Getting Schooled with “The Normal Outlook,” Los Angeles Normal School for Teacher Education, 10 September 1915

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It was both a sign of the growth of Los Angeles and of general literacy and education that the California State Normal School of teacher education, which began with its flagship campus at San Jose (now San Jose State University), opened a branch in the Angel City atop Poundcake Hill west of Central (Sixth Street) Park, later renamed Pershing Square.

While the institution was officially established in 1881, the impressive building, designed by the the architectural firm of Curlett and Eisen, was not completed until the fall term of the following year. For more than three decades, the institution gave instruction to thousands of teachers, including Mary Julia Workman, grand-niece of Homestead founders William and Nicolasa Workman, who went on to be a long-time kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles city schools.

Los Angeles Times, 18 October 1914.

Yet, as the city and region continued their relentless expansion in the early years of the 20th century, it became obvious that the hilltop structure was not large enough to meet the demand for future teachers, so a new site was selected on Vermont Avenue just south of Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood. A twenty-acre campus of ten buildings with a large forecourt and quadrangles among the structures was designed by architects Allison and Allison and the capacity was somewhere between 1,600 and 2,000 students.

The new Normal School began operation for the fall semester of 1914 and tonight’s featured object from the museum’s collection is the first issue of a bound volume for the 1915-1916 school year of The Normal Outlook, the weekly newspaper for the student body. Published on 10 September 1915, the publication was prepared, as stated by editor Albert T. Blanford, “on the opening day of registration to accommodate the students and faculty of the Normal.” He added, however, that “with no staff on deck, the editor was compelled to do all the work of writing and managing the whole paper,” though he acknowledged the help of three others for their assistance.

An 11 November 1919 view of the main building at the Vermont Street campus of the Normal School, as it handled both teacher education and the first year of students for the “Southern Branch” of the University of California from the Homestead’s holdings.

The “Official Registration and Enrollment Notices” noted that, on that morning, the day began with a faculty meeting, followed by an early afternoon reporting of the seniors of the General Professional School and all of the students of the special schools to report for program arrangements and residence cards. Following that was the enrollment of the first two groups of seniors and then that of a third group as well as visiting teachers at the library, while there was a separate enrollment of students in special schools.

Once all students were enrolled, they were to go to the Manual Arts Building to make copies and file programs, get residence cards, pay term dues and Associated Student Body dues, and get their locker assignments. Textbook lists for the special schools students were posted on boards at those locations, while the General Professional scholars could find their textbook list on the third page of The Outlook. The works were in categories of Commercial History, Education, English, Geography, History, Mathemtics, Modern Languages (French and German), Music, Psychology, Reading and Science.

Saturday morning was to be devoted to juniors to report to group instructors and to enroll in classes in the same fashion as the seniors, while Monday morning was for new student reporting at an assembly room in Millspaugh Hall, named for school president Jesse Millspaugh. The following day was set aside for applicants on the waiting list, because the school was obviously fully enrolled, to report to that same room. Finally, on Wednesday there was to be a general assembly for all students, save those who were teaching, after which they to report to their classes. Anyone not showing up to their classes on that day were to have their places vacated, giving up these spots for those on the waiting list.

Another front-page article was by the student body president, Paul A. Schmitt, who began by stating, “We are glad to be here. Prospects for the coming year look bright. Every one of us who has been fortunate enough to register before the limit was reached appreciate the opportunity we have before us in being members of this big school family.” He added that the Los Angeles branch was the largest Normal school in the nation “and we have one of the finest set of school buildings.”

A 1929 snapshot from the museum’s collection of an ivy-colored main structure as the campus was becoming Los Angeles City College after the move of the Southern Branch of the University of California to Westwood for what is now U.C.L.A.

Schmitt also took the opportunity to promote student activities such as sports, literary and glee clubs, drama, and sports and he hoped to add oratory and debate to the roster. He also expressed the view hat “if Normal ever lacked school spirit it is a fact of ancient history” and continued that “we have a live student body and I believe every one will do her or his part to make the year a successful one from scholastic, athletic and social standpoints.”

The president also exhorted his fellow students to “be informal and friendly,” while steering clear of “cliques and exclusiveness” and supporting all elements of campus life, including that of “the athletic teams in true collegiate style.” School traditions were to be maintained and “[we] should have our songs and yells, and give our school colors their proper places.”

Finally, he asked his fellows to make suggestions to student government officials, who they should get to know, including council members from the various groups. With good government and fellowship shown throughout the school, there would be “a year which will go down in the annals of Normal school history as a most successful one.”

Other front page news concerned the service of a ten-cent breakfast, made more accessible with two entrances and sets of lines, while the tables were reenameled and the floors oiled; the return of the history department’s head after a year’s sabbatical, during which she was back east for an extended period “recovering from an overdose of hard work” while also “concentrating on pedagogical duties;” and the inability of the appointment secretary to return to work because of an attack on pleurisy.

Another 1929 photo of a building at the campus from the Homestead’s collection.

The editorial section, in addition to Blanford’s explanation of his solo work on the paper, included a statement that the publication strove to publicize school groups and activities; noted that the executive committee and council elections were to be held the next Friday, asking students to make “a wise choice in the selection of those whose powers and duties so greatly concern the welfare of our student body;” and other small items.

The second page also included a short piece suggesting that a football team might be fielded, including by “several men who have already made a name for themselves in the Southern California football [world]” and that the team’s manager stated that games would be scheduled with high schools and freshman college squads.” A great many “for rent” ads also appear here and there is a large cartoon with a man presenting “Normal Faculty” standing in a “Study Pool” and stretching out his arms towards excited youngsters (students, of course) standing at the edge and encouraging them to try the water.

In addition to the list of textbooks mentioned above, there was also a list of junior and senior group teachers, of the 36, of which about a quarter were men, while just three of the women were married, indicative of how teaching was still largely a profession of unmarried females. Also presented were the faculty standing committees for administration; social entertainments; lectures, addresses and public events; the library; correspondence with newspapers and publications; a students’ loan fund; work of the school’s extension program; and admission and clarification, with its nine sub-committees ranging from admission to enrollment to boarding and rooms.

There are several advertisements on the third page and more on the fourth and final page, as well, including for Bullock’s department store; the Hartsook photography studio; the Pin-Ton confectionery; the Barker Brothers furniture and furnishing store; the Harris & frank clothing store; Jones Book Store; Payne’s Dancing Academy; and Mrs. C.E. Bean’s Business School for Young Women; and others. Also on this final page are tidbits involving “What Alumni Are Doing,” with most of the news involving graduates and their teaching work, most locally, though some were in other parts of the state and a couple ventured off to Arizona (which achieved statehood just a few years prior.)

The Normal School continued in operation at the Vermont Street campus for fifteen years, during which time active lobbying by locals for a “Southern Branch” of the University of California paid off with the opening of that annex in 1919. With the ongoing enormous growth in Los Angeles and surrounding areas during the Roaring Twenties, a new campus for what became the University of California, Los Angeles was built at Westwood and opened in 1929. The Vermont campus then was repurposed for Los Angeles Junior College, now Los Angeles City College, the first of nine campuses in the Los Angeles Community College District, and LACC has now been in operation there for over ninety years.

As for this bound volume of The Normal Outlook, we’ll certainly highlight more issues in the future under the “Getting Schooled” heading and these school papers, along with a very interesting scrapbook of a graduate from 1914 featured here before, help give us an idea of the state of teacher education at the Normal School during this very interesting period.

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