World War II Veterans at Williams

"The College known and loved by the returning remnants of '42 through '46, while basically unaltered, has yet so changed its face that it might truly be said that the mountains are all that have resisted the impetus."

--1946 Gulielmensian

The end of World War II brought significant changes to a College that had been heavily involved in the War. During those years, Williams had to cope with the loss of most of its student body, its staff and professors, and even its President, James Phinney Baxter III. With the return of peace came the return of the faculty, staff, Baxter, and the students who had put their education on hold. However, the College also had to find a way to integrate wives of recently married veterans and new freshmen to whom an education was now available with the GI Plan.

Veterans who wished to return to their alma mater were given priority of enrollment, but the larger than normal student body tested the capacity of the Williams housing system. In many of the larger double rooms on campus--in places like West, Lehman, and Williams--three students were housed instead of two. Another serious question concerned the housing of married veterans and their wives. Unlike other campuses where couples were compelled to rough it in trailers, tents, or Quonset huts, Williams College converted its existing facilities into livable space. Greylock Hall was transformed into twelve apartments, the former military Barracks near Cole Field were fashioned into apartments, and some fraternities provided space for the couples.

This extremely successful accommodation of veterans and their wives brought the College national publicity. The Greylock Hall apartments received the most media attention. In a Record article, one female resident said: "All the wives, including myself, were very surprised at the extent to which the College had gone to make us comfortable and happy in Greylock. There is a kitchenette in every apartment consisting of a brand new frigedere, gas stove, and sink unit." Greylock Hall interiorThe wives acquired additional furnishings and personal touches from mail-order services, second-hand stores, and from the wives of faculty members who donated their extra furniture. The apartments were featured on an RKO Pathe News reel and articles in Life magazine, the New York Herald Tribune , and the Women's Home Companion . The radio show "Vox Pop" even did a broadcast from the campus in which the couples were presented with home appliances.

Williams wives also had the unprecedented option of attending classes with their husbands and actually receiving credit for their work. While a number of wives did audit classes, most had already completed their own college education while their husbands were serving in the military. Other wives were content to help their husbands by typing up class notes or assisting with homework. One husband quipped, "As soon as the faculty lets them write our term papers we'll be all set." Other wives were employed by the College doing clerical work, performing with Cap and Bells, or contributing to the editorial staff of the Record .

Part II