U of I Gathering Places.

(P-0158) Circa 1970’s “Greetings.”  If my friends and I weren’t at the Music Building, or at George’s, you could often find us hanging around the Student Union. From the very first day the University of Iowa opened its doors (1855) to today, there has always been meeting places where students can hang out, build friendships, and relax from studying!
(P-0256) Our Boller family moved to Iowa City in 1966. This scenic postcard (circa 1965) features a birds-eye view of our new home from just west of Iowa Stadium.

Let’s face it. Going off to college is more than just taking classes. College life means building friendships. Some of those friendships will last a lifetime, others will fade away. The nice thing about Facebook and other on-line tools is that, today, you can be-friend old friends, yet still do it from the comfort of your own home!

(M-0072) Above is a sousaphone Christmas ornament – a good reminder of my tuba/sousaphone days at Iowa. When I was a member of the Hawkeye Marching Band (middle) I came across an old SUI band uniform from the 1930’s. Using an old coat rack (right) I brought the aging uniform back to life! Click here to read more about The Hawkeye Marching Band.

(M-0134) Here’s a blast from the past – A 1969 Johnson County license plate.

I had the honor of being in the Hawkeye Marching Band from 1969-1972. For more about my interest in music and the arts – click here.

This article in The Mt. Pleasant News appeared in 1971.

Once I completed my core courses at Iowa, I spent most of my time hanging around with my friends in places such as Eastlawn and the Music Rehearsal Hall (above), and in 1972, the new Music Building built adjacent to Hancher Auditorium on the west side of the river (below).

(L-0038) Hancher Auditorium – November 9-10-11, 1972. The Hancher Auditorium Grand Opening featuring Meredith Willson’s The Music Man.

When I was part of the Hawkeye Marching Band (1969-1972), Meredith Willson made a mememorable trip to Iowa City to be a part of the gala opening of Hancher Auditorium. Willson guest-conducted the HMB band at newly-renamed Kinnick Stadium (November 11, 1972 vs. Michigan) and then appeared with us on stage at the big finale of The Music Man performances at Hancher. If you’re familiar with Willson’s Broadway classic, the final scene is a show-stopper as River City’s motley boys’ band transforms into a glorious marching unit that brings down the house with 76 Trombones. The HMB had the honor of being “the band” on the stage of Hancher. A musical highlight I will never forget.

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Of course, I must mention another important gathering spot/watering hole, particularly for all music majors – George’s – located across Market Street, not far from The Hamburg Inn. Prior to the music building re-locating to the west side – next to Hancher – George’s was the best place for band members, like myself and a few of my friends (below), to have serious conversations about the important things in life: beer, girls, and Swisher Sweet cigars.

Of course, Iowa Stadium – renamed Kinnick Stadium in 1972 during my senior year, was the best place for all Hawkeye fans to gather on Saturdays in the fall. Though the Hawks played miserably during my four years at Iowa, you could always count on the band to entertain the crowd. Click here for an overview of Iowa Homecomings from 1912 to the present…
(L-0101) This rare song book from 1936 pictures the Field House. Click here for more info.

Prior to Hancher opening in 1972, most large concerts and public events were held in the Field House, located on the west side of the Iowa River. The Field House was the home of Iowa Basketball until Carver-Hawkeye Arena opened in the 1980’s. During my years at Iowa, the basketball team was top-notch, winning the Big Ten and making a serious run in the NCAA tournament during my 1969-70 freshman year. As a member of the pep band, we rocked The House under the direction of Dr. Tom Davis – no – not the basketball coach but the HMB director. Read more here.

After moving to Iowa City in 1966, two of my fondest Field House memories were taking in the 1967 sold-out concerts: Henry Mancini & His Orchestra (February) and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (May). Wow! I was in music-heaven!

For more about my interest in music, songwriting and the arts – click here.

Directly west of – and attached to – the UI Field House was the Armory, which housed the UI Army ROTC units and served as the gathering place for both the Scottish Highlanders and the Hawkeye Marching Band on Saturday game days.

(P-0160) Click here to read more about The Scottish Highlanders.

(P-0159)  Back in my day, The Hawkeye Marching Band was for guys and The Scottish Highlanders was for gals. But the times, they were a-changing. In my senior year (1972-1973), we had two young ladies join the HMB. Wow, did they get a lot of attention!

Click here to read more about The Hawkeye Marching Band.
In the earliest days, there was South Hall and North Hall, located adjacent to Old Capitol – called Central Hall in the 1870’s.

By the turn of the century, the former Unitarian Church on the NE corner of Clinton St. & Iowa Ave. was the SUI Student Union – called Unity Hall. Click here for more details about Unity Hall.

(P-0040)  But, as the University continued to grow, Unity Hall proved to be inadequate. In December 1913 the Student Union was moved to the rooms above the Brunswick Bowling Parlor at 121-123 Iowa Avenue. In 1914, the Student Union moved, once again, to the larger St. James Hotel on the SE corner of Clinton St. & Iowa Ave. But, when fire destroyed the building on Good Friday – 1916, the University was forced to go back to Unity Hall, sharing it now with the School of Music.

