The men of Albert Hall became the women of Albert Hall in the summer of 1923. And the men were NOT happy about it.
Albert Hall was built in 1904-05 as a men's dormitory on the campus of the Third District Normal School, now Southeast Missouri State University. It was named in honor of Leon J. Albert, a college regent 23 years. His financial investment, along with that of Louis Houck and M.E. Leming, made its construction possible. Albert Hall was a companion to Leming Hall, the women's dorm.
The change of Albert from a men's dormitory to one for women was announced in late May 1923, but there was no immediate reaction to the news. It wasn't until July that the rumblings of discord among the male students of the then Teachers College started. A petition was circulated, asking the regents to reconsider the scheme. But the board and college president Joseph A. Serena were adamant.
Just before the men were to vacate the dorm, a ruckus arose serious enough to spur school administrators to call in the city police. A number of students — including teachers, principals and superintendents from district schools — were expelled from the dorm. The end result was a lawsuit against Serena and Vernon Chapman, superintendent of the campus. The petition filed with the court alleged Serena demanded that occupants of the hall sign a paper stating they would "act as gentlemen," or would be forcibly removed. According to an Aug. 22, 1923, article in the Missourian, those expelled from the dorm "charge that in making the demands the defendant Serena conducted himself in an arrogant, domineering, bulldozing, angry and ungentlemanly manner..."
Here is the Missourian's coverage of the revolt at Albert Hall.
Albert Hall was built as a men's dormitory in 1904-05. It became housing for female students in 1923. (Southeast Missourian archive)
Published May 26, 1923, in the Southeast Missourian:
CAPE COLLEGE MEN TO HAVE NO DORMITORY
ALBERT HALL TO BE CONVERTED INTO ATTRACTIVE HOME FOR GIRLS
Extensive repairs to Albert Hall, boys' dormitory at the Cape Girardeau Teachers College, to convert it into a modern and up-to-date building, are to be made following the close of the semester, it was announced today at the college.
After the repairs are made, the building will be converted into a dormitory for girls, establishing two such buildings for women students. Men students will be required to room in Cape Girardeau homes, it is stated. After the opening, it will be possible to accommodate 200 women in the two buildings, according to president Joseph A. Serena.
More than $10,000 will be spent in repairing and remodeling the structure. Lavatories will be provided in each room, hardwood floors will be laid in every room and in the halls, the rooms will be re-plastered and redecorated and other features to make the building up-to-date in every respect will be added.
Minor repairs are also to be made at Leming Hall, the present girls' dormitory. It is not expected to open Albert Hall at the beginning of the fall term, but it is planned to complete the repair work by October.
President Serena, in announcing the plan to make both dormitories into women's homes, said that the local college is only following the lead of other colleges who take care of the women students first. He said that Leming Hall always has had "waiting lists" and that Albert Hall is rarely filled.
Published July 11, 1923, in the Southeast Missourian:
STUDENTS AT COLLEGE ASK TO KEEP HALL
OPPOSE NEW RULE COMPELLING MEN TO GIVE UP THEIR DORMITORY
The announced intention of the State College here to abandon the policy of allowing men students to use Albert Hall dormitory and give that building over to women students is bringing united protest by the men students. A petition that is to be presented to president Serena and the Board of Regents is being drawn up. It is suggested there will be 200 or more signatures on the petition when it is turned over for the consideration of the college.
It was recently announced that the men would be ousted from Albert Hall and that building remodeled and given to the women, which would give them the two dormitories and the men none. The petition that is being circulated says the men students oppose the change for the following reason:
Reasons for protest
"1. There is a great need for men teachers, and facilities should be provided whereby the needed training can be obtained by men with the least possible trouble and expense.
"2. The college exists for men as well as women, and the abandonment of the hall for men will tend directly to discourage their attendance at school.
"3. We have heard numerous students express their intentions of seeking their training elsewhere in the future if the hall for men is abandoned.
"4. We believe that the best interests of the school will be best conserved by continuing the policy of supplying board and lodging to both men and women on equal terms."
Published July 12, 1923, in the Southeast Missourian:
WHY MEN AT COLLEGE LOST DORMITORY
DID NOT KEEP ALBERT HALL FILLED, PRESIDENT SERENA DECLARES
In an interview today president J.A. Serena of the Teachers College explained to The Missourian the attitude of the Board of Regents in the matter of changing Albert Hall from a men's dormitory into a dormitory for women.
After carefully considering every phase of the subject, the regents decided it was the wisest thing to do under present conditions. Each winter Albert Hall lacks about 40% of being fully occupied, whereas there is always a waiting list for the women's dormitory that would more than fill the rooms that are unoccupied in Albert Hall, he said.
This necessitates many women seeking rooms in private houses who would prefer rooms at a dormitory. And the men who should fill those rooms seem to prefer rooms out in town.
It has cost more to operate Albert Hall, the regents find, so the vacant rooms add to the cost, an item they hope to eliminate.
Want new dormitory
It is the hope of the regents to have another dormitory built for men students when an appropriation can be secured for that purpose.
