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Clubs and Activities
Written by Robert W. Harris (brother of James J. Harris, HSC 1935 – 1938)
Charles “Charley” Erb was the football coach at Humboldt State College during the Depression years. Known as “a master of firing up a team prior to each game,” he was Humboldt’s first winning coach. In 1935, he learned that there was a group of Oakland and Bay Area high school graduates who had been outstanding football players in high school. Erb learned that the group met on weekends to play football for the love of the sport and arranged to get football scholarships for the team members to attend Humboldt. None of them would have been able to afford college on their own (less than five percent of the country at that time attended college). The scholarships enabled the football players to work part-time at a barrel factory in Samoa to earn their room and board.
With the addition of the new team members, the 1936 team beat San Jose State in a game played at San Jose. They also defeated Chico State. They were remarkable wins since both colleges were much larger than Humboldt. The football team at the time was known as the Humboldt Thunderbolts—they became the Lumberjacks in 1939.
During this era, there were no offensive and defensive teams who played only when their team was on offense or defense. All players played on offense and defense, a full 60 minutes per game, if they were able.
During the Depression, segregation was widespread in the United States. The scholarship football players ate their meals as a group in a boarding house. In keeping with the time, the kitchen staff set a separate table for the two black team members. At that time, segregation was considered proper.
At the first meal, all of the white football players walked out of the dining room, in protest to having the black players separated. Thereafter, all of players ate at the same table. This act was a tribute to the courage of the white players, as well as to Humboldt State College. They broke the color line decades before the rest of the U.S. The last of the Humboldt 1936 team, James J. “Jim” Harris, passed away in 2011 at the age of 95.
Paul Sheppard (’82, Forestry)
Back in my Humboldt days (early 1980s), we had to complete an Emphasis Phase, which was a package of several courses out of major that amounted to upper level gen-ed, or almost a degree minor. I majored in Forestry, but I discovered choral singing while at Humboldt, so I chose Music as my Emphasis Phase. While singing in various official Humboldt choirs, I was turned on to barbershop harmony and promptly found three other Humboldt guys to form a barbershop quartet. We called ourselves The Old College Try, and we sang on and around campus practically every day just for fun and to entertain who ever might be walking by us. In addition to various gigs off campus, we provided the banquet entertainment for the 1982 All Western Forestry Clubs Conclave, which was held at Humboldt. Ultimately, we gave an official recital performance in Fulkerson Recital Hall, with Professor Lee Barlow of Music serving as our faculty mentor.
Over thirty years since graduating, my Humboldt experiences remain central to who I am. I still work with trees, my major, and I’m also still singing barbershop. My favorite quartet of all time, The Old College Try, still reunites every now and then to sing again the old songs.
Kate Goodenough (’00, Marine Biology)
First week: It was intimidating at first because I was an older student attending HSU, but then I met a group of students around my age and I found that I wasn’t the only older student at Humboldt. I loved the smaller class sizes because it meant I could get to know my professors better.
Favorite professor: Dr. Dennis Walker was my general botany professor. He was tough as nails, but I learned more with him as my professor than any other class I took at Humboldt. His passion for plants drew me in and encouraged me to learn more.
Favorite class: I had so many favorite classes that I cannot even choose. Intertidal ecology, plant taxonomy, animal development, mammalogy, and history of rock and roll were just a few of my favorites.
Groups and activities: Field Biology Club and the Marine Mammal Education and Research Program were the two main groups I was involved with. They were the start to a very long career in field biology and coastal and marine research.
Humboldt connection: My life long connection to Humboldt has been all of the alumni that I have met across the country. I have worked from California east to the Carolinas and I have always found someone who either attended Humboldt or had a friend or family member who had attended. I never realized what a great reputation Humboldt had for wildlife biology until after I graduated and was working in the field.
Study: My favorite place to study was under the Redwoods back behind the Wildlife Building. It was quiet and very peaceful.
Miss About Humboldt: I miss the Redwoods and spending the day on the south spit of the Bay. I also miss going down to the Marina and buying albacore tuna from the fishing boats and going salmon fishing.
Daniel Mandell (’79, History)
Favorite professor: Thomas Cooper, who taught photography at HSU circa 1977-80. I took all of his classes, the advanced one more than once, and worked as his lab and teaching assistant the summer of 1979 after I had officially graduated.
Groups and activities: I started studies at HSU in the fall of 1975, after a year of living in Israel. There was no Jewish student group, so I started the Jewish Student Union and, with a small but great and active core organized a series of activities.
The most amazing was the Passover seder that we organized the first year, in April 1976. We decided to invite any and all who wished to attend, so made it a potluck (no pork or bread, please), bought a large order of matzo and other necessities, and reserved the old Arcata Community Center with the hope that 25 or perhaps a few more might come. We were shocked when over 180 people packed the building. It became a transcendent evening.
JSU members scattered around the various tables so that, as we went through the ritual story of Passover and the symbols, all could (and did) feel involved. I have attended, organized, and run many seders since, but that remains the most meaningful and magical one, and it sealed my connection to the community. My work with the JSU was my first leadership experience, which has been helpful in life after HSU. But more important is the memory of that wonderful loving seder.
Miss about Humboldt: Redwoods, waves, fog, banana slugs, the Arcata Co-op, and the people.
Graduation: Instead of the usual commencement address, a math professor gave a fascinating talk on the history of computers. Now that I’m a college professor and frequently attend graduation ceremonies, it’s one of those memories that I pull out to entertain and amaze my colleagues.
Roger Bucholtz (’71, Social Sciences)
First week: I was one of the first groups to live in Humboldt Village by the Auto Shop. They put 8 students to a trailer and in our first week. We had numerous water fights and got everything wet, ourselves and the inside of the trailer. One water fight on Friday night, we doused a bus full of high school students going to Redwood Bowl for a football game. The trailer complex flooded during the rains until they put in a central drain.
Favorite professor: Dr. Raymond Barratt was the Dean of Science and when I petitioned to use my science classes for my Social Science degree he counseled me to get a minor in Botany. He even tutored me in the late afternoon on Organic Chemistry so I could pass Dr. Lovelace’s Plant Physiology class. Dr. Barratt somehow got me accepted in to Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania for a summer program in horticultural, which included students from the most prestigious schools in horticulture like Cornell, Michigan State and Purdue. In the 20 years they had the program, I was probably the only Social Science major they ever allowed.
Favorite class: Plant Taxonomy with Dr. James Payne Smith. I fell in love with the subject and did very well in the course as well. I would have gone into the field but Jim said there were no jobs and if I loved plants, I should go into horticulture. And that’s what I did: I got a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from CPSU, San Luis Obispo.
Groups and activities: I was involved with the Newman Club and the California Native Plant society.
Humboldt connection: Humboldt felt like home and I still have a soft spot in my heart for it even though I went on to several other universities, finally getting my masters at UC, Davis in PPPM.
Study: Used to study in the empty classrooms in Founders Hall on weekends or in the library.
Miss about Humboldt: The small intimate classes and the great outdoors.
Graduation: The pits, it was held in the gymnasium as it was raining, it was the first graduation that Cornelius Siemens couldn’t attend and it rained.
Special: I befriended several of the gardeners on campus and became lifelong friends. I still have several close friendships with people I met at HSU.
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