Then & Now
By Judy Salamacha
If we’re lucky we’ll have the chance to personally meet greatness at least once.
Cayucan, Evie Pellaton, may have been petite, but it was the only smallness about her. She lived large with a big heart, whopping humor, enormous drive to succeed, and vast career choices and achievements from the time she was born in Oakland in 1921 until she died on Sept. 4.
It isn’t too difficult to see why Evie was a trailblazer. In 2009, she was inducted into the Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Fame. She accepted the honor saying, “When I retired from Cal Poly in 1982 funds for women’s sports had grown from just $900 in 1967 to $60,000. Today Cal Poly fields 10 women’s sports. Women’s basketball has $195,000 in funding and offers 15 scholarships; a new facility for the softball team; a few examples of the huge changes since the days of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women [AIAW].”
From its formative years in the 1970s, Dr. Pellaton was director of athletics for women and became associate athletic director when the women’s and men’s programs merged in the 1980s. She’d worked her way through the ranks as a physical education professor from 1966-82. She was proud to be a force in the era when the AIAW was established in 1971.
“What a moment,” she wrote. “You had to be there to know what it was like to be in at the beginning of something so big in women’s intercollegiate athletics.”
Evie started winning athletic awards — badminton, basketball and softball — at Castlemont High School in Oakland and she crewed on Lake Merritt. Although she reminded us that, “there was no such thing as intercollegiate athletics” during her tenure at San Francisco State, “we would play lots of games.”
To play competitively she had find a community team. She played on two world champion Alameda girls’ softball teams and in 1942, when war cancelled the national championships; their team was selected to play for entertainment for troops training up and down the Pacific Coast.
In 1945 Evie served as the Oakland Commissioner of the Industrial Athletic Association until she decided to return to college to fulfill her goal to become an instructor and coach. She taught in El Cerrito while playing right fullback in field hockey for the National California Field and Hockey Association in Berkeley.
Evie coached the Treasure Island Waves Softball Team, which won the Women’s Armed Forces Championship first in basketball in 1950 and then in softball in 1951.
All the while she was working on her master’s degree, which she earned in 1953 along with traveling to Paris as a delegate to the International Congress on Physical Education for Girls and Women. She co-authored and published the books, Polly Posture and Polly Corrects Her Posture.
Evie was introduced to the Cal Poly campus in 1955, while attending summertime Girls and Women’s Physical Education Workshop. At the same workshop 11-years later, she met the coordinator of Cal Poly’s Women’s P.E. Program, Dr. Mary Lou “Whitey” White, who became a life-long friend and mentor for her future career.
“And then it happened [in 1966],” she’d say. “I got a job in the Women’s P.E. Department at Cal Poly.” She carried a full load teaching and coached track and field, gymnastics, and cross country.
She served in the U.S. Naval Reserves as chief personnel-man for 20 years retiring with the Meritorious Service Medal and Armed Forces Reserve Medal. She also landed jobs as photographer for Track and Field at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, and the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Evie organized workshops in track and field at San Jose State, an outdoor education camp for the mentally and physically challenged in San Luis Obispo, and co-authored “Deaf Participation in Track and Field.” She qualified to officiate in Track and Field events and soon after receiving tenure at Cal Poly became the director of the summer P.E. workshop that first introduced her to the university.
In 1975, Evie received her doctorate, ushered Cal Poly through the Title IX drama and joined four bands playing the drums. Later she would teach herself how to restore her 1954 MGTF. She retired in 1982, and remained engaged in area and national athletics, serving as President of the Cayucos Advisory Council; was Cayucos Citizen of the Year in 1992; A Founder and President of the Friends of the Library; and the bandleader of the “Something Very Special Band.”
However, her favorite retirement job was no doubt patrolling with her friend and mentor “Whitey” while serving on the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteer Patrol.
Freelance writer, columnist and author, Judy Salamacha can be reached at: [email protected] or call (805) 801-1422. Her Then & Now column is a regular feature of Simply Clear Marketing & Media.