Friday Field Trip : Cal-State University, Fullerton

The fictional Claire Jordan, was by no means a stellar high school student. But luckily, she realized she needed a way out of Carson City that held at least some promise. That was her motivation for going away to college. With the help of her high school counselor and a map showing its proximity to the beach (and to that long-ago return address where her father might be) she settled on Cal-State, Fullerton.

Here’s a little background on the origin and evolution of CSUF.

In 1957, Orange County State College became the 12th state college in California. By 1959 the site in Fullerton had been designated and purchased. Classes began in September 1959 with 452 students. The name of the school was changed to Orange State College in July 1962. Then in 1964, its name changed again to California State College at Fullerton. In June 1972, CSF became California State University, Fullerton. In 2018-19 the enrollment was 34,637.

I graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a B.A. in American Studies in 1973. But long before I attended CSUF, I’d become adept at using the periodicals in the Cal-State Library for research papers. In fact in the early sixties, my junior high English teacher went beyond the call of duty when he met with a small group of us on a Saturday to show us how to use the library. Thank you, Mr. Peralta!

This was a time of unrest in America. Cal-State—in very conservative Orange County–was not immune. Here’s how it all started: Daily Titan & Fullerton Observer. One of the slides below is a newspaper pic of me at a campus sit-in protesting the Vietnam War that I found it in an old scrapbook. A generation later, I’ve worn my pussy hat at Women’s Marches in Reno. I think Claire and Libby would have been there with me.

Not surprisingly, Claire lived at the same apartment complex that my roommate and I did, which is walking distance to Cal-State. We shared the same one-bedroom, upstairs apartment with an odd stain on the carpet and a great view of carports and the 57 freeway.

The Montclaire Apartments where Claire lived while attending CSF.

A word about writing what you know

After reading Us, Now and Then, a close friend of longstanding, was puzzled by some of the events and themes present in the book. Sexual assault. An absentee father. An unplanned pregnancy. Breast cancer. A sibling struggling with alcoholism. Family drama over the care of elderly parents. A late in life romance. My friend didn’t think I’d followed the old “write what you know” rule that we’d taught our students. However, because I wrote about locations where I’d lived and worked and gone to school, I believed I was writing from experience. Moreover, every interaction in my seventy years of life, every event, every emotion, every conflict informed this story. And anything I didn’t know? I researched. Her comments demonstrated that no matter how well we know someone, we are never totally revealed to another person. Each of us holds worlds others may never know. As a writer–and as a human being–I find that incredibly inspiring. Don’t you?

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