Julia V. Finney, The College of Idaho, and the Dormitory named Finney Hall
The following was submitted, June 16, 2010 by Jan Boles, '65 (husband of a Finneyite, Anna Marie Walton, '66) Archivist, The Robert E. Smylie Archives, The College of Idaho. Please direct comments and corrections to email@example.com.
Finney Hall, the oldest residence hall on the campus of The College of Idaho, was put into operation for the fall semester of 1910. In 1958, a century after the birth of its namesake, after two world wars and after 47 years of use, Finney Hall was remodeled both inside and out. It was ready for a new generation of residents.
Now, in the summer of 2010, many members of that new generation, including residents from the 1960s and 1970s, are gathered in reunion. The college may have changed names, but Finneyites will always be Finneyites. Memories of the old hall may have dimmed with the passage of the years, but the spirit of Julia V. Finney is still ingrained in the dormitory that continues to bear her name.
The story of the building named Finney Hall could be recounted in a straightforward way: it was constructed in a linear fashion, with a beginning and an end. But because each former resident lived there, which is to say became a different person there, a chronological narrative alone would shortchange not just those here for the reunion, it would shortchange Julia V. Finney, as well.
Finney Hall's story is a complex interweaving of many threads: the individuals involved, directed by ambition and fervor, guided by faith and conviction, found themselves on the edge of a frontier in a nation still groping toward its perceived manifest destiny. To make things interesting, while rich in spirit, these characters were almost always dead broke. However, while these narrative threads sometimes become knotted or snarled, they do not break. They are just too tough to break.
Julia V. Finney is a person who has been slighted enough by the historic record. Some of this is her own doing: she was modest and self effacing to a fault. Where our college archives have more than 2000 pages of documents by or about our founder, Dr. William Judson Boone, we have less than a dozen published pages devoted to Miss Finney, and only two post cards written in her own hand.
When the research on this narrative began in 2002, save the C of I Bulletins (Catalog numbers), listing her job titles from 1899 to 1925, we had facts on Miss Finney amounting to half of a single-spaced page. We did not know the names of her parents, or the number of her siblings, or the nature of her beginnings. We had testimony, in the form of a character sketch in the 1908 C of I yearbook by her colleague, Professor Mae Franklin, which sheds light on her adult moral character and professional integrity. These materials, plus some scant references in the early Coyote (then, as now, the student newspaper) and an interview with another colleague 40 years after her death, were the basis of Dr. Louie Attebery's references to Miss Finney in his invaluable history of the C of I, published during the centenary year of 1991.
But thanks to the World Wide Web and the explosion of genealogical activity fostered by the Internet, many additional facts regarding Miss Finney have been discovered. The parallels between her life and that of Dr. Boone are now revealed in rather bold relief. They were born within two years of each other, she in 1858 and he two years later, and both died in 1936. Both were farm kids. Her father was a farmer who also was a minister, and Boone became a minister who never quit farm work. Both were scholars who attained advanced degrees in fields that clearly absorbed them. Both came to Idaho in response to challenges by senior leaders of the Presbyterian Church. Both earned legendary reputations as role models (and on occasion, it must be said, as holy terrors). Both knew how to have fun. Both experienced similar personal tragedies in terms of close family loss: Boone's eldest child Marie died in 1911 at age 22 of acute appendicitis, while Miss Finney's nephew Clarence Bicknell, having moved to Idaho from Minnesota in 1909 to take his freshman year at the college where his aunt was teaching, died the following summer in a construction accident near Lake Lowell.
Dr. Boone maintained a daily journal that he kept without fail from February 19, 1891, until July 7, 1936 (the day before his death). In the span of years from 1898 to 1923, Dr. Boone makes specific reference either to "Miss Finney" or "Julia Finney" on at least 70 occasions. (Never once does he call her "Julia.") While many of the entries are pedestrian ("Mrs. Blatchley and Miss Finney take Barton's classes") a few are deeply revealing.
