Alumna remembers her time at UVM

UVM alumna returned to campus to find that many things have changed.

From new buildings to empty seats where plane spotters once sat in the Old Mill tower, Margaret Davis ’45 remembers what UVM was like when she was a student.

Davis visited UVM during homecoming weekend Oct. 2-4 and said the campus has grown over the last 70 years.

Davis and her twin sister, Frances Donahue Leach were known as the “Donahue twins,” on campus, Davis said.

Davis said her sister, Leach, died in 2007.

“We were a sorority, she and I, right from the time we were wombmates,” Davis said.

“There’s too many experiences of becoming an adult from age 17 to 21,” Davis said. “You can- not single out one moment that was the most important. Those were the creative development years.”

Davis said she and Leach were heavily involved in many activities, organizations and clubs during their time at UVM, including the Outing Club and Student Government. Leach was also the editor-in-chief of the Cynic in 1944.

They also had the job of watching for enemy planes from the top of the tower in Old Mill.

Davis said she doesn’t believe there is a single organization in the city of Burlington that would have a record of this.

“I really can’t remember how we got recruited,” Davis said. “At first, the college students [were] spotters during the daytime and the community men took over at night.”

It was only for a few months during their first year, Davis said.

“I remember walking down from Redstone at 5:30 in the morning to take over at 6 a.m. in the winter,” Davis said.

The spotter would have a sign-in sheet, a telephone with a direct line in case they spotted an enemy plane and a booklet with pictures and outlines of all the U.S. aircrafts so if they saw anything different, they were to be “alarmed,” Davis said.

Davis saw a couple of enemy planes during her time as a spotter, she said.

The airfield in Burlington, now Burlington International Airport, existed back then but was closed during the winter, Davis said.

“There was a farmer nearby who used to conduct sleigh rides on the airport property to make money,” she said.

Davis said she and Leach lived together their first two years at UVM in Redstone Hall and McMillan Hall.

During their junior year from 1943 to 1944, they moved into empty Greek housing because Army Air Corps were sent to live and train on Redstone Campus, she said.

Davis said UVM was like experiencing the “real world” for the first time.

Davis and her sister were shocked to discover there was prejudice in the world, Davis said.

Women couldn’t smoke on campus, except in their rooms and on balconies, while men could smoke anywhere they wanted, Davis said.

The twins also made a band co-ed, Davis said. When Davis and Leach arrived at UVM, the band was made up of male ROTC and women were not allowed to join, she said.

“So we talked about it and [Leach] went right in and saw the president of UVM and demanded to know why [women] weren’t allowed in the band,” Davis said.

“And whereupon, the band was open to women,” she said. “So she and I were the co-founders of that. We were given ROTC uniforms, with the insignia taken off of the uniforms.”