Astronomy Professor Walter Whitney, who also held the title of director of Brackett Observatory, headed the “Griffith-Brackett expedition," a 10-day, 2,200-miles journey aboard the destroyer Eliott to the Gulf of California to take pictures of the April 7, 1939, eclipse.
Pomona inaugurated a ground school and parallel flight courses for student pilots, with 30 students enrolled. Flight instruction was given at Brackett Field.
All males in Claremont between the ages of 21 and 35 were required to register for Selective Service on October 16 at one of the city’s polling places. On Nov. 2, The Student Life reported: “On Tuesday the Secretary of War drew the number 158 from among 9,000 minus six capsules in a fish bowl, a mother screamed and the draft was on. So far, no son of Pomona has been linked with the dramatic 158, but, with the exception of those whose registrations were sent home, almost everyone has learned his order number and some expect early participation in national defense.”
With a full infirmary and 50 new cases of influenza in a week, The Student Life reported that students were told to “Pack up and go home! After fighting a losing battle against influenza for two weeks, Pomona College yesterday threw in the towel…the college will close its gates this noon until Jan. 2 as the faculty in a meeting yesterday decided that the flu had made such serious inroads into the students and personnel that further scheduling of classes was impractical.”
A cozy dimly-lit dance floor was installed in the Coop by tearing down the partition between the storeroom and the hallway. Nicknamed the Cuddle Corner, The Student Life said the space was just big enough for “one recording machine, two jitterbugs and 20 immobile couples.”
Glee Club Champions
The men’s glee club won its 13th championship in 16 seasons of Pacific Southwest Intercollegiate glee club competition. The women’s glee club was initially awarded second place, a decision that was later reversed because of a tabulation error, with the Pomona women finishing in first, followed by Occidental and UCLA.
Nationwide surveys of college students were a frequent feature in The Student Life. In 1940, the polls showed that the most popular radio show was “The Jack Benny Program,” the favorite cigarette was Lucky Strike, that students preferred “sweet music” to swing by a 2-to-1 margin, and that the most important policy goal was keeping the U.S. out of war. One poll also showed that 83 percent of students favored the government providing medical care for people who could not afford it.
Dial phones were installed in all rooms of Clark and Smiley Halls. The phones were to be used only for long distance, intra-dormitory and south campus calls. Outside lines were also added to the switchboards in the women’s residence halls.
The College Budget
President Charles Edmunds spoke at a special assembly about the annual budget income, operating expenses and progress of the College over the past 12 years. Endowment income had decreased from 32 percent of total receipts 10 years before to 22.9 percent in 1938-39. The college deficit stood at $132,000. Edmunds noted that for that 10-year period Pomona had devoted a larger percentage of expenses to instruction than the group of western colleges as a whole (57 to 55.7 percent).
The War Comes to Campus
Making his fourth visit to The Claremont Colleges, American filmmaker Julien Bryan presented his documentary of about the invasion of Poland and the siege of Warsaw. Bryan, who chronicled life in Poland and Nazi Germany, risked his life to film the brutal German onslaught in Warsaw.
Village Theater Opens
The Claremont Village Theater opened with a screening of To the Victor. Built for about $30,000, the 540-seat theater featured a program of domestic and feature films voted on each month by theater patrons. The Village Theater held a college night once a week and presented “Classics in Wax,” a classical music program each evening before the first movie.
German blitzkrieg overwhelmed France’s defenses. France signed an armistice with its conqueror in the same railroad car used by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to accept the surrender of Germany in 1918.
Winston Churchill, in his first address as Prime Minister, told the House of Commons, “I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
President Franklin Roosevelt defeated his Republican challenger, Wendell Willkie, and becomes the country’s only three-term leader.