Brendan O'Shaughnessy | May 7, 2017
On a warm August evening in 1955, Charlie and Mickey Tull drove with their young son down a dirt road known as Hesburgh Way into Vetville, where the Korean War veteran would use the GI Bill to study history at Notre Dame.
The initial view of their new home, unit 34C, left Mickey concerned. In 1946, Notre Dame had created its first married student housing from 39 prisoner-of-war barracks used in Missouri during World War II. The government broke them down, shipped the boards and slapped them back up in the area where the library and Mod Quad now stand. Each barrack had three two-bedroom units, often sharing a single telephone among them.
The floorboards were so rough that cheap rugs had to be put down to prevent splinters. The ceilings were so low that a friend would put his head through the plaster jumping up when Notre Dame ended Oklahoma’s record winning streak in 1957. But the price was right at $27 per month.
The Tulls’ furniture wouldn’t arrive until the next day. There was nothing in the main room but a space heater, the only source of warmth for frigid South Bend winters. The next morning, a neighbor dropped in and asked about their baby: “Does he always eat cereal on the floor like that?”
But then that same neighbor offered to wash the baby’s cloth diapers in her new washing machine. And Vetville chaplain Father Jim Moran welcomed them with $50 to stock up with starter groceries. And Notre Dame students, especially the football players, volunteered to babysit while the parents played bridge or socialized at the nearby Veterans Recreation Center.