The Lime Of Their Lives
January 24, 1942
To some, it was known affectionately as the “Jolly Green Giant” and the “Pea Green Palace.” To others, the building at 1505 Ohio that, for decades, sported a lime green exterior paint job merited such tags as the “Green Monster” and other more scatological nicknames.
Whatever its moniker, the building officially called Jolliffe Hall was an integral part of the KU experience for more than 50 years. It served variously as a women’s residence hall, a men’s scholarship hall, and headquarters for several University programs.
Originally constructed in 1925 as a privately financed University Club for male faculty members, it would later become home to the Acacia fraternity. On January 24, 1942, though, the KU Endowment Association acquired the structure thanks largely to a $50,000 donation from Peabody banker and rancher Orlando Jolliffe, who became the building’s namesake.
Few would argue that Jolliffe Hall ever enjoyed what one would call “glory days.” Indeed, for much of the building’s existence, it loomed as a constant fire hazard and “students squirmed over the thriving roach population.” But for those who called Jolliffe Hall home from the early 1940s through the late 1960s, it represents a treasure trove of memories.
Former residents fondly recall the lifelong friendships made; the cooking and etiquette lessons taught by Mother Galloway; bravely swallowing generous portions of “mystery meat”; and careening down the snow covered slopes of Mount Oread on pilfered dinner trays.
Male residents also remember those clandestine trips to the roof, armed with binoculars, hoping to catch a forbidden glimpse of Pi Phi sorority girls. A place of intense studiousness and, at times, the launching point of nighttime panty raids, Jolliffe Hall in many ways typified the mid-century college experience at a large public university.
Orlando Jolliffe, the man whose name graced this hall and made its acquisition by KU possible, originally hailed from Wisconsin. He arrived in Kansas in 1879 with no more than a few dollars to his name. But over the next several decades, he amassed a sizeable fortune from farming and cattle ranching.
Based in Peabody, a community he would serve not only as state legislator but also as president of the Peabody State Bank, Jolliffe acquired thousands of acres in both Kansas and Oklahoma, some of which contained oil deposits and yielded him significant additional revenues.
Long since retired by the spring of 1941, the aging Jolliffe offered a $50,000 gift to the KU Endowment Association to help erect a new men’s residence hall. It would join Templin, Battenfeld and Carruth Halls as the University’s fourth scholarship hall for men and provide a cooperative living arrangement for roughly 35 students who might not otherwise have been able to afford a college education.
The site chosen for this contemplated three-story hall was a plot directly east of old Templin Hall (location of the present-day Sprague Apartments) near the intersection of 14th Street and Alumni Place. With money in hand, the University began soliciting bids from contractors. The process hit its first snag, though, in October 1941 when the lowest bid came in at $51,474, slightly more than the Endowment Association actually had to spend.
But an even bigger problem occurred two months later when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II. Soon after, all structural steel was diverted to priority wartime construction needs. A new men’s residence hall at the University of Kansas didn’t make the cut.
(Interestingly, KU faced a similar difficulty at this time concerning the proposed construction of Lindley Hall. However in this instance, the federal government granted a rare priority rating, allowing work to begin, on the condition that the completed structure would “assume defense tasks” for the duration of the war.)
Of course, nothing precluded the University from using Jolliffe’s donation to purchase an existing property. Indeed, with $50,000 to spend, KU ended up having enough money to buy not one, but two, Oread neighborhood homes for use as residence halls. This “Plan B,” as it were, was quickly put into action.
On January 24, 1942, the KU Endowment Association announced that a deal had been struck with the Housing Corporation of Acacia fraternity to buy its chapter’s house located at 1505 Ohio Street. The fraternity had not been disbanded, but by this point so many of its KU members had left school and joined the armed services that only eight actives and 11 pledges remained in town. The Jolliffe money also allowed the acquisition of a home at 1200 Louisiana Street that became known as Foster Hall.
As per its benefactor’s intent, 1505 Ohio – now re-christened as Jolliffe Hall – became a men’s residence for the 1942-43 academic year. But the wartime male-student exodus that befell Acacia was hardly an isolated event. KU men were leaving school in droves to join the war effort, and beginning in 1943, Jolliffe was designated a women’s residence hall, which is what it would remain until 1950. During this time, 34 women annually called Jolliffe home.
For the first two years of Jolliffe’s service, the war may have been out of sight, but it was hardly out of mind. “In warmer weather,” recalled Elizabeth Young, “the windows would be open and we could hear the Navy [trainees housed in area fraternity houses] marching up the hill toward breakfast at the Union at 7 a.m., or having calisthenics outside. Noisily, I might add.”
