Vietnam Moratorium “Scroll” Documents George Mason College Community’s Activism

Student representative from the George Mason College Vietnam War Moratorium Committee presents Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with petition asking college administration to excuse members of the campus community from classes on October 15, 1969. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

Student representative from the George Mason College Vietnam War Moratorium Committee presents Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with a petition asking college administration to excuse members of the campus community from classes on October 15, 1969. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

On October 10, 1969 a neatly dressed George Mason College student presented Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with a loosely-rolled scroll of paper containing the signatures of over 600 Mason students, faculty, and staff. The document petitioned Thompson to excuse students, faculty, staff and administration from classes and college business on October 15 so that they might have the opportunity to take part in local events pertaining to the Vietnam War Moratorium.  The Moratorium was a day-long series of events held in municipalities and on college campuses across the United States and the world to call attention to, and protest the United States’ involvement in, the Vietnam War. Thompson, photographed while receiving the petition, displayed a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to the document both in his facial expressions and in his words. He insisted that the college’s obligations to the state and its citizens mandated that it remain open, and students, instructors, and staff must be present on that day. He left the matter of attending the Moratorium activities up to the individual, who would be responsible for any consequences for missing class or work.

Vietnam War Moratorium petition photographed while taped to the wall of an unidentified George Mason College building. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

Vietnam War Moratorium Petition photographed while taped to the wall of an unidentified George Mason College building. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

George Mason College was not known for news-making protests or acts of civil disobedience during the Vietnam War era. Nearly all 1,890 George Mason students lived at home in their quiet suburban neighborhoods, most of them hailing from families with military or civil service backgrounds. Though students spoke their mind about the war regularly in the student newspaper, The Gunston Ledger, there had only been a handful of isolated incidences of antiwar activities at Mason. These were limited to symbolic draft card burnings and teach-ins, involving a few Mason students and faculty. The Vietnam War Moratorium movement of October 1969 marked a high point in activism at George Mason College. Just under one-third of the entire student body, faculty, and staff played a part in this movement-even if it was as small as putting a name to a piece of paper.

Box containing Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Box containing Vietnam War Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

While working in our collections storage area in SCRC, the author came across a map storage box with a label reading: “Petition (Anti-Vietnam War) 1969”.  It was opened, and the 12-foot-by-16-inch manuscript was carefully unrolled for a few photographs before gently re-boxing it. The document still bears the masking tape that was used to attach it to a wall of one of the six campus buildings that comprised George Mason College in 1969.  Attached to the bottom of the document is a memorandum of October 3, 1969 from Mike Baker, the president of the Student Government, acknowledging that the body had voted 8 to 3 to endorse the Vietnam Moratorium. Student, faculty, and staff signatures grace the manuscript, which, when unrolled, bears a slight resemblance to the scroll containing Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript to On the Road.

The Vietnam Moratorium Scroll opened up in the SCRC collections storage area. The document is over 12 feet long. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

The Vietnam Moratorium Petition opened up in the SCRC collections storage area. The document is over 12 feet long. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Top part of the Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

It appears that this document itself played a relatively minor role in the larger Moratorium movement, judging by the small amount of newspaper space (a few sentences in two small articles) dedicated to it. The Moratorium events and corresponding editorial commentary received major coverage in the student paper for weeks afterwards.  But the scroll has survived as an artifact to help tell the story of this brief moment in the institution’s history, and it enables us to take a little trip into the past and understand what was important those who were here nearly 50 years ago.  Discoveries like this one help illustrate the value of archives and the archives professionals who preserve them.

The document is part of George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

George Mason University’s Earliest Video Footage, Part 2

This post is Part 2 of 2 parts. Part 1 can be read here.

George Mason College, Fairfax Campus, ca. 1965. Photograph is from the George Mason University Photograph Collection.

 

 

Fairfax, Virginia George Mason College’s New Home in 1964

Once moved from its original location in Bailey’s Crossroads, George Mason College would now operate out of it’s new quarters in Fairfax.

The first four buildings were quite spartan in design, appearance, amenities (with the exception of the air conditioning), and name.  Each would have two levels and a basement which doubled as a fallout shelter.  The exteriors were to be of red brick with white vinyl-coated concrete columns.  The buildings would hold a total of four lecture rooms, four labs, half a dozen classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, library, bookstore, dining, and locker rooms for physical education.  Their names would be taken from the points of the compass: North, South, East, and West.

As completion of the campus at Fairfax approached excitement began to grow.  College functions once taking place in and around Bailey’s Crossroads shifted to its new adopted home in Fairfax. Instead of the Alexandria Episcopal Seminary, the 1964 Final Day Exercises took place in the Fairfax Town Hall on June 8.  New college director Robert Reid, who assumed the directorship from the retiring John Finley on January 1, 1964, brought groups both large and small by the construction site for tours. One such group, the Fairfax City Chamber of Commerce, presented Reid and the college with the Chamber’s first ever honorary membership during the last week of July.  (The Virginian, Friday July 31, 1964).

The Collage at Fairfax officially opened on Monday, September 14 to 356 registered students.  The original faculty consisted of 7 full and 18 part-time instructors. Though the weather on that day was a pleasant seventy-five degrees, Mason’s new director, Dr. Robert Reid, could not help but point out to the Fairfax Times that Mason was the only College in the Washington area that was fully air conditioned (Fairfax Times, Friday 9/18/64, p.13).  Perhaps the most sorely missed amenities were food service and a lounge for the students and faculty.  During the first week vending machines were hastily set up in a study hall.  Mason would later set up an actual dining hall, the Ordinary, in the South Building. The Ordinary would remain there until Student Union I was built in 1974.

Though the university has added about 450 acres and over 100 buildings to the Fairfax campus, the original four still stand and are still in use today.

