Throwback Thursday: 1960s WKU student life, bomb shelters and skyscrapers

Western Kentucky University students have had many unique opportunities for student housing
over the past century. What we consider modern housing and campus residence life hasn’t
always been the case. There were a couple of extremely unusual student living options that
sprang up during the 1960s. While we don’t have quite enough research to do a single story on
each of these two, these two student living options were truly polar opposites in every sense.

Let’s set the stage. The United States was in the middle of the Cold War when the 1960s
calendar hit. The invention of atomic warfare fundamentally changed society’s views on safety.
Neighbors in your backyard may be stockpiling canned goods and building a bomb shelter in
case of an attack, and students in the school were told to duck and cover under their desks. In
Bowling Green, businessman Joe Bogle built an underground bomb shelter.

In 1963, according to the College Heights Herald, Joe Bogle had 14 underground rooms
available for rent, with another 14 under construction. Bogle rented the rooms to just over two
dozen WKU students. Called Bogle Hall, just off Russellville Road and a minute from campus,
the literal bomb shelter was unusual for students. The Herald said shelter life was ideal because
it’s just off campus, next to a restaurant and gas station, and had study hall quiet hour rules. But
as time went on, by 1968, after some flooding and thefts during school holidays, many students
were bringing complaints about Bogle Hall to the Herald and university staff. Bogle had also
become the place to have parking lot parties with alcohol that didn’t fall under university rules.

On the other end of the scale, 1968 was the year a new set of dual skyscrapers opened for
student housing in downtown Bowling Green. On College Street, where Bowling Green
Business College’s towers used to stand, but had burnt in 1964 and were razed in 1965, stood
the all-new 15-story Western Towers. They were described as luxury living, offering penthouse
study halls, a swimming pool and recreation room, an onsite cafeteria, and coin laundries, and
could house just over 400 students in each tower. Men and women could live in separate
towers but with joint public spaces. The towers had a student president and were under the
jurisdiction of much of campus life.

As with all new things though, the opening academic year for these towers suffered with supply
chain issues and scheduling. Students went months without desks to work from in their rooms.
The swimming pool wasn’t complete yet. The cafeteria only served food during certain school
hours with paper plates and plastic utensils. The Western Towers are now the Bowling Green
Towers for seniors needing assisted living.

But nonetheless, tower living and bomb shelter living was indeed polar opposites during the 1960s
WKU student lifestyles. That’s it for this week, brought to you by Hart County Tourism and the
Kentucky Museum. In Bowling Green, because local matters, Telia Butler, WNKY News 40.