May 26, 2012 2:27:58 PM
For generations of Columbians who have only hearsay to know what MSCW (Mississippi State College for Women, now Mississippi University for Women) used to be, Eugenia Summer has a tale of the days when Dr. B.L. Parkinson was president. I think it will amuse, perhaps amaze, you.
In her senior year Eugenia was president of the student body, then the most prestigious student office on the campus. The students she represented bombarded her with two requests: to get the administration to do away with the required navy blue -- the "uniform" -- all students had to wear. (The design and color of their collars denoted their class.)
The second was to procure a juke box for The Goose, which the student recreation facility was called.
Dr. Parkinson had said, "I forbid you to take any vote on the uniform," so Eugenia planned to tackle first the issue of the juke box. She figured they would probably have to sneak around just to get the matter on the agenda of the President's Council. She asked Amanda Bridgeforth, who had been voted "Most Intellectual," to help her.
Fairway Amusement Company was near the campus, but it was "off limits" to the strictly monitored students. (Students had to get permission for nearly everything they did, which probably was one reason so many Southern daddies insisted their daughters attend MSCW for at least two years.)
A stealthy operation
Eugenia and Amanda agreed to "risk everything" and slip out after dark to visit Fairway Amusement and investigate the feasibility of getting a juke box. Under cover of darkness they escaped the campus, went to the back door of Fairway Amusement and pounded loudly.
"What are you two girls doing back here?" someone demanded when the door was opened.
The girls explained they had come in secrecy to find out how much it would cost to get a juke box for the W. They were amazed to learn that it would cost the school nothing and that 10 percent of the money spent in the juke box would go to the college. The project would make money!
They planned to drop the bombshell at the President's Council meeting the following week. Until then, it would be a guarded secret.
When Dr. Parkinson convened the meeting and asked for business. Eugenia told me, "I just plopped it on him."
There were startled looks around the conference table. Dr. Parkinson sat silently, elbows on the table with his chin in his hands, for what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes. Finally he said, "What is a juke box?"
"It is musical entertainment."
"Is it also called a nickelodeon?"
"Yes, sir." Eugenia then explained the monetary advantage.
"Well, I'll have to think it over. We'll discuss it next week. I've got to find out a lot of things."
The girls thought he wanted to ask his wife about it. She was an assertive person.
The following week he raised more objections.
"Will it cause tough times?"
"Oh, no. Music makes a place come alive. People want to be able to dance."
"Dance! But girls will have to dance with girls!"
"Yes, sir. Sometimes."
Parkinson said he needed to talk to a representative of Fairway Amusement. Another week's wait. Eugenia managed to contact the man to tell him he must never admit to having talked to the girls. She relayed, "He played it perfectly, never acknowledging that he had ever seen us.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.