Birth of Nations spawned
UTA family affair
By Sherry Wodraska
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in
the July 1993 issue of Presence magazine, the forerunner to UTA
Edward Nation and his brothers spent their childhood
summer afternoons wading in Trading House Creek, fishing for crawdads
and digging caves in the banks. That was back when the creek, which
runs just north of Mitchell Street, marked the southern city limit
The family home, built just south of that 1930s
era city limit, stood on land now occupied by UTAs South 40
parking lot. All seven Nation children, Margaret, William, Fay,
Edward, Ruth, Joe and David, eventually attended neighboring North
Texas Agricultural College (NTAC), now known as U.T. Arlington.
The traffic light at South Cooper Street
and Nedderman Drive, marked the last street in town when I was growing
up, Edward said.
Fay Van Dam, administrative assistant in the College of Engineering,
was born Fay Nation in that house on South Cooper. The
University was part of our life, always, she said. We
went to plays, football games, military parades. In the summer,
the Music Department would put on musicals every Wednesday night.
Football games were a highlight for David, the youngest of the Nation
children. Because the football stadium had no locker rooms, the
players dressed in the gymnasium, then walked across campus to the
They would pick up the kids standing outside
and carry them in, David recalls. Of course, the
guards weren't going to stop them.
City and social events in Arlington and at the college were inseparable
in those days. Fay's 1939 Arlington High School graduating class
celebrated commencement in the old gymnasium, which was torn down
a half century later to make way for the Chemistry Research Building.
And Edward remembers the traditional freshman orientation ritual,
which required drinking from the city's famous mineral well.
Margaret attended NTAC during the 1935-36 academic
year. In those depression days, students wore blue uniforms to class
and rode the train to out-of-town football games.
Edward was enrolled from 1945 to 1947, studying industrial aeronautics
and working on engines. He acquired his love for airplanes as a
They used to rebuild airplanes on campus
and rev them up at night to test out the engines, he
said. When we were kids, we would go and watch. One night
while we were out there, the plane rolled down the grassy field
and actually took off.
A true agricultural college
Fay came to NTAC in 1939 as a business student. Following graduation
in 1940, she began working at the college full time. In those days
it was a vital, working, agricultural site.
Cattle roamed near what is now Maverick Stadium, she
said. And the police department area was once home to cows
and chickens. The school sold milk and fryers. It was a big program,
but later Arlington became more citified, and it was phased out
after the war.
World War II claimed many more important casualties
than the agricultural program. William Nation, called Bill, attended
NTAC in the early 1940s, then joined the military and served in
Europe. He was killed near the war's end. In the early 1990s, Fay
visited his grave near Liege, Belgium.
Many fellow NTAC students, all well known and remembered, died in
the war. NTAC was a small enough place that you knew everyone-students,
faculty and staff, Fay said.
After the war ended, veterans returned home anxious
to take advantage of the GI Bill to continue their education. Joe
Nation, an NTAC student from 1947 to 1949, remembers when his parents
took in students as boarders.
There were so many veterans and no housing available whatsoever, he
said. At one time, we had 18 people living in our housebunk
beds everywhere. And only one bathroom.
Joe loved the college life, even as a child. We lived
on the college campus-literally, he said. Everything
that they put on, we got to see. The children of faculty members
went to school with us. Everybody knew everybody else. It was really
But, even paradise can have its little flaws.
Visitors to campus in the 1940s would often see young men in ROTC
uniforms working off demerits as they marched around and around
the quadrangle, an area near the present University Center.
The changing face of campus
Just as the quad made way for the U.C., so other campus landmarks
have come and gone. Following the war, Fay married and left Arlington,
and when she returned her beloved NTAC had become Arlington State
College (ASC). Then, in the 1960s, ASC became UTA. Such changes
have continued throughout her career.
They keep adding another building
and another building, she said. Now its a
It was a much smaller place in the
1940s, said Ruth, who attended NTAC from 1943 to 1945. Only a handful
of buildings made up the entire campus, including the Administration
Building (now Ransom Hall), the Science Building (now Preston Hall),
and the Library (now College Hall).
Though vastly larger than the college of
their day, todays sprawling 392-acre campus still holds special
memories for the Nation family. Nearly 20 years ago, a UTA electrician
found a set of dog tags in a flowerbed near College Hall and returned
them to the family. They belonged to William, the brother who was
killed in World War II.
Joe came home to Arlington a few years ago
and visited the small cemetery near Doug Russell Park, part of his
childhood stomping grounds.
The little winecup flowers were still growing there just like
when I was a kid, he said. Everything
else has changed, but thats still the same.