Part 3
Glendale Junior College:
The First Decade, 1927-37

Earthquake and Tents
And although the nation's economic collapse didn't seem to hit middle-class Glendale as hard as some other areas, the Depression nevertheless caused some concerns.

--The 1931 edition of the Log was almost canceled after the professional photographer who shot the class photos suddenly went into receivership.37
--Not wanting to undermine the surrounding business community, student leaders pledged that the campus cooperative store would not undersell local merchants.38
--And there was talk of playing a charity football game, with proceeds going to local organizations that helped the needy.39
When the ground shook at 5:54 p.m. on Friday, March 10, 1933, Glendale was spared the worst of the damage. Its epicenter about twenty-five miles south of the city, the quake apparently did little more in Glendale than break a large plate glass window at a bank at Brand and Broadway. Nevertheless, Glendale School Superintendent Richardson D. White ordered all school buildings checked before classes resumed on Monday.40

GJC's buildings were initially declared safe, but concern was heightened throughout the region by severe damage to school buildings in Long Beach and Compton. "Many school buildings were among the structures damaged," the Glendale News-Press opined a few days after the quake. "There should be more than an ordinary scrutiny."41

Although GJC students resumed their classes in the stone buildings of the Harvard campus, a more thorough inspection by the State Division of Architecture revealed deep structural problems. Along with the auditorium at Hoover High School, the Harvard campus buildings-except for the wooden bungalows-were ordered closed as of January 1, 1934. The trustees quickly sought another location for the college, but were unsuccessful.
 

With all but a few wooden bungalows condemned, GJC carried on with makeshift facilities.

For one thing, assemblies had to be held outdoors, as decpicted in this 1936 yearbook illustration.

The college continued in tents. From Spring 1934 to Spring 1937, classes were held in fifteen tent bungalows. Ted Andrews noted that the tents had wooden floors and sides that came up about three feet. Above this was canvas, held up by support beams. Flaps could be rolled up for ventilation or looking outside. He said they resembled the large rental tents they used to have at Yosemite; Trowbridge thought they resembled Army tents. Burnell Yarick (1931-34) remembered that the larger tents were for lecture classes, the smaller ones for labs.

They certainly made the GJC experience more rustic. "Everything got cold and wet and damp but classes went on," Yarick observed.42  Ray Edwards (1936-39) remembered lectures being drowned out by the sound of rain hitting the canvas and a cold snap during which he borrowed his father's overcoat so that he could sit comfortably in class.43  On the other hand, Trowbridge noted how excruciatingly well the tents held in the heat during the hotter months.

Opening the tent flaps in warm weather was a mixed blessing. MacDonald remembered that the occasional prankster would lob an apple or something similar through an open flap. The open flaps also made it easier to listen to several lectures at once. Wrote Chester Lynch in his 1987 history of the college: "If you were not particularly interested in what your instructor was saying, you could listen to the instructors in the tents on either side two or three over if you wished."44

The tents were linked by a network of boardwalks, which only added to the noise level-especially when combined with women's heels. "Have you ever been in a class and heard a group of girls coming down the boardwalk?" asked a 1935 article in The Galleon. "You would think that an army was advancing."45  This problem had a partial solution, though. According to one report, the boardwalk encouraged a few students to roller skate from class to class.46

The college-now referred to by some students as "Camp Nelson" (in honor of Charles Nelson, who had become director of the college)-adapted. Among other things, assemblies were held outdoors. "Through the use of a platform erected on the front lawn and a public address system," the 1934 edition of The Log noted, the Associated Student Body "was able to offer ... many interesting programs."47
 

"Have you ever been in a class and heard a group of girls coming down the boardwalk?" asked a 1935 article in The Galleon. "You would think that an army was advancing."

