By Kandi Carper ’05
Many married students living on the Eastern Washington College of Education (EWCE) campus between 1946 and 1957 resided in Trailerville, a grouping of 75 war-surplus travel-type trailers. Most of the men were veterans. They had sacrificed much to be there, and they were excited to start the next chapter in their lives.
Trailerville was a real community. It had its own mayor and council; there were streets and alleys, picket fences, flower gardens, and dogs and cats to make life normal for the families who lived there.
Husbands and wives attended classes and participated in college activities, including student government, sports and honor clubs, and most had jobs as well. A day nursery, run by the college, took care of the children while the parents attended school or work.
Thank you to these Trailerville residents who shared their stories and photos with us.
Lois ’51 and Del Muse ’50
In the summer of 1949, Del Muse married his sweetheart, Lois Getz. They were students at EWCE, where they lived in Trailerville from September 1949 through August 1950.
Del and Lois thought they knew what they were getting into because their good friends, Molly ’49 and Quentin Clark ’50, and Doris ’50 and Chuck Randall ’51, were already living in Trailerville.
Del Muse remembers the exact location of their 20-by-6 ft. trailer. They were located on the southeast corner, 25 feet from Monroe Hall and about 100 feet behind Showalter Hall.
Muse said the trailer came furnished with a half-width bed, a small drop-down table, a tiny oil-heated stove and a very small sink with cold running water. There was no bathroom. They walked a block to the Trailerville bathhouse for all their bathroom needs. Their bed doubled as their sofa.
Del was a busy student with a part-time job helping one of his professors with research, and Lois was a student and a part-time librarian at Hargreaves Library.
Lois represented Trailerville as its 1949 Homecoming princess and in his spare time, Del played basketball for his hometown of Spangle, Washington. Things were going pretty well until winter hit with a fury.
“On Jan. 1, the temperature dropped below zero and then stayed there for the entire month,” recalls Del. “In the daytime it would warm up to about -5 degrees, and then at night it would plunge to -10, -20 or lower. Our little trailer was hard to keep warm. We ran the oil stove night and day, and we supplemented that heat with a small electric heater. I had to fill the oil reservoir twice a day. The oil supply was a bunch of barrels with hand-operated pumps on top.
“To compound our woes, we had heavy snowfalls the entire month. Our trailer began to disappear as the snow piled up around it. We kept the snow scraped off the top so that the roof wouldn’t leak or collapse. Going to the bathhouse became increasingly unpleasant, especially for Lois. Each morning as she stepped out of the trailer to head for the community bathroom, athletes from Sutton Hall would walk by on their way to breakfast. She hated walking that short block in her robe and slippers, carrying her towel and toiletries.”
The couple’s car, parked a block away, was eventually buried in the snow, and they couldn’t even get to it until mid-February.
“That first year of our marriage in Trailerville was something we never forgot,” said Del. “Lois became an expert cook, using our hotplate and roaster oven, and after the snow left and the temperature rose, we again enjoyed our little home. Those of us who lived in Trailerville had some unpleasant situations, but we didn’t really think of it as a difficult place to live. We were students and just did the things that students do. I have fond memories of Trailerville.”
Del Muse, age 91, lives in Lynnwood, Washington. He began his career as a teacher at Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley in the 1950s. Later, he went on to a career with Science Research Associates as a math editor/writer and then as manager of the technical writing department for IBM in Silicon Valley.
Lois Muse was a lifelong teacher whose career spanned five decades – from Spokane to the Chicago area to Silicon Valley. Later, she was a volunteer teacher with the Literacy Council of Kitsap, Washington, where she started a GED preparation program in Poulsbo. She finished teaching her last class about 12 hours before her death in 2005.
Molly (Wagner) ’49 and Quentin Clark ’50
When Molly and Quentin Clark were first married, they lived in Hudson Hall and had bunk beds. They felt like they were moving up in the world when they got a tiny trailer in Eastern’s Trailerville community. They lived there along with fellow students, Del and Lois Muse and Sandy and Marie Sinclair.
“The Muses and Sinclairs remain dear friends,” said Molly Clark. “Sandy’s and Del’s wives are gone now and were my best friends.”
She remembers their “Wonder Bread-looking” trailer well. The first one was tiny. Later they moved to a larger trailer – what she calls the “good trailer” located on prime real estate, two trailers away from the bathhouse.
Their daughter, Paula, was born in Spokane, and after a brief stay at Molly’s mother’s place, the young family returned to Trailerville.
That winter, a blizzard closed the roads and they couldn’t get into Spokane for the baby’s first doctor appointment. Luckily, the other mothers in Trailerville helped each other out and shared their knowledge of child-rearing.
Prior to having her daughter and living in Trailerville, Molly was very active at Eastern. She was in the Golden Circle (the senior women’s honorary society for outstanding leadership, character, service and personality).
“Living in Trailerville was difficult at times, but we were all in the same boat,” said Molly. “I remember us saying, ‘Someday we’ll look back at this and laugh.’”
Molly, age 91, and Quentin, age 90, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in August. The couple lives in Sumner, Washington.
From Mike Van Matre ’76
Trailerville was my first home! The following is what my father told me about Trailerville.
My parents, Lila ’67 and Jim Van Matre ’55, moved to Trailerville in September 1952 to attend school at Eastern. There were fewer than 1,000 students enrolled when they started there.
My parents lived in Trailerville from 1952 to 1955. Rent was $15 per month. I was born in October 1953 and lived there until my dad graduated with his BA in education.
Trailerville married couples were a group of close friends in a tight-knit community with many things in common… not much money, spouses and children to support, most everyone had to work various jobs to pay the bills, and everyone wanted an education and a college degree to better their lives. They had their own government system, and they had regular get-togethers with the families. Many of those friendships lasted throughout the years, and contacts were maintained long into their senior citizen years.
