1960s Memories

NEW! THE JOHN REED APPROACH, by Bruce Spinning, '72

When I first came to FLC in the Fall of 1968, I met John Reed at the beginning of the Freshmen registration.  He had taken a position at the front of the line and made it a point to greet each new in-coming student, asking their name, and something about them individually.  I was amazed a few days later when crossing campus Dr. Reed said “Hello Bruce, how are you enjoying your first English courses?”  This was a John Reed approach.  He made it a point to get acquainted personally with every student and to know something about each.  Later, when he was no longer FLC President, I once asked him about this and his response was that, for him, FLC learning should be “personal” as well as academic.  He felt that an FLC degree should go beyond subject mastery and become an internalized, individual value.  That was why he invested the effort.  He did not feel any FLC student should pass through the college ‘anonymously.’

REMEMBERING TYPEWRITERS, by Jettie Sutton Omdahl, attended '59-'61

As I recall, there was only one female student of all of us who lived in the dorm who actually had a car, and she was a rancher’s daughter from the Pagosa area, and because there was not phone service at her home place, her parents furnished her a car so she could get back and forth to “the Fort” and  drive home to communicate if necessary.   As far as affluence in the dorm, it didn’t exist.  There was one girl who had her own electric typewriter; Ft. Lewis administrators simply left the typing rooms unlocked so students could use them.  Many of these typewriters left unguarded in the typing room were manual, not electric.  We erased every mistake with a wheel shaped, pink typing eraser that had a brush on the end to sweep away the eraser crumbs.  Erasable typing paper was a recent boon to the process and a time saver with the errors we made--strikeovers were unacceptable.  When copies were necessary, we used black carbon sheets with light weight onion skin or tissue-thin copy paper, and we erased each error on the original as well as on every copy we were typing.  With today’s technology, we can all just strike over anything and make all the copies we want with one little stroke.  Therefore, things got much easier for today’s students.  Fortunately for us, many instructors accepted legibly handwritten work on many occasions.  Even when there were essay questions on exams, all grammatical and spelling errors were circled when the papers were returned.  This experience at Fort Lewis came with some high expectations. We did what we were told and had no idea that students had rights, which could have been a good thing!  I’m pretty sure current cryptic text messages would have been nixed. 

DORM LIFE, by Judy (Gould) Dayhoff, Class of '61 (Secretarial Science)

Our rooms were fairly new, but small compared to today’s standards; each floor had one large bathroom with community showers down the hall.  There was one pay phone mounted on the wall per floor.  Most seldom-made calls to home were “collect.   The cafeteria was not open on Sundays; so if we wanted to dine, we walked down the hill to town.  Sometimes we were lucky enough to catch a ride back up to the campus.  In those days, none of us had refrigerators and microwaves were non-existent.  

The second year, four of us lived in married student housing since the only women’s dorm was filled to capacity.  We were quite uptown with a kitchen, living room, bath and two small bedrooms.   After seeing the movie, Psycho, we housemates were afraid to take a shower because our furnace made the same terrible sound as the shower scene in the show (at least in our teenage minds)!

THE OLD RESERVOIR, by Al Spencer, Professor of Biology, '65 - '91

All of the area occupied by the playing fields now was covered in sage brush and oak brush and the city still had a reservoir that sat about where the parking lot for the playing fields is now.  This was fed from the Florida River by an old wooden pipeline.  It was about two feet in diameter made out of staves like a barrel and wrapped in steel.  There were frogs and salamanders and ducks and muskrats, all that kinda thing, in that pond at that time.  And there were cottonwoods growing around it.  We had foxes and sage sparrows…it was an amazing place to teach.  One of my courses was field zoology and when I wanted to teach ornithology I just walked out there with my students, and around the campus we could see maybe thirty or forty different species of birds in a morning's walk.

TURNING A LIFE AROUND WITH HEART, by Tom Towner, Class of '65 (English)

Fort Lewis truly turned my life around.  I was less than a stellar high school student – that was an understatement. I really did have to work hard but in the long run it paid off.  I was very involved in student government as well as the college newspaper (The Independent).

At the time that I entered college in 1961, Fort Lewis was in its major transition from a 2 year school to a 4 year college.  It was an exciting time.

