In late July my husband and I joined a Road Scholar group that began in Denver to tour the scenic byways of western Colorado in six activity filled days. At the conclusion of the tour, we independently rented a car to drive to Estes Park to enjoy magnidixwnr Rocky Mountain National Park reached by Hwy 34West.
I noticed the same highway east led to Greeley, a town whose attraction, like Chico’s, was the state college and surrounded by farmland. So after leaving RMNP and en route to Denver for our plane trip home, we drove from down a mountainous region to high plains with the purpose of visiting my alma mater, the University of Northern Colorado. When I attended six decades ago, it was called Colorado State College and confined to an area between two avenues north and south and several streets east and west. Greeley was a small town of about 10,000 and the student body about a third of the current university that has about 9,000, after the college expanded south to a former farm and now boasts new buildings and a larger faculty and staff which led to the renaming of the institution.
I had not received any communication from the college about alumni activities so had been out-of-touch other than when I requested my transcripts. I wondered, as we neared the campus how much of the old campus had remained and whether the new annex had radically changed the old’s.
Upon arriving there, we went to the Visitors’ Center, formerly the President’s house, and inquired about the new campus that sprawled south, but the young summer employee did not know much of the history of either the old or new campuses but said we could sign up for a tour that began at 2:00. That would make it too late to get to Denver before the traffic rush hour so we declined and instead walked the old campus to see if the buildings where I had attended classes were still there.
The iconic Gunther Hall, the most beautiful building with its cathedral-like facade stood prominently as before. One would be surprised to learn that it was the physical education building,a contrast to the drab, boxy buildings that housed the familiar disciplines of music, art, social sciences and physical science. A mass of colorful annuals graced the lawn near Gunther, and as we walked the old campus, noticed some buildings were no longer in existence. WE heard those had been demolished to comply with earthquake standards, and now there was a small quad in their place. I also recognized the English architecture of the Faculty Apartments and some of the student dorms.
I had been a transfer student so didn’t live in the dorms but rented a room in off campus housing, generally where owners lived downstairs and rented the upstairs. That made me want to see if the first house six other housemates and I rented was still standing, and to my amazement, there it was! The same three windows of the upstairs above the porch roof, and the same three windows of the rear that my two housemates and I lived in for a quarter until one of them tragically died of double pneumonia during the cold winter. She was a fun-loving and popular gal and liked to show walking barefooted in the snow was nothing special.
Upstairs the gals shared three rooms, each occupied by two, with a shared kitchen and a bathroom with a claw foot tub. The telephone was installed inside the broom closet. Each room took a turn cooking and washing dishes. I remember one of the gals who lived in the front room didn’t know how to cook so her specialty was GOOP, a mixture of spaghetti sauce and macaroni. The other pair hated to do the dishes and waited until bedtime,and by then the plates were crusted from the extremely low humidity and more difficulty to clean.
The alleyway we took to go to classes still exists but the house and its neighbors, except for one with a flourishing garden of colorful flowers, looked in need of paint.
I would’ve liked to go to the door to inform the current resident I was a former tenant, but there was not a person there or at the other houses seen on that Monday morning so I merely had my picture taken with the house numbers to prove my visit.
We next drove six blocks east to the second house where I resided with three others. It was the home of farmers and the housefather said it had not rained in seven years so things were looking bad. But they were a wonderful family who included us in their activities, and at this house we didn’t have to cook or clean, the housemother did. She only charged $5/week and provided us with two good meals daily we ate with the family, and a brown bag usually of a peanut butter sandwich and a fruit.
The house is still there, looking white and pristine with new paint and neatly trimmed shrubs. But I saw two mailboxes so assumed it was now shared by two different families or tenants who were not students.
I had expected to see changes in the town, but still rather shocked the formerly bright, clean downtown now looked shabby, there were no fast food eateries that signifies a vibrant town or even a strip mall. As I had forgotten the exact avenues where churches of different denominations occupied each corner of the block, we began our drive south on the old route to Denver that we used to drive on. Adjacent to I-25 that was built after I left is the site of businesses, and so I surmised the unatractive downtown was the result of it breaking through the farmlands that still exist.
The saying “You can’t go home again” holds true, but I was happy to see some of my old haunts still are there after sixty years!
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