Discussion Thread #8

Hello everyone, it is Veterans Day. This observation–I dare not call it a holiday–began as Armistice Day. It was on 11 November 1918–102 years ago today–that the Great War ended. You may recall that Al Smith was elected governor that same week.

The photograph we see here is from the Ursula C. Schwerin Library Archives. It depicts City Tech students at a dance in the years just after the Second World War. These men are either still on active duty or in the reserves. As we know from class City Tech is a GI Bill school, founded after World War II largely to educate returning servicemen. In the usual 100-300 words interpret this photograph however you like. You might focus on the demographics of the people in the image and what that says about Brooklyn at the time in the late 1940s and 1950s, about the notion of a “dance,” about the GI Bill itself, or anything else that strikes you. As always responses are due by 11:59 pm this coming Sunday.

27 thoughts on “Discussion Thread #8”

  1. As a man who decided to join the army but never did when I see or hear of anything regarding the army, it sparks more interest. It’s amazing to see that they do not only serve and suffer but also enjoy the moment they get. One thing I appreciate about this country is that they value and show a lot of appreciation to their veterans for instance applying for schools, jobs, benefits they put them first. They have a special hospital for them and other services. I love to see that they are enjoying their dance in the photo because most of them after serving go through trauma and it becomes difficult for their life to go back to normal. Thank you to all the veterans for serving and protecting our country.

  2. Having recently learned that our school is a GI Bill school makes the structure of our school make more sense. More specifically the Voorhees Building that I spent most of my classes before we went online. In that building, mainly the 3rd floor looks like a factory environment because all classrooms inside that floor do not get natural sunlight. And all the columns inside the Voorhees Building are thick, but that is because it used to be a torpedo factory. On another note, looking at this image I see a lot of faces of calm men that are enjoying their time. It must have been a huge relief to them that they returned safely to the U.S. These veterans deserve a lot of repayment in many ways because having to be dragged into war seems somewhat petrifying. Another thing I observe is a lack of diversity. There is a large number of white males attending this dance, but I am glad to know and see that the demographic is more diverse now. 

    1. Pamela, re the Voorheen Building: I’m glad you mentioned the torpedoes in class the other day and again in the post; it’s funny how history becomes more immediate and clear to us once we know a bit more of the story. Changing the subject: the lack of diversity in the photograph is striking. The image was taken before the demographic changes that would transform Brooklyn and the rest of the city in the ensuing decades.

  3. When I first glanced at the photograph, I was shocked at the diversity captured in a simple college dance. Today, City Tech is more diverse with different cultures from all over the world. As I study the photograph more, I notice most of the men in the foreground are in military uniform dancing with women who have similar hairstyles. The GI Bill of Rights was recently introduced, which allowed returning soldiers to continue their education in colleges to pursue other career alternatives. I felt the GI Bill of Rights was extremely beneficial since it left no soldier behind with financial and educational support. The informative video visualized how easy soldiers returning from the Second World War can receive support from the government without pointing out their flaws. Experiencing war is extreme to the point soldiers have PTSD, depression, and disabilities. People in society tend to take for granted the real risk soldiers endure when going to war. Some viral videos show how some civilians are complaining about the benefits soldiers receive in commercial business are unnecessary from their point of view. Losing your life is not a video game where you can simply come back to life. Once you pass away, you can’t come back.

    1. “Losing your life is not a video game where you can simply come back to life. Once you pass away, you can’t come back.”

      Wow. Tiffany, this is a strong concluding sentence in a very thoughtful post.

  4. Immediately by pure observation, one can tell that this crowd of returning servicemen dancing at city tech is everything but diverse. What we know today of city tech is that its contains a sea of diversity ranging from many parts of the world, but back in the 40s-50s that was not the case. It seems as though the area of Brooklyn at the time was not as diverse as it is not, and goes to show that major demographical changes it under went, until reaching the year 2020.

