Part II, The History of Jefferson School

90 Years of Jefferson School, 1906 to 1996 : Part II, The History of Jefferson School

by Carrol B. Johnson, Principal 1944-1959

In 1941, Miss Mary B. O’Bannon, the first principal of Jefferson School, wrote a brief history of the school. She expressed in a delightful way facts about the early days at Jefferson and carried the narrative through thirty-four years of growth and development.

Now, it seems fitting as Jefferson is engaged in celebrating its fiftieth anniversary that someone take time out and bring the story up to date.

In 1943, Miss O’Bannon retired after 36 years of devoted service. The love of the community for Miss O’Bannon was expressed in many ways; and with mingled emotions and with an indomitable spirit of faith and courage , she and her sister left to establish their home at Saratoga in the lovely Santa Clara Valley.

Miss O’Bannon’s love and loyalty to Jefferson have been shown since that time by her frequent visits to the school. She has never in the many years missed a Founder’s Day Program.

In the fall of 1943, George C. McGinnis was appointed the new principal of the Jefferson School. Dr. McGinnis has often expressed himself, saying that the year at Jefferson was one of the happiest ones in his life. But he was destined for even greater glory and he became a part of the administrative staff in 1944. In 1945 he became Principal of Thousand Oaks School, and three years later he returned to the Administrative offices as Assistant Superintendent in Charge of Business Services.

Enrollment Grows to 700

The next thirteen years are memorable ones for many changes were brought about by the Second World War and the great migration of people to the Golden State. For years Jefferson grew at the rate of one classroom per year, and the pupil enrollment increased from about 350 to over 700. These were years marked by numerous changes in teacher personnel as well as the increase in the number of boys and girls attending the school. Many wonderful teachers who had helped in laying the foundations of a good school reached retirement age and like Miss O’Bannon found new interests.The Board of Education confounded with the problem of providing suitable classrooms for the children presented a bond issue in the year of 1946. This was defeated as had been all other bond issues in the preceding quarter of a century.

Realizing the critical situation every interested person in Berkeley got into the act and an eight million dollar bond issue passed in 1948. Then there ensued two long years of preparing plans and moving in more bungalows to take care of the children who were rapping at the doors.

Finally there came the day in 1950, when ground was broken for the new structure. The next two years of building seemed interminable. These were years marked by a frantic effort on the part of our own maintenance crew to move bungalows to keep out of the way of the builders and of the Jefferson staff to keep the children from getting killed.

The tremendous cranes, bulldozers, riveters were fascinating but not too conducive to safety or quiet classrooms.

Rose Street: Impromptu Playground During Construction

Impatiently, the community watched the new structures rise. The children practically had no playground space, but the city came to our rescue and closed Rose Street during the school day, and somehow the boys and girls managed to get along with restricted space and activity. Finally, in the summer of 1952 the administration sanctioned the move into the new school even though it was not completed. It was a terrific job to sort and move the books and teaching materials from twelve or thirteen bungalows to the new classrooms, but there was no place to put these materials as the book shelves were not installed; but gradually these facilities were added and order and calm were restored.

One memorable day was the one when the old basement of the original building was torn down. This monstrosity had stuck up above the ground like a Kansas State hurricane cellar for about twenty years. It housed our cafeteria, and Miss O’Bannon’s description of it as a “pitifully shabby building” represents a gross understatement.

Students and teachers hardly knew how to act as the beautiful new cafeteria, library, and classrooms were opened for use. Thus far, this has been a story of growth in numbers and in physical facilities; however, the heart beats of a school cannot be measured by numbers or buildings.

During these years, the parents have been simply wonderful. It would be impossible to enumerate the many ways in which the people have supported their school. Jefferson has one of the finest elementary school libraries in the state of California, and it has been entirely staffed by volunteer workers among our mothers and teachers.

The Parent Teacher organization and the Dads’ Club have sponsored the many youth groups, and it would be impossible to enumerate their many gifts and services to the school over the years.

As this history is being written the community is looking forward to the fiftieth year at Jefferson with preparations for a permanent mosaic to be made and plans for the dedication of the newstage in the multi-purpose room.

During the spring of 1957 the Ada Street shrubbery which had been damaged during the building operations and had also become overgrown was replanted. The children made booklets of poems, drawings and letters expressing their thanks and appreciation for this improvement. Some of these were sent to the Superintendent and to the members of the Board of Education. As Jefferson starts its fiftieth year, there is unusual activity. For in addition to the regular work of the school, there are great plans under way for the mosaic. Children are giving their impressions in art of what the mosaic should depict. They are also bringing to school shells and rocks gathered at the sea shore during the summer vacation.

In the multi-purpose room, the builders are hurrying to meet a deadline of a finished stage byabout February 1, 1958. Needless to say there is great interest in these projects.

There are so many interesting things which deserve comments that it is difficult to bring this narrative to a conclusion. Before this is done, it would seem fitting and appropriate to look back over the years to try to get some sort of perspective of the entire period.

Turning to Part I of the history, we find Miss O’Bannon making this statement, “We had few distractions. Rose Street and Sacramento Street had been surveyed and were sometimes rather busy; but being ungraded there was really no ‘traffic’ problem. The principal drove to school each morning in her buggy, drawn by a small roan pony who would have been quite a school pet if she had had a gentler disposition.”

It seems incredible that in these fifty years we have changed from a horse and buggy culture to a nation of super-highways, high powered cars and jet propulsion planes, to say nothing of the serious implications of the satellites travelling over our heads in outer space.

Now the fiftieth year is rapidly drawing to a close and the children and parents have assembled to dedicate the new stage and to unveil the mosaic. Both of these gifts are symbolic of the arts and the culture of our age. And while they are not dazzling like the great scientific advancements of the time, there must come to every parent’s mind the fervent hope that the next fifty years will bring about greater strides in the art of human relations to the end that peace will prevail over the length and breadth of the entire earth.

This little souvenir booklet of the History of Jefferson is presented to you with the hope that it will kindle fond memories of your school and inspire the boys and girls to carry forward the banner and help build a better world.

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Jump to Another Section of this Book

Part I: The History of Jefferson School
by Mary O’Bannon, Principal 1907-1943

Part II: The History of Jefferson School
by Carrol B. Johnson, Principal 1944-1959

Part III: Jefferson School: Memories of the 1960’s and the 1970’s
by Jean Brooks, with Pam Ormsbyand Mary Ann Furuichi

Part IV: Jefferson Memories
by Marion Altman, Prinicpal 1983-1995

Part V: Jefferson Reflections
by Jan Goodman