THE ORIGIN OF THE SENIOR ROCK
Don York, student body president and member of the Chaldeans class, recalled how the senior rock arrived on campus in a 2014 facebook post.
The rock was our class's stunt. I was a member of the clandestine crew of maybe 10 or 12 classmates that collected the boulder on a bright sunny Saturday morning in the Pacoima Wash. We loaded the biggest rock we could maneuver onto a little flat bed trailer and hauled it down to the school where we had quite a challenge lifting it over the locked gate by the athletic field. Once on the school grounds it was possible for our adrenaline pumped team to roll it to the senior lawn where it was instantly painted a true aqua marine.
Somehow the school administrators found out the culprits and by mid-morning the following Monday Principal Billingsley had us pulled out of class for a real dressing down on the senior lawn...the rock will last forever and with fifty-coats of paint it must weigh more than a freight car.
Even under the threat of water-boarding and with the knowledge there is no statue of limitations on laws against Rock Trespass, I won't reveal any names and break the 50 year old pact of secrecy, but possibly some of the other adventurous lads will fess up and share their recollections of the nefarious deed . . . I further recall that I was a passenger in the vehicle pulling the trailer and rock back to the school. The driver, concerned about getting the trailer back home before his father missed it, got to driving too fast.The trailer started swaying. Another classmate sped up alongside us yelling to slow down before we launched the behemoth stone into oncoming traffic!
THE '63 Class Prank
By Gil Moya, class of 1963
The prank was not so memorable as the '64 class but just as spontaneous. As I recall, a stealthy team put a large 15-foot S'63 on the midfield yard line of the football field by pouring diesel on the grass, causing caused it to turn brown and die. It was visible throughout the 62'-63' football season. Unlike the '64 class event, the team comprised of notable sports figures was committed to its vow of silence. I learned it was a closely held secret until 2012 when I received a letter from one of the participants and was reminded of the event. We were told frequently by school administration and our student leaders that as a new school everything was intended to be a tradition. Some traditions have survived and evolved such as the senior rock and plaques. You can still see the rock and plaques in the senior quad. I attended El Monte High (Lions) in 9th and 10th grade. Their yearly prank was to paint their arch rivals' (Rio Hondo High) mascot blue.
Mr. Billingsley, "A Great Principal"
A letter written 2-22-2014 by Dr. Arthur Hernandez, art teacher at Sylmar High, 1961-66 I had an interesting experience one day at Sylmar High. It was a gorgeous day, clear blue sky and the mountains still had snow on them and I decided to take the students outdoors. As we went out I would stop and ask," What do you see?" Most would answer, buildings, a kid walking to class or nothing. Finally when we got to the green area I asked again, " What do you see." Same answer. I said my responsibility as a teacher is to teach you about the beauty that exists in the world of art so here we are in the middle of an absolutely gorgeous day and you don't recognize it. So let's just sit here and enjoy it. They agreed and sat down and started talking to each other. Just then Mr. Billingsley walked out of his office and saw the students out there just sitting. My first thought was, oh oh I am in trouble. I explained it to him and he looked around and said you are right. He then sat down and started a conversation with a couple of students. When the bell rang he got up and said thanks and just went back to his office. He had just had a meaningful conversation with a group of students that he did not expect and I realized I had one hell of a great principal. Years later after meeting and working with hundreds of principals he was by all measures the best one of all. You were very lucky to have been a student there at the time. See the year book Saga. Vol. II MCMLXIII on his page and you will see why. He was the top. He is still alive in a nursing home.
Arthur Hernandez back row center, played Bee football team at San Fernando High in 1945. Al Arps, lower left, was the coach.
A Teacher's Perspective
Dr. Arthur Hernandez
I was there on opening day. It was a small faculty and we were all young. We looked forward to the first class. Three years later we hardly knew any of the faculty, we grew that fast. The original group were the ones that kept the drive of the first year viable. I designed the band uniforms with reversible jackets. During formal concerts the jacket reverts to a blue instead of white. The original design was then copied by number of endless band groups. The principal was not happy at Hallagan, the music teacher, for going to the gold or bronze when the school colors were blue. Later it became Spartan bronze although the color was the same. Hallagan liked to piss off the principal. Hallagan was a clown. Any time that I would walk in to see him he would have the band play La Raspa". He was a fun guy well-liked by the faculty. In most school plays I had to interact with the shop guys, Ray Peel, Haverty and Mrs. Weiser, the dance instructor, and the band under Hallagan. We all got along very well and had lots of fun putting on the performances. Those five years that I spent at Sylmar were some of the most enjoyable years for me. Keep me abreast of your reunions.
A Beloved Homeroom Teacher
An excerpt from a facebook post by Edwin J. "Jesse" Marvin in March 2014.
This is for Mr. Boone my Homeroom teacher at Olive Vista Junior High. Homeroom 14, that is where our day started. Mr. Boone earned our affection. Like a general in battle we were his boys and everything was for Homeroom 14 and Mr. Boone. We loved Mr. Boone We didn't know it at that time, but as I aged it became apparent to me that that was exactly what it was. Never a more loving teacher. When you were talking to him and he had to consider what to answer, he would take his left arm crossed his chest, place his right elbow in the palm of his left hand, and with his right hand grab his chin with his fingers. He always reminded me of Charlie Chaplin. When we graduated into high school, as a parting gift we bought Mr. Boone a transistor radio to listen to the Dodgers' Vin Scully. Tears welled up in his eyes as he rocked back and forth in a Charlie Chaplin manner, little was said, and little was needed. We knew it all already............ Thank you, Mr. Boone
The former dormitory of El Retiro school is now used for storage.
El Retiro Girls School (1919 to 1965)
by Gil Moya
For those who remember when Sylmar High began in 1961, there was an olive grove across the street at Borden and Astoria. Next to the orchard at Polk and Borden there was a walled facility that we later learned was an L.A. County girl’s detention center named “ El Retiro”. It was famous at the time for one of its former inmates. Cheryl Crane, the daughter of actress Lana Turner. The daughter had stabbed and killed Lana Turners’ boyfriend, Mafioso Johnny Stompanato in 1958 when she was 14. The Sylmar Park and pool now occupy the grounds. There are three of the original buildings still on site. A small administration building faces Borden. It was originally used as an entry and visitation building. It is now used as a Sylmar Park pre-school location.
There is also a two story building (Susan B. Anthony Building). It housed some of the girls on the second floor which was divided into small cubes or rooms. The first floor of the facility held classrooms and a recreation room with a fireplace. The building also has a cellar which is prone to flooding. The building is used primarily for storage now. This main dormitory building is rumored to be haunted. Many park employees and L.A. city inspectors have reported smelling sulfur and experiencing a spiritual presence. The third building is near the Fire Station. It is primarily bathrooms and showers. The park department uses it as the maintenance building. Barbara Moya (Gil's Wife) was Sylmar Park Director from 1994 to 1998. I remember walking to Sylmar High past the detention center which had a high chain link and concrete wall. The girls would ask for cigarettes or magazines through open areas in the fence as we walked by. The more desperate ones would make gestures and promises for cigarettes. Too bad I did not smoke. The good girls went to Sylmar High, the bad ones went to El Retiro. The school closed in 1965 when Sylmar juvenile hall opened near Foothill and Filbert.