Also in Dr. Boone's journals are observations of astronomical events: comets, meteor showers, and, in particular, eclipses, both partial and total, of the sun and moon. It is tempting to think of these two strong-willed individuals as a sun and a moon, with the lesser body (and she was diminutive) either reflecting the greater's light, or else in near perpetual shadow. But this is a false image, because it is the wrong kind of eclipse. Actually, Dr. Boone and Miss Finney both were stars, bound as if in a celestial dance of eclipsing binaries. Both were bright, and while Dr. Boone was of necessity brighter, when side-by-side their combined brilliance exceeded the sum of the parts.
It would be easy to gloss over the story of The College of Idaho as yet another example of the Great Man model of history. But those who have written extensively on the origins of the C of I - Hayman and Attebery - cite too many examples of Boone's great leadership succeeding not merely on the basis of great followers, but succeeding on the basis of great loyal opposition. A number of this latter group happen to be women, and the story has yet to be told from their vantage point. Miss Finney, Mrs. Carrie S. Blatchley, Mrs. Boone, Marie Boone (or more importantly, her absence after 1911): contained in this constellation is a story that explodes the Great Man model.
That story may yet be told, but for now we must concentrate on Julia Velma Finney, graduate of Carleton College, Minnesota. It just so happens that both Dr. Boone and Miss Finney became legends; it was a case where if Miss Finney had not existed, Dr. Boone would have had to invent her.
This is not the scenario Dr. H.H. Hayman had in mind when he wrote That Man Boone, the sanctioned biography published by the College in 1948. But tension did exist between Dr. Boone and Miss Finney, and it was palpable. It was the tension that mirrored one of the great social dramas of the day: the women's movement, a force that refused to remain suppressed in an era riven by imperialism and war. What an audacious idea: Julia V. Finney as a rival to Dr. William Judson Boone! But this thesis is not advanced to diminish the latter's accomplishments. Rather, bringing Miss Finney out of history's shadow serves to add more than a touch of humanity to a story that was absorbing in the first place.
There is a drama behind the building of Finney Hall. The scene was set about 19 years before the building was constructed, but less than a decade before Julia V. Finney became a player.
When the town of Caldwell was platted, in 1893, there were already 11 saloons present. Churches and schools had some catching up to do. But the city fathers (or, more correctly, their wives) had already set out on the task of bringing culture and respectability to the place.
In 1887 a freshly ordained Presbyterian minister had been enticed to visit Caldwell. This was Dr. William Judson Boone, aged 27, a man married hardly one week. He and his wife, Annie, age 24, who had been teaching school in Pennsylvania since she was 16, were convinced to stay and guide a fledgling congregation. On inspection, it was discovered that the church building they had been promised was unfinished, but that was just a detail, given the frontier nature of the Idaho territory.
By 1891 Dr. Boone had begun to change from flock leader to school builder. This shift in focus came at the behest of the Wood River Presbytery, the spiritual and educational guiding light to Presbyterians in all of southern Idaho (now a state). But behest does not fully describe the impetus behind the founding of The College of Idaho. Young Dr. Boone lobbied enthusiastically for Caldwell as the proper location for such an enterprise, and Caldwell's city fathers (and mothers) were just as eager for the same result. (For a description of Caldwell's arch-Dad, Robert E. Strahorn, see Big Trouble, by J. Anthony Lucas.) It would fulfill the business axiom: Caldwell needed people; there was no institution of higher education in the state; a college meant more people would come to Caldwell. It was clear as the town's artesian water, the school was meant to be in Caldwell.
In brief, what soon became known as the C of I began in the basement of the (now completed) Caldwell Presbyterian Church. By the next year, 1892, there was a spanking new two-story College Building, build just down Albany Street next to the site of the new Canyon County Courthouse. By 1901, the C of I would have its first dormitory building, and within a year the first surviving full-time German language teacher hired by Dr. Boone would become that dorm's first solo matron.
That matron, of course, was none other than Julia V. Finney, all five feet of her.
Miss Finney became the first surviving German teacher in 1899 because her predecessor, Lawrence Hemphill, PhD, alas, had died of tuberculosis in 1894. All sources agree that Dr. Hemphill's death was a pity, but as Woody Allen would point out some years later, 90 per cent of success is just showing up. Miss Finney, it turned out, did a bit more than show up.
