102-Year-Old Alum Reminisces About Humboldt

Nov, 2023
A photo of 102-year-old alum Sarah Franklin sitting on a chair wearing a Humboldt "H dot" baseball cap.

It has been over 80 years since Sarah (Southworth) Franklin (‘43, Education) was a senior at Cal Poly Humboldt, then-Humboldt State College. Now, as a 102-year-old alum, she is fondly reminiscing about her time as a Lumberjack.

“It was nice. I had a good time,” Franklin said.

She first arrived at Cal Poly Humboldt after transferring from California State University, Chico. Franklin attended Humboldt during World War II, from 1941 to 1943. According to Sarah’s family, during the war, she and other student body members took turns watching for Japanese warplanes from the roof of Founders Hall.

Despite changes in the school's environment and watching for planes, Franklin’s education remained largely uninterrupted. She graduated early because teachers were in high demand during WWII. Her graduating class was smaller than usual, with only 46 people—much different than the more than 1,500 graduates in recent years.

After finding a group of girls to live with off campus her sophomore year, Franklin had to ask President Arthur Gist for permission to live outside of University housing. He granted her request, and she moved to downtown Arcata, where her roommate's rancher family provided access to meat, which was rationed during the war. She also had access to a laundromat and paid $30 in monthly rent.

While at Humboldt, Franklin honed her teaching skills as a student teacher at the College Elementary School (known today as Gist Hall), joined the Home Economics Club, and organized dances for students and the community.

As a member of the Home Economics Club, Franklin assisted with college functions. One is the annual Tulip Tea, a musical program featuring student performances, a dance, tea, and a scholarship award from the Federated Women’s Clubs of Humboldt County. Franklin also helped knit children’s garments for the American Red Cross as a Home Economics club member.

One of her favorite classes was Home Economics, where she learned about human development, personal and family finances, housing and interior design, nutrition, food preparation, and textiles and apparel.

Franklin put together school gatherings as a member of the Favonian Society, which aimed to promote friendliness among the campus community. The society was a co-ed social organization and supported various college activities such as the Fall Sports Dance and the Favonian Queen Contest. At the Queen’s Ball, the society crowned the "Campus Queen."

Going to dances was one of Franklin’s favorite activities outside of class. She and her three roommates would look for a dance every weekend, sometimes even on a Sunday night, despite having an early morning class the next day. However, Franklin says they never missed a class.

After graduating from Humboldt, Franklin became a third-grade school teacher in the Bay Area. Soon after, she returned to the North Coast to teach, later becoming a homemaker for her family. Once her children left home, she finished her teaching career at Big Lagoon School in Trinidad.

Franklin appreciates her time as a student; it gave her great friendships and memories, allowed her to get involved with the community, and helped her learn to become a teacher and caretaker. Her advice to students is to pursue what she experienced.

“Definitely get a college education if you can,” Franklin said. “It’s worth it.”