500th Moonlight Prowl reveals unfamiliar UT history

Sylvia Butanda

From stories about the University’s first dormitory to the birth of “The Eyes of Texas,” the campus has a rich history the UT community explored over the weekend.

Students, staff and UT Alumni “prowled” around campus Friday night for the 500th Moonlight Prowl tour, exploring different parts of the original Forty Acres and the history and stories behind several locations on campus.

One tour stop discussed old Brackenridge Hall, commonly known as B-Hall, which was an inexpensive men’s dormitory in the 1890s that housed students who came to Austin with as little as a single change of clothes.

“B-Hall students were the classic stories of poor boys to doctors and lawyers,” said Jim Nicar, tour guide and Texas Exes’ director of campus relations. “We even had two U.S. Senators come out of B-Hall.”

A tour stop revealed the use of “sit-ins” on Guadalupe Street during the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s, where protesters sat in a location until they were evicted or arrested.

Friday marked the 50th anniversary of this protest strategy at UT which began at the Varsity Theater on Guadalupe in 1961, Nicar said.

“African-Americans who attended only the UT Law School couldn’t do anything on the Drag without being segregated,” Nicar said. “The sit-ins swept the nation, and after six months, the Varsity Theater agreed to integrate and the rest of the Drag followed.”

Nov. 2 marked the 50th anniversary of the nation’s largest “panty raid” in 1961, where more than 3,000 male students made their way to several women’s dormitories and sorority houses and demanded their underclothes.

“The movement was protesting against entry restrictions to campus dorms of the opposite gender,” Nicar said.

The last stop of the tour discussed the timeline of the University’s football and baseball programs and how students went from building the first football stands to an entire football stadium.

“Students wanted some stands for the last football game of the season, and in less than two weeks with less than $600, they built stands that seated around 3,500 people,” Nicar said.

One student was surprised and interested in the several stories Nicar shared about the University’s early student generations.

“The activities of the students were so focused on the campus, whereas nowadays, it seems like everyone does their own thing,” said history senior James Sutton. “Everyone was so connected.”

The 500th Prowl was significant to one staff member who wanted to know more about the campus’ interesting history.

“I was interested in his little tidbits and behind-the scenes information that you don’t know about,” said Cynthia Aranda, administrative associate in the School of Law. “When I saw it was going to be the 500th Prowl, I thought it would be a good time to go to be a part of history.”

Printed on November 7, 2011: Moonlight Prowl conducts 500ths UT tour