Saturday, Oct 05 2013 09:00 PM

East High at 75: A trip back in time

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    By Photo courtesy of Kern County Museum

    An aerial view of East Bakersfield High taken between 1939 and 1941.

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    By Kern County Museum

    East Bakersfield High is under construction in this photo dated July 11, 1939.

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    By Photo courtesy of Donna Cazacus

    Pat Rhodes Patterson and Helen Angle Smith are members of the class of '42, East Bakersfield High's first four-year graduating class.

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BY DONNA CAZACUS Contributing writer

When East Bakersfield High School opened in 1938, it wasn't just another time -- it felt like another world. Helen Angle Smith and Pat Rhodes Patterson, proud members of the school's first freshman class, look back over the decades and marvel at how different things were.

"Kern General Hospital was there, but the corner of Niles and Oswell was at the edge of town," Patterson recalled. "There was nothing else but hills and hills."

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2200 Quincy St.

Parking: At Kern Medical Center and the Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center parking lots on the west side of campus. Once visitors arrive on the school campus, golf carts will offer shuttle service to the nearest entry gate.

Admission: $5 (VIP passes also available)


7:30 a.m.: Registration for car show ($25, cars and trucks; $15, motorcycles and bikes)

10 a.m.: Gates open; Grupo Feliz performs

10 a.m.-noon: Tours of 200 wing

10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Car show

11 a.m.: Welcome from Principal Lee Vasquez; past Principal John Gibson speaks

11:30 a.m.: Prisoner of Love performs

Noon: Past Principal Bill Hatcher speaks

Noon-2 p.m.: Lunch served ($10 or free with VIP pass)

1 p.m.: Mayor Harvey Hall and 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez deliver proclamations; Thee Majestics perform

2 p.m.: Car show winners announced and awards presented

2:45 p.m.: Band, cheerleaders, choral performances

3 p.m.: Homecoming game on Permenter Field (tickets $6; $4 for students; free with VIP pass)

7 p.m.: Dinner/dance at Westchester Hall, 2801 F St.; $25

To purchase tickets, call 871-7221.

"For entertainment," Smith added, "we would sit in someone's front yard, talking and playing tag.

"There was no dress code that I remember, but you didn't need one. We would never think of wearing anything inappropriate."

Though the two friends, both 89, occupy a special place in EB history as members of the first four-year class, they're certainly not the only alumni who remember the school with fondness. Thousands of former Blades, staff, friends and current students will prove the point on Saturday, the school's 75th anniversary celebration.

"We are overwhelmed by the response we are getting from alumni all over the country," said East High teacher Rick Van Horne, who is coordinating the celebration.

The commemoration starts at 10 a.m. with a car show, but the activities go all day and into the night. There will be lunch, live entertainment, campus tours and several opportunities to bask in nostalgia with a memory book and tents dedicated to telling the school's story over the decades (memorabilia is still being accepted).

The highlight will be the homecoming game against the Tehachapi High School Warriors at 3 p.m. at East's Permenter Field.

The second-oldest high school in the city opened in September 1938 to freshmen and sophomores only, and a 22-member faculty, according to a history being compiled by EB students under the direction of their teacher, Mike Warner.

The auditorium and gym weren't finished until 1940, and there was no cafeteria until 1949.

"Though the auditorium looked great on the outside and in the lobby, there was no seating," Patterson recalled. "We had to sit on the cement, where the seats were supposed to go."

Two campus sites are named for EB students killed in action during World War II. Permenter Field, named for Ray Permenter, who died at age 19, was dedicated in 1948. Bayless Hall, named for third ASB President Herbert Bayless, was dedicated in 1949.

"Many of the guys left high school to join the service," Smith remembered.

"After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we were instructed to go to the auditorium. We listened to the radio live as FDR announced that we had declared war. We were stunned. I remember feeling bad for a Japanese boy who was in our class. Actually, we had two Japanese students."

But even against the solemn backdrop of the war, teens can be expected to be only so serious. Smith and Patterson remember plenty of good times eating spaghetti at Hoppy's -- now Mount Vernon Florist -- where the girls went for lunch, and cruising the main drags, which in those days were Chester Avenue and Baker Street.

"Our Model A was called 'Beans' because it backfired all the way to school," Smith said. "By the time we got from our home across the street from Jefferson Park to school, it was running fine."

To help jog the memories of all alumni, Warner and his students have contributed to a book that includes pictures of the school and students, yearbook covers, commencement programs, prom cards and other memorabilia.

The first Betty and Bobby Blade are pictured, along with a photo of the couple from their 50th class reunion. The 50-page book sells for $15. Additional photos are available for viewing on EB's Facebook page.

-- Donna Cazacus is an East Bakersfield High graduate

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