One of those morning marchers was electrical engineering student Richard T. Smith, Elizabeth’s then-boyfriend. They had met at one of Jolliffe’s Valentine’s Day pie-eating contests, and the romance that blossomed apparently included an unusual display of affection. At the crack of dawn, according to Elizabeth, Richard would march past and “holler for me to wake up, and he had all his buddies do it too. What a friend! We had bunk beds and lots of heads would pop up and groan.”
But in this case, love conquered all and the two eventually married. Indeed, as fellow resident Helen (Manka) Storbeck noted, “The front hall at Jolliffe was the ‘nurturing site’ for several weddings in the years following,” including her own.
Another location favored by Jolliffe’s residents was the building’s flat rooftop, which became the site for marathon sunbathing sessions. It was reached via a ladder and a trap door in the bathroom ceiling, though the effort to get there may not always have been worth the result. Sunburn was apparently a common consequence, with trips to a doctor’s office or the hospital a regular occurrence. “We didn’t know of skin cancer [then],” explained Ardella (Ringwalt) Frantz.
On the opposite weather extreme was what the women endured on Jolliffe’s large unheated communal sleeping porch. It was “BITTERLY COLD” in wintertime, recalled Storbeck, who, incidentally, could claim hall benefactor Orlando Jolliffe as her great-uncle. While more comfortable during the spring and fall months, to be sure, there was conversely no air conditioning either.
Like the other cooperative halls on campus, the Jolliffe women were supervised by a resident housemother and were assigned various tasks from bed-making and general housecleaning to dishwashing and cooking. Indeed, many women’s most vivid memories revolved around mealtimes and recollections of homemade ice cream and birthdays celebrated with coffee and cake on fine china.
Apparently several different housemothers were assigned to Jolliffe during the seven years women were in residence. One, whom Storbeck referred to as “Mother Kite,” would “often have her son Robert over to enjoy the amenities of Jolliffe Hall, especially the food items in the kitchen. The girls did not appreciate this, particularly when she made fudge and other delicacies for him.”
Smith remembered a similar experience with an unnamed mother-son duo (perhaps the same pair) that reached the tipping point following a late-night panty raid. As Smith recalled, “most of the dirty work was instigated” by this little miscreant, and on behalf of her fellow “victims,” she “made a trip to the Dean of Women and told her it was time for him to GO! [The dean] agreed, and he was immediately re-located to the nearest men’s dorm up the hill a ways. I think it was Battenfeld.”
To be sure, the Jolliffe women themselves were no strangers to silly pranks. However, they seemed content merely to annoy, harass and occasionally mortify each other. During one so-called “hell week,” for example, “the girls took to playing tricks on one another.” And what began with short-sheeting and crumbling crackers into beds quickly mushroomed into “coating the door knobs with shoe polish, changing everyone’s clothes around, and fixing the front door bell so that it rang for about a half hour in the middle of the night.”
Easily the most ghoulish gag was the one pulled by Marjorie Hedrick and Lennie Moe who “fixed a life-sized dummy in jeans and a plaid shirt and hung it from the bathroom ceiling.” They then “went downstairs crying, ‘Oh, she couldn’t stand it any longer! What have we done?’”
“Not pretty, not very clean, and certainly not sought after” was how Frantz remembered Jolliffe Hall. But despite all this, she and the other respondents on balance judged their experiences quite highly, preferring to place the good friends made and the good times shared above such inconveniences as lack of privacy and being “packed in like sardines.”
Beginning in September 1950, women moved out and the already crowded Jolliffe was “rearranged” to house 50 men. Also at this time, the building’s exterior was slathered a rather unappealing shade of lime green. Both changes seem to have been a regular cause for complaint by the men who occupied Jolliffe for the next 19 years.
“First, it was UGLY!” exclaimed Ted Rathbun, a Jolliffe resident from 1960-1964. “Cold, Hot and Crowded, but Cheap.” Indeed, upon being returned to service as a men’s scholarship hall in 1950, self-supporting students could live there for around $40 a month, though there were as many drawbacks as there were advantages to this arrangement.
Because it was closed during the hot, humid Kansas summers and also lacked air conditioning, the house had a peculiar odor during move-in days. “It was sometimes amusing to see the expressions on the faces of new students’ parents when they arrived to drop off their sons for orientation,” recalled Rathbun.
Charles Rutledge’s mother may not have shown her feelings when she brought her son to Jolliffe in 1955, but she didn’t suppress them either. “[She] later told me that she cried on the way home because the Hall was so dirty and the place seemed disorganized.”
