The Polytechnic Student
Polytechnic High School, Los Angeles, California
POLYTECHNIC HIGH SCHOOL: ITS HISTORY
(From The Polytechnic Student: 1916)
Polytechnic, the school that we are proud to term Alma Mater, is now closing the fifteenth year of its existence. In the story of these years, we feel that there is much that may interest the majority of students both past and present and give them an adequate idea of the real growth of this, our school.
Poly's pathway has not been strewn with roses, nor has it been strewn with thorns. Indeed blossoms have been quite numerous along the way, and briers, perhaps, as much so, but only in such proportion as would further a sturdy growth and healthy maturity. Through its years of diverse fortune, Mr. Francis has been its guide and counsellor, and it is to him perhaps more than any other that we owe our heartfelt gratitude for the development of the school today.
In the fall of 1901, Poly made it official appearance upon the school horizon, not as Poly, however, but as the Commercial High School, and, incidentally, one of extremely modest proportions. A low building, small though attractive, situated upon the hill just across the street from L. A. High, served as our first home, and in it, Mr. Francis, former head of the L.A.H.S. commercial department, was our first principal, and Mr. B. H. Donnell our first vice-principal. The faculty list of that year discloses many familiar names; among them those of Miss Smith, Miss Sanborn, Mrs. Carvell, Mr. Twining, and Mr. Wagner, while the list of students shows the names of Miss Sutherland and Miss Wagner, the latter known to us as Mrs. Gobrecht.
In this unpretentious school, self-government originated as the result of a slight incident which, when it occurred, promised dire consequences to some few offenders. A small cottage at the foot of the hill had often been the mark of thoughtless assaults from the commercial boys, but upon this day the climax was reached. A large rock which had been dislodged bumped down the hill and landed with a thud upon the roof of the little dwelling. Mr. Francis, anticipating trouble, sent the boys to settle matters for themselves. When they returned successful, he decided to try out a plan of self-government which he had been considering. Student officials soon displaced teachers as administrators of order about the building and grounds. The experiment succeeded. From this small beginning, we see the idea broadening more and more until we have our own rather intricate, and if we must say it, quite satisfactory system.
In 1904, the Commercial High School was rechristened Polytechnic; in the same year bonds were voted for the purchase of the grounds of the main building, and in the fall of 1905 the school was moved to its present site, bringing wit it a "veritable landslide" of students, a landslide which grew to such proportions that it was only a few years later that Mr. Francis saw boys and girls waiting all night long for the privilege to enter.
During the first years in the new building the library dwelt peacefully in 214; the art departments, in 401-403. The foundry and machine shops were equipped a year or two later, and the electrical department was introduced in 1907. On the second floor of the Science Hall, the physical education department of all the city schools was maintained until 1909 when the scientific department had developed to such an extent that it became necessary to utilize this room for school purposes. At that time the plans for the Art building were drawn by our own students in architecture, and in 1908 the land site was at last purchased, and the work on the buildings begun, the first shovelful of dirt being turned by President Taft. The building was opened in the fall of 1909 and as the art departments were established there, the library which had occupied 213-14 was now moved to 401-3. The feat was accomplished by the Seniors in one roll call period. How? By means of that organization and cooperation for which Poly students and faculty have always been most noteworthy. The Seniors formed in line. The books, taken in order from the shelves by the librarian, were given to the students who carried them to 401-3 where they were deposited upon the shelves in the same order. Thus, at the end of one-half hour, the library was not only moved but ready for use.
During the early years of hour history, there had been two important changes in the faculty. Miss Katharine B. Ross had become the first woman vice-principal in 1905, and Mr. Dunn had taken the place of Mr. Donnell as vice-principal in the fall of 1908. In the year 1910, Mr. Francis having accepted the position of superintendent of the Los Angeles city Schools, resigned, and Mr. Dunn was made principal, Mr. Richer succeeding him as vice-principal. Miss Smith succeeded Miss Ross, who had resigned in the spring as vice-principal, in the fall of 1912, serving in that capacity during 1912-13-14, at the end of which time she resigned and Miss Humphrey took her place, being the third woman vice-principal of Polytechnic.
Since the departure of Mr. Francis in 1910 our school has continued its steady, measured strides toward greater development under the careful, loving, and most able guidance of Mr. Dunn. Certainly no school was ever more fortunate that Poly in that it has been under the supervision of two such men as Mr. Francis and Mr. Dunn.
Not once throughout its history has Poly ceased to grow. There has been a continued enlarging of interest and broadening of the field of activity. Our course of study has grown from that strictly commercial form of 1901 to the widely diversified and broadly inclusive one of 1916. Today a choice of seventeen courses is offered. Though Poly is pre-eminently a technical high school, cultural and academic subjects are offered to such an extent that were all others withdrawn there would still remain a school of no mean proportions.
The Junior College, introduced in 1912, has been one of the greatest additions of recent years. It at first offered a few academic and domestic science subjects as well as those of a technical nature. Later the board of Education decided to distribute the Junior College work among Polytechnic, Los Angeles and Hollywood high schools and declared that Poly should give its sole attention to technical courses. Henceforth technical subjects predominated; the curriculum now includes Architecture, chemistry, and Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, and Mining engineering. These courses offered are not strictly what the term Junior College would imply. Their work does not attempt to cover that of the freshman and sophomore years of college, while it does include some technical work of junior and senior years. This curriculum has been arranged in order to provide practical preparation for the boy who does not intend to enter advanced educational institutions, although a graduate of our Junior College may receive advanced standing in the University.
By 1911, the attendance at Poly had so far increased that it became necessary to purchase the yellow house and remodel it for class rooms. This building was placed at the disposal of classes in 1912, but by 1915, there was still another overflow of students, when the grey cottage across the street was pressed into service. Today our cry is: "Room, more room; may we but have more room!" Let it be hoped that we may realize our desire and that this most serious need may soon be satisfied.
Each year's history has added much to Polytechnic's growth; growth in usefulness, in breadth of interest, and in beauty as well as numbers, and it is with price and joy that we today refer to it as "Our School."
Carmalete Waldo S'16
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