Vincent M. Franco
In honor of the Los Angeles County Fair’s theme this year, “Back to our Roots,” the University of La Verne’s Cultural and Natural History Collections dug around their assortment of items and brought out objects from the 1800’s and into the fair’s Little Red School House.
They took this chance to also celebrate the University of La Verne’s roots and decided to furnish the fair’s Little Red School House located in the farm area, full of old school supplies and other items. With the goal to recreate what a classroom would look like in the year 1885, they displayed such things as old work boots, gardening supplies, glasses and even books.
Following COVID-necessitated adjustments last year, the Fair is back in full force this month. It runs through May 30.
“It’s nostalgic, I think just looking back at like, what teachers had to do back then and the rules they had to follow, versus now we don’t necessarily have to follow that many rules,” said Fair visitor and high school teacher Dawn Costa.
Also on display was a twig that was shown as an example of what was used to discipline children for not following one of the many outdated rules. Some of those outdated rules prohibited kids from playing cards, and prohibited boys and girls from playing together.
“We came up with an exhibit that talks about education, but at the turn of the 20th Century,” said Felicia Beardsley, University of La Verne professor of anthropology and director of the Cultural and Natural History Collections.
Visitors were taken back to a time where classes were packed with kids of all ages, warm urine was used to help fight kids’ ear aches, and boys were taught trade skills while the girls learned domestic skills.
Guests were able to play with the chalk and chalkboards available on the old style desks, while a representative of the Cultural and Natural History Collections gave them a quick lesson about the exhibit.
“It was kind of like going in a time machine, going back to what they were doing back in 1885,” said Brendan Sio, a Los Angeles County Fair goer. “It’s very different from the school system that we have now.”
The Cultural and Natural History Collections, which have over 100,000 items, has been working with the fair since 2017. Each year they are asked to work with a different theme. And with a huge collection of antique items, they are able to come through and bring that theme to life.
Beardsley said their collection ranges from the saber-toothed cat on the second floor of the Abraham Campus Center to La Brea Tar Pit specimens donated by J.Z. Gilbert, the zoologist who opened the tar pits up for scientific research in 1909.
“I enjoyed it,” senior criminology major at ULV Carla Gonzalez said. “There were a lot of different people of different ages, who came and stopped by, especially the adults who gave their own stories. That was very interesting,”
Gonzalez, who works for the Cultural and Natural History Collections on campus, as a student assistant, also worked as a guide at the schoolhouse exhibit. She told those who walked through the history of some of the items featured in the exhibit.
This was not the only presence the University had at the fair. The Wilson Library displayed various pictures presenting the many citrus agriculture communities that thrived in Southern California. On display were also crates made to replicate the ones used to place the oranges after picking.
“We have innumerable community engagement events and outreach,” Beardsley said. “The Fair is like one of the biggest … outreach partnerships that we have. We see this as an incredible collaboration.”
Vincent M. Franco can be reached at email@example.com.