Written in 1934
In the fall of 1907 the citizens of Hawthorne decided that two miles was too much of a walk for the school children of the little community and filed a petition with the county board of supervisors for the organization of a school district and the construction of a schoolhouse which would be more convenient for the youngsters.
In a small frame building which still stands next to the Community Church on Acacia street, eighteen boys and girls comprised the first classes ever held in the Hawthorne District. School opened on November 18, 1907 with Mrs. Hilda M. Smith installed as teacher. Three trustees were appointed by Mr. Mark Keppel, then superintendent of county schools. They were H. L. Hall, Mrs. A.D. Miller and John Wright. The following April an election was held for trustees and Eugene Heff, A.A. Germain and H.L. Hall was elected. Martha Brubaker was appointed teacher and served for the school year of 1908-1909, to be succeeded for the following year by D.L. Stanton, who served as principal for three terms. During his first year he had one teacher with him, Jennie Clay, who taught the lower grades. In 1910 there were three on the faculty. Comparing that staff with the presence of 47 teachers and eight other employees of the elementary school district of Hawthorne is striking evidence of the steady growth of the community.
The first building to be erected was under construction in1906 and was valued at $6500 on a lot worth $2500 with furniture, library and apparatus valued at an additional sum of $225, making the total valuation of the properties of the school district worth $9225. Today the valuation of the school sites, buildings, furniture, library and apparatus is rated as worth $153,636.21, with a new replacement cost estimated at $204,824.45, as of 1930 appraisal.
Between 1908 and 1914 the valuation of school properties increased slightly by more than $50,000.
When the little original school house was abandoned the children moved into the Washington school. There were 39 pupils and two teachers who went into the new quarters.
In 1922 the Ballona School building was finished and occupied and three years later the district was equipped with four school buildings and had a faculty of 39 teachers and principals. In two more years, the district had erected two more buildings, making the present total of six and at that time the faculty and employee roster showed 53 names.
The library showed steady growth also. Starting with 43 books, it gained 114 more the first year, an increase made possible by a cash fund of $200 pledged by private parties. Now the libraries of the elementary schools hold a total of 5400 volumes.
In the early days of the Hawthorne schools, teachers did not draw very large salaries. The records show that Mrs. Smith, the first teacher, was paid $70.00 per month. This increased gradually to $80.00 for teachers, while D.E. Stanton, the first principal, started at $100.00 per month and two years later was given a raise of $10.00, John Wright, who served as one of the original trustees, was given the job of janitor in 1909, for which he drew a salary of $20.00 per month. The district at present requires the services of seven janitors with a monthly payroll of $770.00.
When the first election of trustees was held in April of 1909 there were ten votes cast, nine of which were given to H.L. Hall elected him for a three-year term, and one was cast for W.A. Grannis. The ten electors were H.L. Hall, P. Peterson, A.O. Clement, A.H. Lowell, L.C. Hawk, John Trumbull, and A.A. Germain.
Successions of ten district superintendents have served the Hawthorne elementary school district. D.E. Stanton was first with a term of three years, then came Delphine Fowler for a year, F.B. Schisler for two years, Elvin Price for three, W.W. Kressen and Allen B. Martin for a year each, followed by Pearl Hall for a period of five years and then O.F. Munson took charge for six years. Following Munson, a change was made by the trustees and the experiment was tried for having a business manager. W.P. Reese was given this job and Inez Durnford was acting supervisor and principal of the grammar schools. The next two years found Inez Durnford as district superintendent, to be succeeded for the present school year by Herman A. Buckner.
Many interesting side lights on the early history of Hawthorne and its schools were gained from Mrs. A.A. Germain and Mrs. S.H. Rousch. When the Germans came to Hawthorne there were only three families and the nearest school was at Wiseburn, two and one-half miles west of Hawthorne. Mrs. Rousch recalled the days when the Washington school was being built and she opened a cafeteria across the street to serve the working, later being granted permission to operate a cafeteria in the school building for the pupils and faculty. Mrs. Rousch served as the first president of the Parent Teachers Association which was organized in Hawthorne in 1912 and soon had a membership of 180 men and women. This organization has continued to take an active helpful part in the development and progress of the schools and the community.
In scanning the school directory for the past 24 years, it is interesting to note this long continuance of many of the teachers, with the record of fourteen successive years held by Mrs. Mary G. Coffin, who still teaches the fifth grade at the Williams Street School, but who has announced her retirement from teaching at the close of the present school year, as she will have served thirty years as a teacher in California schools. She started teaching in a little schoolhouse in Shasta County, later coming to Southern California where she taught for eleven years in Los Angeles City schools until her marriage. For three years she and her husband taught school and did community work in Alaska in government schools and on her return to California she joined the staff of Hawthorne Schools.
Another old timer among the employees is John Hawkins, janitor of the Ballona building. He has served for eight years and the neat clean appearance of the building under his charge is a tribute to his experience and conscientious efforts.
Hawthorne schools are still forging ahead with plans under way and taking form for courses in adult recreation and vocational courses which have been advocated and approved by the present board of trustees, which is composed of Clarence F. Wilbanks, president, E.A. Jackson, clerk and Mrs. Eleanor Wheeler, the latter being chairman of the committee on adult recreation and devoting a considerable part of her time to that work and her many other duties as a trustee.
At the close of the winter term more than eighty pupils will graduate from the eighth grade and be eligible for high school enrollment. Most of the graduates from grammar school enter high school and of those who graduate there, thirteen percent enter college.
A recent entrance in high school classes show a preference for applied courses, as the current economic conditions have dispelled the hopes of some of them of being able to finance a college course. This is shown to be a marked degree in the number of girls entering for Home Economic courses, due, no doubt, to the fact that during their years in the grammar grades they learned the practical value of the proper preparation of foods and making of wearing apparel.
The present enrollment of over 1525 pupils in the district shows a typical cross section of the nationalities represented in Southern California. There are 60 Mexicans, and 73 Japanese. Their friendly attitude toward one another in the classrooms and on the playground irrespective of racial antecedents, is typical of the great American melting pot out of which seems destined to come a better form of government, a closer understanding of the rights of others and good will toward all men and all nations.
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