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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
University Archives & Manuscripts - Exhibits
Phi Beta Sigma fraternity shield Delta Chapter, 1917-1933

Campus Life
Phi Beta Sigma fraternity shield

Views of Campus

Campus, 1916 from water tower

1916 From the Water Tower

Campus, ca 1917

ca 1917 From Bluemont Hill

Campus, 1921

1921 From the Water Tower

Aggie Orpheum

Phi Beta Sigma first participated in the Aggie Orpheum in 1924. Their act, "Musical History," a dramatization of present day jazz, won "popular approval."

In 1925, "Sketches in Art and Music" relied heavily upon the talents of Louis Fry, tenor banjo, and Theodore Miller, piano, placing second. They played several jazz numbers. Then Fry "made a series of lightning charcoal sketches."

The 1926 Aggie Orpheum was a difficult competition to judge, requiring three rounds of voting before a winner could be determined. "Hotsy Totsy Town" came in second by a narrow margin. Theodore Miller, Frank Greene, Frank Davis and Hey Hey ("a crazy little broad, who had danced professionally in Harlem and Chicago") presented a series of jazz musical selections with Charleston dancing as a feature of the act.

"This was a contest, held two consecutive nights in the college auditorium, at which campus organizations presented vaudeville acts competing for cash prizes. ... For our final number Mouse [Theodore Miller], Hey Hey, Frank Greene, and I [Frank Davis] danced the Charleston together and as encore I soloed. My frat brothers figured that seeing Old Heavy gyrate and perform the fancy steps expected of a hundred-pounder would slay 'em, and they were right. We brought down the house. ...

"Judges awarded us second place, although the audience booed loud and long believing we clearly deserved top prize. For several weeks afterward, white students stopped us on campus to tell us they believed we had been cheated. As for me personally, I found I was now being described as 'the poet who looks like a prizefighter and Charlestons like hell.' I was able to pick up some badly needed cash by teaching some of my steps to a number of white girls at several of the sorority houses."
    Livin the Blues, pg. 97

The format of Aggie Orpheum changed in 1927 and 1928, and Phi Beta Sigma did not participate.

However in 1929, they returned to take first place with "Something Spooky," a ghost scene written and produced by William Johnson and Santos Swancy. They won $15 and were selected by the management of the Marshall-Wareham theatres as one of three acts chosen to perform in the Wareham theatre.

They did not participate during the 1930 Orpheum, most likely because the majority of the members had parts in the Manhattan Theatre production of "Emperor Jones." William Johnson starred as Emperor Jones. Santos Swancy played two roles, Jeff and Congo witch doctor. Frank Davis played Lem, the native chief.

In 1931, although he was not currently enrolled, Santos Swancy directed the Phi Beta Sigma entry "When Martin Comes." It was performed by five students and was an "interesting portrayal of negro superstition and a haunted house." They won honors for short stunt and were presented with a silver loving cup.

The format and judging was altered again and the Phi Beta Sigmas did not participate during the 1932-1935 period.

Freshman Beanies

Freshmen wearing beanies, 1921

"Never did I wear one of those green caps made for freshmen. Sophomores roamed near the campus, paddles in hand, looking for violators. When they spotted a capless frosh, the cry would arise, 'Fresh meat!' and all would dash to the area to paddle the frightened boy, sparing neither black nor white. But me they did not bother, although frequently they grabbed victims all around me. Sometimes I saw them eyeing me speculatively. But instead of running, I slowed my step and put on my meanest scowl as I stared calmly into their faces. I was black and big (I then weighed 210), and I suppose they figured what the hell, it won't hurt to ignore ONE freshman. I do not doubt there were sophomores who would have tackled me had I been large enough to pose as a dark double for gigantic Jess Willard, but, fortunately, they were never around as I strode insolently by. What the paddle wielders didn't know is that had they challenged me, I had no intention of putting up a fight. I depended on my bluff—and it worked."
    Livin' the Blues, pg. 78

Library and Museum (Fairchild Hall)

Fairchild Hall

museum case

museum case

museum case

museum case


Cafeteria in Thompson, 1927

"Most of us pooled our funds and ate in the frat house if we were not working. We also ate in the cafeteria—particularly when we were short of tableware and needed to replenish our supply. There was little segregation on campus. Much of the time I felt like a king in Kedzie hall. I recall an attempt by the YMCA to build inter racial goodwill. A club was formed to promote hikes, tramping trips, etc. After a few months the Y woke up to the fact nobody was participating in their excursions but black males and white females—so that came to an abrupt end."
   Letter from Frank M. Davis to Carol Oukrup, 12 Oct 1984

Shepherd's Crook

Sheperd's Crook, ca 1921 Shepherd's crook, ribbons

Sources of Information:

Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 29 Feb 1924:
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 04 Mar 1924: "Aggie Orpheum prize won by Pi Beta Phis"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 13 Feb 1925: "Aggie Orpheum best ever says manager Pfeutze"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 24 Feb 1925: "Walker, Dickens & Co. win $25 Aggie Orpheum prize"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 05 Mar 1926: "Add specialties to Ag Orpheum"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 09 Mar 1926: "Wilson takes Orpheum prize"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 19 Feb 1929: "Eight groups prepare acts for Orpheum"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 26 Feb 1929: "Minstrel show a feature act"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 05 Mar 1929: "Orpheum prize to spooky act"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 20 Feb 1931: "Vaudeville in Aggie Orpheum"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 27 Feb 1931: "Stage set for presentation of Aggie Orpheum"
Kansas State Collegian (Manhattan, Kansas) 03 Mar 1931: "Kappa Delts win Orpheum"