Juanita Toothaker moved into Pound Hall as a sophomore when the high-rise dormitory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln opened in 1963, noting in a newspaper article at the time just how big of a step up it was for her.

Toothaker, then Juanita Cole, “a sophomore in medical technology from Burke, S.D., says that she loves the airiness and light in the rooms and the modern design of the towers,” the Lincoln Evening Journal reported in November of that year.

“Compared with whatever dorm I lived the year before, it was quite the change,” Toothaker, now of Norman, Oklahoma, said in a phone interview last week. “When I was a freshman, almost all the rooms had been taken, so I had to live in the basement of another dorm with eight other girls.”

The once-modern design of Pound Hall, as well as its sister dormitory, Cather Hall, became obsolete over the next half century, as UNL opened newer residence halls with suite-style living arrangements and private apartments geared toward students began peppering downtown Lincoln.

Crews will implode both dorms overlooking 17th Street on Dec. 22, several years after UNL took both halls offline.

The university began clearing the dining hall linking the two dorms in October, opening up a landing zone where the 13-story dormitories will fall during a controlled implosion scheduled for 9 a.m.

News that the university was finally going through with its plan to tear down the dorms has created a sense of nostalgia for former residents, as well as the residents' assistants, or RAs, assigned to Cather and Pound over the years.

Paul Favela, who was an RA in Cather Hall from 2008 to 2011, said the dormitory was designed to be a social space, with the elevators — as well as a half dozen or so rooms — opening directly into a student lounge.

“If you wanted to get downstairs, you had to go through the lounge and everyone could see you,” he said. “It was the perfect place to meet people, just this big, open space with couches and murals.”

Those murals included tributes to the Huskers’ 1994 and 1995 national football championships, an underwater theme with oversized octopi and sea creatures painted in hallways, as well as a disco tie-dye theme that lasted only a year.

Cather is where Favela met his wife, Megan, who later joined the ranks of the dorm’s RAs in 2009. The couple got married in 2013.

“It’s kind of sad for both of us,” Megan said. “It’s where we met, we became friends when we were RAs together, and most of our closest friends are related to Cather somehow.”

Even when the Favelas travel across Big Ten country to watch the Huskers in action, like the Nov. 11 game at Minnesota, Paul said, they meet up with the tight-knit community that formed during their time in Cather.

They reminisce about how the water in the showers would turn scalding hot if a toilet was flushed — unless you turned the handle just right, or how sheets of ice would form on the windows and walls during the dead of winter.

“There’s a sense of pride living in Cather, you know?” he said.

Toothaker, who lived in Pound, said the dormitory holds significance for her, too.

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Her roommate was also the matron of honor at her wedding to her husband, Larry, a track athlete at Nebraska.

And it provides the backdrop for her memory of learning about the death of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, just a few months after she moved in.

“We were getting ready to go to lunch, just standing around, and all of a sudden someone said Kennedy had been killed,” she said. “We were just kind of stunned. It was a nice day and we were thinking about football.”

The Huskers played Oklahoma the next day, as Sooner coach Bud Wilkinson noted that it’s what JFK would have wanted, Toothaker recalled. No. 10 Nebraska beat No. 6 Oklahoma 29-20.

Toothaker also recalls how quirky Pound Hall was, remembering how the elevators stopped only on every other floor.

After moving out for the year, Toothaker had nearly made it home to South Dakota before noticing that half of her belongings weren’t in the car.

“Half of it had been taken out of my room and put on a floor where the elevator didn’t stop, so we went right by it,” she recalled. “It was still there when I got back a few hours later.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education.

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