I became part of the Fort Hays State community in August 1935. I was 2 years old and don’t really remember the event. Dad became a new member of the science faculty and taught botany, biology and bacteriology. He and Dr. Limon Wooster shared an office on the top floor of the science building (now Albertson Hall). They soon became best friends, and it lasted forever. It was an impressive office — snakes in cages all over the place.
One of his earlier students was Gerald Tomanek. Jerry went off to fight World War II as a Marine in the Pacific and came back after to get his master’s, Ph.D. and later became its sixth president.
By 1938, Dad became registrar (actually the first registrar). Before that time, the duty was handled by the dean’s office. Sometime later, he received a letter from two kids back East. I think maybe Brooklyn, N.Y. Anyway, and for some reason, they thought they would like to come to Fort Hays. We were always looking for new students.
Dad wrote them a welcoming letter and promised to meet them at the train when they arrived — and he did. They were Teddy Tedesco and Frank Morrison Spillane. Frank you will remember as Mickey Spillane (and his P.I. Mike Hammer). Mickey played football — which you would expect. I wonder what his English teacher thought of him. Anyway, he left to join the Army Air Corps and flew fighters during the war — which you would expect. I can’t remember when Teddy eventually finished. I think he became a school administrator in New York state. He did send both of his children to Fort Hays, and both are graduates. Son Andy is a physician in Arizona and daughter Nola you know as Nola Foulston, the long-term district attorney from Wichita and the prosecutor of the BTK killer.
We (the faculty and kids) were one big happy family. Naive, I know, but this is how I felt at the time. At any rate, we all socialized together “and a good time was had by all.”
There were faculty picnics. These were “pot-luck” affairs and the usual locations were Custer’s Island, College Hill and the park. Visiting would last until dark.
The subject was usually the war and later its aftermath. I was socializing with the other kids. Several times we went to Castle Rock on nice Saturdays. There was a Faculty Men’s Club. They might have had meetings and an agenda, but I only remember the camp-outs. Most men came, and all sons were invited.
This was a really big deal. When we went to the Philip Ranch, Bill Philip would bring out a string of horses to ride, and those who thought they could, would.
Actually, most (I think all) of the men were ex-farm boys, and horses were no problem. Bill Philip was the brother of George Philip, and they were one of the earliest families to settle Ellis County — coming here directly from England.
Other destinations for the men were Plainville Lake and Antelope Lake. Cedar Bluff and Wilson did not exist. These were supposedly fishing expeditions and visiting. I think they were solving the “State of the Union.”
And then there were the fossil beds of Gove County and George Sternberg. George had his weekend volunteers: Bill Moreland, Jim Rouse and Stan Dalton (my dad). I came along, and no one seemed to gripe about it. The “fish within the fish” episode came after my tenure. When George really discovered what he discovered, he essentially became a resident of that pasture. Minute excavation was eventually completed, and the time came for plaster to be poured. Jim Rouse and Dad headed west with plaster, water and a trough to mix it in. It was a triple-digit heat day, and it occurred to them their water might be triple-digit by the time they got there — and the plaster would set before they could get it out of the trough. They stopped in Ellis and bought two 50-pound blocks of ice. The ice worked, and we have that fossil today.
The men also had a softball team and played other area teams. Most games took place on the athletic field just south of the campus, now a major part of the campus. They weren’t above doing a little “grandstanding” — my father included. For his main act, while chasing a foul ball, he would jump on it between his heels, kick it back over his head and catch it in front of him. It was very impressive. He, Andy Riegel and Ralph “Red” Huffman (ex-Fort Hays football coach) would officiate high school sports. Plainville played Stockton on Thanksgiving day in an ongoing rivalry. Dad and Andy were officiating. They invited their 10-year-old sons (Donny and me) to come along. There was a controversial call. Being in the wrong section, we felt sure we were going to be fatherless.
Each fall came the Audubon Society bird census. Much of it was completed along the bluffs of the Saline River — and by the usual suspects from the science department. Generally, I conned my way into going.
In the fall of 1951, Dad was boasting of an enrollment of 1,100 students. When I enrolled, my tuition was $165 for a full load of 15 credit hours. Faculty received no discount. I don’t think there was any extra charge if you wanted to undertake more. I had worked for the college farm that summer. We worked 60 hours a week at 85 cents an hour, and I cleared $600 for the summer. I didn’t have any overhead and actually didn’t sign the timesheet for the last $12. The earning limit for a dependent was $600, and instructions came from home not to claim it.
Weekend social life was limited. On normal weekends, everyone bailed out for home — my “might-be” girlfriend included. On Friday mornings, pickups would appear on campus with clothes hanging in the back window. And you knew they were going home, which might be an elevator and six or eight houses.
Also in the fall of 1951, we were trying to get a nursing school started. The “Board of Regents” gave permission with the contingency we get 21 students to commit. Dad made it his personal mission to make that happen. He knew well every school administrator in the western half of Kansas and contacted all in an effort to recruit. By Christmas vacation, we had 18, and Dad started making home visits. I went with him on one — a farm somewhere between Great Bend and Lyons. We did get the 21.
In later years, Dad said he could not do now what he could then. I think he meant the ability to act on his own decisions. My assumption is it would now take a committee meeting. Many times when he received out-of-state inquiries, he would clear them first with the police departments in their hometown. I don’t suppose that would work today.
At graduation, each graduate was announced by name as they received their diploma. They were his friends, and he knew them by name. No list was required.
There were only four basic administrators, and somehow, someway they were able to keep the place together and let the teaching faculty provide a pretty darn good education for those who wanted it.
Several years ago, a student from the ’40s told me of a “saying” from the time. “Wooster is president, McCartney thinks he is, and Dalton does all the work.” I do remember his long hours and the accompanying pressures. And I also know he so much enjoyed being a part of the Fort Hays State faculty he considered it his privilege. A good day included meeting at least 200 people. Those of you who remember him know he lived independently in a two-story house until 30 days before he died at 103 years old. Our friends from France called him “Ie petit tigre.”
If 50,000 people sit in a sports stadium, no two people see the same game, and so it is in the stadium of life. I have enjoyed remembering, writing and inflicting you with rambling recollections from my seat. I look forward to others sharing the view from their seat in the stadium.
Stan ”Bud” Dalton is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.