1958 Yearbook Highlights

Yearbook Highlights for The Seminole, 1958

Chloe Brown, Ethan Kuss, and Miranda Villarroel

A man and two women sit on the floor in front of a lit fireplace

UF’s yearbook from 1958 provides incredible insight as to what their student’s social lives looked like, including the campus traditions during this decade. Closely examining this yearbook will inevitably reveal many traditions that have since faded, such as rat caps, Freshmen Talent Night, and parade floats kicking off Homecoming week’s festivities. Nevertheless, our current students know some of these traditions today, such as Century Tower’s chime signaling class changes. Back in the 1950s, UF football games also gathered a crowd where students could display their Gator pride. There was a relatively small amount of female representation in campus athletics, and many campus women desired a domestic house life. We see this domesticity in the homes of married graduate students, where the women cook, clean, and take care of the children while the husbands are away attending classes. Campus activities appeared to dominate UF students’ social interactions—we see them celebrating at Homecoming parades and wondering where to go on campus to spend their day. The university also offered a beauty pageant, showcasing the lovely women on campus. Further reflecting the era’s heightened gender roles, the yearbook shows males dominating their ambitious endeavors, while women are pursuing beauty and home economic skills. Men outnumbered women on campus, including the clubs and other extracurricular activities. Gender roles are drastically different on campus today, with women taking on equal roles as the men. The 1958 Seminole is an interesting exploration of Fifties college life, highlighting the era’s traditions and behaviors.

Domesticity (Chloe Brown)

Joan Wagner serves her husband, Bill, breakfast in their kitchen at the Flavet Villages
Joan Wagner serves her husband, Bill, breakfast in their kitchen at the Flavet Villages

Signs of domesticity played out through this 1958 yearbook, with one interesting trend of married students. The Student Life section included a layout on married students living in Flavet Villages (campus housing for veterans’ families) and elsewhere in Gainesville. It focuses on the nuclear family of Bill Wagner, a law student who is married with a baby. The relationship between Bill and his wife, Joan, reflects the era’s breadwinner and housewife ideals. While Bill goes off to law school to become the breadwinner, Joan stays home with their baby. She is pictured serving her husband coffee and eggs; the text notes that “their day starts with breakfast prepared by the wife.” Here we see women’s role as housewives. In the Beauty section, there is another layout featuring married students: Mrs. University of Florida. The winner, Barbra Jo Franklin, was a sophomore who had been married for the past two and a half years. The text anticipates her life in domesticity with a breadwinner husband: ”Mrs. Franklin comes from Graceville and plans for the future are indefinite pending Mr. Franklin’s completion of his course.” This section also describes Mrs. UF’s household chores and domestic skills, noting that “Barbra Jo has proven that she can cook, iron a shirt, look pretty, and impress others with her personality.” This description falls in alignment with the nuclear family ideals of a perfect housewife, always well-groomed and elegant. Through examples of married couples demonstrating their roles in domestic containment, this yearbook captures the popular trend of domesticity in the 1950s.

Gender Roles (Chloe Brown)

Nancy Warner cries as she is elected Miss University of Florida. She is embraced by her fellow contestants
Nancy Warner cries as she is named Miss University of Florida

The era’s beauty standard for women shaped the 1958 yearbook’s representation of gender roles. An entire section was dedicated to the university’s beauty pageant, with huge photographs of the contestants (98-107). These portraits and captions shared few details about the women, and none pointed to the women’s future endeavors. Reflecting gender divisions in the 1950’s, this presumed lack of ambition seems to predetermine college women’s domestic roles. The beauty section showcases campus women as if it were a catalog for potential wives: women should be pretty, charming, and emotional. A section highlighting the end of spring semester shows a picture with the newly crowned beauty queen crying—as if being honored for one’s physical appearance was especially meaningful.

The yearbook shows campus men achieving success through extra curriculars, sports and academics. Most organizations were occupied entirely by men; there was even a Men’s Council club to further strengthen relationships with UF’s administration. The Cavalettes club was one of the few designated for campus women; it gave women opportunities to learn how to dance and participate in social activities. This yearbook denotes the contrasting gender roles of the 1950’s, displaying men as displayed as smart future breadwinners and presenting women as pretty and socially ambitious.

