Think about life at MSU in the early 1950s. Is it easy to picture? Unless you are an avid historian it might be harder than you think. While scrapbooks may not tell us the entire story they certainly give us a wonderful glimpse into the past. Donna Moran was a student at Michigan State College from 1949-1954. She kept a detailed scrapbook of her freshman year as a co-ed at MSC.
Originally from Detroit, Donna was an avid theater goer and kept many programs from shows she attended on campus. She witnessed the Ballet Russe, University Concert Series and many other shows during her freshman year. Dances were especially popular during her time at MSC. She kept track of many of the dances she attended, who her dates were, and even the names of other couples she attended with.
Although Donna lived in the newly completed Elida Yakeley Women’s Dormitory, MSC was struggling to keep up with student housing needs. With too many students and not enough campus dormitories during the post World War II boom, MSC had to install temporary structures to accommodate them. A campus map from 1949, found in Moran’s scrapbook shows the barrack-like Quonset Village in the bottom left hand corner.
Without the use of cellphones, most dorms and dorm rooms had their own land line phone to be shared. To keep track of who was calling them and for what reason, Moran and her roommates kept a comprehensive record of their messages. Donna preserved this record in her scrapbook.
Like many women in the early 1950s, Donna graduated with a degree in Education. Although there were women enrolled in almost every program at MSC during this period, the two most popular subjects for co-eds were Home Economics and Education.
Life at MSU over 60 years ago would have been quite different than it is today. Although many traditions and practices remain the same, clothes, activities, and even communication on campus would be unrecognizable to freshman classes in 2014. Through Donna Moran’s scrapbook she allows us to take a small peek into her life at MSC in 1949.
Source: Donna Moran papers, UA 10.3.120, Scrapbook #317
Written by Caroline Voisine