Early Hoofers History: 1940s

1940 – 1949

Skating couple Kate Whitney and Forest Anderson, 1917. #040502as217
Skating couple Kate Whitney and Forest Anderson, 1917. #040502as217

Hoofers took over general management of the annual Winter Carnival (aka Winter Week or Winterama) from the Wisconsin Student Board. The week-long flurry of activity was a mixture of athletic contests, social events, and demonstrations of school spirit. Plaid flannel shirts and ski sweaters were considered mandatory attire during the week.

Winter Carnival events (dependent upon the weather) included ice and broom hockey, skate cabarets, speed skating, and barrel stave meets. Ice events were held on the terrace, which was blocked off and flooded in preparation. The annual ice sculpture contest was a perennial favorite, with a raffle determining the winners of the coveted spots on Bascom Hill.

Hoofers Winterama, 1955. #dn04050702
Hoofers Winterama, 1955. #dn04050702

The biggest activity of Winter Carnival was the annual ski meet, which was an official Central Ski Association championship event. Since it was such a high-profile event, with perhaps a dozen teams participating, the skiers could not rely on the whimsy of Wisconsin weather.

Preparation tactics often included prayers to the Norse snow god Ullr, the Sewanee snow dance, and the Comanche snow chant and prayer.

If all else failed, Hoofers would ship in snow from up north on railroad boxcars, carrying it up in buckets and packing it on the ski jump.

It took approximately 25 truckloads of snow to prepare the jump.

Doc Bradley built a junior ski jump at Shorewood Hills, a smaller version of the Muir Knoll jump. The Hoofers trained grade school children on it, grooming future generations of ski jumpers. The younger skiers were called Junior Hoofers, and sometimes participated in meets on campus.

A women’s ski team was formed, largely due to the interest of two students, Barbara Meyer and Ruth Brown. They trained with the men’s team, and the sport was so sparsely populated that often their only competition was each other.

Hoofers Club ski repair, 1940s. #dn06021408
Hoofers Club ski repair, 1940s. #dn06021408

ca. 1940
The Archery Club opens a range in the Memorial Union. Due to space constraints and fire hazards (the combination of constantly-smoking students and dry straw being particularly ill-advised), the setup did not last very long.

A lack of permanent facilities plagued the group for the rest of their existence; at various times they practiced at the UW Women’s Athletic Department driving range, the country fair grounds, the Blackhawk Archery Range, and the Madison Archery Club’s indoor facility in the basement of the Paladium.

Each year the club’s annual report begged for a permanent shooting range, but it never materialized.

Hoofers elects its first female president, Alice Strange.

ca. 1945
Hoofers Outing Club was created. From its inception, Hoofers was an outing organization, with a strong emphasis on camping, hiking, and general enjoyment of the outdoors. Hiking was one of the group’s main divisions in the 1930s, before activities were separated out into official clubs. In the mid-1940s, hiking was combined with other outdoor activities and folded into the more general Outing Club.

A female equestrian advertises the Riding Club's Horse Show, 1940s.
Hoofers Club member advertises the Hoofers Riding Club’s Horse Show, 1940s.

The Riding Club decided to hold a small gymkhana, or skills competition, in the Stock Pavilion. Word got out, however, and locals began requesting permission to enter. The organizers added several show classes, although they reserved a few events for UW students or Hoofers only. The king and queen of the horse show were Lou Wanda, “the beautiful three gaited mare” and “Gallant Lad, a three gaited gelding”.

In successive years, the queen was of the human variety. The show was such a success that it became an annual event, and was one of the biggest Hoofer’s events of the year—the second annual incarnation hosted 2000 spectators. It was recognized by the Wisconsin Pleasure Horse Association Circuit as the only all-student managed exhibition in the circuit.

The popularity of the Riding Club increased in the ensuing years; during the 1949-1950 school year, 485 riding hours were logged by 60 people.

A record is set for the fastest hike around Lake Mendota—4 hours, 2 minutes.

ca. 1947
Hoofers switched to a point system for Heels, rather than having each potential Hoofer voted on by the current members. Though the point system was revised multiple times over the years, the basic premise remained the same. A set number of points was required to be admitted as a full-fledged Hoofer. Points were doled out for individual, all-day, and weekend activities, and at times Heels were required to earn a certain percentage of their points in specific categories, such as leadership, activities, service, and meetings.

Hoofers Club scrapbook cover, 1940s.
Hoofers Club scrapbook cover, 1940s.

Doc Bradley, co-founder of Hoofers, retired from his position as professor in the Physiological Chemistry department.

The Hoofer Mountaineers Club was organized. After three climbs, a novice was promoted to the status of climber. The group was fortunate enough to have a nearly perfect climbing set-up at Devil’s Lake, a Midwestern rarity, and they took advantage of it nearly every weekend. They also took longer trips over school breaks, such as two-week excursions to the Tetons.