Winter 1923 Los Angeles High School Semi-Annual

For some reason I can't quite fathom, I have a fascination for old public schools.  I'm not a teacher or anything else connected with the system, and my own school days were nothing spectacular.  It seems that the entire process was nothing more than a lengthy preparation for university, and it often seems that I learned absolutely nothing in the entire eleven years (I skipped a grade) that I haven't found out for myself elsewhere, usually from books.  

It might have something to do with the fact that so much of the physical structure of Los Angeles has changed in the past 100 years.   Few commercial enterprises from the 19th Century have survived to the present day, but there are numerous schools in the L.A. Unified School District that have survived, including Los Angeles High School, founded in 1873--or, as they used to style it through the early 20th Century, The Los Angeles High School.  That's not to say it still has any of the old buildings from 1873, or even that it's on the same site.  But it does still have the continuity of existence, extending over 137 years, which is rare in this town.

One day, I went to visit the LAHS library, just to look at old yearbooks.  To be precise, they weren't yearbooks in the early days, but Semi-Annuals, since there used to be Winter and Summer graduating classes each year.  On my way back to the car, I happened on a small bungalow where they were selling old Semi-Annuals for $5, to fund an Alumni Memorial or something like that.  I plunked an Abe Lincoln down on the table and came away the proud owner of my very own copy of the LAHS Winter '23 Semi Annual.

The first item in the book is the Principal's Message.

And a picture of the good Dr. Housh opposite:

Those most familiar with this view of a principal's desk do not generally count it among their fondest memories.  Even the good kids don't usually like the principal very much..  But William Harvey Housh seems to have been able to strike just the right note with everybody.  Over the years of his tenure, he persuaded the Board of the need to fund successively bigger buildings as the High School enrollment ballooned from 300 to 3000.   Looking back on his era, from the early 1890s to the mid-1920s, it seems to have been more commonly assumed that young people were innately depraved reprobates and in need of constant homily, badgering, and punishment to keep them in line.  Housh, by contrast, succeeded by believing in and trusting the kids, which was explained in a 1925 Times article.  After he retired, grateful alumni of more than two decades clubbed together to present Housh and his wife with a round-the-world cruise.

In those days graduating from high school was still a very big deal.  The class of W '23 expressed this metaphorically as a boat finally reaching the shore.

Ye Ship Of Class hath reached the shore!
It's true that high school student dropout rates are still a big concern even today; yet even that comes with the notion that if you do at least show up, passing and graduating is a snap. The kids who do drop out do so because they don't show up, and the reasons they don't show up are largely external to the school itself. Looking at this Semi-Annual, though, you get the impression the work was very demanding in 1923.   I think there may be something to that; it seems that everyone had to read Chaucer at some point, and a great many of the students took Latin or Greek.

Not far into the book, there's this ode to the school.  With due respect, because I'm sure the writer tried very hard, the overall effect one of great clumsiness in the effort to uphold the rhyme and meter.

O'erlooking all our city wide and fair,
   Not far from mighty Neptune's ceaseless roar,
   Upon that very place where long before,
The mammoth roamed and tiger had his lair.

I think it's the "O'erlooking" in the opening that makes me groan first, and then the nearly obligatory reference to Classical mythology in the next line.   After that it's that place, the mammoth, and then simply tiger.   Anything to force it into the meter.  And so it goes on, now with the painfully awkward lines:

You stand, dear L.A., lifting high in air
   Your tower; the pride of all who by your door
   Have entered, and at last, to come no more 
Will pass into the world of joy and care.

What's wrong with joy and care?  Probably it's the fact that we would have expected her to choose two exact opposites, and those two words don't meet that criterion.  But she had to find something to rhyme with that air in the first line of the stanza.

This is what Latin, inappropriately applied to English does.  Latin usually doesn't have articles, so this writer has omitted them at will to force the meter. This is too much sorrow to go on thinking about, so we'll move on.

In 1879 the students founded the Star And Crescent Society.  At first every student was considered a member, but over the years the lower grades were excluded so that by this time only the seniors were considered members, along with the alumni.   On the day before graduation, every graduating student was presented with a Star And Crescent pin.  S&C is still mentioned in in the school's 1935 Student Handbook, but it appears to have sputtered out during World War II, or shortly thereafter.

