Stepping back in time: Marshall alumna relives her own Marshall moment 54 years later

Charlotte – Laidley Hall
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Charlotte leans out of her freshman dorm window during a visit to Laidley in summer 2023
Dive Deeper Take a walk with Charlotte as she tours her old dorm, Laidley Hall.

Life is all about the moments that make us. Moments we may not realize are life-altering at the time, but later become memories we cling to as the years pass by.

Charlotte leans against the door frame of her old dorm room in Laidley Hall at Marshall University
Charlotte leans against the door frame of her old dorm room

For Charlotte Chapman, stepping into Laidley Hall on a hot summer afternoon 54 years after moving in as a freshman was a moment she didn’t expect to relive.

“There’s the old elevator… This was the front door over here. We came in this door,” she recalled as she toured the building in June 2023.

Laidley Hall, one of the oldest buildings on Marshall’s campus, was decommissioned at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year—a decision made by the university based on underutilized campus space.

Even with the absence of beds, desks, closets filled with clothes and joyful laughter resonating in the hallway, it was still like stepping back in time.

“This was my room,” she said. “See that light? The sink was right here, and there was a door that adjoined that room. This was a prime room. You had two windows, so you had a good view.”

“We had a big, square desk because if you had a roommate, there was a chair on each side. I didn’t have a roommate, so I had the big desk here and a chest of drawers here, but the sink was the big draw.”

“Here’s the shower I used all the time! Yeah, it looks the same.”

It was the fall of 1969 when Charlotte moved into her second-floor dorm room in Laidley Hall, as she started her freshman year at Marshall. The cost for room and board each quarter was roughly $250, which was a lot of money at the time.

“‘As an only child, it was an exhilarating experience to be part of such a large group of girls—almost like a slumber party every night!”- Charlotte Chapman

“As an only child, it was an exhilarating experience to be part of such a large group of girls—almost like a slumber party every night!”

Even for such a poignant time in life, photos of those days are hard to come by. They were expensive and not commonplace, unlike present day students with a smartphone in hand. Instead, those moments live on in vivid memories of the good ol’ days, when life was carefree and the possibilities seemed endless.

Built in 1937, the building was named after John Laidley, a local lawyer, member of the Virginia House of Delegates and founding trustee of Marshall Academy. He hosted a meeting at his home with residents from the community of Guyandotte, which was then part of Virginia, and farmers nearby to discuss how to provide better educational facilities for their children. Marshall Academy was born, named after Laidley’s late friend, Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall.

Now, 84 years since the building went up, it is coming down. A fence surrounds the property as demolition crews carefully remove windows and other items from inside before the building falls. The future for that part of campus is yet to be determined, but green space for students will occupy it before any other decisions are made.
Regardless of what happens with the space, memories of those happy times live on in the hearts of those who experienced them.

Charlotte Chapman poses with her grandmothers on her graduation day; May 1974
Charlotte poses with her grandmothers on her graduation day; May 1974

“There was a pay phone there,” Charlotte remembered. “They’d holler and tell you if you got a call.”

“This was the little TV room. You could come up here and watch TV. I can only remember doing that a couple of times.”

“We’d come in here, and you could watch on Sunday night the girls telling the boyfriends who had driven them back from home goodbye at the front door. There was a lot of kissing going on down there.”

“I had a good room for the panty raids,” she continued. “Everyone would run in there and hang out the window!”

Memories that flooded back were all representative of attending college in the late 1960s.

Charlotte’s college years had their fair share of adversity, too. After that fall semester in Laidley Hall, she developed hepatitis and had to stay at home in Logan, West Virginia, attending a local community college for three semesters while she recuperated. She also knew some of the young men who were lost in the Marshall plane crash. She made her return to campus, however, and lived in Laidley Hall one more semester before moving on to an apartment with a friend. Charlotte graduated with a bachelor’s degree in home economics in 1974 and a master’s degree in elementary education in 1976.

But, just like for so many others, that first semester spent away from home in a dorm at Marshall was magical.

“This room was for girls,” she said. “It was really pretty. There were wingback chairs. You could come down here in your pajamas because nobody came past the corner. On Sunday nights at 10 o’clock, there was a little church service over here in front of the fireplace.”

Those cherished Marshall moments—memories made a lifetime ago—are still as vivid as ever.