Living Memories: 1950s


Don DeMello received his teaching credential in 1952 while he was boxing coach at S.F. State; taught at Sequoia High School for 44 years before retiring in early 1999

"The location is what I will remember. Just the very location of the university made it possible for me to get my teaching credential. I was driving a Greyline tour bus and going to school at night. A lot of us worked during the day and were able to go to school around our work schedule. San Francisco State was known as a working man's or woman's school. That was the great strength of the school. One of the professors I remember was Dr. (S. Joseph) DeBrum, who was a business teacher. I had a kind of wild side and he helped influence me to do things that were right. I'll always remember him for that."


Dave McElhatton, B.A., liberal studies, 1951, anchor at KPIX-TV Channel 5 in San Francisco

"I'll always remember Dr. Fenton McKenna, whose greatest creation was the Creative Arts Department at San Francisco State. The former teachers college was expanding and Fenton amassed an amazing teaching staff. The facilities weren't much, just barracks left over from World War II, but the ideas and inspiration inside those dreary buildings was exciting. I was only interested in taking all the broadcast courses. I wanted to get into broadcasting as fast as my little talents would take me. It was Dr. McKenna who convinced me that first, I had to get a solid education that would carry me through life. I could study broadcasting along the way, but I was going to get a well-rounded education. It was the best advice anyone ever gave me. And I'll always remember Raymond Doyle. He was one the teachers Fenton recruited. Prof. Doyle created a broadcast department out of elbow grease and imagination and taught me how to become a broadcaster."


  Myrtle Escort White, pre-med/pre-nursing major who attended from 1951-53.; worked in community-based nursing for 25 years and is now retired

"Of all my memories of S.F. State the most enduring is that of yellow school buses. The kind to this day used to transport elementary school children. In 1951, I began my journey into academia at this urban campus of higher learning on Buchanan St., known as the Old Campus. Part of this journey necessitated getting to the New Campus, then in the building stages, on 19th and Holloway. Thus the need to ride yellow school buses.
So after having survived 12 years of schooling riding school buses, including riding on the back of the bus, I found myself boarding a rickety yellow bus to attend classes! Somehow this seemed incongruous. College was supposed to be a step up. My daughter, an alumnus and now an associate professor of geology at S.F. State, has a similar phobia, only about MUNI. Is this a hereditary trait?
I often think of the illustrious people with whom I attended S.F. State and wonder if they ever wonder what would have happened if they had missed 'The Yellow School Bus?' Just to be on the safe side, whenever I see one, I salute."


  John Burton, President Pro Tempore, California State Senate, B.A., social science, 1954

"One of my special memories of State College was standing next to a little black guy from Texas in my Air Force ROTC class. He told me his name was Willie Brown and he had come up from Mineola, Texas, and we shook hands and have been friends and allies since that day in 1951. The professor who had a great impact on me was Al Fisk of the philosophy department, who shared thoughts like, 'Sooner or later we all kick off, so what difference does it make?' Prof. George Outland was the government instructor who got me interested in politics. And of course, my basketball coach Dan Farmer, who when you kept telling him, `I tried coach,' would let us know that Skid Row was full of people who tried but getting it done was important. Lastly, I remember hours playing `Pedro' with my partner Stan Kroner. We would take on all comers and earn a very tidy living."


Willie L. Brown, Jr., Mayor of San Francisco, B.A. liberal studies, 1955

"At the State Capitol in Sacramento and City Hall in San Francisco, I've been surrounded by people with Ivy League pedigrees and big name diplomas. But I've always felt more than capable of holding my own, thanks for the excellent preparation I received at San Francisco State. The university is truly a shining jewel in the State's crown. It was, is and will continue to be a wonderful training ground for generations of leaders to come. And on a more personal note, I would like to mention that I'll always remember Prof. Duncan Gillies in psychology. He sort of took me under his wing and taught me important little skills such as memorization."


Joan Marie Shelley, teaching credential, 1955; taught French at Lincoln and Lowell high schools and later became head of the teachers union the United Educators of San Francisco

"What I remember best is that my education classes helped me so much in actually helping me learn how to teach a class. Our courses were more practical than theoretical. Dr. Somerville Thomson was wonderful. He had a sort of hands on approach to help students learn how to be teachers. He was would have teaching demonstrations in class. He was articulate in giving us good tips for teaching -- things like how to grade a test. I was a French major and one class exercise called for us to teach a lesson on the subjective mood in the language we were going to teach. He called that one of greatest challenges for a foreign language teacher and it was a lesson I never forgot .... I had graduated from Stanford with my undergraduate degree and, of course, when I came to State and I thought I already have taken superior education courses but I soon found out my classes at State compared very favorable to Stanford .... And here is one thing I'll never forget: I had finished my degree requirements but the Health Center would not allow me to get my credential degree until I lost weight. I eventually did and they gave me my credential that summer."


Bessie Louise Davis Waldon, B.A., social science, 1956; retired supervisor in Child Protective Services Unit of the Contra Costa Department of Social Services

"I reminisce with a deep feeling of appreciation and pleasure for my many memorable experiences as a student at San Francisco State College. During my student years, our college was known as San Francisco State, not having acquired its subsequent title of "University."
I began my freshman year in the fall of 1949 on what we later called the "old campus," located on Buchanan Street. Our campus, by today's standards, was small and compact. There were two or three buildings and many bungalows with narrow passageways. The gymnasium housed our student body entertainment and meetings. Overall, "the old campus" was a great campus -- it provided students with a well-rounded and quality education. The small student population afforded us the opportunity to develop close and long-lasting friendships as well as establishing good student/instructor relationships. Campus life was very relaxed and quite affordable. Prior to my graduation from San Francisco State, we were relocated to a beautiful, sprawling campus environment on Holloway Ave. where it remains today. Throughout my fond memories of San Francisco State, the most exciting and beautiful experience was meeting my husband of 43 years, Donald Waldon [B.A., psychology, 1957], and preparing for my profession as a social worker. And I will always be thankful for my undergraduate professor in social welfare Dr. Bernice Madison Shapiro, who inspired and contributed to my success in the field of social work."


Ronnie Schell, actor/comedian, B.A., liberal studies, 1958

"The most memorable moment I had as a student at S.F. State was the afternoon the late Jules Irving asked me to audition for a small role in State's production of George Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra." I was a sophomore and had already spent four years in the Air Force as a stand-up comedian traveling with the official Air Force dance band, "The Airmen of Note." This was my first try as an "actor" and Mr. Irving said the scene I was reading for was a funny one. As I nervously did my audition, I put every comic face, body contortion, and humorous accent I could into the scene. Mr. Irving took me aside and said, `Ronnie, this is a very funny scene ... but don't try to be funny. Just act as you would if you were scared to death of this lady and let the dialogue, situation and your predicament bring out the humor.'
I then did exactly what Mr. Irving suggested, got the role and received big laughs when we presented the play in the big theater on campus. It was truly the beginning of my first understanding of the acting profession and I will never forget that wonderful advice Jules Irving gave me that afternoon. I am forever grateful for my education in the Theater Arts Department at S.F. State."

Memories    1960s

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Archived Information. Last modified March 20, 2009, by University Communications