Sue McElvogue & Mary Gilbert, Alumnae & Granny Girls

Sue McElvogue (right) and Mary Gilbert (left)

Sue: Granny, Dorothea Heitz, that the volunteer award is now named after her, that is given to every deserving student every year. She started back in the 60s as a 53- year-old woman to earn her degree. She noticed that there was a lack of school spirit, so she formed the Granny Girls as a result of all the girls who were trying out for cheerleading and didn’t make it, and where did they go with all that school spirit?  So with all that energy she had, she created this wonderful, friendly, great service organization called the Granny Girls. Both of us were part of it for a number of years, and it was during the time when school apathy was at its height —  the Vietnam war, a lot of protesting — and yet we still wanted to participate in school activities.

Mary: Right, it was a very difficult time to be in school. It was hard. Because a lot of us had come from far away. We didn’t have any family here. Some of us, like myself, I had come from a small junior college and came down here and here was this huge school. From my junior college it was 1500, and here I came to this campus and basically it was a commuter school– 33,000,  And I was lost, and it was like, oh my gosh, I have no family, I hardly knew anybody here. And then here was Granny and here were the Granny Girls, and it helped me have a sense of belonging, and then I had this whole family of Granny Girls and Granny that helped me belong. Granny really fostered women going to school and women being in service, and the whole school spirit and everything. That really helped us foster the Matador pride and the Matador spirit of Northridge.  It made a world of difference — not just here at school, but in our whole lives. Granny, she was just incredible. She was just a really dynamic, vivacious, incredible woman.

There were a lot of different things that we did. We did service. We would hand out cookies. Granny had us do routines. We had dresses: the dresses were mini-dresses, but then we wore long skirts and we had the black fishnet nylons, and at the end of our routines then we would take off the long skirts and here were the mini-dresses, and of course that was a just a great hit.

Sue: We were at the Temporary Union Building, which was called the TUB, and to come back years later to see this wonderful Student Union that’s now here on campus when it was just a small bungalow. We supported all the sports events.  The Granny Girls were at the last football game that was held here at CSUN, and that was sad. You know, we have to move with the times, but that was the closing of a chapter in our lives.

Mary: The TUB was a great place to go because they would put on screenings of the Marx Brothers films, and you’d see those advertised all over campus and in the Sundial. So you had something you could do, you had something you could go to. It was kind of odd when you would come here as a new student.  I was living in Rincon Hall, that was the year that it had opened, and we played our football games at the horse racing track next door, which was Devonshire Downs, and I thought, ok this is different, this is going to be an interesting place with everything that was going on.

Dorothy Stilling, Alumna, First Graduating Class

[San Fernando Valley State College] had  just opened when I came.  I came from Valley Junior College [Los Angeles Valley College], over on Fulton Avenue.  And I did two years there, and then realized that this was a good spot to come into, at the end of my two years, to complete my degree.  That would have been in 1957.

Dr. Schwartz was the chairman of that department [Education], and he was also the main teacher in getting us into training.  Everything I took was geared toward teaching.  For example, the Music Department with Dr. Ryan was learning to teach music in the schools.  And the same was true with the Physical Training [Phys Ed], which was Mrs. Fisher, as I recall — there again, we were given ideas about incorporating it into our teaching.

I was older, because I put my husband through college first, and then he decided that he would put me through college. . . I think I had an advantage as far as my age was concerned, because I thoroughly loved it, and I got a lot out of all my classes because I enjoyed coming and studying, so in that respect it [San Fernando Valley State College] had a lot to offer and I appreciated it as far as the professors and just being a new college was great for me too.

I think it’s been a fantastic thing for the valley to have this university and it seems to be better each year as far as things that are offered and then the community involvement as far as Northridge is concerned, I think it’s great.  It’s a wonderful thing for our community.

It was just an overall wonderful accomplishment for me to be able to finish and get through in four years — which doesn’t happen too often.  — and then also getting the teaching credential to me was like an insurance policy, so wherever we might go I could use it, and it wasn’t until two years ago that I stopped with my substitute work.  I enjoyed that thoroughly throughout the valley.

Hinda Lee Sheffer, Alumna

Hinda Lee Sheffer

I wanted to go to a state college. Let me say that– one of the questions you asked was,  “what was the most significant day for you?” It was my graduation day. My high school guidance counselor said I was not college material, I had to take a business class and I would never graduate from college. So for me, I was looking for something that was small and easily managed. After I went to junior college I came here, I did not want something mammoth like a UCLA. What I’ve seen today of this campus is nothing what it was like when I first came here. It was a small city — not even a small city —  it was just very small and very comfortable and very familiar. And now I see so many buildings and so many things, it’s so huge, compared. You have a three or four story parking lot. We had outdoor parking lots that, you know, that might be filled. So that was one of the things I wanted. I wanted a smaller school, which is what this afforded me at that time.

