Fertile Valley

Written by: 
Helen V. Schlueter ('54, '69 M.A.)
Helen and Bill Schlueter at her graduation with her mother and their young son, 1954

When my husband, William J. Schlueter ('53 M.B.Ed.), and I arrived on campus with our 2-year-old son in 1952, we definitely were in the minority. Most of the students were Texans or from Arkansas, Oklahoma or Louisiana. We came from DePaul University in Chicago.

We had left in search of a nicer climate and a state we would be proud to be a part of. Bill, who served in the Pacific in World War II before graduating from DePaul, began work on a master's degree in business education. I entered as a junior, majoring in secondary education.

We lived at 215 Sheridan Road in Vet Village, an area that had been rather hastily constructed to accommodate married students studying on the G.I. Bill. The residents also called it Fertile Valley, due to the fact that there were so many couples with children living there.

Three unpaved streets in the area were named after movie stars associated with North Texas, including former student Ann Sheridan. There also was a small playground for the children. My husband and I arranged our classes so that one of us was usually at home with our son, and a lady who took care of other children occasionally helped with babysitting.

Although we had moved south in part to escape the cold, we lived through two bitter winters while we were in Vet Village. The buildings were "Dallas Huts" left over from the war, and it was so cold that a thin layer of ice would form inside the thin walls of what were loosely called bedrooms. The hut had a free-standing heater, which we were warned had to be shut off at night because it was a fire hazard. Happily, neither my husband nor I nor our little boy ever got sick.

Helen Schlueter, 2018

As in many communities with a preponderance of young people of approximately the same age group, we all helped each other. I have a memory of needing typing paper around midnight to finish a history report for the following day. I just walked up and down our street until I found a house with a light on, and a fellow student working late loaned me the paper. There were times when community members helped each other with car repairs and occasionally helped someone dig out of the mud after a torrential rain.

Most of our time was spent studying. We did enjoy once-a-week dollar movies at the drive in. We would drive around and around until our son would fall asleep and then we would go to the movie. The only problem, the minute the car stopped he would wake up and chatter. 

The square (we never called it anything else) in Denton was charming. I was not familiar with this type of small-town construction. There were a few times during one summer session when I had to walk from the campus to the bus line there in 90-plus-degree weather. I don't know if any of the campus buildings were air-conditioned, but I know I was in several classrooms that were not.

I also remember the cricket invasion. I do not remember the year, but my husband and I had never experienced anything like it. The bugs could not be kept out of the house. I screeched every time one jumped on me, but my son thought it was great fun. 

In spite of the modest surroundings and lack of money in our years at Vet Village, it was a rather pleasant experience -- perhaps with the exception of tuna fish. Very few students in the area could afford meat or chicken. It was years after graduation before our family would voluntarily buy canned tuna.

After finishing our degrees, we settled in Dallas where Bill was employed by an insurance company and I began teaching school. It was in 1967 that I returned to campus to work on a master's degree in English. I wanted to upgrade my skills ­-- and salary -- as methods of teaching were evolving.

UNT was the only school in the area recognized for its dedication to teacher preparation, and I had several notable professors who also were excellent scholars. These included Elizabeth Lomax, who cultivated my love of poetry, and William Vaughn, an outstanding teacher of history.

I continued to teach Spanish and English for many years. Today, I am a 90-year-old widow, amazed at the faculty and student accomplishments I read about in The North Texan and proud to have graduated from UNT.

Editor's note: Helen taught at Rusk Junior High, Stockard Junior High and Sunset High School in Dallas, where her teaching included a class in Ballet Folklorico. Bill, who worked in insurance for 35 years, passed away in 2015.