Yet this was hardly a uniform response. Rutledge himself said it “didn’t seem so bad” given how he was “used to camping out.” A self-described “isolated farm boy,” Richard Herold actually found it “palatial.” The “Pea Green Palace,” added Richard Fanolio, “was never picturesque or plush, but the warmth of good fellowship and common goals made for a wonderful campus home.”
Since Jolliffe was a scholarship hall, one of those common goals was keeping up one’s grades. But as Roger Poppe remembered, each semester “a certain percentage of students would flunk out of school.” Even so, he boasted, “we consistently had one of the highest GPAs of any living unit on campus…. There was almost never a time that someone wasn’t up and about, particularly with some farm kids who liked to get up and begin studying at 4 a.m.”
Rathbun was quick to add, however, that despite their high scholastic reputation, many Jolliffe men were quite active in intramural sports and the hall manifestly was not “the model for all those ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ movies.”
In addition to their academic duties, Jolliffe residents, like the female inhabitants before them, were each assigned certain housekeeping tasks that collectively kept costs down and, at least theoretically, instilled a sense of responsibility.
Perhaps the least desirable was the role of human alarm clock. Typically given to “some poor slob (usually a freshman),” said Poppe, the “call boy’s” assignment was to consult the wake-up timesheet filled out each night and then, the next morning, verbally or physically awaken each student at his preferred hour.
Sometimes well before dawn, recalled Clement Hanson, “the call boy would wander through the darkened dorm to the designated bunk bed with a flashlight to wake up the guy. Though shouting wasn’t allowed,” he said, “the call boy had the right and responsibility to shake and drag the sleeping guy until his feet were on the floor.”
On days when important tests were scheduled and students had stayed up late the night before studying, Poppe remembered “guys would put OOA on the sheet next to their bunk number. That stood for Out On Ass, meaning they hadn’t had much sleep and would be hard to wake up.
In that case, the freshman HAD to make sure that person was awake…. Needless to say, some guys got so mad being awakened with such persistence that they would swear, swing fists, or sometimes even chase the guy out of the dorm room and down the hall.”
One of the few civilizing influences in the hall, a force that at least tempered the outbursts of cursing and fighting, was the Jolliffe housemother. “House Mother Althea Galloway made sure we knew how to be socially acceptable in most situations,” wrote Fanolio, which was apparently no small feat considering the less than urbane upbringings of many incoming freshmen.
“The presence of the housemother,” Poppe thought, “kept the guys from running amok and having orgies and otherwise indulging in the unsavory activity university administrators suspected we were capable of.”
A key element in her instruction was the disciplined mealtime ceremony, intended to inculcate good manners and respect for women. Upon hearing the lunch and dinner bells, Hanson explained, “the guy closest to the housemother’s room would escort her to the head table.” After a prayer, “everyone would be seated after the housemother was seated.”
Once the food arrived, “No one started eating until the housemother began eating [and] no one left the dining room until the housemother was done eating. After she finished her meal, everyone would stand up until she then was escorted back to her room. The guys were then free to leave the dining room. Though this sounds highly regimented,” concluded Hanson, “it kept us all in line and actually taught us polished table manners.”
Although “taking Mrs. Galloway to church was an assignment few of the guys wanted,” noted Ken Bronson, he and others had generally positive memories of her culinary abilities and the cooking skills she ingrained in them. “While many on campus ate starch and glue including the Greek houses, we were fortunate to have great food. For college students we ate like kings.”
Rathbun told of often consulting the culinary bible titled “Food for 50,” and several others remembered working over the “large iron kitchen stove politely called the ‘Old Black Bitch,’” in Fanolio’s words. (As Rutledge added, however, this term was never used “in the presence of Mrs. Galloway.”)
The housemother did live in Jolliffe, but she alone could not always ensure domestic tranquility. She rarely ventured beyond her own room and the kitchen and dining areas, an absence some Jolliffe men took full advantage of. According to Poppe, one student “had a subscription to Playboy, and his magazines circulated far and wide.”
But to hear several former Jolliffe men describe it, this sort of titillation was about as close as most got to the real thing. “Many of us didn’t even know how to ask a girl for a date,” Poppe recalled.
But for the bashful, there were more organized opportunities to meet the opposite sex. Like other residence halls, Jolliffe regularly sponsored mixers and assorted coed social functions. “Each September and October,” wrote Robert Poley, “we would arrange an hour dance once a week with one of the women’s scholarship halls. Romance flourished well from these dances,” he noted, proudly adding that he met his wife Janet “my last semester at KU at the dance with Sellards.”
