SEMO Construction in 1967


Southeast Missouri State College – now University – was yanking buildings out of the ground like crazy in 1967. I roamed the campus taking photos of the work that was taking place so we could show it in the February 25, 1967, Achievement Edition.

Kent Library Expansion

This was the beginning of the Kent Library expansion project. Dearmont Hall is on the left.

Soft spot for construction workers

I’ve always had a soft sport for construction workers, particularly crane operators, because of the hours I spent watching Dad operate a dragline. He could drop the bucket exactly where he wanted it, pull in a load of dirt or gravel, swing it over and dump it into truck without spilling a rock or banging the bed of the truck. The men working under him had absolute faith in his ability to hit his target, because a mistake could have killed them.

When I was about 10, Dad was setting a big tank for someone. He had the load locked down and suspended about five feet off the ground while a worker for his client was leveling the dirt below it. He stepped off the crane for a break, then sent me back to get his jug of iced tea. When I climbed up into the cab, the tank owner went berserk. “Kid, get DOWN off there. If you touch something, you could kill that man.!”

I froze until Dad hollered back, “If I thought he was going to touch anything, I wouldn’t have sent him.” Turning to me, he said, quietly, “Fetch me the jug, please.” I realized then how much confidence Dad had in me.

Built in the old Home of the Birds

One Missourian photo caption said, in part, that the 12-story structures on the new North Campus will serve hundreds of students when they are first opened in the summer. A service center has two high-rise dormitories  attached to the corners. Under contracts recently awarded, two more buildings, identical to the first, will be built on the remaining two corners of the service center, which will provide students food service and recreation areas.

By building the tall structures in the valley of what past generations called the Home of the Birds, the college was able to keep the height of the buildings at the level of existing buildings. That avoided a top-heavy effect.

2010 Aerial of dorm area

This photo is looking east toward the high-rise dorm area. Academic Hall, not visible, would be at the right.

Houck Stadium, Kent Library

This photo, taken November 6, 2010, shows Houck Stadium at the bottom. The large building at the top center of the picture is Kent Library. Dearmont Hall is on its right.

Photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

21 Replies to “SEMO Construction in 1967”

  1. I find it hard to grasp that Towers was built 45 years ago. I had friends living there that first summer, and the dorms seemed luxurious. Some great memories, and some great people.

  2. Ah, the Home of the Birds, a sepia-toned memory of kindergarten with Miss Gross at the Campus School in 1954. It was a bucolic place, set just below the playground and was a calming influence on a hyperactive little boy even then.

  3. In picture #10, the newly opened Music Building stands out. I was somewhat disappointed that you had no high-angle shot of what was affectionately called Mason’s Basin; the marching band practice field just below and to the east of what had been an elevated walkway (and steam/electrical conduit) to the north side of the campus (Magill Hall of Science) from just west of the new Music Building. That area used to be just a big ravine with a tangle of dense undergrowth.

  4. All of the construction workers and their employers would be cited by OSHA now for not wearing hard hats! I recognized my cousin Bob Johnson from Jackson as one of the concrete finishers pictured.

    1. There were plenty of things missing that would get you in trouble today: no hard hats, no safety railings, no safety lines and some non-employee with a camera running around.

      In those days, I’d just wander onto a site. If anybody asked me what I was doing, I’d say, “Looking for the foreman. Have you seen him?”

      If I happened to run into the foreman, then I’d have to do a little song and dance, but most of the time folks liked to have their picture taken. They just asked that you not get killed and warned you that if you did, you’d probably end up in the middle of a concrete slab somewhere.

  5. I sometimes wondered what I might encounter if I had to climb down to retrieve a book droped over the side the that bridge on the way to biology class.

  6. Towers was indeed in the heart of the “home of the birds”, which incidently also was the site of “Frankenstein’s Castle”–which is what we called an abandoned stone building right in the center of the woods which housed a seismic study lab of the University at some point. This building had no windows, and we never seemed to have a flashlight when we played down there, so the dark interior was mysterious and yes, just a little scary!

  7. I used to deliver meat to Albert Hall, Leming Hall and one other one back in the early 40’s when they had a navy v-12 program there and we at Krogers fed those future naval officers! What a difference 70 years can make.
    Joe Whitright “45”

  8. When I started at SEMO in the fall of ’62, the tuition was $80 a semester. While that slowly increased over my four years, I remember most the $5 addition (senior year I think) targeted for a new Student Union building which I was not around to enjoy. How financial times have changed in our institutions of higher learning!

  9. The man running the crane was my Daddy – Lloyd Swain. He also helped build the St. Louis Arch and New Madrid Power Plant among other things. He was a great operator and an even greater father!!

  10. Haha! I saw that in one of the articles. That’s ok. A lot of students don’t. We’re working to make the library more relevant to 21st century students.

    I do love the two photos of the inside because it shows how students dressed for classes in the 60s. (I think those were from the 60s).

  11. Hello:

    I’m trying to do more research on a construction worker that passed away in 1965 while working at Southwest Missouri State College. His name was James B. Patterson and his wife (who passed away in 1990) was Pearl L. Patterson. I’m trying to find any photographs of him or if he still has any surviving family. Just curious where you were able to find these photos. Here is a link to an article about him:

    Any information or leads would be most appreciated!

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