Sign Up Twitter

Semi-Organization Men

July 31, 1939


In general terms, they were called “Barbarians” or “Barbs,” the derisive and dismissive labels used by the undergraduate elite at the University of Kansas to characterize a subclass of male students who lacked social connections and didn’t live in fraternities. On the intramural fields around the KU campus, however, they answered to the name “Hell Hounds.” And in the classroom, many of them were Summerfield Scholars who earned reputations for high academic achievement.

But perhaps their most distinctive nomenclature – let alone their most significant contribution to the University – stemmed from the address of their residence at 1011 Indiana Street. They were the “Men of 1011,” not merely a band of brothers, but indeed the fathers of invention who turned their plight into a model for creating affordable student housing at KU.

The Men of 1011 first came together in Depression-era Lawrence, a time and place that offered a paucity of good housing options to socially unconnected and economically disadvantaged students. But instead of lamenting their bad luck, this group of male undergraduates set about creating an alternative, a third way between Greek living on the one hand and lowly living on the other.

This new option came to be called the “semi-organized house.” In February 1933, 1011 Indiana became the first of these residences in which groups of men could live together cheaply while experiencing the camaraderie of an established fraternity. It was apparently the best of both worlds, at least for some. “We bred the frat to the boarding house,” boasted one former resident, “and got the best hybrid since the mule.”

During the remainder of the 1930s, following the example set by the Men of 1011 – and often with 1011 Men taking the initiative – many more semi-organized houses eventually were formed. These arrangements lacked official University sanction, but their successful development also would influence the founders of campus co-ops.

And on July 31, 1939, in recognition of their ongoing leadership and academic excellence, the University allowed the Men of 1011 to move from their namesake residence into the original chancellor’s home at 1345 Louisiana Street, which had just been vacated. They had, in a sense, taken the long way home, but it also was quite clear that they had finally arrived.

From the time the University opened in 1866 until the early 1920s, those KU students who did not live in fraternity or sorority houses were compelled to seek out rooms-for-rent in town.

This was not exactly a big problem in KU’s early days when enrollments were small and many students were Lawrence natives who were able to live at home with their parents. But as the years progressed, and more and more Jayhawks came from farther and farther away, the uncertain housing situation facing undergraduates became a cause for concern.

In 1923, the University made a great stride towards alleviating this crisis by opening Corbin Hall, a women’s dormitory that could house 128 coeds. Three years later, the generosity of Mrs. Elizabeth Watkins enabled Watkins Scholarship Hall to open, providing low-cost housing and a cooperative living environment for 37 self-supporting young women.

Yet left out of this mini building boom were KU’s male students. Rightly or wrongly, they were assumed to be a heartier lot and, thus, better able to adapt to the insular, often dingy and depressing existence that was the boarder’s life. In short, these non-Greek out-of-towners – lacking family wealth and entrée to the fraternities – were apparently expected to make due. Absent the necessary status, it seemed their only option was to accept the status quo.

During the fall of 1932, however, five friends rose to challenge this sorry state of affairs. They were Burton Power, Richard Porter and Robert Ganoung from Salina, Waldo Shaw from Belleville, and Chevey White of Norton. All five were boarding-house residents and true blue Barbarians.

Each was also the holder of one of the University’s most prestigious awards, the four-year Summerfield Scholarship. These merit-based awards made a KU education possible for many promising, albeit needy, young scholars, but they did not provide the recipients with housing.

Power, Porter, Ganoung, Shaw, and White were soon fed up with their meager “one-room-and-a-bed” accommodations and the requisite isolation these set-ups entailed. Unfortunately, they were unable to bear the expense of fraternity life, even if they could qualify for admittance. After much brainstorming (certainly their forte), they hit upon an idea.

As a Jayhawker yearbook article later explained, they devised “a living arrangement that would combine the inexpensiveness of the one with some of the social advantages of the other.” What they wanted was “a house which they could use like a real home.” And through their efforts, the first “semi-organized house” – or “house of barbarism” as some termed it – would be established on Mount Oread.

Following an “extended bull session,” the men fanned out and began searching for a suitable house in the environs near campus. Their intent was to approach a property owner and offer what they considered a mutually satisfying arrangement.

In return for “a true home” and the right to select their own fellow occupants, the men pledged to keep the house filled and thus ensure a steady monthly income for the owner. It was an offer Mrs. W.J. Wallace, the landlady of 1011 Indiana Street, apparently could not refuse.

“After some negotiations,” another Jayhawker article recounted, “they concluded an informal contract with her, which included, aside from the financial arrangements, the essential details of semi-organization.”

In addition to recognizing their “complete self-government,” Mrs. Wallace agreed to allow them “free access to the downstairs part of the house.” As per their original plan, she also acknowledged their “absolute right of choosing whom they wanted to live in the house” on the single condition that they “keep it full.”

