Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
Married veterans attending the Los Angeles campus of the University of California have discovered that the dollar—unlike some bank checks—doesn’t stretch like rubber.
They have found it impossible to live on their G.I. Bill of Rights $90 ($851.78 USD 2005) a month.
So they’ve dipped deeply into their wartime service pay and terminal leave savings, borrowed and in practically every instance taken jobs to eke out their Federal subsidy.
Yesterday, The Times visited “Gayleyville,” largest veterans housing project on the huge Westwood campus, to learn firsthand of their problems.
Immediately apparent—to even the most casual interviewer—were Gayleyville’s magnificent courage, humor and resourcefulness two years after VJ-Day. The veterans, staunchly backed by their wives, are determined to get an education. Not even a diet of spaghetti and beans will stop them.
The university has reported that the “average married veteran” spends $170 (1,608.91 USD 2005) per month—just living.
Forty-three per cent have cashed their War Bonds (of 2,273 veterans surveyed; 62 per cent have dug into the household sock; 20 per cent have borrowed from family or friends, and 40 per cent are using “the earnings of wife and husband.” Back in 1939, the ordinary student loan given by campus authorities was $45.11 (426.93 USD 2005) Now it’s $103.73 ($981.72) with the volume of borrowing up 300 per cent.
But cold statistics don’t tell the warm, human story that is Gayleyville.
Case in Point
As a case in point, take 24-year-old Robert (Buzz) Snoyer and his blond wife, Anne, 19.
Buzz is an Air Forces veteran, back in school after a three-year Army hitch. He and Anne, with 10-month-old Judith, live in a tiny Gayleyville unit at 618 Gayley Ave., for which they page $33 ($312.32) a month. (Gayleyville itself was shipped down from Henry Kaiser’s dismantled shipyard at Portland.)
Married in October, 1945, Buzz and Anne came to the university the following March. They had high hopes and low finances.
“That first year,” said the ex-airman, “Brother!”
Swept Out Store
It took five months for his G.I. subsidy application to be processed; so until August they survived somehow on the $22 a week Buzz earned sweeping out drugstores, window dressing and even assisting in the Sawtelle neuropsychiatry wards.
All this time they were paying $45 a month installments on the trailer they grimly called home.
Then, in May, a kindly Beverly hills veterinarian lent a helping hand. Literally, they “moved into the doghouse” and the young couple got free lodging alongside the animals in exchange for their part-time services. (Anne wryly recalls once answering the telephone at 2 a.m. hearing a woman say, “Please listen to my dog cough—he has pneumonia.”)
Judith was born last October. The Snoyers had run through $350 borrowed from the university and Buzz was feeling a little groggy from giving blood (at $25 a pint) to add to their tottering finances.
Right now he figures he’s doing better—by strictly dollar standards—and guesses his debts will be liquidated by autumn.
But it means working three hours every afternoon as an accountant’s helper (Buzz aims at accounting himself) taking three hours of summer classes and then working from 4:30 p.m. till 1:30 a.m. at North American Aviation.
Medical Plan Set
Between times he studies—and maintains a brisk B average.
Eventually Gayleyville, of which Buzz is president, will encompass 308 families, he said. Some 252 live in the flimsy wallboard structures now, gratefully, with their own volunteer fire and police departments.
“It’s the unexpected expenses that break a guy’s heart,” said Buzz.
Thus Gayleyville in September will inaugurate its own “medical plan.” Each family chips in $13.50 a semester. Ex-service doctors have agreed to handle the cantonment’s pediatrics, obstetrics and general health problems.
Half of Gayleyville’s families have children; one boasts three youngsters; perhaps 50 families have two. So, with Fraternity Row just a block away, this stalwart little area is affectionately dubbed “Maternity Row.”
Buzz, a realist, said that most of his fellow vets “married on optimism” and came to the university flat broke. They find eating their biggest problem; food for a family of three takes Buzz’s entire $90 subsidy. Anne hasn’t bought any clothes since she got three maternity dresses last year and she sews the baby’s garments by hand.
“But,” said Buzz, “Judy only costs us $5 a week. That’s the cheapest entertainment you can buy!”
Looked for Boost
A junior, Buzz is looking forward hopefully (but isn’t counting on it) to a boost in the G.I. subsidy next year after its postponement by the recent Congress. He considers himself “lucky”—because his bills will be paid by fall—and then he can stop working at night and get a little sleep.
As The Times reporter left the Snoyer home, a harassed young man popped through the front (and only) door. He carried an infant on his arm. Anne reached for the child. The visitor departed.
“This is my contribution,” the girl said proudly. “I get $30 a month for taking care of this baby while its mother works.”
Postscript: The Times of June 15, 1955, lists the divorce of Anne J. and Robert S. Snoyer.
Robert eventually founded his own aerospace firm, Consad Corp., but it collapsed after he went to the FBI to report corruption in a Defense contracting case in 1962.
Gayleyville, UCLA’s encampment of struggling married students and small children, was torn down in the 1960s.