Is it possible that a student organization that styled itself The Star And Crescent Society would ping anyone's radar today?

Early on, this organization was the student government of the school.  Some of this role was gradually taken over by Greek-letter fraternities, until the early 1900s, when a state law was passed banning fraternities and sororities in the public schools.  At that time a more recognizable form of student government was instituted.

By 1923, each gender of the senior class had a Senior Board, which was the basis of student government.

Holmes Bowers was the student body president. William McQuaid's also name comes up quite a bit, so he was evidently a big man on campus.   Evidently, in those days Dame Fashion dictated that young men should try to look as much like Herbert Hoover as possible.

Instead of taking group pictures of the student organizations, the editors of this book simply reused the senior class pictures from elsewhere in the book.   This system had some definite merits.  Today there are millions of people who attended high school in the 1970s and now regret the group pictures of them in high-rise bell bottoms that still exist in their yearbooks.  Re-using the head shots avoided all that sort of thing.

It's evident from the copy above that someone had gotten agitated about smoking.  It's remarkable how little things change.  From the joke section, there's this:

Officer, arrest that man!  I think he's thinking of smoking.

Not too much ahead of its time, at that!

Here's the Senior-A class history, and there's that sea-voyage reference again:

  The reference to Jade and Silver is to class colors.  I don't know if anyone still does this in high school; I don't believe we did in the 1970s.  A century ago class colors were a very serious matter.  One of the earliest Semi-Annuals, from around 1899, recounts that on the occasion of a Field Day--a sort of intramural track and field meet--one of the junior classes inadvertently adopted, for the day, the same colors as the senior class.  Just for that, they were presented with a beating by the seniors, or, as they put it, the seniors "adorned our optics with the more somber shades of black and blue."   (Evidently the beatings hadn't diminished their general level of wit and their ability to turn a phrase.)  Although I would rather that nobody got a beating at all, I do hope the seniors spared the girls of the lower grade.  Today, just about the only people who will stomp you  over their colors are outlaw bikers.  

As noted above there's a picture of every graduating senior, accompanied by three humorous tidbits: Natural Gift, Acquired Trick, and Future Accomplishment.  

Note the name I have partially censored on the lower left: Lambert B_____.   His Natural Gift and Acquired Trick, respectively, are  "His wisdom" and "Acting".  His future accomplishment is "Managing B_____ Brothers", a prominent Downtown Los Angeles furniture store which continued into the early 1980s.   Wouldn't you just know it.  Clearly some people made no bones about advertising their family connections.   His picture is in the upper row of head shots, at the extreme right.   From the looks of him, I think he was the president of the school Geriatric Club, to be a member of which you had to look at least thirty years older than you actually were. 

Be that as it may, it's clear the students put a great deal of work into this book.  Comments on individual students were par for the course in those days. Even more unsettling is the fact that some yearbooks listed every student's home address.  I've seen one example of that from the same era, but that was in another school in another city.


As with most school yearbooks, the editors of this one sold advertising.  As is also typical of any old publication, the nuisances of today become the interesting ephemera of days gone by, and there is probably no better example of that than old print advertisements. We have a modest selection of examples below.

Eat the Best

We can't help but notice the ad copy.  It seems to be telling us that if and when we happen to be one of those life forms that need food to sustain themselves, we should shun all but the best foods.  Others who didn't need food to survive were not the target market of this ad.   Also there's the fact that it tells us merely that M.A. Newmark sells "food".  Did I mention they sold food?  They did!  But what kind we don't know--it could have been anything from ginger snaps to sides of beef to Marmite.

M.A. Newmark's father Harris published his well known memoir in 1913--Sixty Years In Southern California. 

Capitol Milling went back to 1883, and the antecedents that merged to form it went back well before that.  According to records of one form or another, flour milling at this location goes back even to the days of Mexican rule.  Today the company still exists, but ceased using its North Downtown facility  in 1991, and that now serves as a filming location.   

Capitol Milling 

Several of the advertisements were for business colleges.   This was a good way for graduates to make themselves useful in an office, in an era when most high school graduates didn't go on to obtain bachelor's degrees. 

Doesn't taste great, and filling too.

In case you can't read the copy, the school offers among its many courses one in "Filling and Indexing".  Maybe it's just me, but I'd tend to avoid a business college that doesn't know how to spell the word "filing."   Or maybe filling is the name of some now-forgotten office task that was considered essential at the time.  Filling boxes perhaps?  Or maybe it was  filling inkwells.

Germain's held forth at Sixth and Main, opposite the Pacific Electric building, providing its customers the best in domestic fauna and flora. The PE Building  was was the main Red Car terminal in those far-off, pre-freeway days.

What's that you say?  A pet shop--or, as the owner styled it, a Pet Shoppe--at 6th and Main, and across the street from the main mass transit hub? That's a clear demonstration of how different the downtown L.A. of 1923 was from that of the late 20th Century.   What's more, in the 1920s, businesses could still use the "shoppe" spelling in a completely non-ironic and non-derisive way.

Germain's Pette Shoppe  is long gone, but the building it was located in survives.

Germain's Pet Shoppe today
And so does the Pacific Electric building across the street.   Cole's was founded in 1906, and is tied with Philippe's as the city's oldest restaurant. 

Pacific Electric or Subway Terminal Building

The upper floors of both buildings are now residential lofts.  As for Philippe's and Cole's, the debate as to which one invented the French Dip beef sandwich rages on, and probably always will.

Mass Media Artwork

The late 19th and early 20th Centuries saw the creation  of numerous advertising logos, and commercial artists and cartoonists often followed this lead in creating the personal logos with which they signed their work.  The yearbook is clearly a product of its time in this regard. 

Charles Philippi graduated from LAHS in 1915 and had become a well known cartoonist by 1923.  Given the somewhat exotic name and considering the geography involved, it appears that he was the same C. Philippi who later did artwork for Walt Disney in the early Silly Symphony animated shorts.   He would continue working for Disney until the late 1950s.

He was probably the inspiration for one Minerva Ellis, who tried to come with her own logo when she signed this book for the owner.

Minerva Ellis poem and logo

From both of the examples above, it seems that lunar motifs were highly popular in commercial iconography.  Procter and Gamble's famous crescent moon logo goes back to the 19th Century, but elicited protests by some misguided Christians who believed they could make out the number 666, and other satanic iconography, in the curls of the man's hair and beard.  This opinion was in no way  held by most Christians, much less by non-Christians, but responding to the protests had become so troublesome that the logo was changed in 1985.

On the other hand,  Miller Brewing has recently revived its Girl In The Moon logo for its High Life brand of bottled beer.

LAHS 50th Anniversary

Because 1923 was the 50th anniversary of the school's existence, there is quite a bit of remembrance of things past here. Several prominent alumni are featured in short biographies. 

Homer Lea graduated from the school in 1901. Though afflicted with hunchback from an early age, he enjoyed an active childhood and youth, for example accompanying friends on hiking and camping trips to the San Bernardino Mountains.   After attending Occidental College for one year, it's told that he somehow managed to get an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point, but was dismissed after one year for health reasons.  According to other accounts he never entered West  Point at all.  Whether he ever attended West Point or not is beside the point; his brilliance as a military strategist would not be hindered.   Leaving West Point, he entered Stanford where he studied military history and also became enamored of the Chinese culture.   In books published decades before the events, he predicted the rise of the Japanese Pacific empire as well as a resurgent and militant Germany.  

Eventually he became a general in the Chinese Republican army who was instrumental in bringing down the monarchy.  When Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was sworn in as the country's first President, Lea was the sole white man in attendance.

The redoubtable Homer Lea

The rest of Homer Lea's  story can be read here.

Marshall Stimson attended the school in the early 1890s, and is shown here with the football team he captained.  It isn't clear which player he is unless  we can presume that the captain would be holding the football.  As the text states, in those days  the high school customarily played against the local colleges and the Normal School, because there were no other high schools in the region.   The year 1895 in the text is probably a misprint, because the '93 which these players have written onto various articles of clothing--including a derby--must be their class year.  

