A History of the UCLA Daily Bruin, 1919-1955
The Decade of the Thirties: Part 1
by George Garrigues
Printed edition © 1970, 1997
Internet Edition © 2000, 2001
All rights reserved, but you are welcome to download electronic copies, send e-copies to your friends or make printouts for yourself.
Go to the Front of the Book
Preface, Contents, List of Editors, Bibliography and Index
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4. Campus Humor: The Safety Valve (1920-1936)
People, especially young ones, need to laugh. And the young ones like to laugh at authority, so pompous, so arrogant, so inflated with self-importance.
The 1930s were years of Depression, years of preparation for war, years of disillusion. Joe College was dying, and the Daily Bruin was doing its best to finish him off. The Bruin attacked senseless "traditions," over-commercialized and subsidized football, Hell Week, all the evils of big, tax-supported state universities. It attacked, as well, the evils it saw in the world around it: Militarism, radicalism, reaction.
But it did more: It opened its feature pages to opinions of all stripes and persuasions. Communists, racists, fraternity boys and confused little freshmen took turns in presenting their views. "The policy of The Daily Bruin is molded to meet the wishes of the entire student body," said Editor F. Chandler Harris. "It belongs to the students, and the editor feels responsible primarily to them." (CDB, 2/13/35.)11
It was this practice, more than any other one thing, that brought the pepperings of criticism upon the Bruin, and yet, through it all, the Bruin continued to fulfill its first duty to the students, and the first love of the embryo journalists -- publishing the news.
At just about the same time that the stock market collapsed and the world moved into the Great Depression, UCLA made its long-awaited move from its old campus on Vermont Avenue to the raw, redbrick university far away to the west. In the fall of 1929 great convoys of student-driven automobiles and trucks helped move books, supplies and furnishings to the hills of Westwood. The new campus gave UCLA a chance to continue its smooth and continuous growth, from 6,175 in September 1929 to 8,616 ten years later. In 1937-38, UCLA lost one of its last reminders of its days as a Normal School when men finally overtook women in enrollment.
Though there were no streetcars running in front of the new campus, UCLA was still known as a "streetcar college." Most students commuted. Dirt parking lots were muddy in winter, dusty in summer. A strip of fraternities grew up on Gayley Avenue and a string of sororities on Hilgard. The University "regretted" that it could do nothing to help a group of Japanese-American women build a sorority house on Hilgard, forbidden to do so because of racial restrictions in the property deed. There was only one university-owned dormitory -- Mira Hershey Hall, which housed 80 women. Campus politics were in the hands of the fraternities and sororities, and the Daily Bruin, which was its own fraternity and sorority wrapped into one, had to suffer from that fact.
Even before the University made its move from the Vermont campus, the Daily Bruin was looking ahead. It secured passage by Student Council of a resolution that it "continue its policy of publishing leased wire news and news pictures" and "its policy of publishing special sections and pages, such as the Women's Page, the Drama Page, the Literary Review Section." It was also to establish a morning delivery service to "maintain a publication for the community at Westwood as well as the campus public." (SEC, 4/7/27.)
The year before the move, the Bruin unveiled a new Page One flag featuring a view of the new Royce Hall and a cut of the University seal. "Prophetic of the University to come and explanatory of the University that was, is the new heading which adorns the first page of the Daily Bruin," said Editor James F. Wickizer. (CDB, 3/29/28.)
"We moved into offices in Royce Hall in February ," recalled Editor Charles Olton four decades later. "And this was the big thing -- a real, honest-to-goodness city desk, semi-circular, with an editor's slot and all. The paper was printed at the old Hollywood Citizen -- I do mean the OLD Citizen. Composing room in a dingy cellar. I remember it all with great nostalgia." (Questionnaire.)
It was a short-lived period in the basement of Royce. A year later, Kerckhoff Hall was opened, and the student government offices took up their new quarters. The Daily Bruin got one of the bigger allocations -- a large, spare room at the end of the second-floor corridor -- KH 212 (now KH 312). It was so big before it was divided into separate offices in summer 1941 that the Student Council once adjourned an overflow meeting from the KH Memorial Room to the Bruin office to accommodate the crowd. (CDB, 11/27/39.)
Furniture came in spurts. On Monday, April 20, a new copy desk was installed. It remained for decades, gradually growing rougher and pockmarked from generations of copy pencils and rulers banging against its surface.
A new campus, a new Bruin, more pages, a redesigned, modern layout, improved services. One hundred fifty issues were published during 1929-30, the largest being a souvenir issue for the dedication of the new campus, 36 pages, including a sixteen-page rotogravure section. "The paper is delivered to fifty per cent of the homes in the vicinity. Two hundred students were connected with [it] . . . , some spending as many as eight to ten hours a day, at times, in its publication." (CDB, 5/29/30.)Members of the Daily Bruin staff have done without a copy-desk for so long that the new furniture seems rather foreign to them, but oldtimers, who recall the old makeshift desk in the basement of Royce Hall, have wandered in the office and expressed their satisfaction at its workmanship. The cost of the desk, incidentally, is estimated at between $150 and $200. (CDB, 4/21/31.)
