Students were required to purchase two items in addition to their textbook: a hard back notebook to use as a journal and a manila folder in which Thom would keep all their papers. On the first day of class, or the second, as Thom reminded them of the two purchases, he would ask "Anyone know where the name manila folder came from?" No one would answer because no one knew, and who's going to speak up the first day of class during the first day of their Freshman year?
"No one knows?" he would continue.
"Well, during World War II, when almost everything was rationed, including quality paper, cheap paper materials, including cardboard, were used to make the millions of paper products the military needed, including something as simple as file folders. Since General MacArthur had left the Philippines, returning and driving out the Japanese was a primary goal for years. In fact, the cry of 'We shall return' was common among the troops in the South Pacific.
The story goes that a low member of MacArthur staff, a clerk, had commented to another clerk that he really did not feel like he was doing much, spending day after day in Honolulu filing papers, regardless of how important those papers were. MacArthur over heard the comment from another room, walked in and told the clerk 'Son, every soldier is a part of this army and will be a part of this victory. Every paper you put in a folder sends a message to Manila that we are coming back to free them from tyranny. In fact, those folders in your hand might as well be called Manila folders. Those are the people we are fighting for and every piece of paper sends Manila the message, we will return.' Word spread about the insignificant folder being elevated to such stature of importance in the war effort and the name stuck.”
Every student listened intently; some would write down the factoid.
Sometimes Thom would wait until the next class to tell them he'd made the story up; sometimes, because they were so believing, he felt obligated to tell them immediately.
It was his way of letting them know they should question everything, even from...maybe especially from...professors.