Rathbun, too, met his wife Babette at a dance with Douthart Hall. Of course, these two Casanovas may well have been the exceptions, at least according to Bob Cochrane, a resident in the late-1960s. “Social activities with the other scholarship halls were never very important to the residents of Jolliffe while I was there,” he admitted. “While we did have an occasional dance with the women, it was more to our liking to have water balloon fights with them.”
“There is much I do not remember about my college days,” wrote Cochrane, “but most of what I do remember is from my experience living at Jolliffe Hall. It’s all a collection of little incidents, but it adds up to a great experience.”
Among these little incidents contributed by former Jolliffe men were the sandbar parties on the Kaw. One alum told how they would often launch late-night raids to “salvage” building materials at the New Fraser Hall construction site – “so we could build some new bookcases,” he explained.
Others recalled trekking downtown to see James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, buying donuts at Joe’s Bakery, gathering around the house television to watch Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show or, later, being glued to the set during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
One of the most exciting moments during Bronson’s year at Jolliffe was “watching KU win the  national championship on the new-fangled large screen TV at the Student Union and then joining hundreds of other guys on a panty raid of several sororities and dorms!”
Of their home, which Poley remembered as the “Jolly Green Giant,” there was fluctuating pride and embarrassment. “Much more important,” though, than the hall’s nickname he said, was that “we referred to ourselves as the 3J’s, or JJJ’s, Jolly Jolliffe Jocks. Naturally the hall color was green,” a fact they once took pains to display to the entire campus.
“Some of us dyed a sheet green, painted a white ‘JJJ’ on it, and somehow managed to get to the top of the twin towers of the big university building [New Fraser Hall], and raise the JJJ flag on the flag pole,” said Poley. “As I recall, “the flag went up about 5 a.m. and managed to fly before the university removed it at about 9 a.m. Great pride!”
Yet pride alone could not sustain Jolliffe as a residence hall forever. At the end of the spring 1969 semester, citing prohibitive maintenance costs, the University closed the structure as a home to students. (Unlike other benefactors – such as Mrs. Elizabeth Watkins, who donated money for Watkins and Miller Scholarship Halls – Orlando Jolliffe did not set aside extra funds for the hall’s continued upkeep.)
Even so, for the next 22 years, the University did permit other uses of the building. It housed the School of Social Welfare’s Head Start Program, then the School of Journalism’s Radio, Television and Film division, and finally the Department of Theater and Film.
By the early 1990s, though, Jolliffe was in truly a sorry state. Fire code violations prevented more than nine people from occupying the second floor at any one time– although no governmental regulation could seem to contain the thriving roach population. Perhaps the best that could be said was that at least it was no longer the “Green Monster,” someone having seen fit to paint it white following the students’ exit.
“It’s a building that genuinely deserves to be torn down,” declared Glenn Pierce, chairman of theater and film, to the University Daily Kansan in 1991. The April 15 article described how “classrooms are dimly lighted, pieces of the ceilings have fallen and windows are broken”; above the front door, even the “e” was missing off “Jolliffe Hall.”
Two years earlier, Brower Burchill, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, had told the Kansan that Jolliffe would be torn down “over my dead body.” But on October 22, 1992, the University decided finally to put Jolliffe out of its misery. It was news that theater professor Ed Small took in stride. “If they wanted somebody to blow it up,” he quipped, “I would help light the dynamite.”
In a piece labeled “Good Riddance,” Kansas Alumni heralded Jolliffe’s December 1993 razing, characterizing it as the busted architectural equivalent of a Ford Maverick. But while few clamored to its defense before it was transformed into a parking lot, its destruction prompted several former residents to chastise the alumni journal for its seemingly callous title.
Admitting its many flaws, Donald F. Kerle wrote that while “nothing lasts forever, given its many years of service, Jolliffe Hall deserves more than the headline ‘Good Riddance.’”
In this spirit, journalism professor Max Utsler offered what he considered a more apt automotive analogy. “It sort of reminded me of my first car, a ’52 Chevy. When I turned the key, all my friends made fun of it, but it got us where we wanted to go.”
Jolliffe alum Paul Arrowood agreed, adding that his onetime campus home “deserves great credit for the ‘yeoman’s duty’ it performed as a men’s scholarship hall in the 50s and 60s. It made a college education possible for a number of young men who otherwise might not have been able to afford it. I am one former resident,” he concluded, “who is extremely grateful to the University and that old building.”
And even though the building and its benefactor are now mainly memories, the Jolliffe Hall name continues to live on in the “Jolliffe House” floor in Lewis Hall.
John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas