This Thanksgiving, as you head down the busy grocery store aisles, keep an eye out for Mrs. Cubbison’s boxed dressings and stuffings. “Mrs. Cubbison” was indeed a real person–and a Cal Poly alumna. Long before women became regulars in the corporate world, the 1912 graduate — Sophie Huchting Cubbison — parlayed her knack for baking and her Cal Poly home economics degree into a successful company that still bears her name. Mrs. Cubbison’s pre-packaged stuffing and dressing mixes are a fixture in grocery stores throughout 11 western states.
Cubbison, born Sophia Huchting in 1890, learned to cook growing up on her family’s ranch in El Segundo, CA. As a teen she cooked for her nine siblings, parents, and the many farmhands. Her skills at baking would also help pay her way through her time at Cal Poly.¹
Cal Poly, 1909
In 1909, at the age of 19, Cubbison enrolled at the California Polytechnic School. The fledgling vocational school offered three-year courses of study in Agriculture, Mechanics, and Household Arts. The Household Arts program that Sophie joined was designed with a purpose to instruct in the care and management of the home.
During her time at Cal Poly, Cubbison took courses in math, English, geography and chemistry. She also took classes in millinery, sewing, home management, gardening, sloyd, and cooking laboratories. As part of the program she was required to “plan, prepare, and preside as hostess at a luncheon to which she invites other members of the class acting as waitresses.”²
Cal Poly, open for only seven years at the time of Cubbison’s enrollment, had a student body of 139 students. Total expenses for a nine-month school year (not including railroad fare) ranged from $240 to $300.³ No tuition fees were charged. Most likely Cubbison lived off campus in San Luis Obispo, as there was limited housing provided on campus for women students.
The Polytechnic Journal, which doubled as a student literary magazine and yearbook, captured Cubbison’s activities and experience while at Cal Poly. In her first year at Cal Poly she was class vice president, the largest at the time, numbering 83 students. In her second year she was the elected president of the junior class and secretary of the student body. In her senior year she was treasurer of the Student Body and literary editor of the Polytechnic Journal Staff. She played on the women’s basketball team for three years and was a representative of the girls’ tennis contest. She graduated in June 1912, one of 25 graduates, 8 of which were women.
After Cal Poly
After graduating from Cal Poly in 1912, Sophie Huchting moved back to San Diego. In 1916 she married Harry Cubbison, and the couple took out a $300 loan and opened a bakery in Los Angeles. He delivered the bread and built up sales accounts; she did the baking, in-store demonstrations and giveaways in markets and delicatessens.
In 1925, the couple launched “Mrs. Cubbison’s Melba Toast and Zwieback.” The dried bread products boomed after being linked with movie star weight loss diets. As her company grew, Sophie Cubbison continued baking at home. Friends raved about her stuffing — and she decided the company should launch a pre-packaged poultry stuffing line. The male sales staff in her company didn’t think the idea would work and advised staying in the melba toast market, but Sophie Cubbison persisted. The stuffing line was launched in the 1950s, and since that time, Mrs. Cubbison’s stuffings have appeared on store shelves and in kitchens across the West.
After her death in 1982, Cubbison’s heirs created two endowment funds for Cal Poly, the Sophie C. Cubbison Discretionary Endowment and the Sophie C. Cubbison Food Science & Nutrition Endowment. The interest from these endowments continues to support Cal Poly students in the Food Science and Nutrition Department.
For more details on alumna Sophie Huchting Cubbison, visit www.mrscubbisons.com.
Adapted from “THANKSGIVING FEATURE OPPORTUNITY”, Cal Poly Public Affairs Office, November 20, 2006. http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/pao_pr/492/
¹“Mrs. Cubbison, Pioneer in Prepackaged Stuffing,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1982, pg. F19.