Prior to World War II, junior college football featured fine talent
and drew fair crowds, but nothing was massive or overwhelming.
Big news was picking up a sports section and finding that Fullerton JC
had drawn top Newport Harbor High stars like fullback Rollo McClellan,
quarterback George Mickelwait and end Frank Sheflin in the late 1930s.
The shock was they did not choose Santa Ana JC. Orange Coast College
opened in 1948.
There was also a dash of big news when Fullerton lured a future
professional, Howie Livingston of Montebello High, to the north county
school. Former Harbor High Coach Dick Spaulding, a co-coach with Ed
Goddard, played a major role in the picture.
The so-called big news events would soon be somewhat limited and faded
after the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy.
In time, it would find most all the players and coaches of that period
disappearing to serve their country in the military.
The big news had dimmed.
No one was really quite prepared for what was coming after September
of 1945 when the war ended.
Reflecting back, former Harbor High gridder and one-time San Diego
County prep coach Bob Woodhouse said it suddenly found veterans
everywhere returning home from a long, agonizing war. He said many felt
inclined to make up for lost time and work toward a rewarding career,
especially since the GI Bill helped provide funds for a college
existence, one many would not have enjoyed before the war.
Woodhouse noted that enthusiasm for football and other sports found a
Former OCC Coach Ray Rosso was quick to recognize it amongst the JCs
as he took charge of Chaffey College in Ontario in 1946. He said he was
loaded with military veterans. With superb talent and skill, he led the
Panthers to two championships and took one club to the Junior Rose Bowl
and beat an Oklahoma team.
The Junior Rose Bowl was one of the new era Big News happenings and
sparked increased enthusiasm across the nation for JC football.
And that, in turn, sparked a heavy drive toward recruiting. It was not
the same anymore. The new recruiting picture found some coaches opening
the doors to invite players from distant places. It was especially
becoming a wild scene among California JCs.
JC football recruiting turned the corner in the late '40s when some
junior colleges were showing up with more out-of-town starters than
The late Eddie West of the Santa Ana Register used to delight in
referring to San Bernardino Valley College's rosters of the early '50s.
West would write, "They appear to have more Pennsylvanians than Fred
But the Santa Ana College Dons were not without a strange foreign
look. One roster featured guys from 14 different states, including New
It overlapped into basketball as well. Sportswriters used to guffaw or
grimace after perusing some Fullerton JC rosters because so many of the
players came from Detroit.
More bowl games would appear in good time and the coaches finally
focused on another draw in recruiting by creating intersectional games.
Since the fans favored the idea, it would bring bigger turnouts to the
games. Players loved the idea of flying to Northern California, Arizona
and Idaho, for example.
Orange Coast of earlier years often mixed with teams that would
require traveling a far distance.
But one tragic and traumatic day in the mid-1950s, one of the old
C-47s crashed. It was transporting the grid squad from Cal Poly San Luis
Obispo. Nineteen players died in the Midwest crash, the day following a
game against Bowling Green of Kentucky.
Junior college and small college school boards soon felt prompted to
evaluate the risks of intersectional games relative to air travel via
charter flights aboard old WWII airplanes. Many came to abandon air
travel for games.
Nonetheless, big news football continued on with the new era and found
Orange Coast, under Al Irwin and Steve Musseau, taking the Pirates to
impressive titles in 1956 and '57.
It grew even bigger with the turn of the '60s when Coach Dick Tucker
led OCC to a Junior Rose Bowl triumph.