The memories came flooding back during my visit around Jackson Field: the “Amazing Sinking Toilet;” the midnight train; the neighbors’ wobbling walls; a guy who lived two doors down from us, who outfitted his “castle” with only stolen furniture (couldn’t ever prove that, though.)
“Jackson Hole” was one of the many names we called it, but the official name was Jackson Apartments.
My wife, Linda, and I had only been married a short time, when we moved into “Fertile Acres.” That’s another name Jackson residents called the low-cost rental area for married students along the eastern edge of campus.
It was 1967 when we moved into the apartments, which we were told were prisoner-of-war barracks 20 years before, out west of Greeley, where 3,000 German prisoners spent the last days of World War II.
After the war, some of the barracks were taken by farms for work sheds, some became a motel in central Greeley, and many of the units were supposedly moved to Colorado State College.
Our rent was perfect. It was actually only $45 per month, but we had a washing machine, so they charged us an extra $5. Fifty dollars was the exact same amount I was paid as sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Mirror. Linda worked numerous odd jobs to pay for our food and other necessities.
And there were adventures:
- We had the Amazing Sinking Toilet Incident, just a few doors down, when one afternoon we heard a woman’s screams barreling from one of the apartments. We ran there to discover she wasn’t in trouble or injured, but as she was using her toilet, it sunk through the rotting floorboards and out of sight under the building. They moved out shortly after that.
- Our next-door neighbors, who became close friends, had a little gimmick to get our attention. The husband would use a toilet plunger against the wall that connected our apartments, and push it back and forth. On our side of the wall, it would bulge in and out about a foot, creaking and groaning like it would collapse at any moment. It never did.
- A former resident, the late Ed Quillen, who was The Mirror editor and later became a columnist for The Denver Post, once called Jackson “a fire hazard, mold farm, bug haven and claustrophobe’s nightmare.” He said he loved it like the rest of us who lived there.
Today, it’s all gone. If you visit where the 90 apartments once stood, a few of the trees are still there, the railroad tracks still rumble nearby, and even some of the weeds seem to be the same ones that were there 45 years ago.
But it just isn’t the same without the sinking toilet.
– Mike Peters (BA-68) is a retired journalist.
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About Jackson Apartments (pictured at top of aerial photo) Ninety low-rent apartments converted from Army barracks in 1946 became campus housing primarily for married students. The group of numbered wooden buildings flanked the east side of Jackson Field and were razed in 1974 due to concerns including fire hazards. “The buildings have worn out their usefulness,” William Thomas, director of housing at UNC at the time, told the student newspaper.
Today’s campus housing features a variety of options for any student: www.unco.edu/housing.
— Source: UNC Mirror, Jan. 7, 1972, and Jan. 28, 1974.