The Treasures You Find Digging Through Boxes of Paper at Garage Sales

by Robyn Arn


Like many of you in the Mod Squad, I am a collector of ephemera.  Paper items like post cards, pamphlets, programs, (well, you name it) have come into my collection over the years, both as personal fetishes and as items to resale when I was a regular eBay seller.  It’s so fun – as well as educational – to come across an old store catalog that shows products our parents purchased when they were brand new (and seemingly so cheap) and now are considered collectibles or, heaven forbid, antiques.  Items I couldn’t possibly let go generally have an appeal based on mid-century graphic design, architecture, or local historical content.

I was looking through a box of such items recently and came across a find I had completely forgotten about, but was thrilled as I flipped through the pages.  The University of Oklahoma College of Fine Arts Bulletin from 1954-1955 is an incredible time capsule of creative energy in the School of Art.  It’s 6” x 9” on glossy paper stock and has a simple yet very attractive layout.

They were obviously proud of the School of Art because the majority of photos showcase the work being done there.  A student at that time would have been instructed by Emilio Amero, Eugene Bavinger, Roger D. Corsaw, John O’Neil, William Harold Smith, Joseph Taylor, and Robert Wendell Tomberlin.  If you visited the Museum of Art for inspiration, you would have seen exhibits overseen by some of those just mentioned plus Bruce Goff, a member of the Committee of Direction taking a break from his duties in the School of Architecture.

The respect and probable camaraderie between the men in these different departments is evidenced by the fact that several commissioned incredible homes by Goff during their time in Norman (Bavinger, Corsaw) or lived in them when the original owners left (Taylor resided in the Ledbetter home in his later years).  See Lynne’s blog from October 18th for photos of these homes.

What I would give to have been on the campus during those years – my introduction to the Fine Arts school would start almost thirty years later.  Though my studies were in the drama school, I can’t help but wonder if my current obsessions might have been kick started earlier by seeing all these amazing works in real time, perhaps even leading me down a different vocational path.  The fiscal information is also a fun read.  I recall the university being fairly affordable during my time, but I can definitely appreciate resident fees, room, board AND books to be no more than $400 per semester!