Friday, January 1, 2010

A weird windowless library, alleged marauding flag-swiping Hippies, the protean name, and other district mysteries—Solved!

I think you'll like these historical factoids:

1. The "Sea Mountain Valley Community College District"?

Our district was founded on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1967. At the time, the notion of a multi-college district wasn’t on anybody’s mind, I suppose. Everybody was focused on building “the college.”

"Puttin' a college here, even a shitty one, would raise property values!"

"Yeah, that's good, as long as it doesn't cost us anything."

The original five-person board comprised Alyn M. Brannon and Hans W. Vogel of Tustin; Louis J. Zitnick of Laguna Beach; Patrick J. Backus of Dana Point; and Michael T. Collins of Laguna Niguel. Vogel remained on the board until about 1975 and often served as its president (SOCCCD website).

I get the sense that Vogel was a dominant figure in these early years. (Anybody know?) Evidently, it was through his connections that Governor Ronald Reagan (now: "Saint" Ronald) showed up for the Saddleback College dedication (at a site near what came to be Mission Hospital).

During planning, “the district was referred to as the South Coast Junior College District” (see district website), but at a March 1967 meeting, “the board named the new district Saddleback Junior College District.”

In 1970, it was renamed again, this time the “Saddleback Community College District.”

Then came the infamous “board majority” of 1996, a crew that was as hubristic as it was benighted. Naturally, they decided to change the name again. In February of 1997, they asked the public for help. Trustee John Williams favored the name “South Orange County Community College District,” but
Other names being considered [were] South Valley Community College District, South Coast Community College District, Sea Mountain Valley Community College District and Old Groves Community College District. (LA Times)
Sea Mountain Valley? Old Groves?

2. We don't need no stinkin' “Gauchos”

It appears that the original board was responsible for Saddleback College’s unfortunate mascot, the “Gaucho.” (What do South American cowboys have to do with the OC?)

According to the district website, “Saddleback College was officially named by action of the board on February 26, 1968. In June of that year, the board approved the Gaucho as mascot and school colors as cardinal and gold.”

But since (according to the website) the first students didn’t arrive until September, it follows (more or less) that students didn’t choose the “Gaucho.”

I bet it was these trustees.

3. Dress Codes, war protesters, phantom Hippies

We have among us an old-timer who can remember the early days of the district. John Williams. In a 2008 Lariat article (Through the decades), we learn that
Williams moved to Mission Viejo in 1969 when his brother David, a receiver for the St. Louis Cardinals, purchased a home and needed a caretaker while he was on the road. He registered for classes at Saddleback, competing in both football and track. … "During the construction of the lower campus, we watched as the portable buildings were brought in on trailers. In the fall of 1969, the sidewalks had not been poured and when it would rain, they would lay down planks to walk on."
Williams implies that he went to college to avoid the draft: "If you didn't go to college, you could get drafted," he is quoted is saying.

According to the article, there was some “political activism” in the early years, plus some classic OC fatheaded patriotism:
"Every day at 8 a.m. the campus had their flag salute," Williams said. "The national anthem played and students had to stop what they were doing."

Williams said the student government tried to organize a war protest, and didn't want the track team to get on the team bus. Another time, a rumor was flying around that some "hippies" were going to come to Saddleback to steal the American flag, so some of the football players stood around and guarded it. The "hippies" never showed.
Williams also noted the college dress code:
"There was a strict dress code in those days, almost as if it were a parochial school," said … Williams…. "It covered everything from how to dress to the length of your hair."

4. A mighty fortress is our Library

I happened upon, of all things, a cool Saddleback College in-service pamphlet (Fall, 2008) that is punctuated with interesting factoids and images from the college circa 1968—no doubt as part of the college’s 40th Anniversary celebration.

On pages 20 and 21, the editor writes:
Several years ago a reporter from The Lariat called. He wanted to know the “real story” of the windows in the library. Or actually, the absence of windows in the library. After all, the building sat on a hill and had an unobstructed 270 degree panoramic view which was hardly observable from inside. I told the reporter that I would try to find information. I did, but he never called back. I saved the information anyway, and now do present it here for your consideration.
The “information” turns out to be a newspaper article about the Utt library published in 1970. The article describes a meeting between the board and the library architects. The architects (and the college president) wanted windows. The board? Not so much.
Library Windows Asked. Saddleback Tells Architects to Review Exterior.

