Nancy Ross

I visited the pretty little city of Ames, Iowa on July 8 and 9, 1957.  Following are the observations and information culled from this visit.

The state owned lands of the University divide Ames into two sections: the principal part of the city including the business district, and the 4th Ward, which includes the campus, "campus town," and some very attractive high-priced housing.  Between the two areas a small brook winds through the state lands, and a very pretty park which has picnic and recreational facilities.  Only two roads connect the 4th Ward with the rest of Ames, US 30 and a road through the park.

Ames has two business districts: one in downtown Ames, and a smaller one in campus town.  The latter consists mainly of a bank, bookstores, pharmacies, luncheonettes, etc.  One grocery store and no supermarkets were observed.

Main Street shopping facilities stretch along three blocks on both sides plus the side streets.  There is a J.C. Penney’s and a Montgomery Ward’s store, one good sized ten-cent store, and a wide variety of food, clothing, shoe, furniture, and appliance stores.  Many stores, including a department store, are branches of Des Moines stores.

There are no discount houses in the area.  This would be considered a disadvantage to easterners who might be transferred to Ames and who are accustomed to buying at discounts.

No shopping centers or supermarkets are located outside the business district, and the Chamber of Commerce and realtors have discouraged attempts to build them.  This means that even for a loaf of bread a housewife must drive to town.

All stores on Main Street are open on Monday nights, and at that time traffic moves rather slowly through the town.  The intersections had neither stop signs nor traffic lights.  Fortunately, US 30 by-passes the business district.

Several people, including the Chamber secretary, mentioned that parking is a problem.  However, to a veteran of Main Street, Poughkeepsie, no bad problem was evident.  However, the lots adjacent to supermarkets are non-metered municipal lots, and grocery shoppers may not always be able to park there.

In the last five years, an average of 170 houses per year has been built in Ames.  In 1957 these houses are being built at a cost of $15.00 to $17.00 per square foot, on city lots averaging 78 x 120.’  Most houses observed under construction are in the $17,000 to $40,000 class.  A three-bedroom ranch with basement, garage, and 1 ½ baths will cost from $17,000 to $20,000.

There appeared to be a shortage of lower-cost housing.  One small development of National Homes was built recently with no plans to continue it.  Near the campus is a large area of $12,000 to $15,000 homes.  These are occupied almost entirely by students and college staff, and there is a high turnover.

Apartments are very scarce in Ames.  One development is just being completed of two-bedroom air-conditioned apartments, which will rent for $110 per month.  This development contains 32 units and there are no plans for expansion or for building similar units elsewhere.  There are some duplex houses in the older section of Ames which are in heavy demand.  An average two-bedroom apartment rents for $100 per month.
A "New Timer’s Club" meets once a month for dessert and cards, usually in the afternoon, and all newcomers to Ames are invited.  The first meeting a woman attends is free, after that she pays for her dessert each month.  At the June meeting there were approximately 100 women in attendance, of whom 30 were there for the first time.

Baby sitters are readily available at thirty-five cents per hour for high school girls, and fifty cents for college students.  Domestic help is not in surplus, but can be found, and the going rate is seventy-five cents to a dollar an hour.

Nancy Ross wrote this letter July 30, 1957 "from the woman’s viewpoint" after accompanying her husband on a corporate site visit to Ames.