The Video

The original 16 mm film was approximately 12 minutes long, and unlike that of the move from Bailey’s Crossroads,  contained audio.  In this film George Mason College Director, Robert Reid, gives the above mentioned tour of the nearly-finished campus to the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce during the last week of April 1964. He is presented with an honorary membership by members of the Chamber, and later an announcer interviews tour group members,  including Dr. Reid.

Some Still Images from the Video

Still image from the film showing members of the tour group enter the East Building during the July 1964 tour. In the background are the South (today known as Krug) Building at left, the Quadrangle. and the West Building at upper right.

Student members of the tour group gather in the lobby of the North Building (now known as Finley) in this still image from the film.

Director, Robert H. Reid (at right in dark suit) receives an honorary membership in the Greater Fairfax Chamber of Commerce from Chamber representative, Robert Parcels (at left). Still image from the film.

Tour group continues down the walkway past the West Building (at right) into the breezeway of the South (now known as Krug) Building. Still image from the film.

Director Reid is interviewed by an announcer simply known as "Ed". Still image from the film.

Segments from the Video

Please click here to view a 59-second segment from the tour portion of the  video.

Please click here to view a 1-minute 55-second segment from the interview portion of the  video.


George Mason University’s Earliest Video Footage, Part 1

George Mason College Bailey's Crossroads Campus 1964 from the south

George Mason College Bailey's Crossroads Campus, 1964. Photograph is from the Richard M. Sparks Photograph Collection.


This post is Part 1 of 2 parts. Part 2 can be read here.

Bailey’s Crossroads, George Mason’s First Campus

During the summer of 1957 University of Virginia President Colgate W. Darden announced the University’s temporary leasing of an old elementary school building at Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia.  This building  would house the newly created University College of the University of Virginia until a permanent location could be chosen and suitable facilities constructed. In early August of 1957 the Bailey’s Crossroads location was occupied, and classes began on September 23 with an initial enrollment of 17. With John Norville Gibson Finley as Director, Bailey’s served as the home of the college, later renamed George Mason College in January 1960, until August 1964.

The former Bailey’s Crossroads Elementary School located at 5836 Columbia Pike was a well-used eight-room elementary school constructed in 1922 of red brick. In 1955, a new, larger elementary school was constructed nearby, and “Old Bailey’s” was abandoned. The lower level had four classrooms – two were used as science labs, and the other two as lecture rooms by the school’s new tenant. On the upper level, three rooms comprised the library. The last served as an additional lecture room. The library was staffed by librarians from the local public library who worked there after-hours, and former occupants of Bailey’s have characterized the building’s climate control as “hot in the summer and cold in the winter.”

Space for other collegiate pursuits was always at a premium. Bailey’s lacked a room that could house more than 30 persons comfortably.  As a result college functions, such as assemblies, meetings, dances, and Final Day Exercises (graduation) were held at locations nearby, such as the Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Department , the Alexandria Episcopal Seminary, and local hotels and churches.  Athletic events, which were never more than a pick-up or faculty vs. student game, took place either on the dirt field adjacent to the building which doubled as overflow parking or on the fields of local schools, such as Glen Forest Elementary School, which was located one-half mile to the north.

In August 1964, Mason’s new campus at Fairfax was nearing completion.  Local mover Craig Van Lines of Oakton was hired to move furniture, scientific equipment, books, and other materials from the Bailey’s Crossroads building to the new Fairfax campus on August 23-24. The building would never be occupied again and was finally demolished in 1970.

Former Bailey's Crossroads Campus building, 1968. Photo is from the George Mason University Photograph Collection http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/gmuphotos.html

Former Bailey's Crossroads Campus building, 1968. Photograph is from the George Mason University Photograph Collection.

 

The Films

In 2003 a 16mm film in our holdings labeled “Dedication Film – November 1964” along with  another entitled “Moving Out of Bailey’s Crossroads” were taken to a northern Virginia vendor to be cleaned and have their contents transferred to digital files. When we received the digital recordings, we discovered that the recording from the “Dedication Film” can was not the Fairfax Campus dedication of November 12, 1964.  It actually was a 12-minute video of  a tour of the nearly-completed Fairfax campus given by Director of  George Mason College, Robert H. Reid earlier in July 1964.  This film will be detailed in Part Two of this post.  The “Moving Out of Baileys Crossroads”  film yielded 4 minutes of footage from the late-August packing and moving from the Bailey’s campus.  Stills and a short segment from this film can be seen below.

Flim cannister containing 16mm film shot in 1964

Film canister which contained 16mm film of George Mason College, Bailey's Crossroads Campus shot in 1964. Canister is mis-labeled "Dedication Film - November, 1964." It actually contained footage from a tour of the nearly completed Fairfax campus. Photograph by the author.

 

 


Some Still Images from the Video

Bailey's Campus with moving trucks

Bailey's Crossroads building with moving vans, August 1964. Still image from the film.

Moving out the chemistry lab, Bailey's, August 1964.

Packing instruments in the the chemistry lab, Bailey's, August 1964. At left is chemistry professor, Dr. Hyman Feinstein. Still image from the film.

Packing books from basement storage. August 1964.

Packing books from the library's basement storage, August 1964. Still image from the film.

Preparing to move "George Mason College" sign.

Preparing to move the "George Mason College" sign, August 1964. Still image from the film.

Craig Movers van leaves Bailey's building and heads toward Va. Route 7.

Craig Movers van leaves Bailey's building and heads toward Va. Route 7. August 1964. Still image from the film.

 

Segment from the Video

Please click here to view a 54-second segment from the video.

Part 2 of this post will deal with the content from the other film, the one incorrectly identified as “Dedication Film.”