For anyone who has traced their family tree, it can be a time-traveling, time-consuming puzzle of assorted unrelated photographs, letters and documents.
Imagine tracking the 80-year history of Cal Poly Pomona through items in its Special Collections and Archives.
That journey is now easier thanks to a $96,328 federal grant for an archival project from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The project, “As California Goes, So Goes the Nation: Immigration, Agriculture, Public Policy, and Pop Culture throughout the 20th Century,” wrapped up in late March. The exhibit, “Cal Poly Pomona: The Early Years,” is open through August in the University Library, room 4434.
“The history of Cal Poly Pomona involves a well-known businessman, a future congressman and a former automobile executive. The history can be traced to three different cities,” said Rob Strauss, project archivist, to open the lecture he presented with Cal Poly Pomona archivist Alexis Adkins and assistant archivist Elizabeth Hernandez.
The first city is San Luis Obispo, where the California Polytechnic School was founded in 1903 as a coed vocational high school.
The second is San Dimas, where the Voorhis Home for Boys was founded in 1928 by former Nash Automobile executive Charles Voorhis and his wife Ella for boys from poor or troubled households. Their son Jerry was headmaster until he was elected to Congress in 1936, serving until 1946 when he was defeated by Richard Nixon.
The third city is Pomona, where cereal millionaire W.K. Kellogg had his Arabian horse ranch from 1925 to 1932 and hosted thousands of visitors at hugely popular, free monthly horse shows.
The exhibit traces how these three men and locales intertwined through the decades to become Cal Poly Pomona.
The first display Hernandez discussed was about the Voorhis School for Boys.
On display is a photo of the campus from about 1931, signed by the Headmaster Jerry Voorhis. Another photo showed Charles Voorhis and Julian McPhee, president of California State Polytechnic College, San Luis Obispo (what California Polytechnic School had become) when the boys school joined Cal Poly in 1938 as the Voorhis Unit. The Voorhis Unit closed in 1943 as students enlisted to fight in World War II, and the last school newspaper is on display with a list of 145 students who became servicemen.
Another display case focused on W.K. Kellogg and his famous Arabian horses who were as much celebrities as the many Hollywood stars who visited them. There is a photo of Kellogg with Jadaan, the stallion Rudolph Valentino rode in his last film, “The Son of the Sheik.” (Jadaan’s saddle is displayed in W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library on the first floor of the University Library). There is also a photo of Col. F.W. Koester, commanding officer of the Army’s Pomona Quartermaster Depot, Remount, which the Kellogg Ranch became during World War II.
Student activities are chronicled throughout the exhibit. The first yearbook, Madre Tierra, is displayed along with a pamphlet guiding visitors to the first Poly Vue open house. A photo of Cal Poly’s first Rose Float – the “Rocking Horse” in 1949 – is featured with a 1948 letter from the Tournament of Roses acknowledging the entry.
Cal Poly Pomona was a men’s college until 1961 when it became coed. The Student Wives Club, also known as the Poly-Annas, held bake sales, dances, and other activities. One of their unique programs bestowed an honorary diploma, the “PHT-Pushing Hubby Through” degree, to the wives of graduating students. One of those PHTs, given to Judy Swade and signed by President Julian McPhee and club advisor Virginia Hamilton Adair, is on display.
On display is a Poly Post article about women enrolling in 1961, along with a “poignant picture here of the first women students in the cafeteria sitting across from the men,” Hernandez said.
The physical growth of Cal Poly is displayed through the exhibit in photos and memorabilia documenting construction of dorms, the engineering and science buildings and more.
“As California Goes, So Goes the Nation” was completed by Rob Strauss, Alexis Adkins, Elizabeth Hernandez, Kimberley Erickson, Caryn Romo, Neelam Patel, Alex Dan, Destinee Sparks, Elainna-Marie Herrera, Emily Chavarria, Josh Rose, Pam Anan, Annie Sin, Kim Allen, Emma Gibson, Debbie Schroeder-Linthicum, Breanna Coelho, Gabriela Castaneda, Lissa Lopez, Shari Jackson, and Katie Richardson.