30 things you probably didn’t know about SRJC and The Oak Leaf


Courtesy California Digital Newspaper Collection

SRJC’s independent student news have published the news since 1927 as The Oak Leaf and since 1924 under different names.

James Domizio, Magazine Editor

Of Santa Rosa Junior College’s 104 years of history, 98 have been documented by its independent student reporters.

Within that history and those chronicles lies a wealth of information most modern SRJC community members will never get to absorb. Who’s got the time, or cares enough, to read more than 2,100 issues of old newspapers?

So with a focus on issues released in May in five-year intervals — 2017, 2012, 2007, and so on all the way to 1927 — here is a curated list of notable facts about the SRJC community, all from the pages of The Oak Leaf.

Over 95 years ago

Fall 1924: SRJC’s first newspaper was called Bear Facts, and its first issue was released Dec. 12, 1924. The paper’s name changed to The Chatterbox in 1926 before eventually settling on The Oak Leaf in early 1927. In the 1930s, an editorial segment called Bear Fax appeared in The Oak Leaf and featured jokes and non sequiturs. Today, BearFacts is a weekly newsletter from the office of Student Life, Equity and Engagement that acts as a bulletin for SRJC events and resources.

Spring 1927: “Jaysee,” “jay see” and “jaycee” all appear as substitutes for JC in early issues of The Oak Leaf.

95 years ago

Spring 1927: In their first semester as The Oak Leaf, there were only seven Oak Leafers on staff: a manager, an editor, a reporter, a columnist, two reporters and one woman, Alice Jorgensen, who covered “Girls’ News.” The paper had no bylines in the ‘20s, so it’s unknown which stories she wrote.

May 25, 1927: An advertisement for The Gray Shop touts five-cent hamburgers that could be purchased by the sack; that’s about 78 cents each in today’s dollars.

90 years ago

May 27, 1932: On May 20, the Associated Engineers presented the first moving picture to screen on SRJC’s campus. W. Shushaw, SRJC board president and Santa Rosa PG&E president, introduced and explained the film, which showed the construction of a hydroelectric power plant on the Mokolohome River 75 miles southeast of Sacramento.

85 years ago

May 7, 1937: A reporter credited as “The Scribe” wrote about the discovery of human remains suspected to belong to a girl of the ice age. The presenter, Dr. Robert Broom, remarked before the presentation that “he and a few members of the Academy of Sciences have discarded the old mechanistic view of evolution and have come around to the conclusion that man is the end of evolution.” Modern scientists disagree with Broom and believe humans and other animals are still evolving.

May 14, 1937: A decidedly-not-fun fact: a photo caption on the front page described a carnival game with the N-word in its name. The last sentence of the caption reads, “Get out the black paint, boys.” The front page also refers to an upcoming KKK rally; surprisingly, this was not a Ku Klux Klan rally but instead SRJC’s annual Kollege Kampus Karnival. While the Klan wasn’t officially involved, it’s unlikely to be a pure coincidence.

May 22, 1937: Assistant Editor James Luodon wrote about President Floyd P. Bailey’s plans to expand the campus, which only had four buildings at the time — Pioneer Hall, Garcia Hall, Tauzer Gymnasium and Geary Hall, a science building located in the current quad area. Bailey proposed the development of what would eventually become Bussman Hall, Analy Hall and Burbank Auditorium, as well as dormitories, sports fields and courts, and buildings for art, science and home economics.

80 years ago

Spring 1942: During World War II, The Oak Leaf regularly published “news and views” from JC students and instructors fighting overseas. News reporter Tom Ratchford wrote: “A letter from Warren Harmon says the issues of The Oak Leaf he has been receiving tend to make him homesick. He likes his job in the quartermaster’s office [with the Marine Corps in San Diego] but has applied for a transfer into a machine gun company. ‘I guess I must be tired of living,’ he said. He also has his name on the list for Commandos, but he is a year too young as yet.”

May 1, 1942: SRJC athletics coach Clarence “Cook” Sypher, the namesake for the Santa Rosa campus’s Sypher Field, was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Marines on April 23, 1942. In the six years before that, the Stanford graduate coached eight SRJC teams to championships: three for rugby, two for football, two for hockey and one for baseball.

May 29, 1942: The front page featured a disclaimer that regular editor Wilma Sableman was unavailable for that week, due to a symphony concert she had to play in, so she asked a previous editor, Betty Lewis, to take over. Lewis accepted, but she too had to pass on editing duties when her employer, the Press Democrat, called her in to work. Associate editor Barbara Dove finished the job.

75 years ago

May 2, 1947: The issue contained a segment “for the benefit of foreign students attending this college” that featured short jokes in Spanish, French and German. “If you do not comprehend the full meaning,” it said, “consult Senor Hollidge, Madame Wilcox or Herr Schneider as the case may be.” A Spanish joke: “El profesor golpeó indignado sobre su escritorio y gritó: ‘¡Caballeros … orden!’ Y todos los alumnos, a una, contestaron: ‘¡Cerveza!’”

70 years ago

May 1, 1952: In a column, Features Writer Roland Wauer wondered if then-current Academy Award-winning songs would be remembered. He lists off “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “White Christmas,” “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Thanks for the Memory” and “Over the Rainbow” along with those that proved less memorable: “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Night,” “Mona Lisa,” “Buttons and Bows” and “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”

65 years ago

May 2, 1957: Inspired by a snarky comment in a music magazine, features co-editor Diane Morgan railed against popular music of the day: “Today, a record doesn’t have to have a lasting melody, tasteful lyrics, or a singer of some capability to become a hit. All that little black disk needs right now is a beat, unintelligible lyrics, and a singer with a gimmick. Of the three necessities, the last one is most expansive.”