According to former resident Claude Parish, though, there may have been one other condition. As he remembered, Mrs. Wallace had a “quite pretty young daughter” who was “too young for any of us”; thus she was “promptly declared ‘off limits’” by her mother.”

With this settled and clearly understood, by February of 1933 the five founding members of KU’s first semi-organized house moved in to 1011 Indiana, joined by four others whom they had personally recruited – “most but not all being Summerfield Scholars,” in Parish’s recollection.

By the following semester, the “Men of 1011,” as they came to call themselves, had fulfilled their principal contractual obligation and brought the number of residents up to 15, its maximum capacity. Mrs. Wallace was thus “freed from worry about filling her rooms” and could calmly “devote herself to the successful management of the routine operation.”

Although Summerfield Scholars made up a high proportion of 1011’s residents, holding the scholarship was hardly the ticket to (or a prerequisite for) admission. More important was a serious demonstrated commitment to academics. “Rich or poor,” wrote Dick Fleeson, the “semi-organized house’s prospective ‘pledge’ [was] first asked whether he came to school to study.”

Even so, several other ingredients that make up a well-rounded student were also considered. Resident Stanley Marietta listed the “four qualities” once looked for in any potential 1011 applicant: “fellowship and companionability, scholarship, activity, and breadth of interest.” We “attempted to make the house,” he said, “as representative as possible by securing men from every school…. Men from that house were outstanding in many fields.”

One area in which they all seemed to excel was the practice of self-government. Onetime 1011 man Bob Thorpe recalled how “the group assumed all the responsibility in matters of discipline and order; all complaints of either party [the landlady or the residents] were to be handled thru one boy who acted as the group’s representative.”

According to Marietta, this fatherly figure (nearly always a senior classman) was affectionately known as “Pop” in lieu of the much-too-official title of “house president.” In addition to his mediating duties, “Pop” generally sat at the “head of the table to keep the situation under control and [was] the chief glad-hander for the house.”

And while there was no written constitution or formal governing apparatus (hence the “semi” in semi-organized), there did seem to be something of a hierarchy. “Seniors by tacit agreement ruled the house,” said Marietta, while “the freshmen [found] that they had menial tasks to perform such as answering the telephone and submitting to a bit of hazing.”

But no matter one’s age or class, everyone shared equally in the low-cost living benefits of 1011 Indiana. According to Thorpe, “A flat rate of $25 per month per boy was agreed upon.” And while this amount did not cover monthly house bills for such expenses as telephone service, newspaper subscriptions and “modest parties,” if total additional living costs at 1011 came to “more than six bits a month,” noted Fleeson, “the treasurer [was] profanely asked to resign.”

Within a few years, the Men of 1011 had become so pleased with their experiment in combining inexpensive accommodations with a stimulating group dynamic, that they began trumpeting their success. “Living as a member of a closely-knit group is both a privilege and an irreplaceable part of college life,” wrote Thorpe in a 1936 article for the Jayhawker. “The timid frosh learns to meet people, to make their acquaintance, and to enjoy their friendship.”

A year later, Marietta proclaimed in his own Jayhawker article that “The spirit of companionship is highly important to members” of the semi-organized house. “The fellow who lives in the next room is no longer a nonentity who left a ring in the bathtub last Saturday night, or the person who used the phone talking to his girl for an hour when you had an important call to make.”

Put simply and succinctly, he concluded, this arrangement has succeeded in joining “the good points of social and professional fraternities with the freedom and individuality of the unaffiliated students. They feel that they have a home at the University which is adequate for their needs and desires.”

Not surprisingly, considering their rigorous selection criteria, much of the Men of 1011’s successes were to be found in the classroom. Each semester, the 15 residents chalked up some of the highest grade-point-averages on campus. Yet they easily parried the charge of being a den of single-minded bookworms. In addition to intramural sports memories, reminiscences are replete with stories of “all-night orgies of poker playing,” group treks downtown to see the latest movie and strenuous dinner table debates “about who [was] the most beautiful girl on campus.”

Men of 1011 were also active in student journalism and, especially, campus politics, with many taking leadership roles in founding the Progressive Student Government League and the Oread-Kayhawk party, the main rivals to the fraternity-dominated and semi-secretive Pachacamac Society that more or less controlled the Men’s Student Council during these years. (KU men and women had separate student governments until the All Student Council was formed in 1943.) Indeed, at one point, there were so many PSGL members living at 1011 Indiana that some fraternity members took to calling the house a “hot-bed of sedition.”

Maybe they were just feeling the heat. After all, in just a few years, the Men of 1011 – these once-isolated Barbarians – were no longer stuck outside the gates. Indeed, in a manner wholly at odds with their supposed lack of civilization, the Men of 1011 joined with other fellow “Barbs” to replicate the 1011 experience in as many as 14 houses near the KU campus between 1935 and 1939.

