The Second Renwick Gymnasium
The second gymnasium on the Pomona campus to bear the Renwick name (see Renwick Gymnasium in 1899), the 1918–19 building known to most as the “Big Gym,” was originally constructed during World War I as barracks for the Student Army Training Corps (see below). From the outset, the College intended the building for eventual use as a gymnasium, and it served this purpose from 1919 until the construction in 1969 of the Pendleton Women’s Physical Education Center. When Memorial Gym was dedicated in 1950, both the Big and Little gyms were joined under the name Renwick and used primarily for women’s physical education; men’s facilities were in the Alumni Memorial Training Quarters, constructed east of Smiley in 1921, in memory of Pomona alumni killed in war. The second Renwick had structural failings, including an incomplete inner east wall that served as a nesting place for pigeons, a honey storage area for bees, and a haven for woodpeckers and their acorns (the last leading to the popular moniker “Woodpecker Haven”).
Student Army Training Corps (SATC)
The Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) was part of a comprehensive government program initiated in May 1918 that used college and university facilities to train newly enlisted young men for military service. Pomona contracted with the government to receive two companies, housing them in the Claremont Inn, Smiley Hall, and the original Renwick Gymnasium, and to give them military instruction. The units were demobilized immediately after the Armistice was signed in November, and members of the corps were offered the opportunity to remain at Pomona as regular students.
After months of waiting, the College received approval for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (R.O.T.C.) unit for which it had applied to the War Department.
The College Catalog lists new departments in Secretarial and Zoology.
The worldwide pandemic of Spanish flu hit the Pomona campus in October and continued into the following year, but fortunately, no students died of the disease. The epidemic was so serious that students were given only one day for Thanksgiving holiday and advised not to leave Claremont. As late as January 1919, social and public gatherings were prohibited in Claremont by the City Board of Health, and students who desired to leave town were required to get permission from College authorities. Photos from that period frequently show people wearing prophylactic masks for protection, including a remarkable shot of soldiers marching in front of Carnegie Library on Armistice Day, all garbed in uniforms and face masks.
The “Pomona College Co-operative Store,” aka the Coop, was established during 1918-1919 after the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) was disorganized with the end of the war. Apparently the idea for a store for students stocked with supplies and refreshments was inspired by the “Y.M. Canteen Service" during the influenza quarantine.
With the U.S. entering World War I on the side of Britain and France, the 1919 Metate (published by the junior class in 1918) had a somber military aesthetic to match the mood of the times, including illustrations of soldiers, battleships and fighter planes.
- Russia switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, and as a result, the date skipped from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14.
- Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in France.
- The Spanish Flu became a pandemic, killing more than 30 million people in six months’ time.
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