We asked for your winter memories of Washington State University in 300 words or fewer, and you delivered.
Responses spanned decades and delighted us. With anecdotes about sliding down hills on lunch trays. With vignettes about seeking out steam vents for warmth. With at least one story about disturbing Butch—then a real, live cougar—by ice skating late at night near his cage.
It wasn’t easy to choose a winner. Here’s the one that spoke to us the most, from Janet Herren (’48 Comm.), followed by all of your wintry stories:
Snow flurried through the two open windows of the Theta sleeping dorm. Forty Thetas slumped deeper into their beds.
Winter was no respecter of age. One snowy night, Miss Belden, our petite house mother, answered the doorbell only to meet the bewildered face of a horse tethered to the door (a benefit of the WSC vet school).
Nearby, Vern Herren and I (newlyweds) found a “real” apartment with a fruit-cellar bedroom, kitchen, shower, and living room. Couples were sleeping in odd places, such as a refurbished coal bin with a hotplate for Bob and Jane Robbins, who later camped on our porch to claim our apartment on Vern’s graduation day.
Just off campus, Bill and Velma Noteboom lived in an Airstream trailer, where we made “window-sill Jell-O” and blankets froze to the walls. The Notebooms’ car took us everywhere, including the WSC gym to hear Tex Beneke. Outside, our formal gowns scooped up snow behind us.
We skated away our free time on the frozen practice field, and occasionally skied the golf course (when we could borrow the gear!).
Serious snow hit in late October and lasted until the March Chinook winds came. My snow boots left indents on my legs from daily treks to Bohler Gym, where Char Friel and I were secretaries to the coaching icons of WSC—Sarboe, Friel, Bailey, Deeter, Mooberry, and others. They loved to dictate letters but reveled more in storytelling. (What an education for two secretaries!) Buck (baseball coach) politely closed the office door when he wanted “to tell a little story.” He usually won the end-of-the-snow office pool. (How did he do that? He was from Texas!)
— Janet Herren (‘48 Comm.)
My WSC life was from Fall 1950 through Spring 1955. One of my favorite winter memories was the beauty of the campus on a sunny day after a snowfall.
Atmospheric conditions were such that the 1950s’ dress code allowed female students to wear the approved snow suit. Otherwise it was dresses and skirts. Jeans were inside-residential-hall attire only. For those not aware of the code, Sunday noon and Thursday night dinners were formal dress. Shirt, tie, coat, heels, and hose were required. Otherwise, no meal.
In those days, student enrollment was less than 5,500. A large number of the student population did not have cars and lived in college-authorized housing. Being Depression babies, World War II pre-teens, and Korean War teens, it seemed logical that these requirements were just preparing us for what might come in our adult life.
Other pleasant memories were the silence and peace encountered while walking during a soft snowfall, sidewalks that were roofs of heating utility tunnels that resulted in a snow-less path, the pleasure of finding that you and your girlfriend were the first couple to a building air exhaust vent, the shock of breaking the ice in Stimson Hall’s Minerva fountain when your dorm-mates pulled you out of bed and threw you in because you gave your girl a ring, ending up sprawled in a roadside snowdrift while your girl scampered away after her excellent contact timing (returning the pleasure was strictly forbidden or very highly frowned upon), and finding that, if you got cold, all one had to do was climb the hills and stairs faster. These were good memories of a very happy and very different time.
— Tom Burch, (‘55 Arch E.)
I don’t remember the exact winter— it was ‘54, ‘55, or ‘56—but it was cold enough for ice to freeze a skating area near Butch’s cage close to the fieldhouse. Several of my friends and I decided to go ice skate on the pond late one evening. We were having fun and, as the evening got later and darker, Butch the cougar started to scream. (Butch was a living cougar in those days). He was very loud and sounded a lot like a woman screaming, and it echoed through the campus. Soon the campus police showed up and chased us away because we were waking and scaring everyone in the dorms.
— Judson L Melton (‘58 Ag.)
I think it was the winter of 1965. Back then females were not allowed to wear pants to class on campus (had to be a skirt or dress) unless it got to -40 degrees F. We all hated the rule. So imagine our glee when it was -50 degrees F and we all went to class in our long pants and knee-high boots.