    After attending City Tech for 6 semesters now, I never once came across the idea that this school was so beneficial and impactful to servicemen, which I personally find to be amazing. The idea that our campus helped benefit the lives of many people who gave up theirs to protect ours is a very humbling subject to think of. It is apart of our culture, apart of our history, and our RIGHT to give back to our service men and women what they lost or gave up to defend this country.

    I think it is correct to say that City Tech has always had some sort of connection to the war. Something similar to what Pamela mentioned during class. I was informed during a lecture with a professor in the Architecture program that professor Duddy is familiar with, Professor King, were he brought up the Voorhees hall once being a holding facility for torpedo’s which used to have service rails connected to the building. Once the trains were loaded up, they would than transport to the docks to later be shipped out over seas. The deep roots of City Tech reaches far, and it is very interesting to learn about this.

    1. Albert, well done and good observation re the demographic changes that Brooklyn would undergo in the years and decades after the war. We’ll talk more in the coming weeks about further changes that occurred at City Tech in the 1970s. I’m glad too that Professor King told you all about the torpedoes. It’s all rather extraordinary, isn’t it?

  5. It’s interesting to find it out how our school supports veterans. It gives depth and a more cultural understanding of the school. There was probably already too much at hand within these soldiers at the time. Especially since things as depression, PTSD, and, anxiety can go hand in hand within the military. Nevertheless, It’s always great to know after such an impactful part of their life, the school provides them a little bit of what it means to be human again and get to take a break and come back to whatever might be of importance to them. As the photograph itself, they carry that sense of happiness and enjoyment. There seems to be a lot of diversity as well within the picture.

    1. Keven, I’m glad you liked the photograph and feel that the class has given you greater depth and cultural understanding about the school. All these things play into the wider context of the city and country itself.

  6. When I look at this photograph it makes me think about the sort of high school dances that we had when we were younger. Young men and women dancing very formally but also kind of uncomfortably. Seeing the Musicians in the background shows that they had live music to dance too because at that time you could not just play music over speakers. You see all the servicemen in uniform one of them in a jacket the others just in their shirts. The man in the center reminds me of Elvis by the way he looks. I must imagine that this dance must have been such a relief to be away from combat but also sad for some that some of their friends couldn’t be there to enjoy it.

    1. “When I look at this photograph it makes me think about the sort of high school dances that we had when we were younger. Young men and women dancing very formally but also kind of uncomfortably.”

      Great line.

      I like the reference to Elvis as well. You know, he too was a serviceman and when he left for Germany in the late 1950s sailed on a transport ship that left from the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

  7. It is pretty fascinating to know more history about the City Tech buildings we all go so often before the pandemic. Pictures like these really show the era they are taken in. To me, the first thing I noticed from the picture is how close the people who are dancing are from the music ensemble. I don’t believe they would put such a big group of musicians for just a small dancing ring, and seeing how well dressed they all are, there must be more groups of people who are dancing out of frame. I am curious as to why the photographer only took the picture super close like this, instead of a long-distance shot to capture the room. Also, I just want to point out seeing only one guy in the entire picture who is looking directly at the camera, making this picture a bit funnier than expected for me.

  8. I always believe the army is hell. You got to suffer cruel training and possibly death. I also see a lot of returning soldiers suffering from PTSD and I really respect any of them. The photographic just reminds me back of my elementary school. My school used to have a new year show and invite old soldiers to show our love to them. Some of them already lost their family during the war and some are disabled. But one thing that’s true, they are all proud. Back to the photograph, I see how these soldiers are enjoying their life and happiness which they deserve all these after giving their life to the country.

  9. It amazes me that our own City Tech was a school that supported the GI Bill. Definitely let’s me realize how long our school has been around. Looking in the background, I see that this dance had a live band for the vets and their guests to enjoy. I could be wrong but it looks like the dance floor was not very big. I also noticed that these gentlemen all have the same hair style of a side swoop looking thing going on. Maybe that was a popular “hair-doo” back then. Besides the men in their clean uniforms, I can tell this was an era where long skirts for women was the style as well. Although I don’t see much smiling in the photo, it seems like a formal evening for everyone to enjoy. Who would’ve thought it would’ve been our school.

