1930s Memories
Margaret (Rutledge) Klatt and her grade school classmates enjoyed the special teaching projects of student teachers.
Margaret (Rutledge) Klatt and her grade school classmates enjoyed the
special teaching projects of student teachers.

NEW! GRADE SCHOOL AT FORT LEWIS, by Margaret (Rutledge) Klatt, '38

The grade school at Fort Lewis had two rooms – each having four grades. We were a real captive audience for the college budding teachers. When we knew they were scheduled to teach us we really considered their teaching programs or projects as a highlight of the month. Beth Neal taught us art appreciation using copies of the old master’s works that we had never seen before. Francis Jacobson had a project whereby we read and had to report on great writers.

I don’t recall the particular programs of the following teachers but they were all equally impressive: Edith McRay, Bernice McCarty, Judy Hickman, Al Pepin, Dorothy Klusman and others.

The teaching projects were two or four weeks long. One person who greatly impressed me was Irene O’Brien, a college faculty member and the girls’ dorm matron. She would read or recite poetry and transported us into other worlds or dimensions!
I have always felt that we, as students, were given more personal attention and instruction than other students in the rural school systems and the enjoyment from these projects was never forgotten. I enjoyed every year and looked forward with great anticipation to the next year.

Roberta (center), with her friends Mildred & Louise Woods.
Roberta (center), with her
friends Mildred & Louise Woods.

LOCK UP YOUR CAR, by Roberta (Armstrong) Barr, attended '31-'33, '50, '58, '60

Ray Mott had a car and (very strange for people to have a car in those days).  But he stayed at the Fort and when he got ready to go he had to get the keys from Snyder to get his car out (they had it locked in).  He got his car out and went home and when he came back it was locked up again.  The dean locked it up.  There was no such a thing as messin’ around like they do today.  They were very strict.  No cars on the campus.

We had lots of fun though.  I mean we worked hard, but we did have a good time and they always had entertainment for us each weekend and they had the church each Sunday.  That first year there was the year we got snowed in.   Boy it really snowed.  All you could see of the men walking down the sidewalks was the top of their head.  Boy it snowed that year.  Lots of snowballs.

LATHER UP THE FUN! by Fred W. Klatt, attended '38-'40

 A few of the cast: (clockwise from top left) Ken McCormick, Hugh Cornelius,George Engler, and Joe Davies, from the 1939 yearbook
A few of the cast: (clockwise from top left)
Ken McCormick, Hugh Cornelius,George Engler,

and Joe Davies, from the 1939 yearbook

“Who changed the faucet handles –I damned near burnt myself!” yelled Hugh.  His roommate Joe giggled and answered, “Could have been either Cyril or Waddy – they’re always causing a ruckus.”  In the shower stall next door, Kenny was humming some tune – off key as usual, so Joe said, “Whoever is trying to sing, knock it off.”  Just then Georgie walked in to an empty basin and asked quietly to no one in particular – “Wonder whose safety razor this is?”  “It’s Ken’s,” whispered Joe, “It’s a Gem double-edged.  Take the blade out and we’ll see if Ken tries to shave without noticing!”  George asked, “Is that his shaving mug?”  “Yeah,” came the answer.  “Wait ‘til I go get a little cocoa from my room.  We’ll put some under the soap bar in the mug and see if he lathers up and watch the fun.”  He did and we did!!!

Fred Klatt at 2010's Old Fort Alumni Reunion
Fred Klatt at 2010's Old Fort
Alumni Reunion

Cast of Characters: 
Hugh Cornelius (Durango boy), class of ’39 shot down in WWII in his naval torpedo bomber, rescued and taken prisoner by Japs, tortured and died in Japan.
Joe Davies (Durango boy), Navy pilot, same class, died in car accident in California ‘44
Ken McCormick (Durango) ’37 – Army pilot troop transport in China and Europe on D Day dropping parachuters .  After discharge taught school in Utah.
George Engler (Durango) class ’39 – Air Force navigator – lived in California but lost track.
Walter Mason (Durango) – class ’39 – US Coast guard.  Retired to teacher in Durango.  Died in Texas after retirement. 
The above scenario was an example of Snyder Hall dorm life.

