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Trailer Village

Digital Memories

The close of World War II meant great changes for the University of Idaho, as it did for the country as a whole. For the first time in nearly a decade, military uniforms were not the most common form of apparel. The return to university studies was accelerated by the GI Bill, an unprecedented benefit. Hordes of military veterans, accompanied by their wives and small children, returned to campus to continue their interrupted studies or, for the first time, to begin them. Enrollment more than doubled. As might be expected, the universities were not prepared for the change. Neither fraternities nor dormitories could handle the influx. Married student housing, almost never seen before, became the norm as older veterans returned to campus.

Veterans Housing Trailer Village, University of Idaho. [120-3]
Veterans Housing Trailer Village, University of Idaho. [120-3]

By 1947, the University of Idaho had acquired 150 trailers and over 200 surplus temporary buildings from the Hanford atomic works and other federal installations, and placed them in three “Vet Villages.” In the spring they were muddy, in the summer they were hot, and in the winter they were cold. And all the time they were small and cramped. Eventually they were replaced with purpose-built married student apartments, but for many veterans, they served, however briefly, as home.

In this photograph, apparently taken just before their removal about 1951, two students await the city bus. The open door of the fourth trailer and the meterless electrical service on the first trailer are indications that their time has passed.

Written in August 1995 for the library’s Digital Memories website.

Caption: Trailer village, ca. 1951. #1-120-3, Historical Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library.

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