— Aleeta Louise Wright/Bauder (‘67 Phys. Ed.)
I enrolled at WSU in the fall of 1966, an 18-year-old farm kid from Benge, a very small farm town about 60 miles west of Pullman. The Vietnam Conflict was escalating, and the military draft was too. Due to my immaturity and all the temptations of the WSU social scene, I found myself needing to take a break from college, so in January 1969 I joined the Navy.
Four years later, I re-enrolled at WSU. This second time around, I was 25 years old and a lot more mature. I knew I needed to focus on attaining a college degree. I had purchased a 1964 Toyota Land Cruiser, and it was my college car. The snowy Pullman winters could not keep me from attending my classes on the hill.
Four wheel drive and front wheel drive vehicles were very uncommon at that time. Many mornings, a fresh snowfall would basically shut down Pullman and WSU traffic. Everyone would be waiting for the snowplows to do their work.
I, in my Land Cruiser, would motor up to the campus and find all the parking lots empty—almost no vehicle tracks anywhere. I would be bundled up in my thick winter clothing, with pac boots, a heavy sheep skin coat, and a cowboy hat. Dressed like “The Man from Snowy River,” I enjoyed the quiet winter air and hiking across campus with just the sounds of nature. Later in the day, I enjoyed watching the new students in their stylish Nordstrom attire, shivering and slipping around, learning about winter in Eastern Washington.
— Bob Kent, (‘70, Wildlife Biology)
In the winter of 1968–1969 I was a junior in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The curriculum was pretty tough so I was coming back early from Christmas break to study, as 25 percent of our class of 1970 had already flunked out.
Talk about a starving student. I had an old ‘47 Pontiac car that I had bought from Larry Walch for $15. That was my not-so-reliable transportation.
On that lonely stretch of highway between Othello and Pullman about 3 a.m. the temperature dropped to minus 50 degrees F. My car started hissing, the lights dimmed, the heater fan quit working. I didn’t have adequate winter clothing. No food. And there was absolutely no traffic that night. Had that car quit me that night I would have froze to death.
With a little coaxing and a lot of prayers I did limp into Pullman. That is my memory of fifty years ago.
— Dr. Gary Leslie Blakemore (‘70 DVM)
Memories have a way to evolve as you get older, becoming fonder, more touched with virtue or humor or romance than the actual events. But I like it that way—the good memories linger. Winter memories of WSU are a series of snapshots: cold walks to class, stripping off your coats in the overheated lecture halls (those professors were always cold reptiles needing to bask in the heat), water at your feet from the slush and freezing ears (hats not cool).
Where I lived the first snow of the season always involved the odd practice of catching, stripping, and tossing out in the snow all those males not born in Washington State. I was snagged twice during my time at WSU, having been born in New York. I can’t remember what the tradition was called—Revenge of the Great North comes to mind—but what I do remember is running around the building to another entrance and imagining warmth and safety only to be pelted with snowballs by those waiting in ambush. I know, politically incorrect these days, egos hurt, counseling required, disgrace to the institution, yada yada. But the memory brings a chuckle to my mind.
My favorite memory of winter at Pullman was walking with a girl I was dating hand in hand through the snow to one of those overheated buildings—I think it was the Kimbrough Music Building—and climbing up and sitting on the steam exhaust vent. With the snow coming down fast and furious and the air rushing outward from the vent our own little snow globe was created with the snow on the outside swirling away while we watched and talked in the warmth—our own little WSU bubble. The memory lingers.
— William Lyon (‘72)
Life at Pullman in the winter and living on campus was sometimes challenging but was always fun. Classes were never missed even in bitter cold. My memory of fun times with outstanding and colorful characters residing in Waller Hall are vivid until this day. We would slide on our feet on the ice on the steep hill beside our hall. Sometimes we would go roll in the snow in our buff and make snow angels, and then race inside to warm up.
When our gas lines froze up on our autos we could coast down the hill to a garage to warm the lines. Finally, there was a great beauty and feeling that our campus was the only place in the world. It always felt inclusive, though, during those turbulent times in the sixties.
