delta contacted the archives about putting together an exhibit based on her connection with our campus. As a result of that request, archives’ staff found news articles and photographs that document her five visits to campus between 1972-1999. Ross created an exhibit that will remain in the library’s entry level rotunda until November 30th. This post provides links to news stories and a selection of photos found in response to this query. All black and white photos were scanned from University’s collection of negatives and the color photos were scanned from slides.

Brooks with Buck Library in background

Brooks and unnamed individuals heading towards her reading during the 1972 Fine Arts Festival

A March 3, 1972 front page Argus story details the plans for the March 9-21, 1972 Fine Arts Festival. The story states that Miss Brooks “will head a list of dignitaries” who would be visiting campus.

Brooks signing autographs

Brooks and unnamed individuals during the 1972 Fine Arts Festival

The Argus published on the 24th provides a detailed recap of her reading.

 

 

 

 

 

The 1972 Wesleyana also contains photos of Brooks and others who shared their talents during the Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

Brooks with President Eckley prior to Commencement 1973

Brooks with President Eckley prior to Commencement 1973. Former president Bertholf is on the left.

The following May The Argus announced that Brooks would be the Commencement speaker for 1973. Only a small photo made it into the IWU Bulletin that summer and fall but details on her remarks are lacking, except for a brief mention in the 1973 Wesleyana.

Brooks at Commencement 1973

Brooks being vested with an honorary doctorate during Commencement 1973

Brooks giving a reading in March 1979

Brooks giving a reading in March 21, 1979

There was speculation that Brooks would return for her third visit during the Black Fine Arts Festival according to the March 2, 1979 Argus at the invitation of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The March 23, 1979 Argus carried a photo and caption on p. 1 showing that she did.

Brooks giving a reading in March 1979

Brooks signing an autograph for an unidentified attendee during a reading in March 21, 1979

Brooks in Evelyn Chapel

Brooks speaks with students at Evelyn Chapel, February 1988

In 1988 the February 12 Argus stated that the English Department and the Student Senate were sponsoring Brooks’s visit on February 18 at an event to be held at Evelyn Chapel. A follow up article on the 26th described her visit in detail. She titled her presentation “Life, Love, Laughter, Liberty and Laceration.”

Brooks in Evelyn Chapel

Brooks speaks with students at Evelyn Chapel, February 1988

Brooks at the Soul Food Dinner

Brooks speaking at the Shirk Center for the Soul Food Dinner, February 7, 1999

Her final visit to campus was as the speaker at IWU’s annual Soul Food Dinner. Her appearance was announced in The Argus on February 2, 1999. A follow up article notes that IWU student Teri Lahmon, Class of 2000, introduced Brooks and read one of her own poems at Brooks’s request.

Brooks at the Soul Food Dinner

Brooks at the Shirk Center for the Soul Food Dinner, February 7, 1999

The Argus also ran an obituary for Brooks on December 8, 2000 which briefly recounts her 1999 visit and mentions that IWU awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1973.

Research files: First Black faculty member

John W. Martin

John W. Martin, Ph.D., Associate Professor

During a recent visit by some wonderfully curious Gateway students, someone asked about the first African-American professor. Our first Black professor arrived in 1961 when John W. Martin joined the Sociology faculty. This is documented on p. 176 of the Myers and Teichman book Illinois Wesleyan University: Continuity and Change, 1850-2000. Sadly, we don’t know much else about his life. Anyone who has records about him to donate is welcome to contact the archives (archives {@} iwu.edu).

In future posts I will share more of the questions posed by these students.

Frank Starkey

Frank Starkey, Ph.D., Professor

The next African-American faculty member (as researched by the archivist) was Frank Starkey, Professor of Chemistry, who taught from 1971-1980 and received the 1978 IWU Century Club Teacher of the Year Award. In comments he shared during the Black Fine Arts Festival, reported on in The Argus (p. 1) March 22, 1977, Starkey remarks on the need for the Black Student Union to improve on their efforts (re BFAF’s purpose) and also includes a critique of IWU’s poor recruiting efforts of Black students, faculty and administrators.

Research files: History of LGBT+

First known announcement for an activity related to LGBTQ+ students

The following are the findings from a recently asked question about the founding of  G.L.O.W. (Gays and Lesbians of Wesleyan). The archives holds no records created by group members. Anyone who has records to donate on this (or other) IWU organization is invited to contact archives@iwu.edu

1992-03-13 Argus p. 1 & 7 Announcing the formation of G.L.O.W. There’s mention of faculty endorsement at the end of the article and p. 2 has a letter from a faculty member about its formation.

