Weekly oral history lectures uncover La Verne’s rich past

Joshua Bay
News Editor

Professor of Humanities Al Clark led a discussion on the history of the University of La Verne during the Great Depression era Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.

The lecture, “Depression, War and Resurgence,” was presented to an audience of roughly 20 students and six alumni.

It was the latest installment in Clark’s weekly oral history lecture series.

Clark examined the difficulties the University, then called La Verne College, encountered, and how selling oranges and lemons contributed to the prosperity of the community.

“I went into the lecture not really looking forward to it because when you hear about the Great Depression you’re expected to be kind of bored and sad,” sophomore Spanish and sociology major Karissa Zingula said. “But when it was in relation to the history of La Verne and how we overcame it, it was actually kind of interesting to hear about.”

At the time, orange and lemon trees were of high value and covered a majority of what is now the University’s main campus.

Selling the oranges and lemons not only benefited the community financially, but also all of Los Angeles County.

It was because of this that La Verne received orange and green as its school colors.

“My favorite part was learning where our colors come from,” Zingula said. “Just like figuring out why we’re green and orange because of like the orange trees and the fields and everything.”

Clark later brushed on his own personal experience growing up in the La Verne community.

“I grew up in this area and remember playing in the valley as a kid,” Clark said. “This was a rich and growing area, and L.A. County at the time was the number one agricultural county because of the oranges.”

The lecture then transitioned to how the Great Depression affected individual students.

Retired school teacher Mary Hunter Bowman graduated from La Verne College in 1933.

She worked full-time in addition to being a student to pay off her tuition, but even then the money she earned was not sufficient.

“It was really cool to learn how the Great Depression influenced La Verne as a community and through individual students,” sophomore political science major Emilie Brekke said.

Bowman later became a teacher trained in literature, physical education, art and psychology.

“It was actually really informative and cool to learn how the Great Depression influenced La Verne as a community and the school instead of just reading in the books how it affected America altogether,” Brekke said. “I did also gain a new appreciation for La Verne.”

Joshua Bay can be reached at joshua.bay@laverne.edu.

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