53 Bison Court

NDSU Bison Court after a major blizzard

NDSU Bison Court after a major blizzard

You may recall that we got married in June of 1971. Our first apartment was the upstairs of an old four-square house on the near North Side of Fargo. It was a nice old place, much like the house we live in today. When school started that fall we moved to the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) into a little place called Bison Court.

In 1971 Bison Court was the newer student housing. The previous year the university had torn down the old Quonset buildings that had housed veterans coming back from WWII. That neighborhood had a lot of mature trees and some landscaping, but the buildings were ancient by 1971. Metal Quonset buildings were not designed for longevity. Bison court was bleak by comparison. While we were living in Bison Court they built some modern (70’s modern) apartments further northeast of Bison Court.

We loved living at Bison Court for several reasons, mostly that it was within easy walking distance of the engineering department, so there was no need for a second car. There were reasons to not like the place, too. Cinder blocks. Lots of them. The walls were concrete block. All of the walls were block.

It was a tiny place. I don’t mean tiny by 21st Century standards, either. It was tiny by any standard, even by tiny house enthusiasts. One of the features of the place was that each apartment had a study area. After all, it was student housing. The study area was about three feet by five feet. Enough for a work surface (I hesitate to call it a desk) and a chair. There was no concept of a reclining office chair at the time, as a recline would bring your head into immediate contact with concrete blocks.

Judy's birthday at NDSU Bison Court

Judy’s birthday at NDSU Bison Court

The kitchen wasn’t much larger. I guess the designers thought students didn’t have much kitchen gear, never had dinner guests, and rarely cooked. All of those were true for us, partly because cooking was a real challenge in that tiny space. Most notable was that the oven door would almost touch the opposite wall when open. Everything had to go into the oven sideways because there wasn’t room to stand in front of it when the door was open. Helping with dishes was out of the question. Two people really didn’t fit. I still don’t do dishes!

I mentioned the kitchen wall. That’s being generous. A Masonite peg board panel suspended on some metal poles separated the kitchen from the living/dining room. That peg board was where we stored most of the kitchen utensils, as drawer and cupboard space was at a premium.

Laundry was three doors east of our apartment, shared by innumerable other apartments. Several couples had children. I don’t know how they survived. Perhaps the “study” area became a nursery.

One of the things we did like about the apartment was that Tom and Sue P lived directly across the courtyard from us. Tom was the one who had introduced us a couple of years before. We hung out with them until they got too deep into a multi-level-marketing business. Fortunately, we didn’t bite that particular poison.

While living at Bison Court we bought a new car, a 1973 Chevy Vega. The price was right and the car served us well for a couple of years. You can read elsewhere what a reliable car it wasn’t. The first thing we added to the car was a head bolt heater. With no garage, mechanical ignition, thick oils, and cold North Dakota winters something was necessary to help the car start in the mornings. Judy was working at Dakota Electric at the time and had to get to work. We had a reserved parking space with a switched outlet for the heater.

These days with modern synthetic oil and electronic ignition, engine heaters are a thing of the past. A quick look at Amazon.com finds no head bolt heaters and only a couple of frost plug heaters. Between those and climate change, our cars always start. This is a good thing!

While living in Bison Court our lives went through several pivotal experiences. Avoiding the draft. KDSU. Camping trips. First new car. Graduation from college. Judy’s first full-time job. Working at the EE department. Graduate school and looking for a real job as an engineer.

Bison Court was a great place to live in those formative years. I’m not sure where married student housing is at NDSU these days, but from the looks of Google Maps our old apartments have gone the way of the WWII Quonset buildings.Grandpa Guy Havelick


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