Running an academy in the desert wilds of Idaho was a challenge. The local public schools had only nine grades. The astute Dr. Boone quickly realized that if his first students were ever going to get to college level, he would have to spend some years preparing them. In spite of Dr. Boone's efforts at promoting temperance, those 11 saloons (and ancillary establishments) were a growth industry, sort of a post-frontier.com bull market.
At times in early Caldwell it must have seemed that there were more rough edges than there were edges. Cowboys would still shoot up the town. There were no tribes in the vicinity, but Indian Creek had a bad habit of rampaging at inopportune intervals. Disease - typhoid, scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps, chicken pox, small pox - frequented the populace. Horses were required for transportation, and hay burners, although prized, coveted, and coddled, also were known to kick, buck, run away, tear up tack, tip over buggies, and be otherwise just plain ornery.
The new college campus on Albany Street, the pride of the community, preceded municipal electrical and sewage systems. The two buildings were hot in summer, drafty in winter, dusty all the time (paved streets would come to town only after Finney Hall's 10th anniversary). These frame structures would never know insulation but would require frequent fumigation and roof patching. In winter, coal stoves would belch smoke with maddening frequency. In deep winter their heat would not last the night in the college building, thereby guaranteeing frozen chemical experiments and botanical projects. Conversely (and contrarily), a sedately burning coal stove could become a self-destructing blow torch if left with a carelessly adjusted damper and flue.
Miss Finney wasted no time in getting to work. Besides getting to know the school, students, and town, she saw cases of small pox in the dorm. By the summer of 1900, she was pals with Marie Boone, age 11, and also joined Mrs. Blatchley and Mrs. Boone in learning how to ride a bicycle. The following June, 1901, after presenting a German play in the Assembly Hall, Miss Finney departed on the east bound train. We do not know if this journey was to visit family or perhaps continue her studies. In December of that year, Mae Franklin, a graduate of Hamlin University in Minnesota, joined the C of I faculty to teach Latin and other subjects in the Classics. Both Miss Finney and Miss Franklin resided in the Dormitory Building.
The success of the post-exam reception at the dorm in June, 1902, was credited to Miss Finney. When school resumed later that summer, and no cook had been hired for the dining hall, Dr. Boone noted that "Miss Finney and Miss Franklin have to do the work, but they are equal to the job." During this time, almost as an aside, the trustee minutes state that Misses Finney and Franklin are to be reimbursed for the cost of coal used to heat their dorm rooms, amounts equal to what had been withheld previously from their salaries. Evidently gratified by the trustees' largesse, Miss Finney returns from her Christmas holiday on December 27, 1902, and "scrubs out the dorm."
During the summer of 1903 she takes another trip east (the purpose of which is again not explained), but in January, 1904, we know that word of her mother's fatal illness would call Miss Finney back to Minnesota. Her absence, until February 19, caused Dr. Boone much dismay: "We are lost without Miss Finney." Dr. Boone's dismay gave way to real distress the following November, as Miss Finney became bedridden with the only prolonged illness of her 20 years at the C of I, an attack of inflammatory rheumatism that lasted for more than two months. A nurse was brought in and Miss Franklin was a constant companion. In the middle of the siege, in January of 1905, Dr. Boone lamented in his diary, "Usual school work, not very good work without Miss Finney."
But she recovered in a remarkable fashion, because within six months she was out recruiting students ("rustling students," to quote Dr. Boone's description) with Miss Franklin, using her horse (Blondi) and buggy for trips to Payette and beyond. (During that summer, the ever-gentlemanly Dr. Boone made a rare slip in his diary, referring to his female faculty not as Miss Finney and Miss Franklin, but as "the girls.") In August of 1905, however, there was a defining occurrence, and a sad one. The Misses Finney and Franklin were at Givins' Hot Springs on August 8 when word came to the college that Jonathan Finney had died in Minnesota. Dr. Boone sent a messenger via Walters Ferry to inform Miss Finney of her father's death, and he also rounded up some cash for her to use on her journey, should she need it. However, the two teachers returned to Caldwell after dark, unbeknownst to Dr. Boone, and because Miss Finney departed on the 4 a.m. train, he did not see her to offer the money.