In all co-educational institutions dormitories for women are given preference over those for men, it being considered best for the men to find outside accommodations.
Plans for repairing and refurnishing Albert Hall are being made and the work will start immediately after the summer term, with a hope that the building will be ready for women students during the early fall, if not at the opening of school on Sept. 12.
It is planned to put new concrete floors in all the basement rooms and hard maple floors in the upper stories. Lavatories will be placed in all rooms in the building and the bath rooms will be remodeled and refurnished.
All the furniture in the hall will be overhauled and all that cannot be repaired will be discarded. In fact the building will be practically refurnished throughout, president Serena said.
Published Aug. 1, 1923, in the Southeast Missourian:
FAREWELL TO DORMITORY IS NOISY
* * *
FIRECRACKERS AND POLICE FIGURE
Albert Hall, boys' dormitory at the Cape Girardeau Teachers College was quiet today, following a series of disturbances caused by celebrations in honor of the last week of occupancy of the dormitory by boy students. The hall is to be converted into a girls' dormitory, president J.A. Serena had announced and this is the final week of the boys' stay there.
Police authorities were called on Tuesday night to maintain order at the hall, and except for the mysterious explosion of two giant firecrackers on an upper floor, all was quiet.
College authorities today reported that the disturbance started early Sunday morning when several students to celebrate their last week in the hall, started playing a phonograph in the parlor of the hall. Others objected and a general argument followed. Several firecrackers were discharged to emphasize the arguments.
An investigation by college authorities resulted in several of the students leaving the hall, according to reports today, while others refused to depart, declaring they had paid rent up to Thursday of this week. It was reported that several were remitted money and were asked to leave to stop further disturbances.
College authorities consider the disturbance merely a college prank and the matter is expected to be dropped.
Published Aug. 2, 1923, in the Southeast Missourian:
PLAYING OF SONG IS SIGNAL FOR DISTURBANCE AT DORMITORY
Continuous playing on a talking machine of the popular melody a commemoration of the last week of the boys' stay at Albert Hall, dormitory at the Cape Girardeau Teachers College, led to the trouble resulting in the ejection of 16 of the occupants of the hall, it was learned today.
"Barney Google, with your goo-goo-googely eyes" went the words, and crash, bang, went firecrackers as other students sought to drown the noise of the ditty. "With a wife twice your size" continued the machine, of course unmindful of efforts of students to stop it, and then something happened! Part of the machine disappeared, a student attired in a raincoat and football helmet braving a downpour of water from nearby doors to rescue the machine.
The machine continued its playing until an early hour Sunday morning, and in an indirect way furnished college students with the biggest talk of the school year. "Barney Google" is alright at times, but not at night, was the ruling of president J.A. Serena on Monday following the disturbance and a sifting out of those who were believed to have participated in the affair was started.
Students tell story
This is the story as related by occupants of the hall which led to an order issued by the college president on Tuesday that all who refused to sign an agreement to "act as gentlemen" for the remainder of the term would be ousted.
Sixteen of the boys who deny that they participated in any way in the disturbance were expelled from the dormitory on Tuesday night by Vernon Chapman, caretaker of the grounds for the college, who is invested with police power, according to the students.
Four of the 16, who say they were expelled from the dormitory, spent Tuesday night on the campus, sleeping on their blankets. Others engaged rooms at local rooming houses they said.
According to the students, attempts were made to refund their money for their board and lodging, all but two turned down the proposition.
Those who say they were forced to leave the dormitory are: C.C. Conrad, principal of schools at Eminence; Robert E. Wood, superintendent of schools at Bismarck; E.R. Sutterfield, principal of schools at Herculaneum; Lee Craft, student from Neelys Landing; Basil G. Howard, superintendent of schools at Vanduser; Ralph Henson, Grandin; E.G. Hill, Bismarck;Howard Bunch, teacher at Herculaneum; Cecil Attebery, Gideon; George Englehart, superintendent of schools at Morley; Olen N. Bell, principal of schools at Troy; Dan T. Attebery, Gideon; Joe J. Richardson, superintendent at Knob Lick; Aubrey Powers, principal at Bismarck; George Miller, Maplewood, and R.A. York.
The rest of the story of the revolt at Albert Hall can be found in the book "Normal to University: A Century of Service" by Arthur H. Mattingly, 1979:
"In the course of the disturbance, several students were ejected from their rooms, 12 of whom later brought damage suits against president Serena and Vernon Chapman. The cases were heard in the Circuit Court in Jackson, when Judge Frank Kelly ruled that president Serena was justified in ordering students to abide by the rules or leave the dorm, and he dismissed the cases. One of the plaintiffs appealed the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, but the high court sustained the ruling of the Circuit Court. As a result of this incident, the Board of Regents in October 1923 gave the faculty the authority to suspend or expel any student on campus. The grounds were based on disobedience to the rules, any insubordination, dishonesty, drunkenness or immorality."
Albert Hall opened as a women's dorm on Jan. 19, 1924.