Clearly, the tents were a temporary solution-and an expensive one at that, since the college was continuing to pay the Glendale Unified High School District $23,000 a year for what had become a big campground with condemned buildings on it. A $160,000 bond issue was hurried onto the February 20, 1934 ballot. Local voters, reasoning that the middle of an economic collapse was a poor time to increase their bonded indebtedness, rejected the measure. Some questioned whether the college could continue; a few suggested that it simply be disbanded.48

By 1935 momentum began to build for another bond measure, this one specifically earmarked for building a new campus at a different location. The Harvard site was too small-experts were recommending a minimum of twenty to thirty acres-and the land had grown too expensive. Several sites were considered for the proposed new campus: one along Glenoaks Boulevard between Grandview and Highland, two near the Grand Central Airport, one at Central and Kenneth, one on Doran near Glendale Avenue, and, of course, the site near the intersection of Verdugo Road and Mountain Avenue.

This last possibility-dubbed the Verdugo Woodlands site-was favored from the start because of its low cost. At $1,200 an acre, it was only about a third as expensive as the next most affordable sites. And although some of that saving would have to be reinvested in grading the hilly land, those costs could be kept low due to Depression-era labor costs and the availability of federally-subsidized relief workers. By August the trustees had selected the twenty-five acre Verdugo Woodlands site.

"Nothing was there, just the mountains," MacDonald recalls. Although the site had practically no level land and was hemmed in by steep hills, it also offered the opportunity for a particularly pretty, rustic-feeling campus. "It was a pleasure to visit your proposed junior college site," Dr. Merton E. Hill, Director of Admissions at the University of California, told The Galleon. "Yours can be developed into one of the most beautiful in America."49

Partnership with the federal government became a selling point for the new bond issue. The Public Works Administration, seeking to relieve unemployment by partially subsidizing worthy local projects, was likely to fund 45 percent of the cost of the new campus. So if the city put up $195,000 in bond money, the federal government, if all went as hoped, would contribute $159,000. "Surely the time will never come again when we can buy such a civic necessity at fifty-five cents on the dollar," reasoned The Galleon, which took on this second bond campaign as a crusade. "The American people are known for their love of bargains. Let's pursue this one."50

Student Campaign
When students returned to their tents for the Fall 1935 semester, The Galleon reminded them that winning the necessary two-thirds approval for the bond measure would not be easy: "Each and every student will have to work hard to disseminate the fact of the proposition to the citizens of Glendale. ... It will be hard work, but certainly it will be worth it to Glendale, our children and us. Let's get a new Jaycee for Glendale now!"51  And, uniting under the slogan "We Need a Campus, Not a Camp," the student body responded:

--The ASB organized a Precinct Committee, which featured 33 precinct captains who in turn assigned each campus club to a precinct. Students walked door to door talking up the bond measure and handing out literature. "Some of the talker-uppers ... those with the winning smiles ... were invited in for refreshments," reported the student-written "Campus Chatter" column in the News-Press.
--The ASB and Patrons Club (then comprised largely of the parents of GJC students) jointly opened a campaign headquarters across the street from campus, where they offered campaign literature and handed out GJC window stickers.
--Students offered free transportation to the proposed college site so that voters could see first-hand what all the fuss was about.
--Student leaders spoke to service clubs and local high schools about the conditions at GJC and the need for a new campus.52
--Students wrote up and distributed campaign information to the city's three newspapers, the Glendale News-Press, Star and Times.53
--Political Science students were assigned to canvass 20 persons apiece, 18 of whom had to be registered voters, to find out how they planned vote and the motive behind their vote.54
--The Oct. 11 issue of The Galleon was published as a special "Patrons Club Edition" that was delivered to every household in the city.55
--And, in the ultimate show of GJC unity, the sophomore class president declared a "dink holiday" for freshmen.56
As the election grew near, the students turned up the tempo of the campaign. They staged a street parade six days before the election to increase public awareness of the measure and to invite the public to a Harvard campus open house and bonfire rally on the athletic field. "That Jaycee parade Thursday certainly attracted enough attention," the "Campus Chatter" column noted. "The good people of Glendale may not know what they were parading about, but there's no doubt whatsoever about their complete knowledge of the parade itself." USC football coach Howard Jones was the featured speaker at the rally the next night. It reportedly drew 1,000 persons-more than the college's enrollment. Music was furnished by the student band and songs and yells were led by the student yell and song leaders.
 

Galleon coverage of the Oct. 11 pre-election bonfire rally. The event, whose featured speaker was USC football coach Howard Jones, reportedly drew 1,000 people--many of them from the surrounding community.