Notice the lack of protective padding, and the football which quite a bit fatter than today's football.   This wasn't the "oblate spheroid" to which Howard Cosell was always referring.  This was the Obese Spheroid.   Not surprisingly, the spiral throw was still over a dozen years away, by which time the football had become narrower and much like today's.   In fact, the throwing style was quite different, sometimes being done with the throwing hand cupped around the end of the ball, which was then heaved in a sort of roundhouse motion.

In later life he attended Harvard and became a prominent attorney and local politician.

Greayer Clover graduated in 1916, and soon interrupted his Yale education to fight in the first World War, first for France and then for the United States.  Training as an aviator, he lost his life during a practice run.

The last couple of paragraphs can be read here.   What would eventually be known as Santa Monica Airport was renamed Clover Field in 1923.   As so often happens when large infrastructure projects are named for individuals, the honor did not prove to be permanent.   Santa Monica today has only one extant trace of this man whose name was once given to one of the largest general aviation airports in the region: Cloverfield Avenue.  Not one person in a hundred knows the story behind that name--until now. 


Franklin Canyon, Part II. It Still Doesn't Look Like L.A.

We left off last time heading north towards Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir.   

Road to the Upper Reservoir
Although from this distance it all looks like typically dry Southern California chaparral country, the road leading towards the dam runs through a deep glen below the dam, where large old-growth trees are so abundant that the entire area usually seems cool and even a bit gloomy.

As we pass the dam on our left, the road becomes one way and circles the lake counterclockwise.   We stop for a picture just past the dam.

Down at the shore near the dam.

After this, there aren't many places to stop on the eastern side until we get to the Sooky Goldman Nature Center.  Actual, formerly living stuffed animals aren't everybody's cup of tea, but it is worth stopping to look at the mountain lion exhibit.
At the Nature Center: Stuffed cougar
Did you know that mountain lions can purr?  They can! The exhibit provides a button you can press to hear what this purring sounds like.  It's sort of like miking your cat through a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier. 

Not far past the Nature Center is another good spot for a picture. 

The pampas grass is probably the most noticeable botanical feature here.   It's fairly common in all the canyon district, and those familiar with it know that "blade" is an appropriate term, in more ways than one, when used to describe a piece of this grass.

The dam and reservoir date back at least to 1912, and is said to have been where the water from the Owens Valley Aqueduct was first received into the city's water system.  After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, city engineers examined both reservoirs and their dams and decommissioned them as active parts of the water utility.  A more modern, largely underground system replaced both of the old reservoirs.  It was also determined that the Upper Dam was not strong enough for the reservoir at capacity, so the water level was lowered about fifteen feet.   To maintain this level, small amounts of water are released nearly constantly, and the surface area and water volume are much lower today as a result.  Some of  what used to be the lake towards the northern end has reverted to meadow, as seen in the next picture.

Meadow at upper end of lake

Although the overall lack of palm trees is what originally drew movie crews to the area, beginning in the 1930s, palms are now very much in evidence here.   What appear to be decades worth of defunct, but untrimmed, fronds on the palm tree in the center-right of the picture give it a certain frowsy charm.   The short  palm to the right indicates that these trees are propagating themselves naturally.  The fir trees are considerably smaller than one would expect, being slightly stunted by the generally arid conditions.  Even if there is a lake and natural groundwater here, it's still Southern California.

 In numerous places, the shores are becoming increasingly choked with reeds, as a result of the shallow depth now required to be maintained.  This attracts ducks as a habitat, but the lake is gradually silting up.

 To the right of the road, on the western side of the lake, there's Heavenly Pond, which was created as an individual's Eagle Scout project.

Heavenly (Duck) Pond

People usually simply call it the duck pond.  It's worth at least one more photo:

On the path around the pond there are a few boulders that host a thin green skin of lichen.  In the afternoon light they're reminiscent of a Japanese garden, especially with the patchy light, shade, and color aspects.

Continuing past the duck pond, we reach the dam itself, where  the depth marker demonstrates how much lower the surface of the water is today, compared with its peak.

