“Oh my,” said 92-year-old Mary Roberts Dugan when asked for her life experiences and recollection of being a Yuba College student during the ’20s and ’30s. She paused and then got up quickly from her couch, moving quickly, like a woman much younger. In her hand she brought back a copy of a photo of herself from when she was a student and editor of the Yuba College 1930 yearbook called the “Yubalaca.” The photographs capture Dugan’s strong steady gaze, the same unwavering eyes that flash from her face today.
“I originally was born at the far end of Bogue Road in Yuba City,” said Dugan. “My grandfather owned land there.” According to Dugan, her family lineage extends back for several generations and has several daguerreotype photographs to prove it. “My relatives came here during the Gold Rush,” said the 92-year-old proudly, pointing to a picture of her relative. Dugan also has one picture that is particularly noteworthy in her vast collection, one of John F. Kennedy pictured with one of her cousins, whom he rescued.
Pointing to a picture of her mother and pausing, the Yuba college graduate said that her mother was her role model and inspiration in challenging the norms of the time that dictated that women were to stay at home, not have a career, or to be outspoken or leaders in anyway.
According to the 92-year-old Yuba College alumna, she grew up in frugal years because of the Great Depression. As a result, options for Dugan were few after graduating from high school, especially during a time of national economic hardship.
Fortunately for energetic teenager, Yuba College, or Yuba Community School as it was known then, came into being in 1927 operating a two-room classroom. Later, the college moved into what is now Marysville High School, which at the time was new. The budding community college offered area youths affordable education right in their own backyard.
For Dugan, who had graduated from high school in 1928 from Nortre Dame School in Marysville, it was a golden opportunity.
“There was no college before. It was a wonderful chance for kids like me who otherwise couldn’t have gone to college, to go to school beyond high school. I went from 1928-1930. I was taking straight classes to become a teacher. The solids like math, English, history, French and Spanish. I hated math,” said Dugan laughing.
The 92-year-old, who dreamed of teaching language and music, took several years of languages while in high school and then later at Yuba College, eventually editing a campus Spanish newspaper called “El Heraldo.”
While at Yuba, Dugan also quickly became a leader, serving as vice-president, and then president of the student government, secretary of the Associated Women organization on campus and editor of two campus publications. She also wrote timely editorials for the college yearbook that captured the sentiments of the youth at the college at the time. One piece was titled, “Our School Family.”
Eventually, Dugan graduated from Yuba College in June of 1930 and by October of that year, she was married.
“I got married in October to Howard Bishop, who was my first husband, and that put an end to my teaching career,” said Dugan looking off into the distance. “Later on, I wanted to go back to get my teaching degree but we just couldn’t do it. We were just too darn broke,” said the Yuba College alumna who added that much of their money went to establishing a new home which eventually came to include two children, Paul and Susan. Dugan did not let motherhood keep her at home, however, and went to work for the Marysville Clinic which became Marysville Medical Group, and which is now Sutter North. She worked as a clerical worker and switchboard operator retiring in the’90s when she turned 80.
Dugan now spends her time busily crocheting items for the Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento. She also is an avid reader, enjoys doing crossword puzzles, going to church and having fun with her three grandchildren and her six great-grandchildren.
Dugan said that it had been years since she stepped on to the Yuba College campus but that situation recently changed by her participation in this year’s graduation, answering the call that went out for Yuba College’s oldest living graduate.”It was very nice to participate in the graduation at Yuba. Of course, there wasn’t anybody I knew there,” laughed Dugan.
Looking back on her life experiences at Yuba, Dugan smiles and her eyes sparkle.”It was a very friendly, rewarding experience, the whole Yuba College thing. The teachers were good. We had respect for the teachers,” said Dugan.
“There is no doubt about it, even today, if you put on your resume that you have two years at Yuba College, it’s going to look better than if you just put you graduated from high school. That two years makes the difference. It gives young people just fresh from high school a chance to mature a little bit so that so they aren’t so goofy. Sometimes they need a good kick where it would do them the most good. It makes me so sad some kids just throw it away by getting in accidents or taking drugs.”
As to her recipe for a long life, Dugan maintains that her positive outlook on life has made the difference.
“I just do it one day at a time. When I wake up, I tell the Lord, ‘Thank you dear,’ and try to do the best I can everyday. I try to roll with the punches,” said the spry Yuba College alumnus who still enjoys driving and getting around town in her Toyota.