May 16, 1957: The Associated Students of SRJC held votes for student government in the pages of The Oak Leaf for the first time. The ballot was printed on page 3 alongside candidate statements, which was said to encourage greater participation in the vote.

60 years ago

Spring 1962: The Oak Leaf reminded readers that SRJC required its students to be vaccinated against polio to attend fall semester classes.

May 3, 1962: The Oak Leaf’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Davis wrote a defense of Santa Rosa schools from allegations of racism by the local NAACP chapter. He said he “can recall no hint of [racial discrimination],” implied the critiques come from “ethnic, political, religious, industrial and feminist [fringes]” who “have their own prejudice,” and claimed those groups “mistake special privilege for equality.” Two weeks later, Davis said that The Oak Leaf had been “accused of mediocrity and conservatism.”

55 years ago

May 4, 1967: The front page featured a small blurb about a free upcoming performance at Burbank Auditorium by a banjo-playing comedian “who uses an unlikely combination of music, humor and magic.” The comedian’s name? Steve Martin.

May 11, 1967: A non-bylined staffer wrote about the recently announced lineup for one of the greatest music festivals in history, the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. While the writer mentions The Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and The Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Who, they overlooked soon-to-be superstars: The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing its first U.S. performance, Janis Joplin making a large-scale debut and Otis Redding’s first major introduction to American audiences.

50 years ago

May 4, 1972: Staff writer Mike Allen questioned Richard Nixon’s war on drugs that U.S. presidents continue to this day: “What I believe to be unfortunate is the obvious emphasis on the role of law enforcement agencies to handle the problem. I feel that the government, instead of seeking what is ostensibly the easy way out, must look at the real source of the problem.”

45 years ago

Spring 1977: When Oak Leafers needed to fill empty space in their layout, they wrote a section called “The Adventures of Space Filler” that followed a word-themed sci-fi character named Space Filler. His adventures were short and often ended abruptly.

May 9, 1977: The SRJC Board of Trustees shut down plans for an ethnic studies department and slashed Black Studies classes for the next semester. SRJC President Dr. Roy Mikalson and trustee Albert Maggini were the two most vocal critics of the proposed multicultural department, citing a lack of enrollment. “Our problem with enrollment is not all our fault,” Black Studies instructor John Ray said. “Counselors not only do not recommend our classes, they tell people not to take them.” Ray said he could name names, but “preferred not to do so.”

40 years ago

May 13, 1982: In a column, issue Ron Baker, who was not on The Oak Leaf’s staff, wrote that there was “no proof offshore oil drilling has damaging effects on the environment,” and “there is no energy crisis [in America].” According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, offshore drilling “increases the risk of spills and pollution in the marine environment while fueling climate change impacts.

30 years ago

May 7, 1992: Child prodigy Michael Kearney reportedly graduated from SRJC at age 8 in 1992 and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from University of South Alabama at 10 and a master’s degree in chemistry from Middle Tennessee State University at 14. Curiously, his name doesn’t appear among the list of SRJC graduates, accurate as of May 6.

25 years ago

May 8, 1997: In Spring 1996, SRJC President Robert F. Agrella received $36,000 from the Board of Trustees to investigate the author of anonymous letters that called him a racist, a fear monger and an adulterer. German language instructor Sylvia Wasson was accused of sending the letters and was fired in January of 1997. Several months later, SRJC students, faculty and staff came together to draft a charter for the college. The proposed SRJC Magna Carta was printed in The Oak Leaf. An excerpt: “Therefore, be it resolved that the President and Board of Trustees condemn the abuse of power and safeguard public funds and resources against their misuse.” Wasson was rehired several months later before winning her court case against SRJC, and the college adopted the Magna Carta.

20 years ago

April 23, 2002: In the last issue of the semester, staff writer Geneviève Buboscq interviewed SRJC’s Director of Open Learning Rick Sapanaro about the benefits of distance learning. Buboscq wrote that SRJC began offering “telecourses” taught via television in the 1970s and online courses in 1996; in 2000-2001, 300 students took telecourses and 5,000 students took online courses. Sapanaro said online courses “give the greatest flexibility in schedules” and that he expected the visual element — teleconferencing and webcasts — to become more prominent as technology improves.

15 years ago

Spring 2007: Staff writer Jayme Bechtel wrote that SRJC’s cafeteria would soon be demolished and replaced with a three-story building that would house a new cafeteria, the Bear’s Den café, an entertainment facility, student government activities, and offices for financial aid, scholarship, counseling and admissions.

May 15, 2007: Jesse Meuschke wrote an impassioned attack on the “Peanuts” comic strip: “If [Charlie Brown] isn’t the proof you needed that there is a god, and said god is indeed a bastard, then you are probably waiting for some more concrete proof of gravity as well.”

10 years ago

May 14, 2012: In May 2012, SRJC’s Men’s Swim and Dive Team finished an undefeated season to win the school’s first swimming championship, and Head Coach Jill McCormick became the first woman named Men’s California Community College Coach of the Year. “There are so many great coaches out there, that to be recognized among them is a tremendous honor,” McCormick told The Oak Leaf.

Five years ago

May 15, 2017: Six months after recreational cannabis use became legal in California in 2016, The Oak Leaf devoted much of its last issue of Spring 2017 to “The State of Cannabis.” Within its pages, Oak Leafers wrote news about an SRJC professor hoping the school would pioneer cannabis business classes; an editorial explaining the downsides of California’s approach to legalization; a list of movies to watch while high; pieces on derivative products and sustainability; a “Chronic Crossword” and even a poem about cannabis.