Campus Pride (Miranda Villarroel)

Mississippi State scores a winning touchdown during the University of Florida/Mississippi State football game
Mississippi State scores a winning touchdown during the University of Florida/Mississippi State football game

Studying UF’s 1958 Seminole gives some insight as to how many campus traditions have continued, evolved, or faded over the years. The yearbook describes Century Tower as “a controversy,” yet notes that “its chimes signaling class change are now becoming a tradition.” Completed in 1956, this campus classic wasn’t without contention in its time. It is comforting to know that an unoccupied parking space in the 1950s was met with the same kind of excitement as now in 2021. Traffic problems were also documented in the 1958 yearbook; sophomores were denied cars on campus, but upperclassmen could bring their cars after 1:30 p.m. Diving deeper into the yearbook, one finds that even some of the smallest details that make up the 1958 UF experience remain virtually the same today. The yearbook follows Carole Hatfield, a freshman from St. Petersburg, as she navigates the UF orientation, the smallpox vaccination, and even the class registration system. One can even see her partaking in an old campus tradition that has since faded: rat caps. Every fall, freshmen wore a bright orange cap only to discard it a few days later. UF’s 1958 students had giant parade floats cruising down University Avenue to prepare for Homecoming festivities and the Gator football game. Even back then, UF football games always gathered quite the crowd. At the time, the stadium held 40,000 people and one can also see the Gator Band providing their halftime entertainment.

Social Life (Miranda Villarroel)

A drawing of the Delta Sigma Phi Homecoming float
The Delta Sigma Phi Homecoming float

Compared to today’s Gators, the students featured in the 1958 yearbook seem to be a lot more dependent on UF and campus events for their social life. They seem very involved and are even described as “worrying about whether to spend the warm Summer afternoons at Wauberg or at the swimming pool”; male students “wondered about whom they should take to the Florida Players production of “An Inspector Calls,” to the “Gypsy Baron,” or to the “Heaven and Hell” summer frolics (21). Moreover, UF hosted events such as the Freshmen Talent Night, and students were encouraged to bring a date or “that one special person.”

The days leading up to the Homecoming football game were full of festivities and social occasions. Students had a giant parade float that kicked off the week’s celebration. They had everything from Swimcapades, to Growl Skit, to sorority and fraternity house decorating events. Even though only a small percentage of students chose to participate in Greek life, many of these events catered to students in fraternities and sororities. Curiously, the Confederate flag was displayed proudly in front of some Greek houses or on parade floats. One float would have held the Homecoming Queen, Jana Vickers, as well as the other court ladies. The yearbook describes these women as adorning the floats that paraded down University Avenue. This yearbook captures what a UF student’s activity-packed social life looked like in 1958.

Patriotism(Ethan Kuss)

An ROTC member plays the trumpet in front of an American flag

The students in the 1958 Seminole are united through the Space Race and the overwhelming need to defeat their Russian adversaries. In the yearbook’s Foreword, the phrase “You Were There” evokes the imagery of Uncle Sam in his “We Want You!” tagline. The uncanny resemblance serves as a personalized message to each and every student at the University of Florida to stir feelings of pride in their community and in their country. It attempts to equate the shared campus experiences with the historical launch of the Sputnik, creating a shared collective experience that will benefit their country in the ongoing conflicts. In the yearbook’s gallery of photos, there is frequent imagery showcasing the ROTC program and the American flag. This dramatic picture showcases the American flag with a sense of stoicism and romanticism. The camera angle puts the flag above the ROTC member, and there is light emanating from behind it. This image demonstrates the high moral and social regard with which UF students viewed their country, as well as their determination to embody American idealism. 

Physical Fitness (Ethan Kuss)

Bernie Parrish, a UF football player, evades a tackle from a Vanderbilt player
Bernie Parrish, a UF football player, evades a tackle from a Vanderbilt player

The 1958 Seminole highlights several sports that UF Gators continue to take pride in today. There is a large emphasis on swimming, as the men’s swim team became the SEC Champions. This page shows a football player by the name Parrish who eludes being tackled as he carries the football to the adoring cheers of fans. It is interesting to see the absence of team logo on the athletes’ sports equipment. Here we only see the number 27 on Parrish’s helmet and jersey, which promotes him mostly as an individual. In this yearbook, the men’s sports appear first and have more pages than those depicting women athletes. Segregated to the last few pages of the athletics section, the women’s sports pages reflect the university’s noncommitment to giving female students more opportunity to explore passions outside of the era’s stereotypical gender roles. The athletic competitions women were allowed to compete in were purely extracurricular; they did not represent UF on such a national scale as their male counterparts. None of these sports teams are racially diverse, as UF would not admit Black undergraduates until 1962.