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Iowa State University

History students' Pammel Court exhibition brings back memories

Prior to last fall, Mark Barron, adjunct assistant professor of history, and the students in his public history (History 481X) class knew very little about Pammel Court, Iowa State's former married student housing complex. Now Barron and his students could be the university's resident experts.

The students, with the help of library staff and the Ames Historical Society, spent fall semester researching and collecting more than a hundred photographs, documents, letters and other memorabilia for an exhibition dedicated to Pammel Court. They also talked to several former tenants, including children who lived there while their parents finished school.

Patio party at 824 Pammel Court, home of Janet Jepeway. Left to right: Joyce and John Cook, Helen Boles and Stan, Roberta Brown (Shaffer), Jim Pomeroy, Bob Brown (kneeling), Barb Pomeroy (O
Patio party at 824 Pammel Court, home of Janet Jepeway. Left to right: Joyce and John Cook, Helen Boles and Stan, Roberta Brown (Shaffer), Jim Pomeroy, Bob Brown (kneeling), Barb Pomeroy (O'Neil) (in front). October 1981.
Photo courtesy of ISU Library Special Collections.

"For Married Students: Building a Community in Pammel Court, 1946-1978" is on display in Parks Library's special collections and university archives (fourth floor) through May 12, 2017 (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Children play at Pammel Court.
Children play at Pammel Court.
Ames Tribune photo, courtesy of Ames Historical Society, © Ames Tribune. All Rights Reserved.

During the research phase, Barron, who joined Iowa State a year ago, was surprised by the nostalgia Iowa Staters feel for Pammel Court.

"Being new to Iowa State, I didn't understand that people have such a deep connection to Pammel Court," he said. "Everyone we talked to has some memory or story about Pammel Court."

Meeting a need

Pammel Court was established in 1946 along the north side of Pammel Drive to accommodate about 1,500 World War II veterans seeking college educations through the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly called the GI Bill. Iowa State officials needed to find housing quickly for the servicemen and their wives and young children. The solution was military housing, typically half-domed Quonset huts and other trailers.

"Everyone we talked to has some memory or story about Pammel Court," Mark Barron said.

Throughout the next few decades, Pammel Court ballooned into its own community on the north side of campus, along the railroad tracks and west of Stange Road. At its peak, there were about 1,100 housing units, plus a grocery store, recreation centers, laundry facility and nursery school.

Two men pose for a picture while preparing dinner at Pammel Court.
Two men pose for a picture while preparing dinner at Pammel Court.
Photo courtesy of ISU Library Special Collections.
Residents of Pammel Court received the Pammel News.
Residents of Pammel Court received the Pammel News.
Photo courtesy of ISU Library Special Collections.

Though Pammel Court was meant to be a temporary solution to the post-war housing crunch, students appreciated the cheap rent (about $25 a month in 1947, equal to about $350 today). Pammel Court was opened to single students in 1978. The last of the units, which housed University Community Childcare prior to its current location at 2623 Bruner Dr., were demolished in 2004.

Satya and Vijay with vine at home of Janet Jepeway in Pammel Court. August 1981.
Satya and Vijay with vine at home of Janet Jepeway in Pammel Court. August 1981.
Photo courtesy of ISU Library Special Collections.
824 Pammel Court, home of Janet Jepeway. Fall 1978.
824 Pammel Court, home of Janet Jepeway. Fall 1978.
Photo courtesy of ISU Library Special Collections.

Republished with permission from Inside Iowa State

Share YOUR story

Did you spend your college years living at Pammel Court, or do you have friends who did? We'd love to hear your memories! Leave a comment on our Facebook page or email Kim McDonough, alumni director. If you live in the Ames area, Mark Barron is planning a reception and talk this summer at the Ames Public Library. The reception will be free and open to the public, and will be a great way to share your stories. Date TBA.