Flashback: 'Quoting the Campus' column chronicles student opinion during World War II

Editor's note: This story is the 13th entry in a series called Flashback, which The Chronicle will be running online weekly through the end of the summer. We welcome readers' input about old stories they would like to see featured. This article recounts an opinion piece, not a news story.

BuzzFeed quizzes and political polls litter the online landscape—and The Chronicle is not immune to the survey craze.

Before the internet age, The Chronicle polled campus opinion the old-fashioned way—asking people in person. Student responses were featured in a column titled “Quoting the Campus,” which ran during the 1940s.

From dining hall food to co-ed parties, “Quoting the Campus” offered small snapshots of Duke during and after wartime. This week, Flashback showcases a series of questions and answers that captured life on campus.

Harry Treleaven started the column on September 16, 1941, less than three months before the United States entered World War II.

“Herein will be presented each issue the views of various students on a question of current interest,” Treleaven wrote in the first column. “Inaugurating a new column and a new school year, therefore, the following question was directed at five students: With most of the world in war, with this country on the brink of war, and with many of your friends drafted and preparing for war, how do you feel returning to the sheltered life of our university?”

After Harry Treleaven inaugurated the column, others began to contribute content.

Some chose to highlight unique aspects of wartime life, such as the threat of air raids.

In February 1942, John Baldwin asked students what they would bring into a two-person air-raid shelter. While the question was serious, the responses were not.

“I’d take a comb, lipstick, and a Kleenex. This might seem strange to some people, but from what I’ve heard, a girl never can tell what might happen in an air-raid shelter, and I want to be prepared,” said "Freshman Beauty Queen" Vernon Fountain.

Sophomore Bruce Hogarth remarked that he would bring “one of the campus beauty queens, a mouse trap, a steak dinner, last week’s lice, a pipe.”

Baldwin’s column topics ranged from academics to athletics. On November 14, 1941, he asked students to predict by how many points Duke would beat North Carolina in the annual Victory Bell football game.

While Lou Fracher said the score would be 39-7, Bill Douglas guessed Duke would win by 27-6. They were both wrong—on November 15, Duke beat North Carolina 20-0. 

In December 1942, Baldwin asked freshman Vivien Driver what she wanted Santa Claus to bring for Christmas, she said that she wished for the return of the boys who were at war—and world peace.

“The best thing, naturally, would be to have the world situation straightened out, which would be some job for Santa Claus or anyone else,” Driver said. “If things keep going in their present manner it looks as if there won’t be many boys left in colleges next fall […] a dearth of boys would certainly bring no joy to East campusites.”


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