by Mike Eberts, professor of Mass Communications
Students honked car horns and belted out school songs in an impromptu celebration of the first day of classes at the new and permanent home of Glendale Junior College.1 Especially jubilant during that May 24, 1937 celebration were the graduating sophomores who were getting their wish to attend classes on the new campus-even if it was only for the last few weeks of the semester.
Carved out of the oak- and chaparral-studded hillsides of the Verdugo
Woodlands area two miles north of downtown, the Spanish-themed campus suggested
a brighter future for the struggling, decade-old college. The new campus
was the result of a vision to build a local, low-cost college for everyone,
a reconfigured high school campus that had been crippled by an earthquake
and, most of all, of Depression-era students, whose zealous and idealistic
efforts have been of inestimable value to those who came after them.
By the 1920s, Glendale was a growing and prosperous community, connected with the booming Los Angeles area by the Pacific Electric Railway.
This postcard depicts Brand Boulevard, circa 1920
The first glimmerings of what would become Glendale Junior College (GJC) surfaced in Spring 1926. Glendale, along with the rest of the greater Los Angeles area, was enjoying prosperity and growth. Back in 1910, the census counted 2,746 inhabitants in Glendale; by the 1920 census the population had jumped to 13,576.
City Councilman John R. Grey first proposed a junior college for the growing city. Meeting with little support initially, he turned to the local chapter of the Lions' Club, of which he was a member. On May 13, 1926, Grey, representing the Lions, took the idea to the Glendale Union High School District Board of Trustees. His arguments: Glendale was growing and the University of California's Southern Branch (which was then located at the site of Los Angeles City College on Vermont Avenue) was moving westward.
The board moved to establish a "junior college course" at the local high school. Two board members were appointed to investigate the advisability of putting a junior college in Glendale.2 In October, Grey proposed a $1 million bond issue to fund several education facilities and projects. Under the proposal, $50,000 of the bond money would be earmarked to remodel and equip a former high school campus (known as the Harvard Plant) at Harvard and Louise streets as a junior college.
In February 1927, a petition was filed in the office of Mark Keppel, Los Angeles County superintendent of schools, seeking establishment of a junior college. Within days, the state Board of Education gave its approval. On March 30, 1927, local voters approved of the college 1691-707. A junior college district was formed, which included the Crescenta, Glendale and Tujunga school districts. Trustees were elected.
Five-and-one-half months after voters approved it--September 13, 1927--Glendale Junior College opened. It had 139 students and a faculty of nine (four full-time and five part-time).3 Academic departments were English, foreign languages, mathematics, science, social science, commerce and mechanical arts.
The new college was a bare-bones operation. For one thing, it didn't
have its own campus. The west wing of Glendale Union High School, facing
Verdugo Road, was rented for $2,000 a month. George Moyse, principal of
Glendale Union High, was named principal of the new college. For the first
year, he took no pay.4 His wife, Ethel Hume-Flood Moyse,
became dean of women, also without pay.
Glendale Union High School Principal George Moyse was named principal of the newly-formed Glendale Junior College. His wife, Ethel Hume-Flood Moyse was dean of women. Neither received pay for their first year on the job.
Sharing a high school campus had its disadvantages. Among other things, the facilities were cramped enough that the little college held most of its classes in the afternoon, when most of the high school classes were over. And even then, room assignments weren't permanent. "We were moved all around," recalled Georgia Marie (Reed) Threlkeld (1927-29), "wherever there was an empty room."5 Threlkeld remembered that during the college's first year only one place on campus was set aside for the exclusive use of its students: two tables in the northwest corner of the library. Mechanical drawing students created signs proclaiming that the tables were for jaycee students only. Students huddled around them as they waited for their afternoon classes.
But at least the college students looked a little different. Threlkeld recalls that the jaycee students had more freedom to dress as they pleased. The college women could wear dresses, for example, while their high school counterparts were restricted to middies and navy skirts. And the college men could wear fashionably dirty corduroys.
Most of the social life on campus was also geared toward the high school students. "We were surrounded by all these high school activities," recalled Katharine S. (Sonntag) McNamara (1928-31). A drug store at Colorado and Verdugo was an off-campus refuge for the college students, according to McNamara: "We'd go for malts, cokes. You'd always see a student or two there."6 Threlkeld also remembered a college dance in the library.
By the late 1920s, there were nearly 400 junior colleges in the United States. "We realize that we are part of a national experiment in popular education," George Moyse wrote shortly after the college's founding.7 Ethel Hume-Flood Moyse predicted that junior colleges like Glendale were more than experiment; they were around to stay. "The people believe in them," she wrote.8
Junior colleges fulfilled a need. George Moyse said Glendale Junior College was started to serve high school graduates "who for various reasons did not plan to attend the old line colleges and universities."9 McNamara's reasons for attending were cost and convenience. Accepted by University of California Los Angeles, she chose GJC because it allowed her to live at home and walk to school. She paid for books and other expenses by charging 50 cents an hour to tutor French and German.
In fall 1929, GJC moved to the campus in Glendale's Uptown District (the location of today's Glendale Public Library) that Grey had first suggested in 1926. The gray stone school buildings that had first been erected in 1908 and the wood-frame bungalows that had been added in 1920 were quickly converted to college use. The campus also had separate gymnasiums for men and women, three tennis courts and an athletic field. "The new plant has provided the opportunity to expand in many directions," Dean Charles Nelson wrote in the 1930 edition of The Log, the campus yearbook.
In Fall 1929, Glendale Junior College got a campus of its own. The gray stone buildings had originally been erected for Glendale Union High School in 1908. Located at Harvard and Louise, the Glendale Public Library now rests on the site.
Some 434 students registered to attend the new campus for the Fall 1929 semester. Enrollment for the entire 1929-30 school year grew to 547, up 52 percent from the second and last year at the shared high school campus.10 New vocational and academic courses were offered. Faculty (full- and part-time combined) increased from 17 to 27.
Although the new 6 3/4-acre campus lacked some of the basics, like a cafeteria (which wasn't too big a drawback since it was near downtown), it was a big improvement over being a second-class tenant at a high school. "It was lawn all across the front, the side facing Harvard," McNamara recalls. "There were trees. We'd go and sit on the lawn and study. Or we'd go and socialize."
There was room for the Associated Students to open a cooperative store. Although the store originally carried only class-related supplies, within a couple of years it also became the only place on campus to buy ice cream, sandwiches, box lunches, cookies, candy and cold drinks.11 The store was run at a slight profit, with proceeds turned over to pay for student body needs.
Under the supervision of Esther Ramont, about 800 books were transferred from Glendale High School to the library on the new campus. By Spring 1930, the collection had grown to about 5,000 books and 125 magazines. Ramont was assisted by members of her library class, who shared desk duty, cataloging and other tasks.12 History, literature and science were the library's strong points. And if GJC's library didn't have what a student needed, the city's public library was across the street.
In addition to its traditional academic departments, the little college had some forward-looking vocational courses as well. For example, a fledgling aviation program became established at the Harvard campus. In February 1931, the Kinner Airplane and Motor Corp. donated an experimental model American Eagle biplane for student use. Aeronautics department students did experimental work on the fuselage and wings. Meantime, the college also offered a regulation ground school course.13 Plans for GJC students to gain knowledge of airplane controls by taxiing on the athletic field apparently never came to fruition, however.
PART 2: Glendale Junior College, 1927-37
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