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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow EOU grads reminisce on life in early 1950s

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EOU grads reminisce on life in early 1950s

A LOOK BACK: Eastern Oregon University students from 50 years ago examine their school's 1951 yearbook at a reunion Saturday. The alums are, left to right, Doris (Lay) Doherty of Hermiston, Beth (Chapin) Crow and her husband Tom Crow of Madras.	 (The Observer/DICK MASON).
A LOOK BACK: Eastern Oregon University students from 50 years ago examine their school's 1951 yearbook at a reunion Saturday. The alums are, left to right, Doris (Lay) Doherty of Hermiston, Beth (Chapin) Crow and her husband Tom Crow of Madras. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Fifty years ago student cars on the campus of Eastern Oregon University were like color television programs rare.

Almost nobody had cars. We walked almost everywhere. When you went on a date you walked ... Sometimes we even walked up to Morgan Lake for picnics, said Beth (Chapin) Crow of Madras.

Crow was one of about 20 EOU graduates who attended a reunion of Easterns class of 1951 on Saturday at the Hoke Center.

Students who did drive regularly included Doris (Lay) Doherty, who lives in Hermiston. She often drove to Elgin to see her boyfriend.

I had a small Ford and it did not have a speedometer, Doherty said.

Later she got a car that did have a speedometer. It slowed her down considerably because she could see how fast she was driving.

It took me 10 minutes longer to drive from Elgin to La Grande in that car, Doherty said with a smile.

Speedometers were not new 50 years ago but power steering and color television were. Power steering was introduced in 1951, the same year that the first color television program was shown, according to Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century.

Eastern students did not spend any leisure time watching television in the early 1950s. La Grande did not begin receiving television broadcasts until 1954. Students had fun going to movies and dances.

Dances 50 years ago were known as sock hops, and many of Easterns sock hops were held in a dining room between the two dormitories.

Students usually danced with friends they had in the dormitories.

You felt a real bond with them, said Arleigh Berget who now lives in Forest Grove.

Eastern students who lived in La Grande but not in the dormitories were known as townies, said Arleighs wife Donna (Gordon) Berget.

Easterns campus was much smaller in the early 1950s than it is today. Its campus consisted of only:

Inlow Hall.

Ackerman Elementary School and its gym.

Hoke Hall, which was then a converted U.S. Army barracks.

Pierce Library, which opened in the early 1950s.

The only two dormitories, Hunt and Dorion halls, were connected by a dining hall. Today these dorms are part of the Hunt Hall complex. The Dorion name was later transferred to the two dorms on the west side of campus which were built in the 1950s and 1960s.

Buildings that had not yet been built included Zabel Hall, which was named after professor Amanda Zabel. Shirley (Koch) Disch, who attended Saturdays reunion, had fond memories of Zabel.

She was one of those who never gave up on me, Disch said.

History professor Lee Johnson was another popular professor half a century ago. Johnson, who still lives in La Grande, is the author of a well regarded work about the history of Union County.

He made everyone love history, Crow said. The memories that Crow and others at the reunion have of their days at Eastern are clearly ones they cherish.

It was wonderful. I owe this school so much, said Shirley (Koch) Disch.

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