My Favorite UAF History Stories Part 1

So call me a nerd if you want, but recently I've found a passion in researching UAF history. I'm not quite as interested in the logistical, technical parts of establishing the university as I am in the quirky stories that I believe truly tells of the attitude and spirit of campus.

I've found a few books in the library that have really proven to be a wealth of knowledge. Farthest North College President, by William R. Cashen provides an interesting, in-depth perspective of the life of Bunnell. Cashen was also the first editor of the campus newspaper, the Polar Star (now the Sun Star). He was also frequently responsible for driving the university's first president, Dr. Charles Bunnell to and from his business engagements.

The other book, Cornerstone on College Hill, by Terrence Cole contains amazing photos and stories about everything from the laying of the cornerstone of the university to student protests within the last few decades. The book is downstairs on the 2nd floor of the library; if you have trouble finding it, Jason and I made a vlog about it. I have found plenty of entertainment value in learning about how students like me have interacted with our ageless and ever-changing campus. The following are my favorite stories from mainly those two books, as well as some other publications.

In the early days of campus, transportation to and from the university was by way of the Alaska Railroad. There were two rails for the full-size, standard gauge trains and a third rail between the two for what they called the Toonerville Trolley — an old car they remodeled to fill the function of public transportation to and from the Fairbanks and College stations. The third rail was torn up in the 1930's once an alternate bus system was established. I think it would be really cool to walk along the railroad tracks and keep an eye out for old abandoned rails or railroad spikes.

Top row: Earl Pilgrim (coach), Robert McCombe, Art Loftus, Ted Loftus, Jule Loftus, and John McCombe. Bottom row: Roden Davis and Jack Hosler. Terrence Cole writes, "The college's first basketball team, the 'Full House' squad of 1922-1923, so named by President Bunnell because the starting five (back row) consisted of 'three of a kind and a pair,' the three Loftus brothers and the McCombe twins." (The Cornerstone on College Hill, 70)
(William R. Cashen Papers, UAF-2005-6-11)Top Row: Earl Pilgrim (coach), Robert McCombe, Art Loftus,
Ted Loftus, Jule, Loftus, and John McCombe. Bottom row: Roden Davis and Jack Hosler. 
In order to promote the university as a legitimate option for higher education to potential students all across the state and beyond, Bunnell was constantly on the move coming up with ideas. One of which was to assemble a basketball team and have them tour the territory playing many of the high school teams within Alaska. The starting 5 players of the team included twins Robert and John McCombe as well as the brothers Art, Ted, and Jule Loftus, so Bunnell affectionately nicknamed them the Full House Squad, due to the three of a kind and a pair. The McCombe twins were also super cool because they were the first to introduce hockey to the campus. I don't know much about the context, but I also came across a photo of the twins with their two black bear cubs they apparently had as pets.

(Vertical File--University of Alaska--Individuals, UAF-1958-1026-25)
Dean Ernest Patty seated on the far left, is seen here along with his students,
young and old miners and prospectors. 
In 1924, Anchorage hosted the Western Alaskan Fair, at which the university had secured a booth to showcase the mineral and paleontology collection of Ernest Patty, professor of geology and mineralogy. This helped expose the territory of Alaska to the idea that the university has a plethora of research and learning opportunities available. Patty also taught a short course designed to attract the miners and prospectors from the area. Understanding that these folks could benefit from understanding the basics of geology and mineralogy, but also wouldn't be accustomed to or excited for sitting in a dusty lecture hall, he invented the game of "rock poker." He knew many would have a decent understanding of poker, and designed a game that would include all the familiar rules, but with an added element of having rocks and minerals instead of cards.

To be continued... 

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