Skip To Content

Highlights from the 1950s


“When I first came to the school, there were 800 men and no women on campus. All the classes were taught in the morning and the labs were in the afternoon. I remember being able to go play golf in the afternoons.”

— Dorothy Tucker (McNeill), the first woman faculty member, who taught psychology

Poly Vue Queen and her court1950
New rules are issued for the cafeteria: no smoking or profanity, and no wearing of gym shorts, swimsuits or hats.

Poly Vue Queen Mary Ellen Seaman and her court attend the unveiling of a plaque on Voorhis Rock that commemorates the dedication of the Voorhis School to the state of California. (The rock is moved to Voorhis Park, east of the CLA building, in 1996.)

1El Patio (Student Store)951
The Cal Poly Rodeo Club is formed.

Students working on the Voorhis campus earn 85 cents an hour. Those working on the Kellogg campus earn 12 percent more: 95 cents.





Spring 1951
Tickets are on sale for the annual Poly Vue barbecue: $1.50 for adults and 50 cents for children under 12.


W.K. KelloggOctober 6, 1951
W.K. Kellogg passes away at the age of 91 in Battle Creek, Mich.





While out hunting gophers on campus, Professor Edward Appel Jr. and some of his students are chased into a building by an angry bull.

Fall 1953
Enrollment is 416, and the largest major is animal husbandry with 107 students.

The Staff Bulletin begins publication. It remains in publication until 2001.

The San Bernardino Freeway, with three lanes in both directions, nears completion.

Students are surveyed about “What is the biggest problem on campus?” One in six says parking, and one in six says a lack of women.

Building ConstructionThe California Legislature approves funds to build a new campus at the site of Kellogg Ranch. Buildings will include a cafeteria, a gym, a fruit and crops building, and an ornamental horticulture building.

Ground is broken on the $1.2 million science building. It is completed within a year and contains 20 labs and 10 lecture rooms.

The Stables (now Union Plaza) serve as a backdrop for scenes from "The Rains of Ranchipur," starring Lana Turner and Richard Burton.

A Sports Illustrated photographer comes to campus to take pictures of a horsemanship class for an upcoming issue.

April 1955
The college is invited to enter three frogs in the Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp.

September 1956
California State Polytechnic College, Kellogg-Voorhis opens. The campus community consists of 550 students, 30 faculty, and 80 administrators, staff and maintenance men. The Voorhis campus, where students still live, becomes the Cal Poly Educational Center.

Guests at the student dining hall pay 85 cents for breakfast, $1 for lunch and $1.50 for dinner. (In today’s economy, that would be about $7 for breakfast, $8.35 for lunch and $12.50 for dinner.)

Summer 1956
The library is moved from a 33-by-45-foot room at the Voorhis site to three rooms in the lone new building on campus, Building 3, which also houses administration offices and classrooms. When completed, the two-story structure has more space than all the facilities combined at Voorhis.

Julian McPhee1957
President Julian McPhee announces that the state plans to invest $20 million to expand the Pomona campus. Enrollment stands at 700.




Cal Poly Rose Float Entry on January 1957January 1, 1957
The Cal Poly Rose Float entry, “Which Was First? The Chicken or the Egg?” wins the Theme Prize for the most fitting presentation of the parade theme, “Famous Firsts in Flowers.”



February 1957
Dorothy Tucker (McNeill) joins the faculty. By the time school begins in the fall, Gertrude Boland is hired to teach economics, and Virginia Adair is hired to teach English.

April 21, 1957
Attendance at the Sunday horse show is nearly 900, a record.

Voorhis ChapelJune 1957
Faculty are handpicked by seniors to serve as waiters at the senior class breakfast.

Commencement is held at the Voorhis Chapel for the 54 bachelor of science degree recipients. The wives of 26 graduates (most of whom are veterans) receive an honorary P.H.T. (Pushing Hubby Through) degree.


Fall 1957
Broncos quarterback Stan Jackson leads the nation in rushing and is second in passing. Jackson, an Army veteran, is 26, married and has two daughters. He later teaches and coaches at Cal Poly and is inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in 1986.

Fall 1958
The $3.5 million Engineering Center opens.

Freshmen shave their heads in response to a shortage of traditional beanies .

Arabian horses Calamyra and Calamyr are featured in the halftime show before 5,000 spectators at the game in Brawley against the University of Arizona-Flagstaff.

October 1958
The Bronco sailing team finishes second at the Caltech Invitational Regatta, held in Newport Harbor.

October 24, 1958
Poly Views, under the editorship of Hans Groot, publishes a special edition to mark United Nations Day. The front page features the U.N. flag in blue ink.

A construction boom produces buildings 5 (arts), 6 (business), 9 (engineering), 11 (engineering) 12 (engineering labs), 41 (physical education) and 46 (health services).

The library is moved to Building 5, and its collection grows to 16,584 volumes.

A survey of married couples living off campus shows that the average monthly rent is $82, including utilities.

Calamyra works as a stunt double on the TV show “Fury.” She walks a plank to cross a ravine – something the start horse was not trained to do.

A Catholic club and a Mormon club join the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as religious-based organizations on campus.

Students working on putting the block letters CP on Colt HillApril 1959
The service club Phi Sigma Chi puts the block letters CP on Colt Hill. Students began the project a year earlier, but work stopped when they learned they were outside the property line.

Poly Views contains this advertisement:
“Rent Typewriters $4.50 per month — Latest Automatic Models”

June 1959
Harry Wellman, vice president of the University of California and an agricultural economist, gives the commencement address. This is the last graduating class consisting entirely of agriculture majors.

September 1959
Freshmen have until the end of the month to turn in their Poly quizzes . The highest-scoring student will receive a Cal Poly jacket.

^ Back to the top