Miss Finney would return to Caldwell on August 27. During the time she was away Dr. Boone joined with a number of other Caldwell sportsmen to make the annual fishing and hunting trip to the mountains along the north fork of the Payette River. These trips followed a general pattern of pooled equipment and cooperative base camp logistics. Families from the Caldwell Presbyterian Church frequently used the mountain trip to escape the August dog days. Each family would take a wagon and team of horses, and sometimes extra riding horses. Dr. Boone would rent a wagon, and if he was lucky, find loaner horses for the team. That August, he notes in his dairy, Miss Finney's Blondi was not otherwise occupied, so he appropriated her services for the duration. It is doubtful that he planned the close timing, but the campers returned to Caldwell from the Payette on August 26, and Miss Finney returned from Minnesota the following day.
The following summer Dr. Boone was faced with the unpleasant prospect of having to batch it. Mrs. Boone and the three daughters planned an extended family visit to Pennsylvania, and fifteen-year-old son James was planning to spend his vacation earning money on hay crews, living with local farmers. Dr. Boone was faced not only with a lonely time, but also an extended period without a cook. Perhaps this is an uncharitable reading of the diary entries for June, July, and August, 1906, but one can detect the thought patterns of a desperate trencherman in the following: (After the family has been absent a week, the botanist notes a splendid display of roses on June 26.) "I cut some roses, take one bunch to Mrs. Russell [neighbor, bedridden with consumption] and one to Miss Finney [dorm matron, dining hall boss]. July 24, "Had dinner with folks at dorm [Misses Finney and Franklin]. July 26, "Take supper at dorm, very good." July 27, "I had a good dinner at the dorm... August 5, "I had a great dinner at dorm."
That summer Blondi did not go to the mountains. Misses Finney and Franklin, when not cooking, took the buggy and again went rustling for students. The activity Dr. Boone's diary fails to report during that same period, and some might find this curious, was the success enjoyed by his female faculty recruiting freshmen for a true college program. Years later, the significance of their recruiting efforts was described by the Trustees, noting that their freshman class "was the beginning of making The College of Idaho Collegiate."
The invigorated collegiate program inspired the trustees to begin planning for the future. A one-room college building, now 15 years old, was obviously becoming a problem. During the summer of 1907, plans were being formulated for a new campus and the attendant fund raising. On July 9, Dr. Boone made the following entry in his diary: "Dr. D.K. Pearsons writes us, or informs Miss Finney, that when we get $75,000 endowment, he will give us $25,000" The entry for the following day reports good fund raising prospects in Boise. Matters were accelerating: the minutes of the July 20 Trustees meeting acknowledge Miss Finney's "application" to Dr. Pearsons, and that information was made public in the Caldwell Tribune July 27. On July 24 the ever supportive Blatchleys formalized a gift of property that would become the core of the new campus, later known as "College Heights."
On her own initiative, Miss Finney had pushed the idea of a new campus with major buildings into overdrive. By November, Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Kirkpatrick of Parma, benefactors of the Presbyterian Church in that town, and long-time admirers of Dr. Boone, pledged $20,000 toward the proposed enterprise. Their gift (plus another $5000 pledged by Howard Sebree) would underwrite the construction of Sterry Hall as a memorial to Mrs. Kirkpatrick's late father, Christopher W. Sterry.
Soon after Christmas, January 21, 1908, Miss Finney left for Germany. On that date, after noting her departure, Dr. Boone merely added, "She has been with us since the beginning of the fall semester, 1899. We expect her back in the course of a year." However, her colleague Mae Franklin, writing a tribute published in the 1908 college yearbook, was a bit more descriptive in her account of Miss Finney's absence: "She has been for some months in Berlin, Germany, where her friends sincerely hope she is receiving some compensation for those hard years of sacrifice that broke down even her sturdy constitution and made a rest imperative." In the event, Miss Finney reported back on September 9, 1908. Soon after, the cook quit, and "Miss Finney [was] forced to cook for the dorm."