The students received considerable help from the community. A Citizens Committee, led by Judge W. Turney Fox, provided strong support. Local PTA women canvassed locally. The Montrose-La Crescenta Kiwanis Club members contacted local merchants, and furnished cars to take voters to the polls.57

By the eve of the election, the bond issue had become big enough news that the News-Press weighed in with a front-page editorial in favor of it. The central question, the newspaper said, was "Shall the junior college be continued as part of the educational system in this district?"58  Meantime, the excitement and tension running through the "Campus Chatter" column was palpable: "Tomorrow is the day! The Jaycee bond issue. It's just got to go over! It should ... but don't let up now until it is over! Here's hoping!"

Election Day was announced by a sound truck that roved around Glendale telling voters where their nearest precinct was. The student-run Precinct Committee mobilized to make sure that every Glendale citizen had transportation to the polls.59  Voting was light in the morning, but picked up in the evening.

Some of the students' enthusiasm apparently rubbed off on the voters. At Precinct 30 in La Crescenta, a long line of voters were in line waiting to cast ballots when the polls officially closed at 7 p.m.; they were allowed to vote.60  The vote count later revealed that the La Crescenta precincts were the most heavily in favor of the bond measure. The ailing Rev. W.H.L. Benton, rector emeritus of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, who had been confined to his home for 13 months, was so interested in the success of the bond measure that he arranged to be driven to the polls and was allowed to vote from his car.61

 The vote count was mercifully quick; results were made available within a few hours after the polls closed. Movie watchers at the Fox Alexander Theater (today known as the Alex) on election night were among the first in town to hear the results: 7707 in favor to 1848 against, more than a four-to-one margin. The crowd reportedly broke into enthusiastic applause.62

But the crowd at the Alex was nowhere near as enthusiastic as the students who put the bond issue over. "It was exciting," recalls MacDonald, who knocked on doors and attended rallies. When word of the victory spread on election night, the students began to celebrate.
 

The triumphant front page of the Oct. 23, 1935 GJC Galleon includes a photo of students snake dancing along Brand Boulevard the morning after the election.

They converged upon the campus and began a raucous but good-natured celebration through the streets of Glendale. Late into the evening the students went to the homes of prominent backers of the bond, "serenaded" them noisily and in some cases called them outside. Several hundred students reportedly showed up at the home of Dr. George Campbell, one of the leaders of the Citizens Committee to pass the bond. The students called Dr. Campbell outside, whereupon they hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him around while he was repeatedly cheered. Another rally started at the proposed college site. A third group of students got into a long line and did a snake dance up and down Brand Boulevard.

And if that wasn't enough, celebrations began anew the next morning. Classes were canceled. Dean of Students Elmer Worthy told the News-Press that the students were entitled to "blow off a little steam."63  But for some, the noise, parades and bonfires were becoming a bit much. Wrote one local columnist:

The valiant hero of yesterday, to our mind, was the traffic cop at Broadway and Brand ... who at 8:40 a.m. ... took it upon himself to stop the junior college paraders ... when the junior college students had made up their minds to parade ... and after all the rest of the world only wanted, in its dull way, to get to work.64
When the students finally settled down and got back onto campus, they continued to bask in their accomplishment. Said The Galleon in its post-election editorial:
Give yourself a pat on the back, student body, for orchids are being tossed in this direction from every part of the surrounding community. The way in which the students got out and dug during this bond campaign has aroused the admiration of everyone in our city.

When it became apparent that the bonds providing for a new college were surely doomed to defeat, our students got out and put up a fight which was not only unusual, but almost unbelievable. Men who have dealt a lot with college students would have told you that it was impossible to get enough cooperation to put the campaign across. But we did it! Cliques were abandoned, individual plans were forgotten, everybody pulled together and the entire student body concentrated as one man on the drive to win the election. With such a spirit there could have been no other outcome than success.

Two-thirds of the present student body won't ever attend school on the new campus, and these deserve more praise than can be given. But their work shall not be forgotten by future students. This drive has united our student body and proved it to be the best group we have yet had at this school. In the years to follow the new buildings and campus shall be a lasting tribute to the student body of 1935 and 1936.65

PART 4: Glendale Junior College, 1927-37
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