The foundations of the central and west portions of the Administration building, unfinished since East Ad opened in 1911, were “trenches” for drilling until, miraculously, the Kansas Legislature appropriated the long-promised funding and construction resumed.
National Army trainees posted to KU and sleeping on cots in Robinson Gymnasium took eight-week training sessions in such desperately needed skills as automotive mechanics and maintenance, carpentry, radiography and telegraphy, munitions and explosives.
Chancellor Strong and Graduate School dean F.W. Blackmar sat on the Kansas Council of Defense. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Olin Templin, c’1884, c’1886, g’1889, led the collegiate division of Herbert Hoover’s Federal Food Administration in Washington, D.C.; home economics chair Elizabeth Sprague joined that effort for a year.
The Army took all three psychology professors; the dean, superintendent of Fowler Shops and five other engineering faculty; three professors and four home economics instructors; and four coaches and five physical education professors. Their colleague James Naismith was a YMCA chaplain in France.
The French department had the largest enrollment of the year: 459 students. Nearly half the 14 professors and instructors were in service, so two music professors who were fluent were hired to help meet the course responsibilities on campus and at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley. (Enrollment in German dropped by more than half, and half of that faculty had to be reassigned or let go.)
Through a chaotic September, KU struggled to accommodate the massive influx.
Barracks had to be built: three for the vocational corps between Marvin and Haworth halls on Jayhawk Boulevard, and nine on the west side of Mississippi Street adjacent to McCook Field for the collegiate units.
Architecture professor Goldwyn Goldsmith designed the barracks; engineering professor C.C. Williams and Buildings and Grounds head John Shea supervised construction. Carpentry crews worked overtime to finish by Oct. 1, when the oath of allegiance would be simultaneously administered to 200,000 trainees at 525 universities. The process was so rushed that the windows of the Mississippi Street barracks were covered only with pastel-tinted mosquito netting.
Most of collegiate unit went into engineering or the College, and about 170 were sent to officer training. Education dean Frederick J. Kelly oversaw their courses in, among other subjects, astronomy, chemical warfare, French and German, map reading, meteorology, physics, psychology and sanitation and hygiene. A compulsory “Issues of the War” course required 50 sections. About 30 temporary teachers were hired to help carry the load.
Meals were served in mess rooms by Brick’s cafe and the Eldridge House. The home-ec department and the YWCA ran a Hostess House in Myers Hall (on the site of Smith Hall), serving cafeteria-style meals. A lounge with desks and big armchairs created a homey atmosphere, and female students provided nightly musical programs.
On Oct. 8, 92 KU students reported symptoms; the next day, 130. Soon, 400 were ill. Medical school dean Samuel J. Crumbine, secretary of the state Board of Health, ordered the campus closed until Oct. 15. Nobody could leave town, public gatherings were prohibited and “strict compliance is a patriotic duty,” Strong asserted.
The University infirmary at 1300 Louisiana St. proved at once inadequate, so five Mississippi Street barracks were furnished as isolation wards and a pneumonia hospital was built next to them.
SATC corpsmen and medical students from Rosedale treated the ill, one of whom was Abilene sophomore Deane W. Malott, c’21, with little more than aspirin and fluids. Dozens of female students and faculty became nurses, collected linens and supplies in town and maintained a hospital kitchen.