Alumnae reminisce time on the Hill, 87 years of friendship

Friends and WKU alumnae Betty Topmiller Ward, left, and Dorothy Taylor Hanes, right, graduated from the university in 1949. Photo Submitted by Dorothy Taylor Hanes

Emma Austin

Betty Topmiller Ward and Dorothy Taylor Hanes, WKU alumnae, have been best friends for 87 years.

Hanes said her parents moved to the house across the street from the Topmillers when she was just 5 months old and Ward was 6 months old.

“We literally did everything together,” Ward said about Hanes and herself. “We had many funny experiences — classic experiences.”

Both women attended WKU together in the late 1940s, but their history with the university extends beyond that. The two friends grew up living across the street from each other and right next to WKU’s campus.

“Betty and I felt like Western’s campus was our playground,” said Hanes.

Hanes said one of their favorite things to do was take roller skates to the top of the Hill with a group of friends.

“We would skate around Dr. Cherry’s statue,” Hanes said. “The last person would grab ahold of the fence, and everybody else would go sailing over the bushes. We enjoyed doing that.”

Hanes also remembers cooking breakfast with food from the remains of WKU’s annual Homecoming bonfire. 

“It was right beside my yard,” Hanes said, “Betty and I would get up in the morning and take a skillet and go over to the bonfire and cook our breakfast.”

Both women also recall taking piano lessons together on College Street. The two girls would walk to their teacher’s house together for each lesson.

“She would take for 30 minutes then I would take for 30 minutes,” said Hanes. 

Ward added that after their lessons, they would walk to town and buy hot dogs and chocolate colas from the dime store before walking back home together.

Hanes and Ward had many other memorable experiences together, like putting swimsuits on under their pajamas and sneaking out to go swimming at the pool on campus. 

“We had a carefree childhood,” Hanes said.

Both women grew up knowing they would attend WKU, Hanes said. They officially became Hilltoppers in 1945.

“Back then, if your parents lived here [in Bowling Green], you did not live in the dorm,” Hanes said. 

Hanes and Ward wanted their parents to move away so they could live together on campus.

Hanes majored in home economics, and Ward majored in elementary education. Because of their different studies, the two friends did not take many of the same classes. In grade school, they had been in the same class with the same teacher every year.

Despite their different schedules, Hanes and Ward still found ways to spend time together, including joining the Baptist Student Union.

After graduation, when some friends begin to lose contact, Hanes and Ward remained as close as ever.

Although Ward moved to Pensacola, Florida, not long after graduation, Hanes said it was not hard for them to stay in touch.

“She was in my wedding, and I was in her wedding,” said Hanes.

Both women eventually started families of their own. Ward traveled back home with her family frequently to stay with her parents, and Hanes did the same with her family. Hanes said their children also grew up together.

Although they do not see each other now as often as they used to, Hanes said she usually tries to visit Ward in Florida about three times each year. When they get together, they like to play card games like bridge and canasta.

“We sit and talk and talk and talk,” Hanes said. “When we try to go to sleep, one of us will say, ‘Oh, you remember this?’” Ward said they love remembering old times together.

Both women still keep up with WKU and stay updated on the sports teams. Hanes attends the home football, basketball and volleyball games to cheer on her Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers, and Ward watches televised events from Florida. Ward she is proud of WKU and of how well the football team has done this season.

Hanes said their friendship has lasted so long because the two get along better than sisters.

“We just had many wonderful experiences,” said Ward. “We couldn’t have been closer of friends.”