Estancia High alumni return for a 50-year reunion tour

Dick Burke stood outside the Estancia High School administration office Friday afternoon and smiled.

In front of him, about 30 alumni from the class of 1967 — Estancia’s first graduating class — were busy chatting in the parking lot, seemingly unaware that he was trying to wrangle them into the Costa Mesa campus for a special tour.

“Like herding cattle,” Burke said. “Come on, old folks! I can break out the walkers.”

The tour, led by current Estancia Principal Michael Halt, was the beginning of a weekend of events for the class of ’67’s 50-year reunion.

That crop of some 300 students started at Estancia as juniors in 1965, when the Placentia Avenue campus opened, and left after establishing some of the school’s long-standing traditions, such as its eagle mascot and school colors.

When they came to Estancia, it was an architecturally innovative campus, with an open concept that, in effect, meant fewer doors shutting off the classrooms. It also had wings dedicated to certain subjects, a practice still in effect.

At the outset of the tour, Halt said it would be “an adventure.” He said he looked forward to learning more about campus history from those who had lived it decades ago.

The group passed by a plaque dedicated to Robert “Big Bird” Hassay, a former Estancia English teacher who also announced Estancia football for decades.

Minutes later, Hassay came in for the tour. He’s now 85. The group got a kick out of seeing him stand in front of his photo.

During the roughly one-hour tour, Halt noted that many things Estancia had in its earlier days — such as an auto shop, an “electronics room” and home economics — have been replaced with things like special education classrooms or engineering spaces.

As June McKee walked into the social sciences wing, she remarked how back then, “We called it ‘history.’ ”

The alumni walked by a pole where Estancia seniors paint their names. The next year, the new seniors paint over the old names and put theirs on.

“We should’ve brought some paint,” one alumnus said. Another replied, “We qualify. We’re seniors.”

Patrick Caudill couldn’t help but look at the floor. When he first arrived at Estancia, some floors weren’t finished yet; the students walked on dirt.

Mike Munier gazed on Estancia’s Freedom Wall, a mural established last year that records all Estancia alumni who have served in the armed forces. Munier, an Army veteran, saw his name wasn’t there. He’s going to have it added.

Munier asked Halt if Estancia still offers a “boys chef” class. Halt asked what made that class only for boys.

Apparently not a lot. The teacher “just tried to teach us to make something,” Munier said. The group laughed.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint

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