Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Burbank High School

Although I loved high school when I was a teenager, it certainly was not the highlight of my life. Nor was my class (1971) apparently all that memorable since it’s barely mentioned in the recently published history of the school. Still, when a former classmate told me that Burbank High School (BHS) was celebrating its centennial this year, I immediately went to the alumni website and got nostalgic for the good ol’ days.

My family moved to Burbank in the early 1960s. With Lockheed still booming and the studios (Warner Bros., Disney and NBC) churning out hundreds of movies and TV shows in those days, living in a town like Burbank was probably every middle-class American’s dream. Though a mere 15 miles away, our new home seemed galaxies apart from the considerably less affluent El Sereno, our former neighborhood in the heart of Los Angeles.

My sister Vicki and I were excellent students who loved school. We never belonged to any social cliques; nonetheless we had lots of friends and happily participated in high school life. We attended most sports events and, like everyone else, hung-out at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant after games and on weekends. We both moved on, though, soon after graduation and rarely go to Burbank anymore since our father and aunt died.

No wonder then that I was totally mystified when I returned, earlier this month, for the BHS centennial parade and celebration. I parked the car and started walking toward the high school, but for the life of me I couldn’t see its rather distinctive 1960s facade. Had they moved the school?

Then suddenly I noticed a much newer building where our school had been. It was covered in bulldog (our old mascot) banners and I realized BHS had been completely rebuilt! Stunned, I sat on the front steps and waited for the parade to start. A group of much older alums (class of 1958) sat next to me and chatted about homecoming dances and drag-racing down Third St., while I kept my eyes peeled for classmates from my generation.

The parade was sweet—lots of former prom queens and the oldest living alumna (100 years old). Anson Williams (class of 1967), perhaps our most famous graduate and star of the TV show “Happy Days,” got a big round of applause. But the single most popular attraction was Bob’s Big Boy, towed behind on old Ford wagon. Everyone ran to the curb and starting taking snapshots of possibly the most important icon of our youth. I can’t even tell you how many Bob’s hamburgers (back in the days when I was still eating beef!) and french fries I devoured while in high school.

After the parade, I rushed over to the main quad to be part of the first tour of campus. We started at the library—the newest part of the building and the final phase of a reconstruction project that’s taken over ten years to complete. The school is now twice the size it was when Vicki and I went there. The number of students has also doubled—2000 compared to roughly 900 kids in our day. The auditorium, now named after my former drama teacher Deane Wolfson, is the only thing that remains of our old school.

Though I never did run into anyone there from the class of 1971, my visit to BHS ended up being very magical. The students all seemed to love the school and the renovated campus was truly amazing. I felt empowered by our school motto, “PRIDE,” all over again.

Hail Burbank High School! Hail! Hail! Hail!

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