Thursday, June 14, 2012

Those Places Thursday: The College Dorm

Those Places is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites family historians to post photos and stories about places their ancestors lived. 

This is the third in a series based on my great-aunt Velma Davis Woodring’s scrapbook that she kept during her freshman year at Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University). 

Most college students will agree that the first year dorm experience generates the strongest memories about leaving home and living on campus.  Velma was going to college in an exciting time.  The young president Samuel P. Duke had been on the job for just a few years, and he was building new classrooms and dorms as fast as he could find the money.  When enrollment jumped dramatically, he sought additional funds for more dorms but was denied.  However, Mr. Duke was a clever man.  He convinced a doctor in town to build an apartment building and HTC would rent the entire place to house over 60 students.  And so Wellington Hall came to be home for Velma in 1924-25.

Wellington was located on South Main Street across from campus. 

I wonder if this was Quiet Hours.

Dorm life in the 1920s

Quiet hours were from 7:00-10:00 on weekday nights and 2:00-4:00 on Sunday afternoons.

Lights had to be out at 10:30 each night. As a result girls studied by flashlight under blankets and in the bathrooms.

Visiting during study hours required permission from the House chairman.

Velma's roomie Leta LeVow
Smiling thro'

No smoking PERIOD – not on campus, not when away for the weekend, not when traveling to and from campus  (I wonder how they monitored that!)

Students had to be ON campus by 6:00 p.m. every day.

Students had to wear hats if they went into the business section of town.

Leta LeVow
As high up
as she'll ever

If walking a mile from campus, they must be in groups of 3 or more.

Students could not ride in an automobile except with parents, a faculty member, or a woman.

Students could not leave campus on Sunday except to go to church.

Velma Davis
In old
room 17. W. H.

Men had to be on an approved list to date HTC girls.

Dates were received in the reception room of Alumnae Hall.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Now I know why JMU's mascot is the Dukes! I love reading the rules for campus life. Kids now would die if given such restrictions!

    1. That's exactly right, Paula. The name came about when the first men's basketball team told Mr. Duke they'd call themselves The Dukes if he'd give them towels and equipment. It's a sweet story but rather pitiful too.

  2. These photos are great! I agree with Paula that the rules would definitely not go over well today. It seems like a lot of kids go to college just for the freedom. :)

    1. This is my college and my mother's as well. My rules were a little more relaxed than Velma's but there were plenty about curfew, dress, class attendance, and leaving for the weekend (we could go home only once in the first semester!). When my parents dropped me off, my mother was shocked at the "lack of rules." Oh Mother!

  3. Yep she was in shock about the drinking rules!

    She cried the whole way home too.

    1. Ha how funny. I hope Dana comes back to see this. She's been weepy this week because her son graduated preschool. She needs to know what's ahead! HA

  4. Just like rules at home! I don't think there was much of an escape. Again it makes me wish I had taken more photos of my college days.

    1. I wish I had taken more photos of my college days too. I wonder if I even had a camera! Oh, I'm sure I did -- probably didn't have money to develop pictures.

  5. This is a great post Wendy! I love the photos too!

  6. Another great story! I have often come across old photos and postcards of musical groups at Teachers Colleges, Normal Schools, etc. and wondered what the schools were like. Velma's scrapbook is a real treasure, and you have really recreated the experience of being a student in those early decades.

    1. I have Velma's yearbook too, and there are pictures of a very small orchestra and a sizeable glee club.

  7. This is so neat! My first dorm didn't have any rules other than no men after a certain hour...and that was too easy to get around!