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Local Columns

December 3, 2011

Bailey column: Almost nothing about AU remains what it was

Driving or walking around Anderson University these days evokes a few memories of 54 years ago when I walked through the valley as a freshman. But those memories are in stark contrast to what I see today.

 There was no Decker Hall. No Reardon Auditorium. No Krannert Fine Arts Center or Kardatzke Wellness Center or even Hartung Hall. And no Rice Hall, Smith Hall or Myers Hall. The trailer court for married students has disappeared. Hey, Anderson College wasn’t even a university.

Nearly all my classes were in Old Main, the stately structure that stood where Decker Hall is now. I also had a few classes on the upper floor of brand-spanking-new Wilson Library in what was called the Little Theater. And physical education in the old Roundhouse, which still stands but is now an auditorium known as Byrum Hall.

I had spent the summer before enrollment on the cleaning crew for Morrison Hall, where young women had resided since the late 1940s but was no longer the newest dormitory on campus. The men were occupying the New Men’s Residence Hall on what was then East Third Street. The overflow of women was crowded into the former Old People’s Home on East Fifth Street, but they were looking forward to moving into the New Women’s Residence Hall in time for second semester.

New Men’s and New Women’s eventually gained more dignified names later in my college days, respectively Dunn and Martin halls.

The football, baseball, track and tennis teams played and practiced at facilities south of East Fifth Street. Basketball was in the Roundhouse. The cross country course went all the way to Jackson Crossing, and traffic on the bypass was stopped during meets.

As a member of the maintenance crew, I participated in the hoisting of books from the old fourth-floor library across the valley to Wilson Library, which is now part of the Nicholson Library. That, the Roundhouse and cramped Kemp Music Hall were the only academic buildings along the newly paved Third Street long before it became University Boulevard. The School of Theology, then meeting on the third floor of Old Main, would have its building later. And our fees would help pay for construction of Olt Student Center to replace the Rec Hall, in the basement of Morrison Hall, and the college cafeteria and snack bar in the basement of Old Main.

Music and art classes were held in the old Park Place School at Fifth Street and College Drive. And chapel was in the old Park Place Church of God at Eighth and College.

Except for a couple or three residence halls in converted houses, that essentially was the entire campus. Of course, in 1957 that was all that was needed to educate and house a student body that reached 1,000 students for the first time during my early years.

My, how times have changed.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey @earthlink.net.

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