By CONNIE and LYNN BAER
Over 100 years ago on Sept. 13, 1920, students began their first day of school at Grossmont High School in Lakeside, where classes were held for its first two years. Wait, Lakeside? Yes, Lakeside. The cover of the first two commencement programs state “Grossmont Union High School, Lakeside, California”.
In the early 1900s, East County students commuted to San Diego by train or by horse and buggy to further their secondary school education at more “sophisticated” institutions such as Russ High School (later San Diego High School). East County residents had two small rural high schools, El Cajon Valley Union High School in east El Cajon and Riverview Union High School in Lakeside, but it soon became apparent that the community needed a larger facility, one better equipped to handle the educational needs of the students.
In the latter part of the year 1919, a new high school for the area was proposed and seriously considered. It was agreed by most people that a new school was needed, but the location for the school was a hotly debated topic. The residents of each grammar school area felt that their location was the ideal one for the school.
On July 12, 1920, a formal proposal was approved for the new school, and on Nov. 5 of that year, the $110,000 bond for the school easily gained voter approval. The decision was readily made for the school’s location when Ed Fletcher, for a fee of $10, donated the land for the new school —14 acres at the foot of Grossmont — and also provided granite blocks from his quarry to be used in the construction of the school. This generous donation provided more than enough land to build the proposed school, plus room for future expansion.
On Sept. 13, 1920, Grossmont Union High School enrolled its first students. But as the new campus was being built, the Riverview building in Lakeside became Grossmont’s first home for two years, from 1920 until the end of the 1921-22 school year. The first graduation class of Grossmont Union High School numbered 37 students.
Those first two years were memorably captured in the GHS’s yearbook, which has been named El Recuerdo for 100 years. The first faculty numbered 11, two of whom, Carl Quicksall and Ethel Prosser, became GHS education pioneers.
2020 Hall of Honoree Carl Quicksall in September 1920 taught math and science in the new school — Grossmont. His calm leadership and kind and wise demeanor inevitably led to his being named the second principal of GHS in the 1924-25 school year. During his 20 years as principal, from 1924-1944, Carl oversaw or created Boys Federation, Circle G, and the California Scholastic Federation chapter. He also served as a freshman or senior advisor to numerous classes over those years. From 1935-1937, as principal, he oversaw the WPA-funded dramatic expansion of the campus with the construction of the Manual Arts Building, the two-story classroom wing of the “Castle,” and the Auditorium-Gymnasium (the Old Gym).
Another 2020 Hall of Honoree is education pioneer Ethel Prosser, who began as an English and History teacher and influenced countless students from 1920-1952. In 1921, she was the first yearbook advisor and in 1922 was a driving force in the creation of the GHS Alumni Association. In 1925, Miss Prosser was named Dean of Girls, a position she held until the late 1940s. In 1926, she helped to establish the Circle G — Grossmont’s honor society for high achieving and involved students. The indefatigable Miss Prosser also served as a class advisor from the 1920s through 1951, English Department Chairman, and even directed drama productions in the 1920s.
As the 1925 El Recuerdo states, “No matter what time or occasion, Miss Prosser is always ready to listen with interest and patience to our many problems, and with a kind smile and encouraging words, gives us just the right advice.”
Her spirit of loyalty, cooperation, enthusiasm, and kindness pervade the school today. Grossmont would not be what it is today without her.
The firm foundations laid during GHS’s first two years in Lakeside are evident today in Grossmont High School’s continued commitment to academic excellence and to the well-being of its students.
Become part of our historic campus
In honor of our historic 100 Years of Excellence Celebration, the GHS Educational Foundation is sponsoring a scholarship fundraising program. Each $100 for 100 years donor will have his or her name or family’s or business’ name engraved in a 2-by-4-inch gray tile, which will be displayed on a wall near the front of the school. In June 2020, the Foundation awarded $6,500 in senior scholarships; our goal is to dramatically increase that amount in 2021 and for the future.
Visit the GHS Educational Foundation website and donate to this historic scholarship fund at foothillerfoundation.com using the gold donate button or write a check payable to GHS Educational Foundation and mail to GHS Educational Foundation, P.O. Box 1043, La Mesa, CA 91944. On the check memo, please indicate “scholarship fund.”
To learn more about GHS, past and present, visit the GHS Museum website at foothillermuseum.com. Due to the coronavirus and our move into our larger museum space, the GHS Museum is currently closed, but we are checking our emails at email@example.com and our phone messages at 619-668-6140.
— Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the GHS Museum.