From a letter by Bertha Larson Brendsel to Anna Thykeson, April 16, 1939 (recounting student days, 1882-1883). Brendsel was Lois Rand’s grandmother.
[Th. N. Mohn] gave us a talk on what St. Olaf’s School was not and could not do for us. …It could not make preachers or lawyers or great men or women of us, but if it would make us more honest, more conscientious in our everyday life, if we would milk a cow or plow a field more honestly after being there, he would be satisfied. I could understand that. I knew what dishonest milking did to the cream can.
From C.K. Solberg’s diary, March 8, 1895.
Some juniors were scrapping with [Johan] Sommervold and [Michael] Stolee in the senior room. Made a terrible noise. Mohn came up and drove us out. He was as angry as I have ever seen him. “Get out of here – every one of you,” and we piked, ears hang- ing down and tails. Mohn lectured the seniors afterward. Seems they were to blame. [Johan] Naess called it “Mohn’s Purge.”
First Skating, Then Comes…
From the Faculty Minutes, November 27, 1888.
The question was raised by A. Egge whether the students should be allowed to take part in games on Sundays. Mohn quoted the law of Minnesota on the subject. It was generally agreed that we should try to keep the laws. Resolved that the students be not allowed to [ice] skate on Sundays.
From C.K. Solberg’s diary. Several students were caught drinking alcohol in the Main. To the dismay of some students, four boys, including one named Olaf Fausett, were to be “bounced” out of school. According to the official college matriculation records, Fausett left “under a cloud.”
February 11, 1892
Fausett left today, smoking a cigar when he went. He told Ytterboe he had to go today to get home for a dance Saturday night.
February 15, 1892
At devotions, Mohn gave a long and good talk about the foolishness of wearing crape [wrapped around their arms as a symbol of protest] on account of the boys who were expelled. Mohn gave a great oration in which he really tried to show his authority and dignity with respect to students and profs as the President. Bah!
From C.K. Solberg’s diary, February 14, 1895.
Mohn offers 25 cents to anyone identifying the “spitters,” the reward to be paid by the ”spitter.” Mohn is concerned about possible spread of diphtheria. Mohn: “Civilization has provided you with a handkerchief. Spit in that!”
Trouble in the Wood Box
From the St. Olaf College Archives collected anecdotes, author unknown, written years later regarding an incident, ca. 1892.
President Mohn lived in the southeast corner of the Main’s first floor. Right above was our classroom. One day our teacher failed to show up, and we had a lively hour in our classroom, noisy enough to arouse the President. We must have made so much noise. As we heard him coming up the stairway, we all tried to escape into another room. But [Carl] Weswig fell behind, and in his desperation jumped into the wood box and crouched down, hoping that Mohn would not see him. But Mohn saw him, and looking into the wood box, asked, “What are you doing here, Weswig?”
Stirring up a Beehive
From Petra Hagen’s diary, December 4, 1896.
All of us girls piled our hair high for supper, and you should have seen the boys stare and whisper to each other. Sat a long time in the waiting room after supper. The boys were fighting in the hall and bumped against the door. Miss Marie Krohn [Preceptress] flew out quick as a flash and gave them a lecture…Stayed in the parlor [Ladies’ Hall] until nearly ten. The girls nearly tore the house down.
Manitou’s Pied Piper
From the Manitou Messenger, January 1887.
A boy uses rather much of his time down in the kitchen singing. It is said the kitchen folks like to have him there, as he is good to scare away the rats.
Sweet Wine and Telling Lies
From the Faculty Minutes, November 1, 1887. Three young men decided to venture into town, secure wine, smoke, and visit several women students. Each young man was called down and questioned by the faculty. N. stated the wine was sweet, but was not tipsy; he had not been tempted.
H. had not thought that it was wrong. In trying to get in [safely return to the Main] he had encountered Ytterboe and had tried to evade him. Denied repeatedly that he had had wine. “I am not a liar; I do not tell a lie. You cannot see a lie in my face. I have said what I want to say, and will never take it back.”
Several weeks later, the faculty minutes report on the case of the three young men who went out on the town:
November 23, 1887
Mohn responded that H. the day after our meeting had confessed that he had lied (“Of course I told you a lie last night: we had wine.”) Mohn had conferred with his father, had orders to keep him strict. Discussion whether these boys ought to be kept or expelled from school. It was thought that they should be kept awhile yet on trial.
From the Manitou Messenger, January 1887.
Two large coal stoves have been placed in the halls of the first and second stories [the Main]. The one in the second story is heated by coal and the one in the first partly by coal and partly by boys standing around watching the young ladies come up from the dining hall after meals.
From Georgina Dieson Hegland’s book, “As it Was in the Beginning.”
Rules were rules, and strictly enforced. The regulations regarding the companionship of boys and girls were unwritten but nonetheless definite and strict. Only with individual permission could couples have “dates” – and the understanding was directly to, and straight back from, the lecture or play. When two boys and two girls were seen in a restaurant between 9:30 and 10:30, after a downtown lecture, they were “called in,” with the result that one boy was suspended for one month and the other expelled for the rest of the year. The main charge was: “Didn’t you realize that you were compromising the girls?”
From the Manitou Messenger, December 1891.
The boys woke up one morning not long ago and found that every pair of trousers on the third floor was tied to the doorknobs on the outside of their room.
From C.K. Solberg’s diary, February 28, 1892.
[Ernest] Cunningham, [Carl] Onstad, [Edward] Wollan, [Anders] Sandbo, and I played poker. Boys were smoking like good fellows.
Familiarity Breeds Contempt
From a newspaper article, “Schools in Early Northfield,” by Georgina Dieson Hegland.
One voluntary exercise in German was to attend the evening services at the Moravian Church, on the pretext of seeing how much German we could understand.
We couldn’t help that there was always a group of St. Olaf boys in the backmost seat, evidently with the same worthy purpose. Nor could we help that they walked behind us all the way home, making such jolly fun.
Behind us, I say, but not with us, for that would have been against the rules, unless we had individual permission. With the preceptress repeating the sayings: “Familiarity breeds contempt” and “A college engagement is a calamity,” we did watch our step.