In 1930, most clubs were still separated by gender, a vestige of the Hunter and City branch days. But as the 30s progressed the clubs, just like classes, slowly became co-ed or held events that were open to both male and female students.
Looking through the yearbooks, one notices similarities among club activities. Most went on boat rides and field trips; held dances and teas; and put on theatrical shows, even if performing arts was not the focus of the organization. For example, the Mathematics Club of the Women’s Division performed two original plays. In 1930 the women presented a play based on the theory of numbers and followed that in 1932 with play titled Ghosts of the Departed Quantities! 1
Not to be outdone, the Classics Club (co-ed by 1932) held a yearly spring festival called Lanx Satura aka “Mixed Pickles,” in which they, along with members of the Greek Club, performed scenes from classical plays and original skits the latter including a modern dinner between Zeus and his wife. 2
It was not all fun and games for BC Clubs. Many clubs, like those at present day BC, had a service component and raised money for charitable causes. The Social Sciences Club (Women’s Division) raised money for the Unemployment Relief Fund; the Lutheran Club (Women’s Division) gave out food baskets to the poor and elderly at Christmas; and the Sightseeing Club (Women’s Division) traveled the city studying urban problems while raising money for both the Unemployment Relief Fund and the Jewish National Fund.
Faith-based clubs abounded including the above mentioned Lutheran Club, the Menorah Society (co-ed by 1933), the Newman Club (Men’s and Women’s Divisions), the Bible Club (Women), the YWCA, and the YMCA. On March 29, 1933, the Menorah Society held a rally in the Lawrence Street building gym to protest atrocities against Jews in Germany. Speakers at the event included Dr. Gross of the Board of Higher Education, Dr. Newman of the Rodeph Skolam Synagogue, and Monsignor Belford of the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity. 3
The clubs also reflected the students’ interests in social issues and political problems. The Men’s and Women’s History Clubs spent a semester discussing Fascism and at a joint meeting invited Gaetano Salvemini, an exile from Fascist Italy to speak. 4 On the Debating Society’s weekly WFOX radio program called the “BC Debating Society Forum Hour,” local and global affairs were discussed. In 1932, the Bureau of Economic Research (Men) published a study of the financial status of BC undergrads. 5
Here are some more club highlights:
Choral Club (founded by Women in 1927; co-ed by 1932): Performed at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter chapels and on radio programs. Student members received .5 credits per semester. Among the selections sung by the club at chapel in November 1932 were Bach’s “Sleepers Awake” and Mozart’s “Gloria.” 6
Dramatics Society (Women and Men; some productions were co-ed): The Dramatics Society of the Men’s Division was formed in 1928 and its first production included Irwin Shaw’s Man of Destiny. In 1930, the club was renamed the BC Players and by 1931 held weekly performances of one act plays. The first performance of the Women’s Dramatics Club in 1927 was Enter the Hero. This was followed the next year with A Garland of Girls in which scenes from Shakespearean plays were connected by original material written by students and faculty. The Women’s Division officially sanctioned co-ed plays in 1929. When BC’s Little Theatre opened in the Court Street building in 1931, the budding thespians had a place to call home. 7
Chemistry Club (Women): At the annual dinner in 1932, Professor Weber gave a lecture on insulin, “that famous enzyme that has called forth so much research in recent years.” 8
Deutscher Verien (German Club; co-ed by 1933): Held a yearly poetry contest which became so successful that by 1932 they separated the entries into beginner and advanced categories. The club also held an annual Goethe Festival. Their 1932 Christmas celebration included the singing of traditional German songs and a visit by Knecht Ruprecht, a traditional attendant to Santa Claus who gives ashes, coal, and stones to naughty kids. 9
Home Economics Club (Women): Provided instruction on subjects “vital to all future home keepers,” including sandwich making and choosing the right furniture style. Members cooked food for the college cafeteria. 10
Service Squad (Men): This club was organized in 1927 to facilitate the flow of student traffic in the halls and stairways of the crowed Downtown Brooklyn office buildings. By 1933, the squad mustered thirty-three members, all of whom held military ranks. 11
Italian Club (co-ed by 1933): Successfully petitioned for an Italian language course to be offered at BC. 12
Fraternities and Sororities
In the early years, there were more sororities than fraternities. In 1932, the Women’s Division listed eleven registered sororities and four that were still under probation. By 1933, the number of recognized sororities grew to eighteen while there were only six fraternities. 13