1950s Memories

NEW! DEFLATED INTENTIONS, by Thelma (Brown) Decker, '53

I remember the old Fort Lewis College out at Hesperus for the Friendship that we had with everyone, since it was small you used to know most everyone there, and they was like brothers and sisters to you.

We also could pull pranks on each other.  I remember one time when Bertha Horvath (who was stronger than all the rest of us) would just pick you up and throw you in the tub, so a few of us decided we was going to put her in the bath tub, we filled the tub up and a few of us decided we could put her in, wrong, she just walked in and crawled in the tub, it sure deflated our intentions and fun.

We got to know everyone on a personal basis.  It was a lot of fun.  We also learned a lot since the college was small and you felt like they was interested in you personally.  I for one really enjoyed it.

HOMECOMING QUEEN, by Barbara Hosner, Class of '58 (Home Economics) and '77 (Early Childhood Education)

Homecoming Queen Barb (Krantz) Hosner (right) and her attendant Donna Dillon Kirks
Homecoming Queen Barb (Krantz) Hosner
(right) and her attendant Donna Dillon Kirks.

I was called into Ned Wallace’s office and this was one time I can say I was a little bit scared.  I don’t know why.  He wanted to see me and I walked in and sat down, a little uncomfortable.  He says I have something to tell you.  You were selected as the homecoming queen.  It usually is delivered by the co-captain and the captain of the football team but we released your picture and a little write-up that we wanted to put in the Denver Post and it came out in this morning’s paper and when we were given word of it we felt it was important you would know first before those student on campus would be coming up to you and congratulating you.  I sat there overwhelmed.  I didn’t know what to say but I was so proud that I had been chosen the homecoming queen.  I was dating and going with one of the football players, Art Adcock, and I felt that this was such an honor that he helped for me to become the homecoming queen. 

They had a pep rally.  We had a huge bon fire which we all gathered wood for.  We had presentation that Friday afternoon at the gymnasium in which I and my two attendants were recognized in front of the student body.  And then we had the homecoming football game.  It had to be a miserable day that day.  It had rained and snowed and was bitterly cold.  As I was standing on the football field with the two attendants, Ed Shank, which was a very close friend of my boyfriend Art, said, “You girls are very lucky, at least you can wear your coats, we’re shivering to death.”  Anyway we sat through the game.  Fortunately we won.  It was a very good year for Fort Lewis because we won eight out of the ten games.  Then that evening was the dance in the gymnasium.  The alumnae and the sophomore students had decorated it beautifully with a lot of crepe paper.  We even had a throne to sit upon. 

COLLEGE, INITIATION, AND "DOUBLE" DATING, by Peggy Campbell Frame, attended '53-'54

I lived at home and shared a ride with my brother who was working on the campus farm, a distance of about fifteen miles.  He also assisted with my school expenses.  When a special evening of social activity was planned or a cheerleaders practice scheduled, I was permitted to stay over night at the girl's dormitory for a fee of fifty cents.  Mrs. Hickman was most kind and understanding with the arrangement.

My freshman initiation experience was not a positive memory as the sophomore girls escorted me to the bathroom at Lory Hall and attempted to drown me in the bathtub.  I received a gash on the top of my head which bled profusely.  Medical attention was summoned and I recovered with a slight scar.  I think we were all scared. 

One unforgettable memory for me was the evening that I had two dates. I attended the winter prom and had a great time and then was escorted to the dorm.  Mrs. Hickman was waiting to assist me in changing attire and slipped me out the back door where I met my military boyfriend to attend a family wedding shivaree.  I married that military boyfriend in August 1954 and have been happily married for fifty-six years.

NEW TIMES, by Merrillee Dolan, attended '59-'62

Students Dorothy Winters and Merrillee Dolan share a cup of coffee with English professor Dr. Charles Wiley
Students Dorothy Winters and Merrillee Dolan share a cup of
coffee with English professor Dr. Charles Wiley.

