A Time At Purdue

Author: Steve Baranyk, current board member, ME '62
It was a time when Purdue had not yet achieved ninety years of existence. It was a time when the total enrollment was under 15,000, when there were no regional campuses other than a small program in a donated office building across from the Indiana State Fair grounds in Indianapolis. When the three original "H" residence Halls, Owen, Tarkington and Wiley, were newly opened – for men. Many of the men of Wiley came from what had been Men's Residence X, now Meredith, and that hall had then been given over exclusively to women... complete with urinals.

It was a time when there was no School of Liberal Arts at Purdue, no Krannert School and no Mackey Arena.  The Men’s basketball team played in the Field House on a portable floor with removable bleachers for the spectators.  It was a time when the women had their own gymnasium sequestered in a structure forbidden to men.

It was a time when undergraduate chemistry labs were conducted in structures known as the FWA Buildings – donated by the Federal Government as surplus to the need to train young men as officers in our Armed Forces to fight in a war spanning the globe.

It was a time when Ross-Ade Stadium had a capacity of just over 40,000 and all undergraduate students received season football tickets in partial return for their Fees and Tuition.  A time when many freshman students participated in the Card Section behind the north end goal posts – we were know as Card Section Charlies.

It was a time when anyone could walk in off the south side of State Street into Smith Hall and for a precious dime gain possession of almost a pint of freshly churned ice cream perilously perched atop a cone and in near ecstasy savor the produce of the Dairy students in the School of Agriculture.

It was a time when Harry himself still lived and ruled his domain from behind his bar in The Chocolate Shoppe, surveying the customers with a piercing eye honed in the art of unmasking any who might be prone to behavior deemed inappropriate by Harry regardless of their accumulated years.  Harry himself paid no attention to any law or ordinance which in any way interfered with the commerce of his establishment.  His only concern was that all who should enter seeking service would conform to His rules of behavior. No loud talking or loud laughing.  No coarse language and no untoward advances to the bar maid.

It was a time when Purdue would grant each spring just under one thousand Bachelor of Science degrees in Engineering; when the number of females so conferred would be marginally greater than naught.

It was a time when Stadium Street continued west past Intramural Drive into the undeveloped fields flanked on the north by a stone retaining wall holding back a hill upon which the commandant of the Army ROTC lived in a home provided by the government.  And it was beside this wall that at night student couples frequently groped through a non-credit course in exploratory anatomy inside parked cars.
It was in many ways a more innocent time at Purdue, when those few of us so privileged gained the keys to a life for ourselves and for our children which has been far richer than our parents had ever dreamed of for themselves.  And it was through this legacy of the Morrill Act of 1862 embraced by a philanthropic bachelor that we were able to participate in propelling our country to a position of world dominance in commerce, intellectual pursuits, the exploration of space and in the blessings of freedom for all