— Terry Shelton (‘72 Wildlife Conservation)
Sliding down the icy hill across from Gannon Hall on lunch trays from the Rotunda.
— Michael Greenlee (‘76 DVM)
In the fall of 1975, just a few days before Halloween, it snowed in Pullman. I was a freshman from the west side of Washington where snowfall was generally in December and January. This early snowfall was viewed with trepidation—what was I getting myself into?—and with excitement. Who doesn’t like a good snowfall? It made the campus, Pullman, and Palouse look even more beautiful, especially when the snow was moonlit on the surrounding hills. That beauty is never forgotten and is something that keeps bringing me back to WSU, Pullman, and the Palouse in any season, but winter has its own special beauty.
The snowfall and its effects that fall of 1975 was, of course, an introduction to the following winters of my sophomore, junior, and senior years. Who can forget the joys of sledding down Pullman hills on cafeteria trays secreted from the dining halls, carefully walking icy sidewalks between classes, bundling up against the cold winter air in a new parka from Eddie Bauer—the parka label of choice in those days—to walk to campus and back and to basketball games in steamy, hot Bohler Gym, and—even more fun—ski lessons at the North/South Ski Bowl in the St. Joe National Forest.
Yes, those wintry days and nights at Washington State!
— Amy M Jolley (‘80, Pol. Sci.)
One night, during a Pullman snowstorm, I was a volunteer driver for the Women’s Center Taxi Service. (I can’t remember what we called it then, but I think it’s called Cougar Safe Rides now—before Uber!) It was around midnight, and we got several requests for rides because people were stranded for various snow reasons. It was a wonderful, eclectic, group of five women who would probably be unlikely to ride in the same car otherwise, but we had so much fun telling stories, driving slowly, navigating Pullman streets, taking one another home, and wishing everyone a good and safe evening. I remember it as a wonderful feeling of community and connection at WSU.
— Peggy O’Boyle Fine (’86 Comm.)
Night sledding down the hill across from Gannon/Golds on cafeteria trays stolen from the Roto. (Sorry!)
— Michelle Jacobs Brown (‘04 Int. Bus.)
I remember shoveling deep, powdery snow with my roommates in my driveway the night before we had to go to class, knowing the roads would be plowed because this was Pullman, and snow days “don’t happen.”
— Dan Wagner (‘13 Environ. Eng.)
Courtesy of the US Army, I had the extremely good fortune to spend winter of ’49 at the ski resort at Lake Eibsee near Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany, and, in another branch of the army an hour away, in Oberammergau. Both being located in the Alps, it wasn’t much of a surprise to witnessing it snow in May. Whatever, weather wasn’t even a second thought about returning to WSC after my discharge. Anxious to get back to school, colleges in California and Florida had little appeal even though ideal spots to spend during Northwestern winters.
By January, 1950, I was back in Pullman ready to continue my college career. The particular day I shall never forget was the first day of the second semester—I believe the 17th of the month. Snow had blown through the open windows in our dorm, covering our beds. The snow, however, seemed incidental to the frigid air hitting us when we arose. All the radios downstairs were tuned into KWSC, since one of our brothers, Vern Kurda, hosted the morning show, “Penguin Parade.” Later, most, if not all, of us were not gracious enough to congratulate him on finding a way to the station so early on this particular morning. But of all the things going on at the school, what he said about the weather is unforgettable: “33 degrees below zero with a 30 knot wind.”
— Val Jensen ‘52
I met a boy at Wine Fest winter of 1991 and married him. We now have a Coug graduating this spring.
— Breanne Ragle with Brian Ragle
In like 2001 I was walking home from Valhalla and slipped on the ice in front of the Pi Phi house, I started yelling at the house that they should shovel their sidewalks. The next day in class a girl was telling me about this crazy Delta Gamma girl who fell and was screaming at their house late at night. I’m not a DG! I just went along with it.
— Carrie Tabatha Teri
Loved walking through the winter wonderland that was WSUV, 2017. GO COUGS!
— Ron Anderson
Falling down on icy sidewalks.
— Barbara Bee