[I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping. They were so loud, and so near the heat duct, I couldn’t help but overhear the couple two doors down. O.K., O.K., maybe I eavesdropped a little.]
* * *
Donna Joy Hyland and I were married on June 8, 1963, after I finished my freshman year at the University of North Carolina, and when we moved to Chapel Hill in September to begin my sophomore year we had enough money. Donna was working full time as a secretary at the UNC School of Nursing and I was working afternoons and weekends at the UNC Office of Sports Information.
But when we discovered we were going to have a baby in May everything changed, financially speaking.
We moved out of our fancy apartment on Airport Road at the end of the first semester and into Victory Village, university-owned housing for married students. UNC also owned dozens of handsome, brick apartments for married students but Victory Village was a lot cheaper and it was all we could afford.
Turned out, it was a wonderful place to live, full of good friends and good times –good memories now — and we lived there, at 114 Daniels Road, until I graduated in May 1966.
The single and multi-family prefabs were erected after World War II to house the influx of married servicemen enrolling at UNC. Each of the multi-family units contained eight apartments, long and narrow, like a railroad car, side by side by side.
The front door opened into the living room; a tiny kitchen and bathroom were side by side in the middle; and the bedroom was in the back. The was no back door but there were two windows, one in the front and one in the back.
The apartments were connected by a heating duct that ran from one end of the building to the other. The thermostat was controlled by the couple in the apartment on one end, which meant that during the cold months the temperature in all eight apartment was the same, often too cold or too hot. There was no air conditioning so we were all the same boat in the hot months, too.
When a new couple moved in everyone would greet them warmly but no one would tell them the heating duct secret: If you were standing too close it carried your voice, quite clearly, down the row of apartments. New couples had to learn that for themselves and, until they did, they were a frequent source of entertainment.
One fine day a newly married couple moved in and what a handsome pair they were, the woman for sure. They arrived in a bright red convertible, said hello, and then all but disappeared into their apartment, two doors down from ours.
We didn’t see much of them for several weeks. Like I said, they were just married. And then one morning, as I was making coffee, getting ready to leave for school, I heard them arguing, yelling, which really wasn’t necessary because they were standing so close to the heat vent I could have heard every word anyway.
Apparently her good looks were not enough any more because she yelled at him: “I didn’t say I could cook when we got married!”
NOTE: For a news story about the housing shortage at UNC right after WWII II go here. This is what it said about the multi-family buildings, which it called “barracks”, where we lived in Victory Village: “The barracks are like apartment houses with extra-thin walls. The occupants say you can hear every word from the apartments next door. If a wife in a middle apartment calls ‘honey’ to her husband, she may get three answers.”
Coming Monday: The [Warm] Iceman