1992 Wesleyana p. 48 Includes GLOW among the new student organizations for that year and confirms a founding date of early March 1992.

There are 23 occurrences of G.L.O.W.  in The Argus, but I didn’t look through them all. Explore the issues available at that link and let me know if you need anything else!

There’s a 1997 Wesleyana mention of a name change to Gay/Straight Alliance but I didn’t do any further searching for that name.

I did a search for events leading up to GLOW’s formation and came up with these articles:

1988-03-11 Argus p. 4 ad for Gay & Lesbian Awareness Week

There was a controversy after “Anti-Jeans Day” runs in this April 22, 1988 issue and at least the two after.

1989-04-28 Argus p. 3 Progressive Student Union (P.S.U.) Gay and Lesbian Awareness Day

1991-09-27 Argus p. 2 Editorial arguing for better institutional support for homosexuals

1991-12-13 Argus p. 1 and 7 article on campus forum about homophobia and refers to an unspecified incident of vandalism in Gulick. There could be information in other campus sources to shed light on this. The article closes with details about an ISU group (Gay and Lesbian Alliance, GALA) that IWU students were welcome to connect with.

The Pratt Family Collection

Ticket stubs from several of Awadagin’s performances

The Pratt family’s influence has been felt all over the world and the Tate Archives holds many interesting materials related to this influential family. Music aficionados will enjoy perusing through concert programs, performance schedules, ticket stubs, and other ephemera related to world-renowned concert pianist Awadagin Pratt, whose career has spanned four decades. Awadagin began piano lessons when he was six years old and entered the University of Illinois to continue those studies at the age of 16. Awadagin was the first student to receive diplomas from the Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Conservatory of Music in three performance areas – piano, violin, and conducting. Appearing in People Magazine, Newsweek, and named one of the 50 Leaders of Tomorrow in Ebony’s 50th anniversary issue, he has performed in both of Presidents Clinton’s and Obama’s White Houses, and showcased his talents as a performer and conductor in concert halls and symphonies on several continents. Our collection of materials associated with Awadagin will keep any music lover busy for hours; but, that’s not all there is to this collection!

Awadagin’s piano lesson practice log

Awadagin’s father, Dr. T.A.E.C. “Ted” Pratt (1936 – 1996), mother, Dr. Mildred Sirls Pratt (1928-2012), and his sister, Dr. Menah Pratt-Clark are highly admired professionals in their respective fields as well. A music enthusiast in his own right, Ted was born in Sierra Leone, and raised in a family where his sisters were taught the piano, and he and his brothers learned to play the organ. Ted grew up receiving his education from some of the world’s finest institutions, including the Prince of Wales School and Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Durham University in Durham, England; and, the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. After receiving his M.S. in Physics from the Carnegie-Mellon Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, he became the first person from Sierra Leone to earn his PhD in Nuclear Physics, also from the Carnegie-Mellon Institute. The Pratt Family Collection contains many of Ted’s published articles, research, teaching materials, family letters and personal ephemera from every period of his life.

Dr. Theodore Pratt’s lifetime membership award to the American Association for the Advancement of Science

As Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at Illinois State University, and co-founder and co-director of the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, Dr. Mildred Pratt has been widely recognized for her dedication to making our local community a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds. She is a recipient of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s Citizen of the Year Award in 1987, as well as, the Town of Normal’s Human Relations Reward in 1989. After the death of her husband, Mildred founded the Pratt Music Foundation in honor of his love for classical music. The Foundation provides financial assistance to students in grades 2-12 pursuing instruction in piano or strings. Donations to the Foundation can be made at: The Pratt Music Foundation, c/o Illinois Wesleyan University, PO Box 2900, Bloomington, IL 61702.

Letter received from President Blill Clinton in 2000

Letter written by Dr. Mildred Pratt to President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1994

 

Dr. Menah Pratt-Clark, Awadagin’s sister, followed her parents’ footsteps into the world of academia. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in Literary Studies from the University of Iowa, as well as, a M.A. and PhD. in Sociology from Vanderbilt University, and, is currently serving as the Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity and Vice President for Strategic Affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Prior to her most recent position with Virginia Tech, she has served as a university compliance officer at Vanderbilt University, and Associate Chancellor for Strategic Affairs at the University of Illinois, a position she held for ten years. Menah is also author of the book, Critical Race, Feminism, and Education: A Social Justice Model.

If you would like to learn more about the Pratt family, please visit the Tate Archives and Special Collections on the 4th floor of IWU’s Ames Library!