Their “inspiration proved increasingly reproductive, if not prolific,” as Fleeson put it, and their original agreement served in whole or part as the foundation of each semi-organized house’s compact. In some cases, such as the houses at 1218 Mississippi and 1200 Tennessee, 1011 alumni were among the founders of these new residences.

Jim Sussex, who had been “Pop” at 1011 one year, nicely encapsulated the winning formula shared by all, no matter their street address. “Individual problems become house problems, and failures and successes are shared alike,” he wrote in 1938. “Upon this simple bit of philosophy rests the success these houses have enjoyed the past half-dozen years.”

This record of stability and academic prowess that proved its ability to become a replicable model gave the Men of 1011 confidence enough to approach the University when a prime piece of KU real estate suddenly became vacant. Although the Men of 1011 would succeed in this quest, it would, ironically, lead to the ultimate undoing of their original undertaking.

In June 1939, Mrs. Elizabeth Watkins died and left her home, known as The Outlook, to KU to be used as its new chancellor’s residence. This bequest freed up the former official chancellor’s home located at 1345 Louisiana Street. As 1011 member Carter Butler later recounted it, he and his fellows had been “eagerly eyeing” the “ideally located and venerably inviting” home for some time. Finally, the Men of 1011 got up the nerve to ask KU for it directly.

They must have made a good case. The University, in Butler’s account, after much negotiation was “finally convinced of the desirability of having the group as tenants, at least for one year.” Accordingly, on July 31, 1939, University Bursar Karl Klooz announced that he had been empowered by KU Chancellor Deane W. Malott to rent the home to 1011’s owner and housemother Mrs. W.J. Wallace – not, interestingly, to the men themselves – for the 1939-40 academic year.

As the Summer Session Kansan put it, the Men of 1011 were the “best known and probably the most eligible of the semi-organized houses.” And with this move into the more spacious residence, they were able to provide Mrs. Wallace not 15 but 18 renters beginning in September 1939.

As it turned out, a single year was, in fact, as long as the Men of 1011 (as they still called themselves) occupied their Louisiana Street digs. By the fall of 1940, they had moved out and the University had reopened 1345 Louisiana as Carruth Hall, one of the first three KU scholarship halls for men. But although the Men of 1011’s rental agreement had expired, their lease on life at the University of Kansas certainly had not.

That same year, true to their pioneering reputation as founders of houses, eight of these men helped establish yet another residence based on the semi-organization model, this one at 1337 Kentucky Street.

With this move, the Men of 1011 as a distinct entity faded into KU history and memory, a process quickened by the University’s purchase of their original Indiana Street home. From 1942 to 1955, it was known as Hopkins Hall and served alternately as a residence for both male and female undergraduates. After that and until 1969, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority called it home, followed by the women of Alpha Epsilon Phi who occupied it during the 1969-70 academic year. Since then it has been under private ownership.

Changing times and changing owners cannot, however, diminish or erase the Men of 1011’s many contributions to the University, for their story never really was about a particular house or street address. It was, rather (and indeed still is) about the men themselves.

The Men of 1011’s chapter in the annals of KU housing history spans less than a full decade, but these were eventful and important years. During this time, the 1011s not only made the case for new and better housing options for non-Greek men; they also proceeded independently, on their own initiative, to set the example for how these semi-organized houses could efficiently and effectively operate.

In so doing, they also helped inspire the many campus co-ops that sprouted up over the ensuing decades, and it is probably no great stretch to suggest their influence extended to the male scholarship hall movement at KU as well, since these halls provide low-cost housing to academically superior students, just as 1011 Indiana did. In this sense, the story of the Men of 1011 will always remain a work in progress.

John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas

Source Notes

[Source notes: Since the house at 1011 Indiana Street was not officially named, and was not directly affiliated with the University of Kansas, there are very few archival sources that document its existence. Indeed, University records seem to cease after 1940. Kenneth L. Stoner, director of student housing, has, however, compiled a most helpful and instructive collection of materials in a booklet titled, “The Men of 1011: Initiators of the men’s cooperative movement and predecessors of the men’s scholarship halls at the University of Kansas.” Additionally, he has solicited and received a number of retrospective accounts from former Men of 1011 that have proved quite useful. Among the other sources consulted for this article are as follows: Jayhawker (1935), pp. 122-123; Jayhawker (1936), pp. 260-261; Jayhawker (1937), pp. 343, 394; Jayhawker (1938), p. 355; Jayhawker (1939), pp. 367, 397; Jayhawker (1939), pp. 18-19, 81; Jayhawker (1940), pp. 303, 325; Jayhawker (1941), pp. 293-325. See also Summer Session Kansan, August 1, 1939, p. 1. Thanks to Fred McElhenie of the Department of Student Housing for his assistance with this article.]