Margaret Gritton


Margaret Gritton

First, I would like to provide a little background on who I am and how I got to Saddleback College.  I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated with a B.S. with a major in Home Economics and a separate major in Clothing and Textiles.  I minored in Marketing because I wanted to go into Fashion Merchandising as a career.  I worked altogether 7 years part and full time in ZCMI (Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution), the local department store.  I also took a journalism class so that I could write a fashion column for the school newspaper.  After graduation in 1958, I spent some time in Los Angeles working for a fashion business newspaper, California Apparel News.  After that I decided that I would very much like to teach and went back to school and got a Home Economics teaching credential and a Master’s Degree in Textiles & Clothing and taught 2 years, one at Fort Hays State in Kansas, and one at Oregon State. 

My husband, whom I met at Oregon State University, taught Chemistry at Chapman University in Orange, California and while my children were small I taught Textiles and Clothing Construction at Cal State Long Beach,  Fullerton College, and Chapman University.  I became Home Economics Department Chairman at Chapman when I went full time.  I was there about 2 years when I heard that Saddleback College was opening up a Home Economics Department and was looking for its first full time Instructor.  I applied and with my diverse background was lucky enough to receive the appointment.

That was the middle of the 1970s and Saddleback was just 5 years old.  My first day at the faculty meeting, I was introduced and a comment was made that “IF” I succeeded I would be kept on.  My thoughts were” NOT IF but, of course.”

The first year was the most different teaching experience I have ever had.  I taught Foods, Nutrition, Clothing Construction, Clothing Selection and Home Management.  I had one room of a three room portable building on lower campus.  The classes were full and the students delightful and luckily, very flexible.  We used electric fry pans, toaster ovens, and a few portable sewing machines.  We washed the dishes outside in plastic dish pans and, "we succeeded.”

I spent the entire year working on course curriculum and the programs began to grow. I wrote the complete Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising programs.

In the fall of our second year Ruth Jacobson from Mt. San Antonio College joined us and took over the Foods and Nutrition program.  She was able to bring courses from her college and she also developed an Interior Design program. This year the college gave us an entire three room portable building that included a classroom, a Foods Lab and a Clothing Lab.

The third year Barbara Gershman was hired to further develop Foods and Nutrition and Ruth Jacobson began her Interior Design certificate program.  Nancy Kessler, who had years of experience in working with Bullocks in merchandising and modeling was hired the next year and our department grew and grew.  She was given her own room in another portable.  As the years went by we hired Arlene Thomas to help with the Interior Design and many part-time instructors with special expertise to teach our many courses.  We had part-time instructors who were experts in industry, art, costume design, needlework, as well as specialty cooks and chefs and interior designers, etc.  Some were from other colleges like Cal State Long Beach and some had their own businesses.  All were credentialed.  At one time we were also teaching courses throughout the district in clubhouses and “we succeeded.”

With all of this we needed our own department office and help.  Julie Pettengill and Priscilla Kessler were our department help and coordinators. 

The College decided to put us in the Business Science Division.  Though our courses were different in scope our diversity fit in very well with this Division.  When the Business and Social Science Building was built on upper campus our department covered the entire first floor of three floors.  Instead of one Home Economics Department we had Interior Design, Fashion Design and Merchandising, and Foods and Nutrition programs including five fully transferable certificates. Our department was now called Consumer and Family Resources.

Later on the College decided to put us in the Technology Division where we again made friends with a diverse group of instructors.  We expanded our horizons by learning what the computer and computer graphics could do to enhance our classes.  We developed a course in computer pattern design and our Interior Design students took design courses in the Architecture Department. 

We were careful to keep current and in touch through conferences with the 4-year universities in California.  This made sure that our courses were always up to date and always transferable.  Also the State provided yearly conferences for the Community Colleges in our field and we became good friends with the instructors in the Los Angeles and Orange County community colleges.  We were active in the National Home Economics Association and belonged to the local chapter.  This kept us all together and we kept ourselves updated at all times.

The students and the graduates of our programs were very special students.  I think that this topic is near to the hearts of families and women and therefore they seem to be good people because of it.  Anyway, I thought so.  They were eager to learn to finish their courses and to get placed in the field.  Many were women who wished to become better homemakers.  The students were all ages.  The Fashion Merchandising students were usually young, just out of high school.  The Fashion Design students were a little older.  Many of the nutrition students were part of the nursing program and again were all ages.  The Interior Design students were mainly a little older.  A good many of our students transferred to 4-year colleges and universities.  Also, we had the older students.  We taught a lot of classes in Leisure World and enjoyed these students very much.  We also had many young men who were interested in all aspects of our programs.  They were fun to have in our classes.  I still have some students call me once in a while just to talk.

One of the important activities of the Fashion Department was the Fashion Show.  The Fashion Design students provided the clothes and the Fashion Merchandising students put on the show.  For many years we had a fashion show at Christmas time and another one in the spring.  They were usually held in the Mission Viejo Mall, but we held some of them in our halls near the center of the lower floor near the windows that the students kept mannequins clothed in the latest fashions.  This was a hands-on program and the students actually did the type of activities that were part of a department store.  The students designed the clothing; wrote the script; modeled the clothing; created the advertising; managed the coordination and the displays.  It was wonderful, but it was still a lot of management in the last few years.  But, it was fun, exciting, and exhilarating and we were able to show off our students to their families, the community, the College, faculty and administration.              

I taught at Saddleback until 1999. Throughout that time I was Department Chair and curriculum representative for our division.  In fact I was even the school Curriculum Chair for the last few years.  This activity kept me close to our Saddleback faculty and administrators.    I was part of the growth of this wonderful College and loved the faculty, administration and the students.  Teaching is what I loved to do and again “we all succeeded.”