Lecture Reveals Glendale College’s Struggle to Survive

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

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In 1926, a general strike in Britain brought that nation’s activities to a standstill. Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett flew from Spitspbergen, Norway, to the North Pole and back, and the St. Louis Cardinals had just won the World Series. And on May 13, City Councilman John R. Gray proposed that the city of Glendale have a junior college.

And so it was on that day that Glendale Junior College was born.

Mass Communications Professor Mike Eberts spoke about the college’s first 10 years to an audience of students and faculty in Kreider Hall on Thursday.

The college began without a central campus, which meant that the new junior college had to hold classes in the west wing of Glendale Union High School. GJC held classes at Glendale Union until 1927 when the campus moved to the Harvard Plant — a remodeled building constructed in 1908 on the corner of Harvard and Louise streets that once housed a high school, and is now the Glendale Central Library.

“This allowed Glendale College to grow quite a bit,” said Eberts of the Harvard Plant. “By 1931, the enrollment shot all the way up to 715.” And even though amenities such a cafeteria did not exist, given the college’s proximity to downtown Glendale, there seemed to be no problem.

The social graces of the campus made up the core of GJC, then known as the Buccaneers. Manners were the thing. The college even went as far as publishing an etiquette guide with such tips as “A gentleman always lets a lady speak first” and “Whenever a professor comes into the room, the students should all rise.”

“If my students did that today my first inclination would be to duck,” said Eberts.

People in the early days of the college knew how to deal with people, said Eberts. Politeness was key. And it was this strategy that played a major role in acquiring the bond measure in 1935 that would build the present GCC campus.

“They knew how to deal with people, older people, on a very polite basis,” said Eberts.

Elaborate social events such as dances were taken very seriously. The campus newspaper, the Galleon, even ran banner headlines announcing these events.

But whereas social events garnered this much attention, the same held true for campus rivalries. Among the most significant was the rivalry between the freshman and sophomore classes — “class warfare,” as Eberts puts it.

“It’s amazing … that there was this tremendous rivalry,” said Eberts. “What would happen … the sophomores would start with this low-level hazing of the lowly freshman.”

One particular “combustible” event occurred when three freshmen painted the word “frosh” in bold letters on a sheet.

“Under the cover of darkness one of them hoisted the banner to the top of the campus flagpole, carefully greasing it on the way down to ward off upperclassmen,” read Eberts from an article in the Galleon. “When dawn came, there was a riot at the flagpole. The sophs responded by kidnapping the freshman vice president, holding him hostage for several hours at Griffith Park.”

The college faced its worse challenge on March 10, 1933 when an earthquake centered in Long Beach damaged the Harvard campus. Thus, for the next three years, classes were held in 15 tents. Students had to bear with the extremely warm temperatures during the beginning of the fall semester, and the extreme cold and rain of late winter.

“You’d be sitting there in an overcoat taking notes in a biology class,” former students told Eberts.
The future of GJC looked dim.

A bond measure to build a new campus backed by then-GJC President Charles Nelson lost in the 1934 election.

In 1935, another bond measure for a new campus was issued and passed.

Eberts doesn’t think the process of student activism and idealism has died down in the last 75 years.

“The recent Measure G campaign, one of its features, was the tremendous amount of student help,” said Eberts. “Without that student idealism and activism, it wouldn’t have happened — in 1935 or in the recent campaign.”