My parents had many great Trailerville friends…all of whom were very successful people due to their education at Eastern.
Thanks to Eastern providing married students an inexpensive place to live while attending school, my parents, and many others, went on to excel in their careers. My father retired from Medical Lake School District as superintendent of schools and my mother retired as an elementary school teacher in the Cheney School District. My father received the EWU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985 – an honor he cherished until his death in April 2018.
Eastern Washington College of Education, Eastern Washington State College and Eastern Washington University were Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts learning institutions for three generations of our Van Matre family – my parents, my wife and me, and our oldest daughter and son-in-law!
From Archie Hornfelt ’59, ’52, Professor of Technology Emeritus
To today’s youth, Trailerville must seem like the ultimate in roughing it, but my wife, Alma, and I saw it as an adventure. We came to Eastern from Northern Idaho College of Education in 1951, when that school closed.
The washrooms were a meeting place for all of us living in Trailerville. Some of the people had families that bathed their children in the tubs in the washroom. Trailerville was a community, and we lived and socialized together.
The trailers were small but comfy. Because the trailers were tear-dropped shape, we had only a three-quarter bed. I could just barely stand up in there. There was no bathroom, so everyone used the communal washroom. It was definitely a task to go to the washroom at night, in the rain or in the snow.
I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. My wife and I taught for one year at Wishram, Washington, until I was drafted into the Army. After returning from the service, I used the G.I. Bill to pursue my master’s degree. This time it was different because we had a child. Many of the residents had children, and we had a great time. The kids played together outside.
I later returned to Eastern as a professor and spent 32 years in the Technology and Engineering Department.
The experience at Eastern will never be forgotten. I have a warm spot in my heart for Eastern and always will.
Professor Hornfelt, age 89, lives in Florence, Oregon. His wife, Alma, passed away in 2012.
Joanne and James Sturm ’53
1946 to 1957Joanne Crow and Jim Sturm met while attending Whitman College. They married in November 1950, he transferred to Eastern, and Trailerville was their first home. Their daughter, Sandra, was born in November 1951 while they were living there. They started out in a small trailer and were lucky to get a larger one before she was born.
“We had a lot of wonderful memories from Trailerville,” said Joanne. “I remember cooking on a small hot plate. We had a small refrigerator with the motor on top. The winters were cold, and the snow practically covered our trailer.”
She remembers that a friend was staying with them – sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag – when a rat came running across him. They had to report that, and afterwards everyone had to be careful about leaving food out and the college had to get rid of the rats.
Joanne remembers a lot of comaraderie. The residents had so much in common. “It was like an extended family. I remember one time the guys took my laundry basket and collected bottles to turn in and bought beer for a party.”
After Jim graduated in 1953, they moved to Garfield, Washington, where he started his first teaching job. He went on to teach in Thornton, Washington, and was elected as Whitman County superintendent of schools – the youngest county superintendent in the state. He got his master’s in education administration from WSU and then moved to Oakville, Washington as superintendent of schools. After four years, the family moved to Federal Way where he became an administrator in the Highline School District until he retired.
The Strum’s daughter, Sandra Sturm Sheldon, now retired, followed in her dad’s footsteps and was the superintendent for the Warden School District. Joanne and Jim’s granddaughter, Kristin Sheldon, earned her BA in communication studies from Eastern in 2009.
Jim and Joanne were married for more than 60 years, before his passing in 2011.
History of Trailerville
By Charles Mutschler, PhD, Eastern Washington University Archivist
Trailerville, as it was affectionately known, was a cluster of aluminum-skinned trailers that provided student housing to returning World War II, and later Korean War veterans and their families on the campus of Eastern Washington College of Education (EWCE).
From the spring of 1946 through 1957, in the area north and west of Monroe Hall, this small community was home to hundreds of students.
The end of WWII was a period of significant change at EWCE. The trailers, like many temporary buildings erected at the time, were part of the beginning of an evolution from a college of education to a liberal arts regional university.
Enrollment, which was fairly constant at around 600 between 1930 and 1935, grew to nearly 900 in 1940. That all changed with WWII when male students left college and entered the armed services. At the end of fall quarter 1945, enrollment was under 300. This shortage of students was followed by a massive influx of students in the late 1940s. Many of the post-war students were former servicemen and utilized the higher education benefits of the G.I. Bill.
The new students were older than the typical undergraduates of 1939, who had entered EWCE after high school graduation. Most of the new students were men (506 out of 794). Student housing at the time consisted of two women’s dormitories and one men’s, making housing for men, and for married couples a serious problem.
EWCE President Walter Isle was up for the challenge. After initial efforts to secure surplus buildings from Spokane and then pre-fabricated housing units from Richland were unsuccessful, he was able to secure 50 trailers from Pasco, Washington. Soon, the number of trailers increased to 75.
By spring of 1946, Trailerville had taken shape. By fall, it was a community within a community, filled with married veterans and increasingly, their children.
The college provided heat, water and lights; the residents supplied their own food. Rent for a trailer was $15 per month.
Recognizing the need for additional housing, the college obtained a 386-bed dorm from the federal surplus list in Vancouver, Washington, and named it Hudson Hall. It was later rebuilt with 10 small apartments for married veterans.
As the demographics of student life gradually changed, many married couples preferred to live off campus, and rents in Spokane were affordable at the time. The college needed the space occupied by the trailers and Hudson Hall for other purposes – a dining hall (Tawanka Commons) and classroom building (Patterson Hall). Completion of the Married Student Court in 1957 allowed the retirement of the house trailers and the end of Eastern’s campus within a campus.