Remembering SHSU: Kenneth Hestand
1. When did you first come to SHSU and what were your earliest recollections of the campus?
Being accepted to Sam Houston State Teachers College in August, 1953 meant that it was too late to get a dormitory room – they were full. A high school friend, Ray Inman, was also going to Sam Houston. Through some acquaintances, he found a private residence on Avenue J, a block off campus that had three rooms for boys. We were able to get one of them, a front bedroom in the house.
2. What buildings did you frequent the most?
I spent most of my time in college in the Graphic Arts building, Music building (I was in the band), Old Main, and Student Union (where I worked in the cafeteria). I also spent a lot of time at the Baptist Student Union, on Avenue J.
The campus in 1957 consisted of about eleven buildings around or near the quadrangle. There were also dormitories – Jackson-Shaver and girls’ dormitories across 17th Street from Old Main. Old Main was the predominant building. Austin College (where the ROTC dept was located) was just south of Old Main, facing the south on the quadrangle. Administration, Business, Chemistry were in what is now (apparently) the Bobby K. Marks building. At the south end of the quadrangle was the Estill Library - the south end of the campus was a parking lot; to the west of that was the music building; north of music was the Graphic Arts building (the Alcalde office was on the second floor, southwest corner). North of Graphic Arts was the Ag building. Sort of behind the Ag building was the Home economics and Biology building. On the corner of 17th Street and Highway 75 was a relatively new Student Union Building with a cafeteria, directly across the highway from Jackson-Shaver Hall.
A new gym was built while I was a student which appears to be Academic Building III - or at least on that site. The scholarship athletes' dorm was in the building. After I married, Gena and I lived in Sam Houston apartments across Avenue J from the gym. Other dormitories were built south of the apartments about 1956.
The college clinic was located on 17th between Jackson-Shaver hall and the football field – about where Mallon House is now.
3. What are some of your favorite memories of being at SHSU and in Huntsville?
Band practice started a week before my first semester began and the band practiced every day that summer. We marched up and down the steep hills around the campus for a couple of hours in the morning before it got too hot, and then went inside to the band hall and practiced until lunch time. In the afternoon, more practice in the band hall, and after a rest period, back for the late afternoon when it was a little cooler, to march up and down the hills again. Toward the end of the week, we went to the football field in the evenings and started working on a halftime program for the first football game, only a week away.
I quickly discovered that my band skills were not even close to being adequate for the college band. In addition to that, the music we played on the field at half-time had to be memorized – no sheet music on the field. It took all week for me to memorize some of the music. And even then, I faked some of it because I couldn’t play all of it. By the third week, I could play through the music once or twice and have it memorized.
The band traveled to several out of town football games. We went to Nacogdoches for a game with Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College and to San Marcos for the game with Southwest Texas State Teachers College. We also made appearances at the Polk County Fair for a parade down Main Street. We marched in the college Homecoming parade, and performed for other events in the Huntsville area.
Sam Houston’s football team had a great year, winning eight games with only one loss. As a result, there was an invitation to play in the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Indiana. Band members raised money for the buses to make the trip to Evansville for the game. I designed, printed and sold Christmas cards with Sam Houston Theme as my contribution to the bowl game fund. The chartered bus made the trip straight through the night, with card playing and other amusements all night. We stayed at the Evansville YMCA and YWCA. At least we had a day of rest before the game. The band was taken on a tour of an auto assembly plant.
When we awoke on game day, the weather was near freezing and misting rain. We performed at halftime on a frozen football field that had been softened into a muddy mess by all the cleats during the first half. We were followed by a much larger Purdue University band, which made us feel like our performance was amateurish. The upside was that Sam Houston Bearkats defeated the College of Idaho Coyotes 14-12.
At the end of the school year, Band Director Ed Boyd made some comments about our accomplishments during the year. I wasn't sure exactly how to feel about his announcement to the band that he considered me to be the most improved band member of the year. I think that he was saying that I was really bad at the beginning of the year.
4. What did “working on the Alcalde staff” mean for a student in the 1950s and what did it take to produce a volume?
Before my junior year ended, I was appointed to be the Editor of the 1957 Alcalde. One of the most unique things about the 1957 Alcalde, is that it was planned and produced entirely by students. That included design, layouts, photography, photoengraving (it was produced by letterpress printing, requiring zinc plates that were etched for all the photos), printing and binding. It was a huge management process that taught students who were studying those subjects to get hands-on publication experience. I spent time every day of the school week, and many weekends working on the Alcalde, along with most of the other staffers. We were always facing self-imposed deadlines. The yearbook was a lot of work, but the result was a matter of pride of accomplishment. It was truly a major team effort to organize and produce such a complex project.
By the time I graduated, photoengraving was disappearing from publishing companies in favor of cheaper ways to reproduce pictures for publication.
5. When was the last time you visited your alma mater and did you recognize it?
I visited the campus for the perhaps the first time after graduating when our youngest daughter was in high school. She was with us and commented as we strolled around the campus, "You certainly don't seem very nostalgic seeing at your alma mater." I replied, "It is hard to be nostalgic about a place you have never seen." We were back about three years ago, and there were even more changes. The house I lived in my freshman year on Avenue J is no more, the land now a part of the campus. I am pleased to see the growth and the much greater prestige that Sam Houston has now.