Click here to read more about the St. James Hotel and some of the retail shops surrounding it.

Unity Hall (on the left) with School of Music sign over the door via the camera of Fred W. Kent.

On June 5, 1920, The Iowa City Press Citizen announces the Big June Push – a fund-raising project to build the Iowa Memorial Union. Iowa City businessman J. L. Records served as the campaign’s chairman. As you can see from the early photos (below) the area where the new Union is to be built was a long-time residential area alongside the Iowa River. Read more details here.

1923 – Laying the Conserstone for the new Iowa Memorial Union via the camera of Fred W. Kent.
Iowa Memorial Student Union. In 1919, President Walter A. Jessup advocated for the construction of a student union dedicated to the memory of servicemen who died in World War I. By 1925, the original section (Unit I) was completed, including the main lounge, a roof-top sun porch, and office space. Below – in 1926, Union Park (today’s Hubbard Park) was opened just south of the new Union – providing a scenic playground for women’s sports. More details here.
(P-0161) Iowa Memorial Student Union – 1927.  Unit II was completed, including a three-story addition to the east, a lobby, meeting rooms, the WSUI radio studio, and space for the private, faculty-run Triangle Club.
Iowa River walk – circa 1933. In the early 1930s, the University envisioned and initiated a series of beautification projects, starting with both buildings and scenic structures such as walls, walkways and skating ponds. On the west side of the river between Iowa Avenue and City Park Bridge the Maybee Theater Building and the Arts Campus were built atop a series of abandoned quarries. The senior class helped build and fund a shelter house near now nonexistent skate ponds.

(P-0164) (P-0162) The Union Foot Bridge & Fountain were added in 1935.

(P-0165) (P-0163) (P-0166) Iowa Memorial Student Union – Danforth Chapel (1953) and Unit III (1955). In the 1950’s, Danforth Chapel was added to the Union grounds, and Unit III was completed – a ground floor and a first floor to the south of Units I and II – featuring a recreation area, more office space, a student lounge, library, and music rooms. The new University Library (1951) also opened on campus during the 1950’s. I must admit, however, while the U of I Main Library is truly a gathering place for students on campus, I neglected going there as much as possible!

(P-0179) (P-0329)The Dramatic Arts Building (above & below) – (P-0331) SUI Fine Arts Building and (P-0330) SUI Arts Center
An aerial view of the Iowa House Hotel addition (Unit V) in the early 1960s.

(C-0291) (C-0292) In 2022, we came across a dealer on Ebay who had these rare SUI gift cards from 1962 – featuring Old Capitol. As you can see from the pictures (above), there are two Dinner Gift Cards – one for the June 8 Emeritus Club Dinner – and the other for the June 9 Golden Jubilee Dinner – honoring the Class of 1912. Both events were held at Burge Hall – a popular gathering spot for smaller dinner events like this. With these SUI Gift Cards was a huge supply of Old Capitol Picture Cards (see below). A treasure trove from 1962.

(P-0346) In 1965, The University of Iowa updated their phone system – moving from a the traditional switchboard to direct dialing! These postcards were used to inform the public.

The Iowa Memorial Union, as viewed from the west, across the Iowa River: now (2015-above) and then (1928-below). The original part of the building is barely visible to the left in the top picture.

Of course, not everything on campus is always peaceful. In the 1970’s, there were numerous campus protests of the war in Vietnam.

Robert Childress (1915–1983) was an American illustrator, perhaps best known for his work in the classic Dick and Jane books for children (1950’s). In the 1970’s, Childrenn created “The Great University ‘Portrait’ Series,” in which he produced three to four campus scenes from more than thirty colleges around the country. After traveling to each campus for photographs, he returned home to paint the scenes which he then marketed to members of alumni associations. These are the three prints Childress created for the University of Iowa: Old Capitol, Hospital Tower, President’s Home.

Iowa Memorial Student Union and surrounding Fine Arts campus – circa 1968.

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(P-0167) In this photo, you can see the small area of green space located just south of the Memorial Union. In 1991, the field was renamed Hubbard Park to honor the University of Iowa’s first African American professor – Philip G. Hubbard.
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DYK-March 2, 2022

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Henry Mancini Orchestra, The Daily Iowan, February 16, 1967, p 9

Herb Alpert Concert, The Daily Iowan, April 27, 1967, p 1

14 Local, Area Students in Hawkeye Marching Band, Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 22, 1969, p 28

Band Director Caught In The Middle of Tuba Section, Mt. Pleasant News, March 2, 1971, p 4

18 initiated in music fraternity, The Daily Iowan, May 11, 1972, p 3

Student Protests of the 1970s, University of Iowa Libraries

Iowa City’s most iconic bars: A look at George’s past and present, Marlin Ingalls, Little Village Magazine, June 18, 2014

10 things you might not know about the Iowa Memorial Union, Sara Epstein Moninger, IowaNow, September 15, 2015

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