    1. Ebony, it’s amazing how the hairstyles often “give away” the era in which a photograph was taken. To us today their hair would be considered short, but I wonder if the men here regarded their hair as being long and if they had grown it out because they were now not just veterans but students.

  10. An interesting feature that I can pick from the picture would be the fact that the men are wearing their uniform for the dance. I wonder was this a tactic used to find women at a dance, because as you can see the men in the background was dressed up but without uniform. Also as I zoom in the frozen time period of 1940’s they have a live band playing music unlike, In this day and age we would have DJ’s playing records without being exhausted or even taking a break . The GI bill was a great source for those that could benefit from it, The picture expressed how diverse the GI bill benefitted the American people. The perks the GI bill offered were great for the returning soldiers, but it was even better at recruiting young me in to the army marines etc.

  11. I feel as though every picture that is taken over 50 years ago isn’t so long ago but then I go back to think about how different things were then and how different they are now. To find a picture that is now over 100 years old makes me realize the complexity of time. In the picture we see City tech students at a dance after the second world war. When I think of the second world war or any war at all my brain automatically thinks that this was in some time really far away where pictures and automobiles barely existed. It still amazes me how City tech was a school largely for educating veterans. I’m not aware of many services for people who have joined the army or served however, it is definitely nice to see how they attempted to repay what they have done for our country.

    1. Giselle, it is funny how photographs from 50-100 years ago can seem so close and yet so far away at the same time. Speaking of the passage of time: over this past decade the last soldiers of the Great War (WW1) passed away; there are still a few hundred thousand World War II veterans left out of the sixteen million American uniformed service persons who served from 1941-45. Soon they will be gone as well. It makes one a little rueful.

  12. To think this was City Tech in the past is a sight to see as the first thing you’ll notice is a lack of diversity in the school. In today’s City Tech there are many people from different backgrounds attending. Something else you can notice is the unhappy faces in the photo, it seems as if they are in a trance. In the current pandemic world, the students wouldn’t be as close as they are on the dance floor. With the way they are positioned and the angle of their bodies I believe that the students in the photo are slow dancing. Their bodies seem as if they are rocking back and forth.

    1. Manny, good insights here and in your other posts too. Whenever people see the image of the school dance they often comment on the demographics of the students in the image. As you point out it says so much about the evolution of the borough, including here at City Tech, in the decades since then.

  13. I find this photograph to be somewhat comforting because it shows a side of city tech that we may not all always see. It’s a depiction of youths living out their lives as they try to better themselves. Something that we all in the class can very much relate to, especially those of us who have been to a few City Tech events. I can’t help but notice however that the demographic of those in the picture is very homogenous, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the school’s ethnic population today. Therefore communicating what sort of area the community around the school was like back in the 1940s and 1950s. Regardless, one thing I am also able to take away from the photo is the fact that the school is GI Bill school. Something that I didn’t pick up when I first enrolled into the college back in 2017.

  14. It is interesting to find it out how our school supports veterans. It gives depth and a more cultural understanding of the school. I feel the GI Bill of Rights was extremely beneficial since it left no soldier behind with financial and educational support. It is interesting that City tech was a school largely for educating veterans. I am not aware of many services for people who have joined the army, but it is good to know that there are avenues for veterans to follow after they come back home from serving our country.

  15. What a lovely picture. This photograph reminds me of a few army movies I have seen in the past.
    It’s really great to know that the army man had shared these fun moments throughout their times served. As I was observing I noticed the trumpet players. I wonder if these army men knew these women. Seems like some folks in the picture were really tuned to the music played by the trumpet players. I was very pleased to see this picture. It was great to see the army man taking time outside of serving on duty. I always had extreme respect and gratitude to veteran men and women who served for our country. It takes a special person to serve in the military,air force or marines. Most people who are in this profession are dedicated to serving on duty. It is always nice to see them taking time to go to a dance or two. I think we owe the veterans to show them support in all their efforts and work served.

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