By George Leidal, Daily Pilot, December 15, 1970

Situated in the rolling hills of the Mission Viejo campus with potential for a 270-degree view, the Saddleback College library will be windowless. Trustees Monday night instructed the architects, Ramber and Lowery, of Santa Ana, to revise the exterior plans removing the second and third floor windows. [There are no first floor windows, aside from the entrance doors.]

The library, the first permanent structure planned for the Mission Viejo campus, is estimated at $3.7 million and is expected to go to bid next March.

President Fred H. Bremer, said, “From an aesthetic viewpoint I feel a certain amount of windows are desirable, even in a library. Otherwise the building would have a prison like appearance.”

Board President Hans W. Vogel of Santa Ana argued against windows in the library on two grounds, maintenance and insurance costs for possible breakage.

“A library is a learning center with a function to perform,” Vogel said, “and that function is best performed if there are no distractions. A student should be able to escape completely from reality. A fortress without windows is the ideal environment for library study since when you go to the library you are trying to reach the depths of your own mind.”

Vogel further argued that savings of maintenance and insurance that might be projected for a windowless library could be applied in fitting the building with more equipment.

Robert Lowery of the architectural firm noted trustees had already approved the interior floor plans for the library, which will initially house classrooms that later will be converted to library space. Noting the aesthetic value of windows “because human beings like to know what’s going on outside even if they only see a patch of sky or clouds,” Lowery suggested library stacks would not require use of outside walls. The plan submitted to trustees included slanted high windows on the second and third floors.

Alyn M. Brannon, trustee from Santa Ana, concurred with the breakage argument against the windows and added, “I’m opposed to high windows, they are hardly ever washed, anyway.”

The slant of the windows, Lowery said, was to discourage breakage by rock throwing.”

Brannon countered, that with the slant “they’ll just collect more dirt.”

Responding to a question by John B. Lund, Laguna Beach trustee, Lowery noted there would be little difference in construction cost of the library with or without windows. Vogel said it was not the construction cost that concerned him, but said “from a security standpoint I would question high windows and would favor solid walls.” [What happened to “maintenance and insurance costs”?]

Security precautions called for by trustees at an earlier meeting, Lowery said, had already been included in the library plan. [Gosh, had something happened in the meantime?]

“We cut out the second floor outdoor reading balconies,” he said, in order to eliminate the chance students will throw books down from them to other students as you suggested.”

The present plan requires students to check out books before going outside to outdoor, second level terraces, Lowery said.

Features of the plan acceptable to trustees were the beige, sandblasted concrete exterior that requires no painting.

“I should note that I have no recommendation about what you could do [if] a student decided to spray paint an inscription on the surface,” Lowery said. “But there will be considerable maintenance savings if it is never painted.”

Vogel said he hoped that such defacing tactics would not occur.

Lower portions of the façade will be done in adobe brick and an imitation quarry tile made of concrete will surface patios.

Vogel noted that he had used new libraries at Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and UCLA and found all were built without windows. “These aren’t old libraries.”

The in-service pamphlet editor reminds us that
a scant 10 months prior to this article, the local branch building of the Bank of America in the community of Isla Vista, Santa Barbara County, was burned to the ground by students on February 25, 1970.
Yeah, that was a big deal at the time. Everybody was talking about it. (Reagan called the protesters "cowardly little bums" and sent in 400 National Guardsmen.)

The editor notes that the title—Library Windows Asked—“doesn’t really make sense.” The article seems more about eliminating windows than asking for them:
It makes one wonder if someone got the title wrong. Should it have read: "Library Windows Axed"?....
Hans Vogel is still alive, living in Tustin—he’s 87 years old. He and his family came to America from Germany in the late 20s. During the war, he evidently distinguished himself, serving as an interrogator of prisoners of war (i.e., Germans) under General Patton.

He describes himself (he has two blogs) a Lieutenant Colonel, Retired.

After the war, he got his degree at USC and became a volleyball coach with that institution. The guy seems to be all about volleyball and war memories.

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