Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
COC Opens With 800 Students
Newhall, California


Webmaster's notes.

College of the Canyons opened Monday, September 29, 1969, on the Hart High School campus in Newhall. One year later, on October 5, 1970, the first classes were held in portable buildings on COC's own Valencia campus.

Signal Photo Archive images (2x2-inch negatives), photographer unknown — but the photographer is probably the writer, Tom Newton, who went on to become an attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Association and eventually its executive director. He is also the son of longtime Santa Clarita City Attorney Carl Newton (1931-2015) — which made for some interesting reading whenever The Signal and the city were at odds in the 1990s-early 2000s.

Regarding the name "Valencia Valley" (below) — There was no universally accepted name for the Santa Clarita Valley in 1969 (which might seem odd until you consider that today, people don't agree on where the SCV starts and ends). Editor Scott Newhall pushed for the name "Valencia Valley" in the pages of his newspaper from the late 1960s, when the first Valencia homes opened, to the early 1980s. No other media outlet used the name. It didn't stick, but not for lack of trying.

The First College Ever Opens in Valencia Valley.

Some 800 Students Enroll.

Click to enlarge.

Today marks the end of the first week of classes at the College of the Canyons.

That's right — College of the Canyons.

Valencia Valley's first and only college is alive and operating with some 800 students, five days a week, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., in Newhall.

The Junior College, for many years a dream, then a possibility, and now a reality, opened its doors and classes began Monday. It is not the first time, though, that those same doors have been open, and many of the students have been through those same doors before.

The new college is located at the Hart High School Newhall Avenue campus — and it will be for a couple of years until a new school is built. Many of the students are Hart High graduates.

Morale is high at the new school, among the students, the faculty and the administration; excitement or anxiety fills the air as everybody is settling down for the very first quarter of college-level instruction in Valencia Valley history.

The college administration is extremely pleased with the turnout. They were expecting between 550 and 700 students, said Dr. Robert C. Rockwell, Superintendent-President of the Junior College District, the man in charge of putting the whole thing together. He gleefully reported that the unexpected large turnout was a "pleasant surprise."

One student, Jerry Pigg, from Castaic and a Hart High graduate, said he thinks the large turnout is partly due to the fact that many Hart High graduates had planned to go to other schools but decided at the last minute, for one reason or another, to come to the junior college.

Classes begin at 4 p.m. and, for about a half hour before classes start, students congregate on the lawn and patio areas around the buildings and talk about classes and the other things students traditionally discuss.

Pigg and two friends, Cheryl Thompson and Ken Seacrest, both of Newhall and Hart High graduates, were sitting on the lawn Wednesday discussing the school and their classes.

"It's more organized than I thought it would be, and tougher too," Cheryl Thompson said. She said she decided to come to the new college because "I work here, I live here and it's close — and I like it."

"A lot of people I talk to bitch a lot about being on the high school campus," Seacrest said, though he added, "It's fine, so far."

The three were talking about all of the "old" people, housewives and working people who traditionally attend night classes at junior colleges.

"It's different going to school with farmers and housewives," Jerry Pigg said.

"A lot of older people get into sociology because they think they'll understand the generation gap better," Seacrest said.

He said he enjoys the teachers much more than in high school. "They relate better, or something."

The three were asked to comment on whether they thought College of the Canyons will be affected by the student problems which seem to be hitting more and more colleges each year.

"I have a feeling Newhall is too conservative for that," Seacrest said.

Pigg agreed and said he doubted if a "Students tor a Democratic Society" chapter (SDS) would get enough support on campus to form a chapter.

The students and administration will be busy the first several weeks forming a student constitution, getting a basketball team started, finding a mascot and selecting cheerleaders.

Rita Hendrixson, a pretty and energetic 19-year-old, is trying out for cheerleader. She likes the new college and is anxious for the Cougars to select a mascot, to find five tall fellows for the basketball team, and finally, to win a few games.


Charles Rheinschmidt, as well as being assistant superintendent, is trying to put together the basketball team. He reports that the school has 15 students signed up, and he hopes to be ready to win the Cougars' first athletic endeavor ever, late next month.

Joe Carmine is another Hart High graduate who works in Newhall during the day and goes to the junior college at night. He is taking 16½ units and has classes four days a week.

"It's kind of good — I like it," Carmine said while lounging on the grass in front of the college, waiting for his classes to begin.

Carmine, like many of the other students, plans to transfer to another college after completing two years' work at College of the Canyons. He will transfer because he wants to major in oceanography, and several of the other students queried wanted to major in fields that require much more specialization than a two-year college can offer.

Gary Ward, 19, of Valencia, went to Valley State College last year where, he said, "Nobody really cared very much." "I think they're trying to make it better here," he added, hopefully.

Download original images here. Signal Photo Archive, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society collection.

• Early COC Athletics
• The Canyon Call


District Named "Santa Clarita," College "Canyons" (1967/1969)


Future Valencia Campus


Hart Grads Pick COC 6/1969


COC Opens 9/1969


COC at Hart 1969


Trustees 1969-70


Campus Dedication 10-26-1970


Instant Campus 1970


Modular Buildings Early 1970s


Graduation 1971


Fashions 3/1972


Claffey Elected 1972

Claffey Obituary 2015


Marketing Brochure, IRC Rendering ~1972


1973 Construction Bond


1973 Yearbook


Bill Leach, Award Winner 3/1973


IRC Construction 5/1973 (Mult.)


IRC, Cougar Statium Const. 7/1973 (Mult.)


IRC Construction 1973-74 x3


Reagan at IRC Dedication 1974 x2


1975 Yearbook


1976 Yearbook


1977 Yearbook


Ex-Trustee Don Benton Nominated to Run Selective Service System, 2017

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