Soon after my original visit to the college with my parents, I joined other new students in taking some placement tests after which I was advised not to try to be an engineer or even marry one. Lots of the young men were pre-engineering, but I had no such inclination, so I laughed and agreed I would not try to be an engineer. As for marrying one, I didn’t intend to get married to anyone. On September 14, I completed registration and selected my classes at one of the tables set up in the library. Any school registration involves standing in lines, and it was no different in 1959. However, it was easy to get the classes we wanted because there weren’t huge numbers of students clamoring to get them. Computers wouldn’t be available for decades, and we actually talked to the people at the tables who registered us (usually the teachers). I bought my books in a small room next door to the small snack bar/coffee shop. I recall only one window through which books were sold. Both the snack bar and the little book store were part of the student union building, which had a ballroom upstairs.

I was quite impressed with that ballroom in 1959, but it was small compared to what exists today. An attractive wide, curved stairway led to that original ballroom. There may have been one elevator, but we always used the stairway. The ballroom opened onto an outdoor balcony with a view of the mountains. One evening, about two months after school started, during a dance, our biology teacher, Dr. Herbert Owen, called us outside to that balcony to watch a pulsating display of northern lights above the snow-capped mountains. They moved like ghostly velveteen curtains on a celestial stage.

BEAR ON CAMPUS, by Rufe Romero, attended '51-'53

April, 1952, Fort Lewis campus in Hesperus. It was about 12:30 in the afternoon when a bear was sighted on the west side pasture behind the faculty housing. The bear had spooked a horse which brought excitement on campus and brought all students to witness the excitement and shooting of the bear which was done by the college President, Dr. Charles Dale Rea. Later the bear carcass was picked up by the Division of Wildlife.


There were about forty girls attending Fort Lewis College in 1953-54. Only twenty of these girls lived in Lory Hall, the women’s dormitory. Most of the other girls came to Fort Lewis each day on a bus that Fort Lewis ran from Durango to the campus. Those in the dorm were like a large family with a proctor, Mom Hickman, who was like a second Mom to us. We had to observe some rules such as no boys upstairs where our rooms were located and no cooking in our rooms. We were required to be in each evening by 10 o’clock on week days and 12 o’clock on week-ends and to check out anytime we were leaving the campus and to check in when we returned. We had one telephone in the dorm and it was on the main floor. You can imagine the mad dashes for the telephone when it rang. There was a large living room on the main floor where we could gather for group activities but most of our time in the evenings was spent in the recreation hall where we could dance and play games.

Fort Lewis College did not have any interscholastic sports for girls but we supported the boys’ competition. The boys practiced their games at Fort Lewis but played their football games on the football field at the Spanish Trails Fiesta Grounds in Durango and their basketball games in the Durango High School Gym. I was proud to be on the cheerleading squad with Peggy Campbell, Joy Price, and Greta Edmisten. We cheered at all the home (Durango) games but I only recall going to two out-of-town games. The cheerleaders rode to the game in Price, Utah with Coach Murphy’s wife and returned to Fort Lewis after the game. We arrived back at Fort Lewis in the wee hours of the morning. What a trip! The other game we attended was at Mesa Junior College in Grand Junction. One of the football players let us drive his car to the game. Seven girls went in our car. After the game we rented a motel room and pulled the mattress off the box springs. Some of us slept on the mattress and some on the box springs. What a night! But we had a great time.

Although the girls could not have interscholastic sports, we did have a women’s basketball team and played games with other women’s teams in the area. We practiced and played our games in the small gym on campus. In 1953 women were still playing half-court. Some believed that women could not or should not run the full length of a basketball floor. I’m so glad this attitude has changed.

OLD FORT GUN CONTROL, by Jules J. Koss, Class of '53 (Math)

One event I remember, which would be unheard of these days, was when I took my 30-30 deer rifle to school in my car to hunt deer on Fort Lewis property after class. Some of my buddies wanted to go to Durango early so I said I would loan them my car and I would ride the bus later. On the way to Durango, on top of Hesperus hill (the old road), I saw a deer in a ravine. The bus driver stopped so I could get the deer. He and some other students waited until I dressed the deer before proceeding to Durango. Later I got my car and returned to get the deer for processing. How would a rifle on a school bus go over these days?

