Remembering Godden Hall
By Clifton L. Ganus Jr.
I shall never forget Godden Hall. As my parents and I drove on campus for the first time, we immediately saw a large, castle-like building that was to become my dormitory for four years.
But it was much more than that. The three-story brick building, which faced south toward old Kensett highway, housed many facets of work at Harding. It contained the library, post office, alumni office, Petit Jean and Bison office, choral studio, high school classrooms, and auditorium, as well as dorm rooms for men. Although it was old, unsafe, and filled with cheap furniture and sagging bedsprings, we had a wonderful time living there.
Bats flew up and down the halls, and we swatted them with tennis racquets and brooms. They were very elusive, but we hit some and then dropped them down the stairwell from the third floor.
The auditorium, which would seat almost 400, was on the second floor in the west wing. There, we had our Sunday services, daily chapel, Monday night Bible meetings, plays, musical programs, graduation, lectureships and weddings.
The chapel period was designed to help students and faculty praise God and grow spiritually and intellectually. There was one hazard, however, in a certain seating area of the auditorium. The third floor above served as part of the men’s dormitory and contained a large communal bathroom with commodes, lavatories and showers. Sometimes there would be an overflow, and water would pour down through the ceiling during a service. People would scramble from their seats, as no one knew exactly what the overflow came from.
Classes were held on Saturday, but there were none on Monday. This design gave many preaching students and faculty time to get back from their far-away appointments and prepare for Tuesday’s classes.
On Monday evening, however, it was required that all students gather in Godden Auditorium for a session where young men were given opportunities to lead singing, preach sermonettes or lead prayer. It was a good time to gain experience before an audience of peers. Following the presentations either J.N. Armstrong or B.F. Rhodes, elders of College Church, would critique the lessons. Many of us “cut our preaching teeth” at these Monday night services. I can still see the mild-mannered Armstrong vigorously bring one hand down across the other to make a corrective point.
We had flexibility in room assignments. Usually there were two men to a room, but six of us decided to share our three adjoining rooms. We had all of our beds in one room, our desks and study equipment in another, and socializing furniture in the third, which we called our “Rough House.” It was our fun room where we played Rook (spot cards were not allowed) and Monopoly until 2 a.m. Often we spread a midnight feast as we received food packages from home. Usually it was very good, except for the time we all ate spoiled food, which we had received in the mail. I can still see and hear all of us as we leaned over the garbage barrel and played a symphony as we threw it up. We all laughed and lived through it.
Every week they checked the rooms for cleanliness and tidiness and gave a box of candy to the winners. We took good care of the bedroom and study room but not the Rough House. It was a mess, but we had changed the lock, and the examiners couldn’t get in. We won the candy and ate it guiltlessly.
Since I sometimes walked in my sleep and there were no screens on the windows, my mother worried that I would fall out a window, but I worried more about a fire. There had been some small fires in the past, but one day there was a big threat. From a distance I saw smoke billowing up from the dorm. I ran up to my room, 301, grabbed all of my clothes, and deposited them safely by the lily pool. Then I hastened to the choral studio to find only a burning electric organ. It was smoky and scary, but disaster was avoided. It took three trips to carry my clothes back to the room.
On May 27, 1943, I graduated in the auditorium at 11:30 a.m. and married there at 1 p.m. to Louise Nicholas, whom I saw at the northwest corner of Godden Hall the first 10 seconds after my arrival on campus.
The time came in the mid-1940s when we needed more rooms for women and had a surplus for men. That’s when Godden Hall became a “co-ed” dorm. Don’t worry, Dr. Benson sealed off the west wing of the dorm for women and called it the “east wing of Pattie Cobb.” There was no way the boys in the rest of the dorm could get to the girls’ rooms.
By 1951 Harding had dormitory rooms available, and space was needed for a new administration building. So Godden Hall, which was located due east of Pattie Cobb where the present fountain is, was torn down. It is gone, but the wonderful relationships and memories created in the 17 years Harding occupied it live on.
Chancellor Clifton L. Ganus Jr. (’43), earned his Ph.D. in history from Tulane University in 1953. He served as president from 1965-1987.