The college was faced with deadlines. The pressure of raising matching funds within the prescribed limits forced Dr. Boone to leave for New York City early in December. He had no choice but to spend Christmas on the other side of the continent, while his family remained in Idaho. However, by January, 1909, he had a pledge of $25,000 from Andrew Carnegie, and a call to Clinton, New Jersey, would be rewarded in 1912 with funding for a third building, the men's dormitory, to be known as Voorhees Hall. The New Jersey visit would follow the previously described dormitory fire.
Dr. Boone was not permitted to return from the east coast until the endowment goal was achieved. That was June, 1909. Six months had transpired, and the class of 1909 had graduated while he was away. But the dormitory was repaired, and it was time to design a new campus.
In the college archives is an undated and anonymous manuscript describing the buildings on the C of I campus. There are clues suggesting that the author was Bess Steunenberg, Class of '14, who served as our first registrar from 1921 to 1956. The manuscript was probably written around 1960. The account of the construction of Finney Hall that follows is based on this manuscript:
THE CONSTRUCTION OF FINNEY HALL
The project started August 27, 1909. There was no ground breaking ceremony or cornerstone. It was completed September 14, 1910, and occupied as soon as finished. The original structure comprised 20,092 square feet.
Finney Hall was built simultaneously with Sterry Hall by J.H. Thomas. It was planned by Miss Julia V. Finney and the furnishings were selected by her. The Boise architectural firm of Nisbet and Paradice designed both buildings.
Through the efforts of Miss Julia V. Finney, the College received $25,000 from Dr. D. K. Pearsons. I am not sure that this money built Finney Hall. It was the initial gift as a basis for a successful financial drive in 1909 which established the College Endowment Fund.
Because Miss Finney took the responsibility for the planning and furnishing of the hall, Dr. Boone insisted that the building should bear her name. Her picture hangs in the lobby of Finney Hall. The furnishings came through an anonymous donation of $5,000. For years the Finney parlors were the College social center.
Finney Hall originally housed 45 or 50 women. In 1921 the third floor was finished which raised the capacity to about 75. The basement floor was occupied originally by the College dining room and kitchen and quarters for the cook. Also in the basement were the heating plant for Finney, Sterry and later, Strahorn Library, and a laundry and storage rooms.
In 1943-1944, Finney Hall and also Voorhees served as quarters for the men of the Army Air Forces who were in training on the campus. There were about 250 men present at all times with their officers. The women during this time were housed partly in Blatchley Hall and in a house at 1802 Cleveland which the college owned for a short time, and called Perkins House.
With the departure of the Army, the building was completely repaired and renovated. The basement dining-room and kitchen were not re-activated, however, but [in 1954] became a student center called the "Coyotes' Den."
During the [1949-53] influx of returning veterans, Finney Hall was occupied by men students who greatly outnumbered the women.
In the summer of , the entire building was remodeled and modernized to make the present Colonial style dormitory for women.
This account serves as a useful outline. However, to read the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trustees from August, 1909, to early 1911, one realizes how the outline omits the stressful items. It is not our purpose to provide a complete blow-by-blow of that turbulent time, but a few of the details of Mr. J.H. Thomas' tenure as "builder" should be added.
Thomas was hired as building superintendent as a cost cutting measure. All the bids submitted by area contractors were over budget. The trustees decided, in effect, to become their own contractor. They decided to hire Thomas to be their man on the job, and by so doing, make the project affordable. (Thomas was not connected with any of the bidding contractors.) To delay the groundbreaking until more funds were raised would mean losing a full year, and the conditions at the existing school plant were already barely tolerable.
Dr. Boone, who had voted against hiring Thomas (the vote was 5 to 3), began noting in his diary the cost overruns, which began to add up very quickly. It did not help that, evidently, not all costs were correctly computed or, as in the case of connecting the new campus to the city's sewer system, computed at all.
To shorten a long and painful account, by the summer of 1910 Thomas was fired, and he retaliated by naming Dr. Boone in a legal action for frozen wages. That dispute was finally settled by paying Thomas a compromise amount in April, 1912.
