by Amy Borer
photography by Starr Carroll
Beach day… the Krankers Club… a mud roll… the Home Economics Club… pajama rallies. University of La Verne students today would not recognize even one of these campus activities; yet to the students of La Verne College 40 years ago, these comprised student life.
While it is true that the University of 1996 is a small, close-knit community, this was even more the case in 1956. “There were only about 320 students, and almost all of us lived on campus,” says Head Librarian Dr. Marlin Heckman, who graduated in 1958.
According Dr. Peggy Redman, associate professor of education and director of teacher education, her graduating class of 1960 was the first class to graduate 100 students, most of whom majored in education or other service oriented fields. Even so, class size remained about the same as now, averaging 20 to 25 students each. The main difference was that there were many fewer professors.
“They were really good professors, though,” says Dr. Redman, who was a history major. “I feel like I had an excellent background in my field. “I really appreciate the education I got at La Verne,” she adds. “I think it was a good education, and the professors were really dedicated, although they weren’t paid well at all.”
Though Dr. Redman, who graduated from LVC magna cum laude, was also accepted to Stanford University, she decided to attend LVC partly because of a family tradition and partly because of the friendly atmosphere of the College.
“There was a real sense of belonging,” she says. “When I moved here, I never went home [to Pomona].”
Dr. Heckman agrees that LVC was truly home for students. “Meals were also served family style, and everybody ate at the same time, so that helped contribute to the close, family feeling,”
At the time, the bottom floor of Miller Hall (now the Photography Department) served as the dining hall. The current faculty lounge was the kitchen, and each room off the main hallway was a small, separate dining room. This remained the situation until 1958, when Davenport Dining Hall was built.
Not only was a new dining hall constructed in the 1950s, but also two new women’s dorms. Until 1956, Miller Hall was the women’s dorm on campus, but that changed with the construction of Studebaker Hall. At that time, the women moved into the new hall, and the men took over Miller. Two years later, Hanawalt Hall was built in front of Studebaker Hall, creating the women’s dormitory now known as Stu-Han.
While students cherished the tight, family feeling of the 1950s, it was not just the small campus that made LVC feel like home, but also the rules and regulations.
“It really was our home away from home,” says Dr. Heckman. “We were more protected by rules than students now are. For example, the women’s dorm closed at 10 p.m. on weeknights, and there was a midnight curfew on weekends.” Senior women, though were allowed to stay out until 1 a.m. on Saturday nights.
However, the men’s dorm, Woody Hall, had no curfew.
“There were always big dorm raids after curfew,” said Dr. Redman. “It was a different era. Lots of pranks went on then that could get students in big trouble today. There were always panty raids (from the women’s dorm). In the morning, the panties would be strung up on the flagpole. The girls really liked it.”
Another favorite prank, according to Dr. Redman, was to throw cherry bombs in the wash bordering B Street.
In the 1950s, students were not only involved in pranks, but also campus life. Many favorite traditions for students, like L-Day, have carried over to current years. Even so, past L-Days were much larger events than now, with all students taking part.
Dr. Redman remembers one L-Day in particular. That year, there were three brothers attending the College. “All the way up the L,” reminisces Dr. Redman, “they kept talking about ice cream sundaes. When we got up there, they opened up their backpacks, which were stuffed with ice cream kept cold by dry ice. They set up a stand and sold the ice cream.”
Two of the most anticipated days of the year are now obsolete: Beach Day and Snow Day. According to Dr. Heckman, on these two days the entire student body and faculty packed up and headed to either the beach or the mountains, depending on the weather, where a complete lunch was served. “We spent all day together skiing and throwing snowballs,” adds Dr. Redman, referring to Snow Day. “Dr. Dorothy Merritt, our art instructor, was also a ski instructor, so she gave lessons.”
Because nearly all students lived on campus, students were much more involved in campus life than they are today.
Aside from the special days of the year, many activities also took place on campus, like holiday parties in the dormitories, all school rallies and sporting events. Since there were no fraternities or sororities at the time, a strong rivalry existed between the classes. Dr. Redman remembers the trials new freshman had to go through, including wearing beanies, singing the Alma Mater whenever asked to by an upperclassman and enduring Frosh Court. “Frosh Court was put on by the sophomores,” she says. “They made the freshmen do stupid tricks, but it wasn’t like hazing because it was public.”
While Dr. Redman had to face the humiliation of Frosh Court like everyone else, the event she remembers most was being thrown into the middle of the mud roll, a tug of war between the classes over a pool of mud, as a freshman. “That was absolutely horrible,”says the former homecoming queen.
Dr. Heckman believes the strong sense of school spirit that existed then is something that is missing from today’s campus. He attributes this change to the fact so many students today live off campus. “So many commuters miss a lot by not participating in campus life,” he says. “They go home after class and don’t come back at night for plays or on the weekends for sporting events.”
Despite the changes, Dr. Redman believes the fundamental basis of La Verne is the same. “While things are very different today then they were then, the values we hold important are still a focus of the institution.”