Quonset Village

9 07 2012

A lane in Quonset Village.

With the end of World War II, Michigan State University came up against a challenge the college had never contended with before: married students coming in droves, looking

A veteran studies in his Quonset home with his wife and child.

for an education with the help of the G.I. Bill.  Veterans, often with wives and children, were done with their service and were enrolling in schools across the United States in great numbers.  This could have presented MSU with a serious housing problem, but the college was prepared for this influx of students due mainly to President Hannah’s foresight.   Due to the fact that he was working with a limited amount of time, Hannah arranged for a village of temporary housing units, called Quonset huts, to be installed on campus in 1945.

Hannah organized space for these huts on 30 acres of campus land that was previously a poultry plant.  Where today stand married housing facilities and university apartments, in 1945 stood 104 prefabricated steel Quonsets.  The structures were brought in from towns around Michigan where they had originally been constructed as emergency war housing, and they were placed next to the Michigan State Police Headquarters.  Many of the Quonsets were for families, but some of the buildings were also communal housing with common areas and bunks that would sleep up to fourteen men.  In addition, the village had a series of larger huts to accommodate a cafeteria.

Students crowd the Quonset cafeteria for a meal.

The Quonset village is among the many buildings and facilities that no longer exist on MSU’s campus, only this was indeed a very real village, as can be seen from its aerial photographs.  Within five years, permanent dormitories were being built to accommodate the growing student population.  It took several years for permanent facilities to catch up with the space provided by the Quonset Village, but once they did  the Quonset huts were deconstructed and plans were begun to construct the permanent married housing units, which are still in use today on the same site.

An aerial view of Quonset Village.

Spartans Marching

18 06 2012

The first Cadet Band, photographed here in 1884.

In the early months of every fall semester, the familiar sounds return of the MSU marching band’s daily practice, and our walks around campus double in length as we avoid Adams Field or risk being run down by a rogue tuba player.  The college has had to work diligently, however, in order to build our band to its present admirable institution.  When the first attempt was made to organize a music group in 1875, there was only enough money for seven instruments.  The students played for events on campus, but they also worked as a for-hire group around the area, which enabled them to expand and be able to purchase further music and instruments.

Faculty, students, and surrounding community members supported the band and its efforts, and so when the Military Department was

The Military Band posing in 1931.

formed in 1884, the band officially fell under its jurisdiction.  That year, the first Cadet Band was organized.  They provided martial music for the military students to march to, and they also played at parades and dances around East Lansing.  By 1913 their numbers had grown from seven to fifty-one, including the first African-American member who joined the previous year – Everett Claudius Yates, a percussion player.  The establishment also grew large enough to warrant the construction of an outdoor playing venue, which was created in the form of the Band Shell in 1938.

The marching band forms a stick-man during a half-time performance in 1955.

With the onslaught of World War II, the nature of the Michigan State Marching Band changed.  The uniforms themselves even reflected the atmosphere, bearing a rather military air about them in the early part of the 1940s.  Declining numbers due to military inscription at this time were detrimental to the band’s survival, so for the first time the organization’s director, Leonard Falcone, admitted women.  Falcone himself enlisted and had to spend a few years going to and from campus, fulfilling his duties around the country.  MSU saw the benefits of female members: all-female bands were organized to travel around the state and provide entertainment for soldiers, and the women were allowed to remain in the music groups after the end of the war.

MSU’s students at the World’s Fair in 1964, performing in Rockefeller Center.

The band has also been involved in a number of important events since that time.  They were the only group from Michigan to play at

the inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington, D.C.  They also performed at the Rose Bowl in 1954, 1956, and 1966.  In addition to this, they played at the World’s Fair in New York City during the year of 1964.  These facts are only one testament to the MSU Marching Band’s skill, the real proof comes from seeing these dedicated musicians enter Spartan Stadium before thousands of fans.  Their commitment to excellence only serves to add to the incredible MSU spirit and pride of all students and alumni in the venue.

A Brief History of Military at MSU

1 06 2012

The military of M.A.C. in the 1890s

Michigan State University has a history of being involved—whether we want it or not—in nearly every area of social and political life and this includes military service.  M.A.C. had only existed for six years before the onset of America’s next big conflict, the Civil War, and the faculty and students responded dutifully.  In fact, the first seven graduates of the college were not even present at the awarding of their degrees, having already been allowed to leave to serve in Missouri.  Two of these courageous men gave their lives by the end of the war.

The cadets of 1915 have a wall scaling contest.

For its duration, the First World War was not as widely discussed across campus.  Certainly faculty and students participated in the war effort, but there was a restraint in discussions and support that persisted until World War II. And while World War I was no less devastating to the family and friends of M.A.C. than the Civil War in terms of casualties, stories of bravery and commitment, and, occasionally, comical coincidences did float back to campus.  One such story arose from two men named Ralph Johnson and Paul Ginter.  These soldiers met in an aid hospital in France shortly after the outbreak of war, and found quickly that not only were they both graduates of M.A.C., but that both were forestry majors!  Comforting how our college can form bonds between men and women in the most unusual of circumstances.

Two men train on campus in the 1920s.

With the arrival of World War II came a new community spirit the likes of which M.S.C. had never seen before.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of U.S. involvement, M.S.C. president Hannah was instrumental in adapting the ways of Michigan State.  The college created a new summer school program so that students could finish their degrees within two years and move on to serve.  New interdisciplinary classes and training programs were imposed in order to ready the enlisted youth and faculty—nearly 6,200 of them, just at the start—at M.S.C. for service.  Professors believed the soldiers of M.S.C. needed a rounded education to be entirely prepared-after physical training the students were taught foreign languages, map making and aerial photography skills, and the benefits of geopolitics.

At some points, up to 50% of the population on campus were soldiers assigned for training at MSU by the US War Department.  These great numbers of people, in addition to the usual crowds of students, strained resources in the area, but this was a challenge the students and residents of East Lansing were willing to take.  Civilians in the area learned first aid training and fire fighting skills, they threw parties and sold produce grown in their Victory Gardens to buy war bonds, they entertained veterans around the state, and they researched ways to improve the war.  This included food production as well as penicillin and rubber manufacturing.  M.S.C. also supplied laborers to help on farms that were struggling to meet their quotas.  Radio stations, newspapers, and every college department pitched in to help the effort.  Michigan State experienced camaraderie unlike any before.

Three girls in the Women’s Land Army help out on a farm in 1944.