By CONNIE BAER and LYNN BAER
Grossmont High School’s nearly 100 years are reflected throughout its historic campus. While the campus has been dramatically modernized over the past 10 years, reminders of its past include bronze plaques as well as signs and features documenting its history.
DRINKING FOUNTAIN IN THE UPPER QUAD
Since the first Foothillers graduated in 1921, the most enigmatic bronze plaque on campus is the one celebrating the Class of 1916’s drinking fountain. It reads:
“The Class of 1916 donated a drinking fountain made of granite from a local quarry and inscribed ‘Class of 1916,’ to the old El Cajon Valley Union High School. When Grossmont Union High School was established in 1920, the fountain was moved to the Grossmont’s temporary home for its first two years, the closed Riverview UHS campus in Lakeside. When the new Grossmont High School building was opened in 1922, the Class of 1916’s fountain was moved to the new school. For forty years, thousands of Grossmont students drank from the fountain. In 1960 the drinking fountain was buried near its original location as a senior prank. The granite base of the fountain was unearthed in 2008 and refashioned into a decorative fountain.”
HISTORIC IVY BRONZE PLAQUE IN THE LOWER QUAD
In 1925, the GUHS P.T.A. paid renowned horticulturalist Kate Sessions $350 to landscape the school to “make Grossmont one of the garden spots of Southern California,” according to the 1925 El Cajon Valley News.
Then in April 1926, it stated, “About 500 trees and shrubs have been planted around … the building, a long row of creeping ivy (ficus repens) has been planted in front.” The English ivy from the back of the school planted in the 1930s is believed to be from Washington Irving’s New York home and originally from Sir Walter Scott’s home in Scotland. During these early years, Algerian ivy was also planted in the rear of the school.
Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department assisted in the preservation of the ivy by growing cuttings, which are now planted along the fence in front rather than on the 1922 granite Castle.
THE WPA BRONZE PLAQUES IN THE UPPER QUAD
In December 1935, a $90,000 bond issue funded three major projects on campus, the Manual Arts (Vocational Arts and Agriculture) building; the reconstruction of the rear wing of the original 1922 school from an auditorium to a two story classroom wing; and the creation of a new physical education-auditorium building.
Forty-five percent of the cost was an outright gift from the government through the WPA (Works Project Administration), with the remainder funded through a community bond. Architect Frank L. Hope designed the building in the art deco style typical of WPA projects at the time.
In 2015, the Class of 1964 funded the replacement of the historic art deco sign that once appeared above the doorway, which now proclaims, as it did in the past, “Auditorium-Gymnasium” with the added year of completion, 1937. On the corner of the building is the original WPA bronze plaque commemorating the campus’s historic construction.
There are several other reminders of the WPA’s historic influence on campus: the reconfiguration of the football field from east-west to north-south alignment; a river rock sloping wall behind the home stands of the Jack Mashin Stadium; the wide and deep cement steps leading to the stadium; the X design of the upper quad sidewalks; and a cement tennis bench with a bronze plaque commemorating the tennis courts and benches constructed where the current school office stands with the words “Built by the WPA 1935-1936.”
THE BIG G ON THE HILL
For decades, the G has represented Foothiller pride as a large visual symbol of the campus. Early 1930’s photographs show a whitewashed letter G on a hill near Grossmont.
In 1947-48, the Hi-Y Club (YMCA) built the Big G on the slope in front of the original school made out of shrubs, blooming in colors of blue and gold. During the 1960s, the shrubs were showing their age, but still intermittedly blooming. In 1993, volunteers, along with RCP’s Gene Chubb (Class of 1948), replaced the G in the same location with one made of brick and rock.
In the late 1950s to the 1970s, there was also a large G on Cowles Mountain (with an S for SDSU on the other side). Yearly, as part of a weeklong freshmen initiation, ninth grade students “whitewashed” the G.
Today, Bill Woolman (Class of 1962) lovingly cares for the G in front of the original school. If you drive by the G on Murray Drive, don’t be surprised if you see Bill there as he trims, weeds, and rakes to keep it looking its best. Recently, Bill funded a solar light that shines on the G at night, enabling the G to broadcast its Foothiller Pride day and night.
BECOME PART OF AN HISTORIC CAMPUS
Today, there are several opportunities to celebrate yourself, your family, your class, or your business. One way is to contribute to our GHS Endowment Fund and become a Foothiller Friend or Founder. Your donation will be permanently commemorated with a gray tile on campus. Visit grossmont.donationtiles.com to place an online order or email or phone us to receive an order form by mail.
Other opportunities include donating a personalized royal blue bench on campus or sponsoring a decade showcase for the new GHS Museum, opening next school year. Please email or phone us for more information.
— Connie and Lynn Baer write on behalf of the Grossmont High School Museum. To learn more about Grossmont High School, past and present, visit the GHS Museum website at foothillermuseum.com. Due to the coronavirus, the GHS Museum is currently closed. Contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 619-668-6140.