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This Week in Sapulpa History – Sapulpa Junior College Closes
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, on August 4, 1942, it was announced that the Sapulpa Junior College would shut down. The Sapulpa School Board and State Board of Education agreed that due to lack of student involvement the Junior College would not continue.
This may have been due to the fact that the United States had just joined the Second Great War.
Nonetheless, it was agreed to close the school in hopes that it will continue and pick right back up after the war. It was also said that the enrollment had dwindled more and more over the years, and had a difficult time of late. The enrollment had less than forty participants, and that was the lowest the Board had agreed to keep open. However, the previous year, in 1941, the Junior College actually had less than forty pupils.
Ten years earlier, in April 1932, a demand was called out for the city to have a college. At least, in Sapulpa, a place to hold a few college courses. The classes would be taught in the Sapulpa High School. At first, it was to offer a one-year college work; it would widen the scope to include 93 semester hours of which the student may complete 64 in two years.
Upon approval, the State Board stated that the Junior College was to have at least twenty students to keep the doors open, and a maximum of thirty-five enrolled.
The enrollment for the 1935-1936 school year registered at 69 pupils. It increased to 94 during the next year.
In the 1936-1937 Sapulpa Junior College program had this to say about the up-and-coming institution:
“Sapulpa Junior College has completed its fourth year of operation, ranking among the best institutions of its kind in the state. Many of its former students have entered higher study in four-year colleges, transferring their credits at face-value; others have obtained good positions in the business fields.
“The college is adequately equipped with a library, laboratory, classroom, and extra-curricular facilities. Its instructors, some of whom have taught in four-year colleges, have Master’s Degrees. Regulated and inspected by a coordinating board of administrators of the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma A & M College [Agricultural and Mechanical]*, and the State Department of Education, Sapulpa Junior College confers the Associate in Arts Degree to those students who satisfactorily complete the requirements.”
*Note: Oklahoma A & M would later be named Oklahoma State University.
Tuition would have been $50 per semester, which included an enrollment fee of $12.50. Additionally fees for Chemistry, Physics, Typing, and Activity Ticket ran for $2.50, $1.50, $1.50, and $1*.
*Note: in 1936, $1 equals roughly $21; whereas, $50 then would be about $1,000 today.
Courses included Bookkeeping, Business Economic Problems, Chemistry, English, French, Government, History, Math, Physics, Spanish, Shorthand, and Typewriting. These courses range from 0 to 5 credits, with 0 being unable to transfer to another institution. A full-time student “held the equivalent of 18 recitation hours.” It also stated that “the college operates a book exchange service for its students. The cost of books for the year ranges from $4 to $10 per student.*”
*Note: in 1936, the books cost $4-10 would be around $82-205 today.
On August 2, 1940, a government official came to Sapulpa to see if there was enough interest in having an aerial pilot training course at the Junior College. Young men who had an interest in flying were urged to fill out an application at the Junior College. Applicants had to be between the ages 18 and 25, and be able to pass a physical. The Sapulpa Airport would be used for the flying course.
With the approval of the new course, thirty-five applicants had been received for the Civil Aeronautics Training Program. The classes held in the Junior College were held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. The dean, H.B. Kniseley had asked the Chamber of Commerce for $300 to lease the 120 acres west of town on the Drumright Road to be used as an airport for government special programs through their Junior College.
The following year, in the beginning of 1941, Sapulpa held more aircraft training and courses. The courses ran five days a week from morning to evening for eight weeks. More and more men enrolled for the newly named National Defense courses. These courses not only involved flying but metal work, mechanic equipment, and beginning courses for the new bomber plants being built in Tulsa and Wichita.
By the end of the school year, May 1941, the School Board had started to consider a new location for the Junior College. The Board looked into the possibility of buying the old Methodist Church on the northwest corner of Lee Ave and Walnut St. The church was at the time in foreclosure and could be bought for $15,000*. This was never done, however.
*Note: the $15,000 in 1941 would be around $300,000 today.
Unfortunately, even with the surgance for the war effort, the enrollment at the Junior College dropped significantly. In August and September of 1941, the School Board discussed if any action should be taken this year. There were only eight Sophomores enrolled and 42 Freshmen joined in. The previous year had 70, if not more, the Board said. In order to save money, they agreed to combine Junior College science with the high school science, saving one teacher.
However, it was still agreed to close or at least postpone the opening of the Junior College in 1942. As mentioned earlier, there were plans to reopen after the war. On August 1, 1946, the School Board announced the plans to reopen. If fifty students applied and were enrolled for the school year, they would reopen. Unfortunately, even with a low minimum requirement, students did not return to the Junior College.
Many graduates and even staff employees fulfilled what the 1936-1937 program stated, received higher education and held great positions in the business field. Former Dean Harry B. Kniseley was elected vice-president of the National Council of Industrial Editors. Roy Baxter, Jr. graduated from the Junior College and had directed the Roy Baxter’s Orchestra, and would join the military. Former students like Myrtle Mae Gubas worked at the patent office in Washington D.C. and would open Uncle Willie’s Donut & Snack Shop with her husband, Leon; and Ursula Masters who worked for OG&E and as a pharmacy tech at City Drug Store.
“Sapulpa Junior College opened in 1932 with the purpose of ‘concentrating on the individual needs of its students, thereby providing preparatory and remedial measures in equipping the student for higher study.’”
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.