The reeds have sprung up even here, at what should be the deepest part of the lake.  It isn't even clear that the water comes up to  the bottom of the dam.  If the dam were taken away the water would probably stay right where it is. This isn't a good sign, and one hopes that the NPS is addressing the issue, since this is one of the star attractions of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.  It isn't a lack of available water that's the issue.  On the day when this picture was taken, quite a lot of water was being released to keep the level where it needs to be.  Evidently, this is done through the duck pond, because as you walk the path that runs around that, you can see water being released into a channel that conducts it away from the lake and down the canyon.  By Southern California standards, the rate at which it's being released is a torrent.  

Just as we enter the section of the road that runs along the dam, we pass what used to be the dam keeper's house.  

Dam Keeper's House.  The lake is to the right.

This house was probably built around 1912 or 1914, and is now occupied by a Park staffer.   In those days it must have taken a long time to reach this place, given the road conditions of the time.  Today, it's not very surprising that most people still need a car to reach this place; no public transit comes anywhere near it.  That's also generally true of the hillside residential tracts that fill the neighboring canyons. 

There's a deeply shaded grove just down the canyon from the dam. Remarkably, most of this greenery is a natural result of geography and climate.  This section of the park does not benefit directly from the releases of water; there is a large pipe that runs through this section, where it is elevated several feet off the ground.

Down the canyon from the dam

This scene calls to mind something out of a fantasy like Lord Of The Rings.  It could be the edge of the Old Forest; be careful not to arouse Old Man Willow as we pass by.

And that's the story of Franklin Canyon, an oasis of nature in the middle of Los Angeles.


Franklin Canyon, Part I: You'd never know you were in L.A.

And technically speaking, it isn't in the City of L.A., but we'll get to that in a moment.   First, though, to understand the significance of Franklin Canyon, it's necessary to know a little L.A. geography.  Roughly speaking, the city proper covers about 450 square miles and is bisected from east to west by the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills, which together run from the beach almost to Downtown.   A couple of freeways and several major arterial roads run through the mountains, and they hum with a constant rattle and burr of traffic, especially during peak periods.  The traffic conditions on the 405 have reached mythical proportions, but even the smaller surface roads like Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon can get very busy at times.   Most of this area has been subdivided and developed, and although much of it is miles away from any amenities, it includes some of the most expensive and desirable property in the area.

Between Coldwater and Benedict Canyons lies Franklin Canyon.   As in the other canyons, there has been some residential development, but in this case it's limited to the lower and upper reaches, leaving the middle section mostly undeveloped.  There are only a small ranch house and a couple of reservoirs, and the road that was built to reach them.  For some reason, unlike the neighboring canyons, this area does not come under the jurisdiction of either Beverly Hills or Los Angeles, but is unincorporated County land.  

After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, safety concerns prompted the DWP to decommission  both the upper and lower reservoirs  in Franklin Canyon.  Their job was taken over by a more modern, rubber-lined facility about a quarter-mile north of the old Lower  Reservoir.  At this time, most of the canyon was under private ownership, and, with the DWP no longer needing the Upper Reservoir, the way was open for development. There soon arose a plan to build upscale houses on large lots, all through the canyon,  but these plans were successfully averted through the efforts of conservationist Sooky Goldman and Comgressman Howard Berman.  The property was acquired by the National Park Service, and the lower reaches of the Park were opened to the public around the year 1980.   The two reservoirs in the canyon, like all of those operated by the DWP, remained off limits, even by sight, not counting brief glimpses to be had while driving through the hills above.

We get our first view of the Canyon from above, after passing the last houses on Beverly Drive.

Franklin Canyon, looking at the ranch house

The ranch house in the distance, which is a lot smaller than you'd expect, was built in the 1930s by the Doheny family as a canyon retreat, and is now used by Park staff.   From this vantage point, the entire area looks bone dry, even though there had been rain recently when this picture was taken.  Nevertheless, when we actually are down in the canyon the general aspect is of a much more moist environment. 

We can begin by following the road ahead down to the bottom of the canyon, where we can take a closer look at the house and its immediate grounds.   