In the meantime, the college began the academic year of 1910-1911 by taking possession of two incomplete buildings on September 14. For a few months, workmen were in and out of classes and dorm rooms along with students. Finney girls (and all the other students) must have been very good sports: the first rain proved that the roof leaked, and the heating plant did not begin operating until late in October.
[From Dr. Boone's Journal: Wed., Sep. 14 School opens at the college on the new campus We move in on top of dirt and workmen About 100 students on hand We just determine to make the best of it. Two new teachers Miss Florence Tyley and Prof P.A. Boulton. Also Prof [O.J.] Smith. Some little rain and may work into real rain. The dorm open under Miss Elizabeth Parker. (First director of Finney Hall was Elizabeth Parker, B.A., instructor of painting and drawing 1910-1911.)]
But the new campus, in spite of the confusion, was considered a great advance for the C of I, Caldwell, and the region. A gala week of celebration began June 10, 1911. First came a reception introducing the public to Finney and Sterry Halls, attended by as many as 500 persons, many of whom traveled to the occasion on the newly opened trolley line. Five days later commencement exercises were held for the college's first A.B. degree recipients. Four bachelor's degrees were conferred, plus a dozen academic certificates. The following evening 100 students, faculty, trustees and guests enjoyed a banquet in the Finney Hall dining room.
Exactly twelve months later, June, 1912, the same board of trustees opened bids for the construction of Voorhees Hall. However, the board had learned its lessons. Compared to Finney and Sterry, the building of Voorhees proved to be a breeze.
The summer of 1911 became a sad time for the C of I community, and a devastating time for Dr. and Mrs. Boone. The event was the death of Marie, the eldest child, a C of I junior, a vivacious and popular girl, Dr. Boone's musical partner, the family ombudsman. The day was June 30; the cause was acute appendicitis. For the next 25 years, Dr. Boone would woefully mark the event in his diary. That July and August, however, the family was inconsolable. Except, as Dr. Boone observed, it was "the old folks" who suffered, not the surviving children. The old folks were 44 and 41 when Babe was born, and 51 and 48 when Marie died. Dr. Hayman and others commented on the strain Marie's loss added to the Boones' marriage.
Dr. Boone immersed his grief in work. Vice-President Finney is not mentioned by name in his diary until May, 1914, and that reference is as a dinner guest at the home of mutual friends. The intervening time had seen the construction of Voorhees Hall, as well as another all-consuming endowment campaign. In July of that year, however, Dr. Boone notes without comment that both Mrs. Boone and Babe "go to the dorm and stay with Miss Finney" from the 10th through the 14th. There follows another gap in the diaries: until July 22, 1916, Miss Finney goes without mention, until a social event is noted. Then, after another year, to answer a crisis precipitated by WW I, the September 16, 1917 entry: "Dr. [Carl] Saloman enlists, so Miss Finney will teach his English classes." Miss Finney will leave the campus in the spring of 1921, never to return. From December, 1917, until that departure, Dr. Boone makes only four additional diary references to Miss Finney by name.
Meanwhile the C of I rapidly grew into the new campus. There was a downturn in enrollment as the war effort hit home. Although America made a late entry into WW I, by 1917 campus life was visibly changed by enlistments. There were terrifying epidemics, with dorm quarantines. A mania for automobiles was evident. The C of I had purchased a Ford to be used by its fund raisers for local travel, and Robert McCormick, a savvy junior administrator, introduced his boss to the new rage. Soon Dr. Boone was recording his own exploits (and comic disasters) as a "learner." In the midst of the national travail, on December 20, 1917, the C of I student body made Dr. Boone a surprise gift of a Model T Ford. From that moment on, in matters automotive, it was as though the Man of God had Max Sennett as his co-pilot.
The terror of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 was visited upon Caldwell and the campus. During the autumn of that year, a statewide proscription on public gatherings went into effect, shutting down schools and churches as well as movie houses. The second such edict closed the college from Dec. 12, 1918, until the following January 6th. If the times were not topsy-turvy enough, a sort of local option was allowed regarding the time zones. Boise and Caldwell elected to go with Pacific Time, while Nampa remained on Mountain Time. Train schedules suffered, adding to the contempt passengers already felt because of slow trains.