Even though I only lived over the hill, I wanted to stay in the dorm and it was very exciting for me. My sister had lived in a dorm in college and I wanted the same experience. It was all so new. I was with the big kids, so to speak. To be quite honest, most of my memories are centered around the dorm life, although I have some wonderful memories of the school life also.

[Living in the dorms was] very much like a sorority of sisters. We had interesting things. Like if someone got engaged, there’d be a message on the bulletin board, there’s going to be a candle-lighting tonight. They’d pass around a candle with an engagement ring on it and when it got to the girl who was getting engaged she’d blow it out. Oh, and we’d cheer and have a bridal shower and all that stuff. Which today sounds like totally ridiculous I’m sure, but in those days that was something you did if she got pinned or she got engaged. And there was a big social hall where we did that.

They had what’s called a panty raid. And if you’re not old enough you don’t know what a panty raid is. It’s when the guys break into the dorm and steal all the girls panties and then the next day. . . I have a photo of it with me, and the panties were all strung from the Sierra Hall tower. I for whatever reason locked my door, and then ended up because I was judicial vice president, I ended up helping the police type up a report and everything. The best part of it is, they gave us a party afterwards. You know, like a “we’re sorry” party.

Joel and Bernard Klass, alumni.

Joel and Bernard Klass
Bernard and Joel Klass

(Joel Klass):

[CSUN had] the major that I wanted to pursue, which was Religious Studies. I did a minor in Jewish Studies, which I declared my junior year, and then, from my junior to senior year — mostly my senior year was Jewish Studies courses that were focused. But it was convenient, near my house. We lived in — we still live in — West Hills, and my brother went here, my father had gone here, so it’s in the family, and it was the school of choice for the major, and I had friends here and family here.

I was a full-time student, and I was working. So I worked part time, and I was also a musician, so I was in a band at the time. So I was busy — I had a lot going on.

With work and school there was a connection because I had work/study courses that I had to take, and I got credit for those through my job. So there was a relationship there which I was really glad that I took that course, because I really got a lot out of it. It was the “Working in the Jewish Community” course I was getting college credits for. I was working at the Jewish Federation as an office manager, and we would do different things there. We have historic bus tours of Jewish Los Angeles, there’s events, special activities. We have publications, membership. I did a lot of the website development, and all of that that I did it would culminate in a paper at the end of the semester, I would turn that into my professor as part of the final.

Because of the assignments we had to do in that course, it really strengthened my bond to working in the Jewish Community. Because I had to fulfill a certain number of hours and write a paper, and the only way I could do the paper correctly is if I had done certain research in the Jewish community, and in the organization. On budget — on finances, for example — I had to research all the money that was coming in and going out, and all those things really opened up a new world for me that I didn’t really deal with before. . . . Evaluating and analyzing how [finances and political issues] affect the Jewish community in Los Angeles did have an impact on me, and changed the way I saw my job. And I think the course did open up another dimension for me.

At CSUN there are at least 500-1000 Jewish students on campus– perhaps more, by now. I was involved in Hillel — they’re on every campus, and there is a social scene. They meet, for example, at the Coffee Shop — I used to go to meetings there, and we’d talk about Judaism, talk about Hebrew. . . At Freudian Sip, we would talk. . . And we would have field trips. You know, for — we’d go to the beach, or we’d go to a pool hall– it was social things, social activities. So there is a [Hillel] community, but it’s relatively small.

[My experience here] really made me more appreciative, more aware, and more knowledgeable about Hebrew language, about Jewish texts, about Jewish history, history of all religions. It broadened my entire knowledge base, and that made me a different person. It definitely allowed me to mature, and to grow into someone who. . . As a result of the education I got here, I’m just more knowledgeable and more aware and appreciative of history and of Judaism. The skills I learned here have helped me greatly in my job, both at the Federation, and with teaching. . . . So it’s really impacted me as a Jewish person, I would say, the most, and that’s very valuable. I feel like I learned a lot.


(Bernard Klass):
My situation was quite a bit different than my son’s. To give you a little different perspective on my very fine experiences here at CSUN: years ago they offered some classes in educational theory and so forth. I was already teaching [at Pierce College] at that time and . . . I met Ralph Prator at the gym. . . . Pierce, you know, their gym wasn’t air-conditioned, and they didn’t have a lot of nice facilities. I started coming up here. I saw this rather handsome elderly gentleman, and we got to talking, and I told him that I was teaching over at Pierce College. . .. So we struck up a conversation, and he said, “Well, I teach, in addition to being the president, I teach some courses in education.” And I said, “Well, you know it wouldn’t hurt to review some of the things I’m doing, maybe I can improve my effectiveness. Even though I’ve taught for many years there are always new things to learn.” I’ve kept young by trying to keep up with new things, and not just be stuck in the mud,so to speak. So I struck up quite a friendship with Dr. Prator, and I took a couple of his classes, and I found some very interesting new theories that he presented, and it helped me in teaching students.