Throughout its hundred years of existence, the University of Southern Mississippi has accumulated a great deal of treasured and historic artifacts. Selections from these artifacts are on display at the Centennial Exhibit, located on the first floor of the Cook Library. The web site that mentions this exhibit, as well as other centennial celebrations, can be found at http://www.usm.edu/centennial/.
As a member of The Pride of Mississippi, I was particularly interested in the various artifacts that represented the history of The Pride. As displayed by a uniform of the time, since the 1980s, the marching band’s uniform has comprised of a yellow jacket with black pants. Another uniform, however, shows that the jacket was once red and had a Scottish theme as a tribute to the Scottish heritage of the president of the university at that time, the 1960s-1970s, William D. McCain. During the time of this red uniform, the marching band included a bagpipe ensemble in addition to the standard brass and woodwind instrumentation. The Pride of Mississippi Marching Band also includes a dance team whose members are nicknamed Dixie Darlings. Their uniform now consists of a small sequined black dress; however, in the 1960s, this uniform was made from a velvet material and sported fur trim on the collar and bottom of the outfit. The band, or at least its uniform, has evolved greatly since the early days of the university.
The exhibit consists of much more than just band memorabilia. Another item that I found particularly interesting was a tomato-canning machine. This was accompanied by a placard that described a tomato club whose members grew three acres of this vegetable, canned them, and served them in the dining hall. Another item in this particular display was a set of silverware that has STC engraved on it, which stands for one of the original names of the school, State Teachers College. A painting that shows what was planned, in terms of buildings, at this State Teachers College hangs on the wall in the exhibit. This picture shows the 5 original buildings that were to be erected. One of then, the Industrial Cottage, is particularly interesting to me because it is now the Honors House, and I am a member of the Honors College. Finally, in a back corner of the exhibit, there are large folios that contain old editions of the student newspaper, The Student Printz. Many of the editions from the 1955-1956 collection contain very prominent advertisements for cigarettes, which I found surprising, given the effort to promote anti-smoking campaigns nowadays. Another ad that appeared in a 1956 edition claimed that Wimpy’s was “the heart of the Southern Campus” and sold a hamburger for twenty cents.Overall, the Centennial exhibit illustrates how far The University of Southern Mississippi has come since its days as the State Teachers College. It is hard for me to imagine this now massive college once contained in only five buildings. From the marching band’s uniform to The Student Printz, so many things have changed over the last one hundred years at Southern Miss, and I for one, am glad to be a part of such a wonderful university.