To anyone who  has ever lived in this area, familiar with the long, slow lines of commuter traffic in the other canyons, every weekday, this is something of a contrast.  Coldwater and Benedict Canyons are not hideous places by any means, but they are completely "taken" as it were, by the private property on which the numerous houses sit, and the crowded roads that run through them.  They also betray the fact that they were built up in a time when allowing the traffic through, in the name of "progress", was more important than providing a calm environment for the people who live there.   Many of the side roads, like Cherokee Lane in Coldwater Canyon, are not dead-ends,  as you'd expect,  but provide access over the hills to other areas like West Hollywood.   The traffic on these streets hardly ever stops.   I know, I'm displaying my geek credentials here,  but this stretch of road always reminds me of that part of  The Lord Of The Rings where Sam and Frodo are hiking through Ithilien, under control of the Enemy but not yet corrupted.  In the same way, Franklin Canyon has not been overrun with the wall-to-wall housing developments that characterize its neighbors.

The road dead-ends at a locked gate, beyond which is the Lower Franklin Canyon Reservoir.  This has always been off limits to the public, as most reservoirs of the Los Angeles Department Of Water and Power (DWP) are. Looking to the left, we now see the Doheny ranch house from a closer vantage point.

Franklin Canyon Ranch House.  

As noted, it's a lot smaller than you'd think.  There's just one fairly large room on the main level, adjoining a couple tiny side rooms, probably a kitchen and bedroom.  You'd think the Dohenys would have wanted something more elaborate, but considering they owned Greystone Park they must have decided they had enough rooms for everybody in the family.  Here's another view of the immediate grounds, where the NPS often holds presentations for the public.

Ranch House Front Grounds
This section was opened to the public in the early 1980s.  At the time, someone was still operating a working ranch, and numerous cautionary signs were posted about "dangerous wild cattle".  If they're wild, you don't own them, do you?   When this area became fully integrated into the national park system, the cattle went, to where I do not know.

Now we'll head back up the road, which, by the way, isn't Franklin Canyon Road, but properly known as "Lake" or "Lake Franklin" Drive.   As we drive or hike upwards, we stop to take in some of the peaceful spots along the way.

There is always running water in Franklin Canyon., because a small amount of water is always being released from the Upper Reservoir.   Most of the canyons have springs in any case, but they usually aren't visible,  because they're on private property, or else they've been paved over and their water diverted.  The spring shown in the next picture is beloved of all the dogs who are fortunate enough to be taken here by their owners.

Spring in Franklin Canyon, between the Upper and Lower reservoirs
Along the way there are numerous spots that suggest a garden, long neglected but still alluring.  Numerous film and TV scenes  have been shot on location in the canyon.  This is right about where they filmed the hitchhiking scene in It Happened One Night.  The split rail fencing is very prominent in the scene, and still much in evidence along different stretches of this road.

Southern California is semiarid by nature, but the canyons are usually a bit wetter, due to the surrounding mountains that reduce the daily exposure to sunlight. As a result, like all the canyons, Franklin is considerably greener than the surrounding hilltops, or flat country elsewhere in the region.

A little over half a mile up from the ranch house Lake Drive terminates at Franklin Canyon Drive, where we find an odd little house at the fork in the road. It appears to be abandoned now, but according to one of the park rangers, it was once owned by the DWP and occupied by one of their employees.

The boarded up windows are not encouraging.  There ought to be some use to which this unusually picturesque  house could be put by the park service.

There's a steep declivity behind the house, where a basement level is visible.  Although it never was one, it's strongly reminiscent of a mill house.

Sure, the people who lived here had to drive three miles to buy a loaf of bread, but it looks like it must have been a nice place to live even so.  The area around the house is well provided with old growth trees that give an almost sylvan effect.

Across the street from the DWP house
The house was looking a lot better in the early 1990s, when this photo was taken.

House at Franklin and Lake, early 1990s

Continuing north from the fork along Franklin Canyon Drive, the road begins to wind and rise more steeply.

The road to the Upper Reservoir
And more narrowly, as the sign warns us.  If we continue along this road for a short distance, we reach Upper Franklin Canyon Reservoir.  The roads to and around the Upper Reservoir were opened considerably later than the lower portion of the Park.  At that time the Sooky Goldman Nature Center, including a small museum was opened as well.   

This concludes the first installment.  The Franklin Canyon story is continued right about here.