THE GREAT NED WALLACE, by Phillip "Dutch" Malberg, attended '53-'55, '75,'78

I hadn't played organized basketball in high school but I loved it. I slept with a basketball under my pillow most of the time. One day after PE class I didn't have another class so I stayed and was just practicing my dribbling and my jump shots and my shooting and everything. Ned Wallace, our basketball coach, was standing in his office doorway and he saw me. He stood there for quite a while. Finally he approached me and asked me if I'd be interested in trying out for the team. I told him I didn't ever get to play high school basketball because of an unfortunate incident that happened. He told me that practice was at four o'clock that afternoon--"If you want to give it a shot, come on out." So I did. I ended up making the team.

He developed a good unity and team cohesiveness. There were no cliques. One or two stars, a lot of times, can dominate but everybody out there shared equally. That's the way Ned wanted it and if you didn't play that way you sat on the bench. I was the least experienced ball player on the team but they accepted me with open arms when I made the team.

We were the first sporting team that played post season ball and we went all the way to the National Jr. College Championship in Kansas. They inducted the whole team into the Athletic Hall of Fame which, as I recall, was started under the direction of Ned Wallace. I felt very fortunate to be able to bring my game up having not had the experience in high school, to be able to make the team, not only a team but a championship team!

NEW BEGINNING FOR AN OLD QUONSET HUT, by Don LeFever, Class of '56 (Animal Husbandry)

The last summer we spent at Hesperus in 1956, the college was moving to Durango. I had worked at the campus farm putting up hay in the summer, milking cows and working in the cafeteria to help with college expenses. That last summer I chose to work for a construction company in Durango to make more money. Our first job was to dismantle and take down the metal quonset hut at the old campus where I had taken agriculture courses. We moved it to the new campus and put it up as a shop for the Physical Plant. It may still be there. I remember the courses I took in that building such as Shop, Home Construction, Feeds and Feeding, Introduction to Animal Science and Farm Welding.

EAST MEETS WEST, by Sam Frizell, Class of '57 (General Arts & Sciences)

The faculty was small but very competent and interested in each student. Because of the small student body we got as much individual attention we wished to absorb. I remember many of the faculty with a great deal of fondness. My favorite professor was David Berg, from Brooklyn, New York, who taught English and speech. Bergie, as we called him, had served as an infantryman during WWII, and with the great influx of men returning home after demobilization, had to go far afield to find a job in his chosen profession. He was a little intimidated by what he regarded as the wild west atmosphere of the area, and in truth there was some basis for his feelings in this regard. Many of his students came to school in Levis and boots stained with the manure of the stockman, with rifle racks in the rear windows of their pickups, and rifles and shotguns showing through the windows. One student dipped Copenhagen and spit through an open window during good weather, and into a coffee can during the cold weather.

Bergie was an outstanding teacher. He taught us the principles of English composition during the week, then on Friday we all handed in a composition, which was returned to us, graded with ample comments, the following week. There was close cooperation between the college and the business community and when the Durango Herald needed a sports editor, Berg's recommendation was requested. He recommended me for the job and I was hired as sports editor for the paper. I was able to learn a lot about the newspaper business, including photography with an old Speed Graphic camera, in addition to my academic studies.

SENIOR DAY, by Gene A. Whitehorn, D.V.M., Class of '58 (General Arts & Sciences)

Every year Fort Lewis had what was called, "Senior Day," and that was the occasion of our visit to the campus. High school students were encouraged to visit the campus and check out the college. Fort Lewis used this time to help persuade students to attend. It was used as a scouting tool to inspire high school seniors to commit to Fort Lewis so everyone at the college was on their best behavior and tried to appear their best. I noticed during "Senior Day" that all the students there appeared so much older and were all more mature, and indeed they were because they were 'college students." They must have been a year or two older than I was and a few may have been much older.

We got a tour thorough all the buildings on that very hot day in the fall of the year and we even attended a basketball game in their very small auditorium. The entire campus was very old and most of the buildings were old as well. I believe what impressed me the most were the biology laboratories located on the second floor. The odor of formaldehyde was heavy in the air and there were numerous displays of various animal organs pickled in jars. At that time I had a very sensitive stomach and the specimens and the heat became too much for me and I sought some fresh air outside. The formaldehyde even made the eyes sting and water.

Fort Lewis must have made a good impression on me as I decided to attend there after graduation from high school. I believe it was the fall of 1956 that I first enrolled there.