This is just one experience Old Fort students enjoyed during the period between the depression years and WWII.   It is fictional in the events but characters could have been actual.  Student population was around 100 and perhaps only one student had a car.  Some events were planned (backward dance, dress-up dinner with dancing to records every Wednesday night, La Plata Canyon picnic, Senior Day, walks up to the SPRING or down to the picnic grounds below the campus.  I can’t recall of any fighting or disorder conduct on campus.  It was very clearly an outstanding period in my life and was made so by the friends, college staffs and events.

SOME CHALLENGES OF GETTING A HIGHER EDUCATION, by Emma (Paulek) Horvath, attended '34-'36, '48-'49, '61, '64

Emma Horvath often used her horse for transportation.
Emma Horvath often used
her horse for transportation.

After Labor Day, my father took me to Fort Lewis (the old campus) and enrolled me for my first semester of college and paid $100 for tuition and books. I did not have any study skills and found that school was very difficult. A girl had only two professions to choose from at that time: teaching or nursing. I signed up for twenty-two credit hours geared towards getting a teaching certificate in two years. I didn’t realize how much studying was required and had to divide my time between all the subjects. There was no counselor or adviser to help you with your classes, and I didn’t do very well in any of the school subjects. The first semester I learned how to study.

During the cold winter months, I rode in a car owned by Charles Davies who had five other students riding with him to help pay for the gas. They were his cousin, Hughie Davies, Wanda Boughan, Harold Kimsey and his two sisters, Anna and Ruth Kimsey. In the winter Charles used kerosene in the radiator of the car as water froze and anti-freeze was not available.

I was in the Glee Club that year. I thought I could sing until Mr. Custer, the teacher, had us sing a few solo notes for a grade. I was so scared that my singing was not acceptable and had no idea that there were high notes and low notes in your singing voice. I received a D for a grade and I have been very self-conscious about singing since then. The Glee Club presented several programs and I had to ride my horse to Fort Lewis after dark to take part in the programs.

The school did not have an honor roll or any incentives, and my parents were satisfied that I made a passing grade.

The second year I enjoyed the basic subjects and enjoyed an excellent teacher, Miss Weist, in English. I had Mr. Dorsey, a very boring teacher, for my history classes. Miss Good taught Physical Education. She taught us some dance steps and tap dancing. Mr. Bader was my science teacher. Mrs. Dorsey taught the education classes.

Most of the teachers were poorly trained, poorly paid, lived on campus, and taught several subjects. The second semester my grades showed some improvement. I wrote all my term papers, as we didn’t own a typewriter. I didn’t socialize easily as I was a year younger than everyone in the class. About one hundred students were enrolled in the college courses. About half of the students stayed in the dorms but the larger percentage lived off campus. Three or four girls or boys rented a room in Hesperus and rode the bus, as they couldn’t afford living on campus. Elbert Brady drove an old pickup with a camper shell on it and the students who lived south of Breen rode with him. Some mornings they were chilled, as there was no heat in the pickup. Many of us felt discriminated against because we lived off campus. The school operated on a very tight budget with limited supplies and cut expenses as much as possible.

In 1935, I returned to Fort Lewis for my second year of college. I made excellent grades in the education courses. A snow fence was built on the short lane that ran between the Jake Davis corner and the Robert’s corner. Pete Campbell, Lee’s father, was plowing the roads at night with a Caterpillar. It was very windy that winter and the lane would have huge drifts in it shortly after it was plowed. We rode our horses around the drifts or went through the smaller drifts.

THE GAME WINNER, by Robert Beers, attended '32-'33

 Robert Beers in his basketball uniform.
Robert Beers in his
basketball uniform.

We had a wonderful coach for basketball, very understanding.  In my particular case, I was a weak player, I knew that, and he worked me over a bit and he made me a better player.  I liked him a lot.  If I'd make a mistake he didn't treat it as a mistake, he treated it as a goal, to work me over.  And he did that with everybody. 

I mention basketball and I emphasize the fact that I really wasn't that good but they gave me a uniform and I hung on.  But, the high note of my career out there as an athlete…I think we were playing Farmington….they were beating us.  And then we crept up, our guys did, until it was a tied game.  It was the last few seconds and I had the ball and I was a long ways from that basket.  But the only thing I could do was shoot and I made it.  They must have kind of chuckled a little about me being a hero cause I wasn't that good.