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Illinois State University
Illinois State University
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The basement of the Old Main was not just a dank subterranean storage area. In fact, the basement level served as a hub of activity that, over time, housed a janitor’s living quarters, a women’s lounge, student lockers, and the office of the student yearbook, called the Index.

The Index Office

The Index was Illinois State Normal University’s student yearbook. It was published from 1892 to 1972. Working on the Index staff was an exciting and memorable activity for our interviewees Ellen (Petty) Hendrix and Ruth (Blacker) Ryder. Ellen even served as editor of the 1939 Edition.

Creating the Index required long hours of work in the Index offices in the basement of Old Main. Students who worked on the Index often stayed in the office late at night past the official curfew and after the building was locked for the night. Ellen obtained a pass from the Dean of Women to be out past curfew and knew that once she left Old Main at night she would not be able to get back into the locked building. Some of the men found ways to come and go from Old Main at night.

Hear Ellen Hendrix talk about working late on the Index yearbook:

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Janitor's Quarters

When you think of the people at a university what do you imagine? Students? Advisors? Professors? What about maintenance service staff? When we think of educational institutions, janitorial staff probably do not immediately come mind. However, the men and women who maintain the grounds and facilities of our universities are a vital part of the staff. At ISNU’s inception, the importance of janitorial staff was noted, and as part of the construction plan for Old Main, accommodations for a janitor were to consist of “a parlor, kitchen, cellar, the bed-rooms, etc” (as recounted in Keith Barr’s 1983 M.A. thesis). During the excavation of Old Main in the early 1980’s much of the basement floor of the Old Main was found intact underground. This would include what would have been the original janitor’s quarters. Only further research will provide us with information about the rooms that were once the bottom floor Old Main.

We know little about the lives of the University’s janitorial staff. However, in the 1941 Index, ISNU’s yearbook, a lovely memorial was dedicated to C. Oscar Bayles, the janitor of Old Main. The memorial tells us that Mr. Bayles began his life as a farmer, but with the establishment of the Illinois State Normal University, Mr. Bayles took a job first as a cook and then as a janitor at the University. C. Oscar Bayles became a well beloved figure of ISNU. Mr. Bayle’s son, Lloyd Wesley Bayles, attended and graduated from ISNU and went on to become a teacher.

Ellen Hendrix talks about the Old Main night watchman

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Index office. Source: 1939 Index

sneaking in

"A fella sneaking in..."

Source: 1940 Index


Source:1941 Index


Old Main Project
Normal, Il 61790-4660
Phone: (309) 438-8668

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