Minnesota campus life in the roaring ‘20s

August 17, 2011

“Efficiency Our Aim, Scholarship Our Watchword, Character Our Goal” was the motto of Parker College, Minnesota United Methodism’s little-known second college. Parker College was founded in 1886 by Baptists in Winnebago and run by Methodists from 1912 to 1924.

Parker College was dedicated to educating rural youth of southern Minnesota. Continuous emphasis was put on creating a good academic atmosphere for students as well as training in good manners and Christian living. The school excelled in music, liberal arts, and commercial arts, and also offered literary clubs, athletics, chapel services, and physical education.

However, all was not centered on scholarship. The school fielded several fine athletic teams for both boys and girls, who often played, and sometimes beat, teams of much larger schools. Floyd Eldridge was captain of the football team and assisted the girl’s basketball team. A member of the class of 1922, he remembered playing and defeating schools like Gustavus.

Dorm life on this campus was probably similar to that of any other school. Rules prohibited boys and girls “dwelling” together, and even visiting a member of the other sex was forbidden. Walks and rides with members of the opposite gender were also not allowed. Somehow students got around the rules to have some fun. The May 12, 1923, edition of Pep-O-Parker, the college newspaper, printed a poem called “Unsolved Mysteries,” telling of a prank pulled on the residents of a women’s hall, the Parker Lodge:

“Who sewed our nighties?”
rang out the cry
of angry Lodge girls,
“And our rooms! Oh my!”
“Our beds are out of place,
Our bureaus are too, Everything in confusion
Oh what shall we do?”

Someone had raided the girl’s dorm and stolen all their nighties. A pile of nighties was found in an upstairs corridor later that night, but they were sewn shut at the bottoms. The perpetrators of this prank were not identified.

Life in this college town was thus not always quizzes, essays, and study. An early class had these still-familiar visions for themselves and their world, as published in the Parker Collegian:

Less scraping in society.
More reverence for our President.
A large attendance at college.
Less noise in the library.
Everyone practice what they preach.

The conference archive has a scrapbook, photographs, mementos, and newsletters from Parker College from 1922 to 1924, as well as registrar’s records from 1915 to 1923.

This article originally appeared in the February 1991 issue of Heritage, the journal of the United Methodist Historical Society of Minnesota. David Laechel is pastor of Jeffers, Red Rock, and Amo United Methodist churches and serves on the executive committee of the historical society.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404


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