By Jack Story
Special to the Village News
“On a group of rolling foothills” were the opening words of a song describing Fallbrook Union High School for many years. Most old-time alumni credit the composer of this song to a popular teacher back in the 30s named Kurt Reineman.
The school is not at the location described in this song anymore. That property now belongs to Fallbrook Union Elementary School District and the Boys & Girls Clubs of North County. Fallbrook High School is presently located at the corner of South Mission Road and Stage Coach Lane, south of town as most everyone knows.
The place where the present high school stands was originally a group of rolling foothills too, but construction engineers had the property graded flat before building classrooms. Now, Fallbrook Union High School is a flat campus. That’s probably why I don’t very often hear the school song any more.
The progression of school buildings being built in town as the population has grown is a story unto itself, which I won’t go into at this time. I want to talk about the school located at the end of Ivy Street that the song was written about back in the thirties. That’s the one I attended from 1949 to 1952. It is also the one that both of my parents attended in the 1920s, and was attended briefly by two of my three children in the late 1970s, before they were moved to the present campus on Stage Coach Lane.
During the late 1930s, with the help of the WPA, the gymnasium and plunge (Boys & Girls Club now) were constructed across from the school rooms. What a jewel this was for our community! It is quite apparent that the native rock on the site was incorporated into the design of the facility.
My first recollection of the gymnasium was the 1937 graduation of that year’s seniors. I’ve been told that the 1937 seniors were the first ones to stand on the stage in the new gymnasium. My uncle, Donovan Martin, was a member of that class and the thing that I was impressed the most about were all the flowers that were on display in the cafeteria room for the reception after the main ceremony. I have been told that this tradition began years before, probably because nearly all residents grew flowers, but did not have the money to buy gifts.
During my 12 years of education in the Fallbrook school system, I was involved in many events in the gymnasium. Nearly any activity that took place where the public or school was involved took place in the gymnasium, which included the stage for special performances. Just to mention a few here, besides constant school sporting events as well as town basketball teams, I remember Halloween carnivals, Christmas programs, and concerts of all kinds.
When I was in the seventh grade, the top four grades at elementary school traveled over to the high school one afternoon to watch the high school drama club put on the operetta “Martha.”
When Fallbrook Public Utility District was feuding with the government over the rights to Santa Margarita river water (that’s how far back it started), hearings were held in the gym with people from Washington involved. That made national news.
I was in the grade school band from fourth to eighth grade and our spring and fall concerts every year were presented from the gym stage with the public invited. Now the town has multiple venues for Fallbrook events.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the name of James “Jimmy” Potter in this article. I am not going to look up the length of tenure of this man as high school principal, but I know it was from the 1920s into the 1940s. He was a pillar of the community. I would say he was a legend completely involved in his wish that each student get the most out of his or her schooling so that he or she could pursue their life’s desire. He retired shortly before I entered high school, but I remember him well.
There are still a few people around town with whom I can reminisce about the old school and that is fun. There were a lot of activities that took place on the athletic field to the east of the gym during these same years and in fact still do.
I seldom have occasion to drive up to the end of East Ivy Street anymore, but I did visit it recently. Things look a little different and improved, and it is certainly a busy place. That makes me feel good and I’m sure that if Mr. Potter were still alive he would be happy also.
hiSTORYcally yours, Jack