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Courtlyn Hotchkiss
Courtlyn Hotchkiss

"What W.W.II Did to Fort Collins"

Courtlyn Hotchkiss

March 1, l995
Fort Collins Historical Society Program

Beginning a talk about his war experiences, Hotchkiss reflected on life for a young man in Fort Collins in 1938.

"I remember Fort Collins as being a very small backwoods town. Most of the streets were gravel at best. I think Whedbee, Mountain Avenue, Remington, maybe, College were paved. . . The kids that went to school here . . . our greatest expectation was to probably graduate from high school; maybe scrape together $25 a semester to go to the Ag College; maybe get a degree; maybe get some kind of a decent job for maybe $1200 a year. That's what teachers were making at that time. No great expectations. There was no employment for young people. . . . the war changed all that.

I think the war did good and bad, but I think more good. The war took a lot of us out of Fort Collins and gave us opportunities. The war did something else for Fort Collins that most people don't understand. The end of the war brought the GI Bill. I came back (from the service) in March of '46 and was Director of Veterans Affairs. We had hardly any male students. The veterans weren't back yet, but they were coming back.

By the fall we had 3,000 students. By the next fall, we just multiplied. Who came to Fort Collins? These were kids from Pennsylvania, Ohio, any place you want to name. . . the GI bill gave them an opportunity to go to school. It put Colorado A&M, at that time, on the map, particularly the vet school and engineering. It brought people from all over. People who would probably have just gone back to the steel mills of Pittsburgh or back to the farm in Holyoke or back to the ranch at Livermore.

I think W.W.II and the GI Bill had more impact on Fort Collins than anything else up to that time. It led to the growth of the university; and right or wrong, the growth of the university has led to the development of this community. It's brought people in and introduced them to what a wonderful climate we have and what a good community. Many of my students over that 32 years always said . . . "I'm going to figure out some way to stay here." Thus, Fort Collins became a much more diversified place to live."

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