November 20, 1933 – Night school classes were offered for the first time at Mendocino High School. The courses were made possible through cooperation with the Russian Gulch Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp. President Franklin Roosevelt established the CCC in April 1933 as part of his New Deal legislation. The program put hundreds of thousands of young men across the country to work on environmental conservation projects. The enrollees at Russian Gulch CCC helped develop the Russian Gulch and Van Damme State Parks. The CCC program also provided the men with basic and vocational education.

Black and White photo of a camp with tents and buildings in a field

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp at Russian Gulch, November 22, 1933.

Army Chaplain Melvin Stuart MacKerricher, whose family later donated land for MacKerricher State Park, was in charge of the welfare of the young men at the Russian Gulch Camp in addition to other camps in the Eureka District. He started a circulating library at Russian Gulch, made arrangements for the boys to attend Sunday services at local churches, and initiated the night school program at Mendocino for those who wished to further their education. Lieutenant True, commander of the camp, assured Mr. Parsons, the Mendocino High School principal, that at least seventy-five of the boys would register for night classes.

Initial enrollment exceeded expectations when 101 men from the camp and 25 Mendocino residents signed up. Courses were offered in typing, shorthand, mechanical drawing, business arithmetic, bookkeeping, English (including journalism and public speaking), science, and shop. The most popular classes were wood shop and typing. Classes were held on Monday and Thursday evenings, 7pm-9pm.

Mendocino High School’s day students also benefited from the relationship. The need for better lighting at night led to completely wiring the school with a new lighting system, and the popularity of nighttime typing classes resulted in an increase in the number of typewriters available to all.

In December, the journalism students began publishing their own two-page paper, “The Night Owl,” which included interesting and humorous articles, along with an “Advice to the Lovelorn” column, written by Mendocino resident Rene Borgna. Near the end of the term, a night school party was held, featuring tap dancing; violin, piano, and guitar performances; and comedy entertainment; followed by a dance. The total enrollment for the five-month session was 176. The first night school term, which ended in April 1934, was declared a huge success, and plans were made to continue the program. Night classes at Mendocino High School started up again in September 1934.

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