In January, 1920, the specter of influenza returned to the valley. A committee approached Dr. Boone, asking that Voorhees Hall be set up as a "flu hospital." An emergency failed to materialize, so the drastic action was not taken. On February 28 and March 6, 1921, while on a fund raising trip to southern California, Dr. Boone mentions visiting Miss Finney in Los Angeles, apparently the last times they met face to face. The following September 21, there was a special event at Finney Hall, a reception in Miss Finney's honor. Although two of her sisters traveled to Caldwell to be present, she did not appear. The Coyote reported many tributes made at the event, including an enlarged photographic portrait, framed with a plaque identifying the subject as "Julia V. Finney, friend to girls." Dr. Boone recorded the scene with a flash photograph. The documentary photograph, with no people present, records many candles and the portrait on an easel, draped as if at a funeral. The portrait, a product of Caldwell's Snodgrass Studio, hung in the Finney Hall lobby for many years, although Voorheesians were known to take it hostage from time to time. Last stolen in the 1990s, it was subsequently recovered and placed in the Smylie Archives.
Miss Finney's departure went unheralded in the Coyote and the minutes of the Trustees, as well as in Dr. Boone's diaries. But life at the C of I was eventful, even full. In August, 1922, Mrs. Ella F. Holt and her daughter, Ivah, assumed the duties of dormitory directors, replacing Professor and Mrs. Paul Murphy after many years at the post. Ivah would graduate from the C of I in 1927, but soon after moving in she was severely burned when static electricity ignited the fumes of the gasoline she was using to remove laundry stains. Her slow and painful recovery was eased somewhat by the attention of the residents.
The spirit of campus life the 1920s is evident in a number of scrapbooks made by Finneyites that have been donated to the college archives. Printed programs that were a necessary part of the musical, social, extracurricular, and sports activities (not to mention debate tournaments, parades, spontaneous demonstrations, and holiday preparations) make one wonder how academics fit into the picture.
Pictures sometimes tell a story in a very special way. In the autumn of 1913, eight months after the first Voorhesians occupied the completed dormitory, the college purchased a panoramic camera. Dr. Boone started a tradition with that camera, an annual group portrait of students, faculty, staff, and others. It became known as "the big picture." These records of faces and fashions, of growing trees and additional buildings, finally were organized and restored in the year 2001. The collection of annual group photos is complete from 1913 through the fall of 1935. No other college in America has such an unbroken photographic record. It is unique.
In each of the "big pictures" the image is simply many people in the foreground, plus a landscape as a background. The middle ground, a common compositional element, is essentially absent. Of course, the people are dominant. Through the years faces and fashions change. When the complete sequence is exhibited, many viewers, so captivated with the foreground, are oblivious to the landscape, although that element changes just as dramatically. The landscape evolves; a barren campus in 1913 is a healthy forest by 1935. Finney Hall appears in 17 of the 25 views.
From 1936 to 1958 the C of I endured crises and challenges including the death of Dr. Boone, WW II, and the Korean War. WW II in particular stretched the college's survival reserves to the limits. President William Webster Hall found a lifesaver in the form of the 311th College Training Detachment of the Army Air corps. The C of I was one of 281 schools (out of 1,750 colleges and universities) chosen to train Army aviation cadets, approved by the War Manpower Commission.
That episode saw Finney and Voorhees Halls utilized as barracks, while coeds found lodgings in Blatchley Hall and off campus. The cadets were on campus from February 18, 1943 until the spring of 1944. Although the number of male students dwindled alarmingly, the presence of the cadets meant a high male/female ratio on campus. One military rule, as reported in the Coyote, was that during the week the cadets were not permitted to speak to civilians. Weekends, however, were another matter.
The Army built a number of barracks and administrative buildings across Cleveland Boulevard, near the present location of the Albertsons supermarket. Hundreds of cadets studied under the direction of C of I faculty as part of their military training. After the Army departed the buildings remained, nicknamed "Splinter Flats," and "The Sheep Sheds." The College utilized them as rental housing until they were eventually razed in the late 1950s.