As student body president in 1963, I helped fund some great programming and brought in some outstanding musicians and entertainers like folk singer/comedian Don Crawford out of Denver. The Student Senate was also very involved with the “Heart Fund.”  As a fund raiser the Senate did a “Heart Fund Hootenanny” which brought in local folk singers and blue grass groups to raise money.

I am so thankful that I ended up at FLC - an incredibly beautiful campus with a great faculty.  I have many fond memories such as "Poor Boys," a hamburger place on Main with a back room where everyone gathered on weekends to drink 3.2 beer and dance, great fishing and lifelong friends.

THE PRESIDENT'S WIFE AND HER ROSES, by Nick Heidy, attended '57-'60

John Reed's wife came with him in '62 and it was about '65 she was seriously ill.  They had to cut her spinal cord to cut down on the pain for her.   She was on her back for the last year of her life and John Reed would visit her every night.  I used to take her a rose from one of the rose bushes around here.  When she first came she told the grounds crew around here, she said, I would appreciate it if you would let me take some of your work.  That was her polite way of saying you guys are really screwing up these rose bushes.  She had a master's degree in botany out of Duke, so she went around this whole campus with her clippers and all these things and pruned all those roses all the time.  So I figured those were her roses as much as anybody's so every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would clip one out and put it in a vase and take it up to the hospital and change those for her.  But he was up there always, he would stay at night and read books to her. He read all the Ian Fleming books, 007, and a whole variety of things that he liked and she liked.  He would still have time, you could come on this campus at 11 or 12 at night and his office light was on.  And then he would be up at 5:30 or something, visiting with the grounds crew or security people.  Then he would be up in his office before anybody else was in their office.  Many nights I worked until 8, 9 at night and he was always there, and he was there when I left.  He was there when I got back in the morning.

BOARDWALKS AND MUD, by Adrian Wade, Class of '65 (Business-Acounting)

My attitude when I started college was it's like a job.  You're gonna do your college stuff eight hours a day and that was that.  I had as many as two or three jobs going on while I was going to college.  I'd just spent 4 years in the military.  I was ready to get on with my life.  I paid my own expenses though I didn't have home expenses because I lived with my parents.

I worked for Fort Lewis.  My dad was the mechanic there.  They had two snow plows, two old army surplus snowplows and we plowed snow together.  We could tandem and plow the parking lots.  I also worked for Fort Lewis in a darkroom because I had experience in a darkroom in the military.  The darkroom at Fort Lewis at that time for the Toltec was a converted clothes closet.  That was the size of our darkroom.  I was in a class where the electrician was putting the outlets in the room while we were taking a class.  Back then the campus had boardwalks between buildings and mud.

IT'S THE WEST...NO, IT'S THE WILD WEST, by Debra Parmenter, Class of 1970 (Humanities-Social Science)

Some of my most enjoyable memories from my time at Fort Lewis are of my participation in Westerners Club activities.  There is no doubt that the cowboy culture has made a large impact on our country and is still evident on the campus of Fort Lewis College.  One of the oldest celebrations had been Westerners Week.  Given the fact that the Westerners Club had been one of the most active and best organized clubs, it was no surprise that the week was filled with everything from egg throwing, water balloon tossing, three legged races, horseshoe -pitching but the event that drew the largest crowd was the infamous Tug-O-War. 
The quadrangle was filled with spectators cheering on their favorite team. Each year there was a different club on the opposite end of the Westerners rope, but they prevailed as Victors the majority of the time, that is until the football players were the opponents.  The week culminated with putting on your best duds and freshly polished boots to dance into the wee hours of the morning at the Saturday night dance with a famous western singer.
Westerners Club sounds like it was all about fun, but by no means was that the case. The Mounted Color Guard was present at every Homecoming Parade, football games and special events. Club members were always willing to give a helping hand in decorating the campus at Christmas, raising money for the Heart Fund Drive, and dedicated the Howdy Walk in 1964 at the commencement ceremony.  This plaque can still be found between Miller Student Center and the Theatre.
According to the 1949-50 yearbook, "the Rodeo Club was organized in September of 1949, in order to provide recreation for those students who were interested in the rough and tumble sport of tangling with bucking broncos and mean-eyed steers". The name changed to The Westerners Club with the move from the Old Fort in 1956-57 with the hope of attracting new members.
Today the club is still active with the goal of promoting and enhancing agriculture at Fort Lewis College and the surrounding areas of Southwestern Colorado by becoming a link between the college and the agriculture community.


he Raiders' R overlooked campus in the 60s and 70s.
The Raiders' R overlooked campus in the 60s and 70s.

