On the bunting-draped reviewing stand, speaking into plate-sized microphones, Will Rogers was in his element as the master of ceremonies for this gathering in May 1932, marking cereal tycoon W.K. Kellogg’s donation of his Arabian horse ranch in Pomona to the University of California. Rogers’ immense popularity—movie star, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, and syndicated newspaper columnist—put him in high demand as a speaker. But this invitation must have tugged at Rogers. The folksy philosopher, who had several horses of his own, once wrote, “A man that don’t love a horse, there is something the matter with him.”
The ranch’s U-shaped stables, bearing a sign with the familiar “W.K. Kellogg” script, formed a suitable backdrop for the festivities. Kellogg’s love of Arabians led to his creation of the ranch and winter retreat in the mid-1920s. His stables became known for informal Sunday horse shows—a popular attraction in the vein of Gay’s Lion Farm or the Cawston Ostrich Farm. One of Kellogg’s horses, named Jadaan, served as movie star Rudolph Valentino’s mount in The Son of the Sheik (1926), which brought much attention to the ranch following Valentino’s untimely death later that year.
Ownership of the ranch subsequently passed between various institutions and back to the Kellogg Foundation, which donated it to the California State College system in 1949 (known today as California State University). Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s satellite campus in San Dimas used the ranch in Pomona as a learning facility; the satellite school later moved to the site, and Cal Poly Pomona became a college in its own right in 1966. The 1926 stables (pictured behind Rogers) stand today and are among the oldest structures on the Cal Poly campus.
But all that was in the future on this day in 1932, as Rogers sharpened his wit, and the crowd watched Kellogg’s beautiful Arabians parading nearby.
Thanks to Kimberley Erickson at Cal Poly Pomona University Library for research assistance.
OffRamp showcases images from the Auto Club of Southern California’s archives.
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