The fall semester, 1944, marked the return of women residents to Finney Hall and to Voorhees Hall as well. Women would occupy both Finney and Voorhees until the 1948-49 academic year when men reoccupied Voorhees.
As 1945 began, a new category of Finneyite appeared on campus. The Coyote in February reported on ten "Cadet Nurses" enrolling for spring semester and living in Finney Hall. This program was a collaboration of the C of I and the nursing unit at Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Nampa, augmented with federal funding. Participants attended regular classes at the C of I during the week, and on Saturdays travelled to Nampa by bus for additional nurses' training.
A member of this group was Lola Bitner, just a year and a half out of Midvale High School. Now Lola Bitner Hogg, she is a retired R.N. living in Caldwell. Her nephew, Ron Bitner, C of I '68, is a member of our Board of Trustees. She recalls the dorm director in 1945 was Emma Prater. Her cadet nurse group included Virginia Williams, Lily Pettet, Mable Roth, Silvie Van Wassenhove, Arlene Smolnisky, Marjorie Ward, and Elaine Hunter. Lola shared a room on the ground floor. She recalls being awakened late one night by someone outside rapping on the window, which Lola and her roommate had locked. The disturbance was caused by some Finneyites who had stayed out after hours. "Please let us in!" was the plaintive cry. Once inside, the night owls explained that Lola's room was the preferred after hours entry, and requested that the window be left unlocked.
Another incident Lola recalls was the early morning discovery of some G.I.s sound asleep on couches in the dorm parlor. Immediately nearly every resident was alerted. They all tiptoed in to observe, although no one admitted to having any knowledge of who the slumbering intruders might be.
Dr. Wallace Lonergan (‘50) was one of the male students living in Finney Hall during the '49-'50 academic year. Wally (now C of I Faculty Marshall) recalls the culture shock experienced by his dorm mates who had seen active duty. A number of dorm rules that had been devised in the 1930s were, well, ignored.
There were heavy demands on the few available telephones. Some enterprising veterans scrounged up parts from surplus military field phones and strung lines directly to Simplot Hall. After that, chats with girlfriends, particularly after hours, were more frequent.
The dorm director was Mrs. Alice Bicknell, a widow who had lived in Finney with a daughter since 1948. Mrs. Bicknell's late husband, Dr. Ezra Finney Bicknell, was a nephew of Julia Finney and a C of I alumnus, Class of 1918. He had practiced dentistry in Mountain Home for 18 years prior to his death in 1942. His elder brother was the Clarence Bicknell mentioned earlier, the C of I student who died in a construction accident in 1909.
Julia V. Finney joined the C of I family at age 41. At age 62 she retired. The trajectory of her C of I career was slowly upward from 1899 to 1905, then rapidly ascendant from 1906 to 1911. With the completion of Finney Hall, and her promotion to Vice-President, she attained the apex of her flight, but her course did not diminish. She achieved an orbit, and when she retired to California in 1920, it was as if she had passed out of sight over the horizon.
After 1921, Miss Finney simply disappeared from the radar screen. The gift of the art works, in 1934, would have attracted the notice of a few old hands among the faculty and trustees, but the students would have been underwhelmed by the news. To most at the C of I, her star had faded.
The year of her death, 1936, was also by coincidence the final year for Dr. Boone, Mrs. Boone, H.D. Blatchley, Monte Gwinn, and Dr. J.H. Barton. Among that of list of Idahoans, she became an also-ran.
To many of today's C of I students, Boone, Finney, Sterry and Blatchley are not people, they are buildings. Time, custom, and convention have moved on. An alert eye may notice the cornerstone marked "Kirkpatrick" on the McCain Center, and wonder at the incongruity. And Covell may always be only a building because Mr. and Mrs. Covell's imprint on the historic record is even fainter than Julia Finney's.
But the reunions of Finneyites, going back to 1937, have prevailed. At this writing, the C of I anticipates the 100th anniversary of the "new campus."