A Place to Grab a Soda
By Mike Greife
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Life before World War II was a simpler time, with fewer students and fewer buildings. The four blocks now considered the main campus were the entire university. But students were still students. They were young people who enjoyed having a good time while they went about the serious business of getting a college degree.
A place to sit down between classes and have a soda with friends was about all that was needed in the daily routine. Underneath Hendricks Hall - UCM's largest public auditorium - was an open area that served that purpose as the university's first student recreation center.
Times changed, and so did student expectations. UCM met those expectations with the construction of the North Morrow Social Hall. After World War II, the campus population exploded with veterans obtaining their degrees on the GI Bill. Students needed space to gather in larger groups, and the newly designated teacher's college had become the permanent home to the annual gathering of Missouri Boys State.
North Morrow was the answer. Built in 1951, it boasted a large social mall on the main level. The Christmas Dance and the Rhetor Ball found a home, and larger groups could be served at banquets planned by an ever-growing number of student organizations. Downstairs was a larger version of the snack bar. The new "student center" even had all the comforts of home, with a fireplace room for cold winter evenings.
After World War II, the university also began providing housing for many of the students. Residence halls were built, and the campus became more of a self-contained community where students lived and studied. The Student Union, built in three stages in the 1960s, offered a social center and services new to campus.
Students no longer had to leave campus for a haircut or the latest hairstyle; Ron or Lavonne took care of that. Leisure time was still a luxury, but bowling and billiards were available. Hungry? The "snack bar" had become a short order restaurant or a full line cafeteria, and the Mule Barn, located in the basement of the union, was UCM's answer to the coffee house. The bookstore provided all the necessities of everyday life.
When recreation became an industry, American society recognized the need to stay fit. When the university acquired Pertle Springs - complete with lake, park areas and eventually a golf course and swimming pool - students' lists of "things to do for fun" expanded considerably.
Students and administration joined forces in the 1970s to fund the Multipurpose Building. It's still the biggest public facility on campus or in Warrensburg, for that matter. With an indoor pool and fitness areas, it offers even more recreational opportunities. As UCM's athletic programs grew and diversified, it became clear that UCM students needed a recreation facility that would free up the Multipurpose Building for more athletic training.
Central Missouri's student unions are evolving again with construction of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and renovation of the Morrow and Garrison buildings. The estimated $36 million project is the largest commitment to fitness, health and wellness in university history.