Preserving Aggie History

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When four different incoming freshman classes arrived at Texas A&M to begin their academic careers at Texas A&M, they learned immediately it was going to start behind army post gates. One of those freshman was Dick Birdwell.

"We were not very tickled about the living accommodations," Birdwell said.

As a member of A&M's graduating class of 1953 and he was just one of 5,500 Aggies who were assigned to "The Annex". Following World War II, the university saw a huge number of incoming students, mostly veterans.

And it quickly became clear the teaching and housing facilities on the main campus could not hold its' swelling student population.

"We showed up and there were twenty men to a tar paper shack and the latrine was half a block away," Birdwell said.

Texas A&M had to leased space at the Bryan Army Air Field and it became know as "The Annex", now the Riverside Campus. Seventy-five one story barracks housed 20 students each and they all shared bathroom facilities: both men and some women.

Wives of some of the veterans lived on the Annex with their husbands.
Army buildings served as dormitories and classrooms for freshmen from the classes of 1950, '51, '52, and '53.

Because Highway 47 did not exist during that time, traveling back and forth from the Annex to the main campus was difficult.

"You had to go through Bryan and it was about ten miles to Bryan and then five miles too so it's fifteen miles from the main campus," Birdwell said.

The only time bus trips were regularly scheduled to the main campus, Birdwell said, were football games at Kyle Field and other activities. But despite their isolation for their first year as Aggies, they all say they did not miss out any part of the Aggie tradition.

Now almost 54 years later those freshman unified to make sure the Annex is not forgotten.

"We decided to take up a collection and put this marker so it would be permanently remembered," Birdwell said.

On Saturday afternoon members from those four graduating classes unveiled a stone plaque on the army field grounds. It will serve as a reminder that Texas A&M had to Annex more space to hold Aggie pride.