"At the time we had some notion that we could imitate the New York Times," wrote Editor Charles Olton (Questionnaire). And Editor Carl Schaefer said in 1931:
Basing its policy on surveys finding that many students (48 percent in 1934) read no other newspaper (CDB, 9/27/34), the Bruin continued to emphasize world and national news, much to the discontent of the non-news-oriented Student Council members, who wanted more emphasis placed on publicity for social events.The present semester's policy of editing the Daily Bruin was that a newspaper is a newspaper the world over, be it of the metropolitan, collegiate or high school variety. This being the case, it has been the endeavor of the editor to offer members of the student body a newspaper as near the metropolitan variety as possible. A strong editorial policy was inaugurated, features above the childish category used, and the sincere opinions of the editor were voiced. (CDB, 1/15/31.)
The Thirties began in a typical way: Editor Carl Schaeffer ran afoul of the Student Council and thereby became the first editor since 1926 to serve for only one semester. His successor, Charles Olton, later the owner of a printing plant, remembers Schaeffer as "a much better editor than I ever was. Full of ideas -- and I think an 'exposer' of some of the foolishness of our day." Olton continued:"A complete United Press wire service has been leased by the Daily Bruin and will go into use immediately," Joe R. Osherenko, director of publications, announced yesterday.
. . . "Arranged through the co-operation of Colonel S. G. McClure, publisher of the Santa Monica Outlook . . . The printer telegraph machines of the Santa Monica Outlook will be loaned for the use of the A.S.U.C. newspaper each afternoon from 3 to 7:30 p.m.
"In 1928 the Daily Bruin discontinued its arrangement with the Hollywood Citizen-News, which made possible use of United Press News flashes. Since that time, the Daily Bruin has had limited access to United Press service, coupled with protection on late news stories." (CDB, 9/26/34.)
Carl got into hot water in the fall. He wrote several editorials suggesting that UCLA had football scholarships, and it would make some sense to admit this, and give the football players special status. He certainly was right about the scholarships, but this whole idea of paid football players could not be admitted in public. There may have been some other places where Carl incurred the wrath of the athletic department, and the noisy protests apparently made it impossible for him to be reelected in January. So I got the job for one semester only.
Olton may have "got chicken," but agitation against compulsory ROTC (which was made voluntary in the 1960s) continued in the Bruin.Of course, I had some wonderful battles with the administration. First Jeff Kibre started a series of articles suggesting that ROTC be placed on a voluntary basis. Dr. Moore, who was then Provost, called me in, and read the riot act about the whole idea. My recollection is that we ran two of the articles, and then I quit on this subject. One of the deans talked to me about my responsibilities to the university, where did my powers end, the university really supported the paper, and so on. The veterans at Sawtelle offered to bury me. Frankly I just got chicken.
A little later I suggested editorially that UCLA be made independent from Berkeley. We were pretty sore about being the younger sister of those Berkeley kids. This time Dr. Moore wanted to know whether I intended to run the university.
Finally one of the girls [Jeanne Hodgeman] had a column in which appeared this quip: "One maid. Won maid. One made." I had blue pencilled this terribly naughty piece, but some more liberal or happy minded writer put it back in again. I had a call from the Dean of Women. The column must be dropped. This girl would be suspended unless I could prove the blue penciling and so on.
I'd guess that the writing for the Daily Bruin was about the most important piece of educating that I received at UCLA -- and that might even include the girls I met (including a wife). (Questionnaire.)
The Bruin shared the isolationist sentiment of its time. It warned of the dangers of such "militarists" as Billy Mitchell, who could see a future distant and alien from that envisioned by student editors on the sun-drenched UCLA campus:
GOODBYE MILITARY TRAINING
The system for compulsory military training, which has for many years excited students all over the country, begins to look bad. President Glenn Frank of the University of Wisconsin is coming to the rescue of rebellious student cadets by circulating a nation-wide petition among college students asking the abolition of compulsory military training.
The petition will undoubtedly meet with one hundred percent agreement in the American universities . . . what is the use of the R.O.T.C.? The present two-year course can hardly teach freshmen and sophomores anything other than how uncomfortable an army uniform is . . . there is no logical reason why fifteen hundred lower division students should march through the dust . . . in order to train one hundred future officers in the reserve army. (CDB, 3/3/31.)
Fear or Friendship
"Our most dangerous enemy is Japan and our planes should be designed to attack Japan."
That statement, made . . . by Brig.-Gen. William Mitchell, former assistant chief of the army air corps, may serve to illustrate the way in which high-powered armaments and their proponents can cause otherwise friendly nations to tread upon one another's toes . . .
The Japanese nation has won high respect for the quality of its civilization. At present its people are faced by the double evil of militaristic propaganda from within and even more militaristic threats from without . . . If the people of Japan can remain calm under these circumstances, they will deserve the admiration of the world. If they cannot, they will deserve its sympathy. (CDB, 10/10/34.)
Outgoing Editor Sanford J. Mock urged his successor in 1940: "I sincerely hope that you will do all you can to help American students maintain a sane attitude toward the war in Europe. You can't say too many times that we don't have to go to war, that we have our own job to do here and now. If we ever hope to have real democracy, continued peace is essential." (CDB, 1/10/40.)
"The draft was instituted in 1940, and we were against it," recalled Editor Bruce Cassiday. "As you can see, it didn't do much good to fight it." (Questionnaire.)
In 1938 the Bruin sponsored a poll to determine how many students would fight for the United States overseas in an aggressive war. Two hundred ten of the 291 men depositing ballots in the Bruin office said they would not go. (CDB, 1/12/38.) This was the high point for the peace movement at UCLA; in fact, the Peace Committee was made a part of the student body organization (SEC, 10/19/38), thereby taking it out of the radical-agitator class and bringing it into the student establishment.
Go to the Conclusion of This Chapter
5B. The Decade of the Thirties (1929-1940)