Past Times

Trailers were homes to student vets

“Pooling supper” helped residents make friends and share expenses. The Von Autrys of Fayetteville (on the couch) enjoy a waffle supper with Ed and Jean Schnedl of Charlotte.
“Pooling supper” helped residents make friends and share expenses. The Von Autrys of Fayetteville (on the couch) enjoy a waffle supper with Ed and Jean Schnedl of Charlotte. N&O File Photo

As returning World War II vets headed for college, often with wives and children in tow, housing proved tight on most campuses. The solution for these married students at N.C. State University was a trailer home community called Trailwood. In 1947, N&O writer Jane Hall profiled some Trailwood residents.

They practically live in each other’s laps, but they don’t mind a bit. In fact, they’ve discovered that it’s great fun, that it actually brings them closer together and makes for the ultimate in neighborly cooperation.

Living in the cramped quarters of a trailer, dashing through all sorts of weather to the community bathhouse, padding around muddy roads when the weather is bad, and trying to struggle along on the government’s $90-a-month allotment all would seem to constitute a well-nigh unbearable burden.

To the young couples who live at Trailwood, these discomforts are of minor consequence compared to the fun they’re having while the men folks acquire an education at N.C. State College.

“It really is sort of like going off to camp,” said pretty blonde Jean Schnedl of Charlotte. “Everybody’s about the same age, most of the boys are veterans, and we all like to do the same things. We like to stay around and visit the people in Trailwood, they’re all so nice.

“Using the community bathhouses is not so bad in the summer, but in the winter we do have to wrap up well so we won’t catch cold. It isn’t so bad, really. We don’t mind. While the husbands study at night, most the wives gather at the bathhouse for talk and gossip, and that’s a lot of fun.”

“Almost too much fun,” said Ed Schnedl, his eyes twinkling. “Sometimes the girls stay so long we think they’re lost.”

Lacking money, the group to a large degree is thrown upon its own resources for recreation. The pattern that has grown up is typical of youth groups everywhere. Perhaps the finest sport at Trailwood is plain old-fashioned visiting.

Couples are constantly dropping in on each other for a visit, and groups frequently gather in someone’s trailer, the boys studying while their wives talk. “Pooling supper” is another item in Trailwood’s fun calendar. One or two couples gather in another’s trailer, each couple supplying a portion of the meal. Good weather finds many of the boys, or husbands and wives, playing catch in the streets. Picnics, too, are fine sport and a full quota is usually held during the spring and early fall.…

Occasionally, couples go out for dinner or a movie, but not often, as intensive study on the part of the boys, coupled with the expense, keeps such outings at the minimum. Couples with children have no difficulty in going out at night as far as the children are concerned, for neighborly neighbors usually are glad to “mind the baby.…”

Like every other respectable American community, Trailwood has its own government. The community’s officers include a mayor, senior alderman, 19 aldermen (representing various sections of trailers), sheriff, recreation director, secretary-treasurer and publicity director. The mayor, senior alderman and aldermen served as the council and as such have legislative, executive and judicial powers. New officers are elected at a town meeting held at the beginning of every school term.…

Trailwood is a peaceable community, … and, so far, the sheriff never has had to assert his authority.…

The biggest crisis ever precipitated at Trailwood is the now famous “laundry” crisis. It all happened last fall. Practically all the girls at Trailwood do their own laundry, most of them including their sheets and husband’s shirts. Consequently, everybody was highly pleased when the community acquired two washing machines, one for each of the bathhouses.

Almost immediately … there was “misuse and abuse of the machines.” Some girls used the machines four or five times a day; others left it dirty for the next comer; wives who were home all day, waited until after nightfall to do their washing, thus crowding out the wives who worked. As a result, tempers rose, tongues grew sharp, and a real battle was in the making.

Alert to the danger in the situation, … Trailwood’s mayor appointed a committee of girls to work out a solution. Their plan, which has since been put into effect, has proven highly satisfactory and the aggravation caused by the “misuse and abuse” of the machines has long since died out.

Understandably, the youthful inhabitants of Trailwood are proud of their community. They’re proud of its government, its smooth-running affairs and of its truly friendly and cooperative spirit.

The neat yards of green winter grass, flagstone walks, and white picket fences which surround many of the trailers are visible evidences of these youths’ pride in their trailer homes. Many have built an extra room onto their trailers to provide more living space.

At night, when the light streams from the windows of the trailers, Trailwood looks exactly like what it is – a genuinely American community of warmth, charm and neighborliness. The N&O Jan. 26, 1947

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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