Fort Lewis was a college in transition in 1969 having recently become a baccalaureate institution.  There was a huge “R” on Raider Ridge that was kept bright by painting the rocks white and clearing the mountain shrubs (the environmental movement had not hit Durango yet), but if one looked carefully one could see that the “R” had been constructed by modifying an “A” for Aggies.   There was a gap in the lettering on the doors of the Physical Plant trucks between “Fort Lewis” and “College” where the “A & M” had been painted over.  These tangible signs of transition were mirrored in the attitudes and compositions of the administration, faculty, and students.  The administration kept the faculty on a short leash reflecting the attitude that the future of the former agricultural and mechanical college as a liberal arts school was tenuous.  Dean of Faculty, Paul Pixler, recorded attendance at faculty meetings and graduation.  This latter event was held outdoors because the gym (now Natatorium) was too small.  Dr. Berndt felt that building a new gym shortly after he became president was one of his greatest accomplishments because graduation could be held indoors.  When Rexer Berndt instituted parking fees, I felt that the $8 price of the sticker was too large a chunk of my $7,200 annual salary, and I declined to purchase one.  Rexer called my chairman, Herb Owen, who explained that I walked up the trail from my $60 per month rental home on Third Avenue.  Many of the faculty did not have terminal degrees (including me), and the ones who espoused high academic standards found themselves swimming upstream.  Most of the 1,800 students were from the four corners area, and the college was only just being discovered by residents of the Front Range.  Western wear was the norm, and this easterner was ridiculed for using an umbrella on rainy days.  The Westerns’ Club was the largest and most active student group; one of their activities was painting the “R” each fall before Homecoming.  The faculty and staff were so small, and the grapevine was so efficient that they all knew who I was within the first week without introductions.

MEMORIES FROM 200 FEET ON TOP, by Kathy Sullivan Fisher, '68

We always used to say that we went to college 20 feet from town and 200 feet on top of it. I can still remember looking down on Durango on chilly cold nights with the city lights glowing below and the stars twinkling above me. It was an incredible setting and I will remember the place and the people forever.

I loved Mr. Ruland (EVERYBODY loved Mr. Ruland). He was a fantastic music professor and even if you didn’t like to sing it was great to be in chorus just to hang around him.

Mr. Heidy was the Educational Advisor but he was also our “School Dad” and it felt great to know that we could always talk to him and that he was always looking out for us.

I worked as a student aid for a while helping out a group of four English Profs, one of whom was Mr. Periman. I tried to do everything I could to help, including dusting the desks, cleaning out coffee cups, etc. (his was really stained), only to find out one day when he was lecturing that he LOVED his stained coffee cup and refused to scrub it because that destroyed its character.

I remember taking part in the bed races for the Heart Fund one year. Someone on each team would lie on the bed and the rest would push the bed down the hill and around the hairpin turns to see which team reached the bottom first. I could barely even catch up to the bed, let alone push it, and as soon as I did I fell and went flying. I had a protruding bone bruise on my hip for months afterward.

I remember staying up all night to cram for exams in the winter and then walking to the cafeteria when it first opened for a coffee fix. The campus looked like a winter wonderland. The air was clear and crisp and it seemed like a giant hand had sprinkled golden glitter everywhere.

I tried out to be a Can-Can girl for Southwest Days one year and dislocated my knee (did the same thing at the senior dance in high school and graduated on crutches). I am still a klutz.

I remember having to sign out in Cooper Hall before we could leave campus and then having to RACE back to beat curfew or else we got “the look” from Mrs. Ashback. We needed signed notes from a parent to stay out overnight. There were a lot of “parents” on that campus.

The Westerners’ Club and the Shalako Club were two of the biggest clubs on campus. I guess it was perfectly fitting to have the cowboys and the Indians running the Fort.

MOVING THE LIBRARY, by Jane Morehart, Class of '70 (Humanities-Social Science)

One of the things I remember while attending FLC was moving books from the library's old location on the west side to their "new" and present home on the east side.

Students, teachers, employees, anyone who wanted to help; carried books across campus as we went to class or during spare time. Many locals and downtown merchants came to help as well. It was a wonderful example of community spirit.