Throwback Thursday: Student sledding, skating were the main activities of a 1905 University snow day

Reeana Keenen

After drudging to 8 a.m. classes in the frigid and somewhat icy conditions Jan. 28, many students were less than pleased when they learned the University had decided to suspend classes until noon, only to cancel them altogether later that day. But students had a different reaction when the University did something similar on Feb. 4, 1905, first suspending classes until 10 a.m. and then declaring it an official snow day.

The Texan published an article Feb. 10, 1905, detailing the day’s fun-filled events as students happily embraced the icy weather and the much-needed break from classes. 

“By 12 o’clock a hundred or more burly students had gathered on the hillside eager for the fun,” the article said.

Though UT students were equally as unfamiliar with snow as they are today — it was the coldest year in the Austin area to date at the time — the students of 1905 were eager to make use of the ice and snow any way they could. 

“Chairs were surreptitiously robbed of their legs, while a sturdy football player used the remnants for a vehicle to skim the icy hill,” the article said. 

Among the items used as makeshift sleds were dismantled kitchen tables, soap boxes and rocking chairs. 

To make the experience more exciting, a group of “forty funny fellows” poured water over a hill outside the Main Building and smoothed out the ground to make it better for fast-paced sledding. After several attempts at sledding down the hill, one of the football players succeeded in sledding a
short distance.

“Saturday morning Mogul Robinson got a soap box and, after various plunges a-la-tackle, a-la-head, succeeded in coasting about ten feet eastward from the Main Building,” the article said.

The daring of the students increased throughout the day as they attempted to find more creative ways to traverse the slippery slope. 

“The Engineers made a long slide and with this a dozen would go down like a cannon ball,” the article said. “Starting at the top of the hill and with an experienced man at the front to guide, the ponderous slide would go flying down the hill, turn in and out of the trees, jump public roads, keep to the path clear to the outer edge of the campus and then down the [Inner Campus Drive].” 

Sledding was the main activity, but not everyone was thrilled at the prospect of dodging trees and other obstacles on makeshift sleds; some women opted for a slightly more graceful sport and decided to try ice skating in places where the ground was flat.

“The Co-eds did not attempt much coasting,” the article said. “Some did go down in the big slide. … However, bands of them tried skating around the [Inner Campus Drive] and level parts of the campus. Several falls resulted, always when out of sight of anyone.” 

Though the students of 1905 may have been more excited about a midday school cancellation, they were still not safe from the weather’s fickleness. Much like the days following the Jan. 28, 2014 snow day, the cold and icy weather in 1905 was followed by sunny, warm weather. 

“Sunday the sun came out and ruined all the fun by melting the ice and sleet,” the article said.