When the State boys came calling
An N.C. State banner on the wall at left and an embroidered pillow partially obscured at right reveal the affections of members of the 1937 ECTC Commerce Club. The I.C.T.Q. banner apparently represents a Wake Forest fraternity.
In the Progressive era of the 1910s and ’20s, forward-thinking educators believed that women who went to college should marry men who went to college, and vice versa. The presidents of East Carolina and N.C. State (then known as N.C. Agricultural and Mechanical College) so firmly held that view that they played matchmaker.
Over a period of nearly 20 years, East Carolina’s Robert Wright and A&M’s Wallace Riddick corresponded regularly to create opportunities for their students to mix and mingle. The first came in the spring of 1917. On a class trip to Raleigh, a group of 89 students from ECTTS, which was all female then, was invited to visit the all-male A&M campus. In a story for the Training School Quarterly, Lizzie Stewart ’17 reported that:
“Our cars were waiting for us so nothing prohibited a speedy arrival at the college. As we alighted we were cautioned by Miss (Sally Joyner) Davis to remember the instructions given before we left: that was not to let our joy at being at A&M be too evident.
“We were met by President Riddick and escorted out to the field, where a dress parade was given for our special benefit. The masses became groups and scattered around to various places of special interest.
“The dinner hour came all too soon. The dining room was beautifully decorated with red and white carnations. The boys showed their college spirit by giving us yells. These were responded to in such a manner by the girls that the boys said they were almost ashamed to let such a small crowd of girls beat them so much. Many of the happy memories of the day will stay with us forever.”
During that dinner, ECTTS senior Viola Kilpatrick Fagan ’17 of Greenville rose and read a toast she had written saluting the hosts. Her words so impressed the A&M students that her toast was reprinted in its entirely in the school yearbook, the Agromeck (right).
In 1919 Riddick began an annual tradition of bringing the State College Band to perform at East Carolina. The band’s 1922 appearance christened Wright Auditorium and was described in this Teachers College Quarterly article:
“The visit of the State College Band…is an event to which the students, especially the seniors, look forward to year after year, not only because of the concert but because of the social features connected with their visit.
“President Riddick, who came with the boys, was introduced to the audience by President Wright. He said that if the president expected to make school teachers out of these girls, he was afraid it would be a failure, because for every girl turned out from this school there was a boy turned out from State College, and attractive girls would not remain long in the school rooms.”
At a reception after that 1922 concert, “the refreshments were served in a unique manner. Thirty young ladies wearing caps and aprons of the State College red and white marched in and handed out the plates of cream and cakes, mints and salted peanuts, and then the thirty members of the band were lined up and the caps and aprons presented to them. They wore them the remainder of the evening.”
The annual visits stopped in the 1930s, following a surge in the number of men students at East Carolina.