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Has Her Alma Mater Sold Its Soul?

I know I should have saved my high school senior sweater, but I think the moths got it. The sweaters were sky blue and the felt Beverly Hills High School crests were stitched on the left side. I couldn’t have saved my white flannel pleated skirt because Eddie Janss spilled some fabric-eating liquid on it the first day I wore it to chemistry class. It hung together that day, but it fell apart the next.

The day we got our sweaters, a bunch of us piled into Fords and Chevies, not BMWs and Porsches, and went to Westwood for lunch at a nifty hamburger place at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards.

The other day, nifty, true-blue Richie Morgan, a vintage Beverly boy, called to tell me that Beverly Hills High School was going to market a line of clothes and gimcracks, all bearing a BHHS logo.

I found the Sept. 16 article and, sure enough, there was the nausea-inducing news. The story spoke of Beverly Hills’ “glitzy” name and how the city’s “financially strapped” schools were counting on the name to make some money. Unless they raise some money they might jeopardize the school’s television station and planetarium.

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Among the items that are supposed to turn the heads of non-Beverly kids are watches, beach towels, fall clothing and sneakers.

One school board member is quoted as having said, “We are optimistically hoping to generate $250,000 the first year. My gut feeling is that it will be very popular in the Midwest and South, where people are enthralled with the California life style.”

The phrase, “gut feeling,” is not quite what I would have expected from a school board member. He was never in Miss MacDonald’s class.

Someone once said, “No one ever made a mistake by underestimating the taste of Americans.” I think that school board member is counting on that and I hope he’s wrong. I think he underestimates the taste of the kids in the Midwest and South.

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Another board member said, “Not every child can attend a Beverly Hills school, but I want to give every child the opportunity to wear our T-shirts, sweat shirts and our logo.”

You can almost hear the trumpets. Did you ever hear such condescending claptrap in your life?

Southern kids panting to wear something that says Beverly Hills High School can nip down to Macon, Ga., to buy it instead of waiting for it to appear in upscale department stores--this line of items will be manufactured in Macon and promoted by a company in San Diego. According to The Times article, 20th Century Fox, Beverly Hills High’s next door neighbor, is handling licensing and sales.

I’ll bet the Beverly Hills High School board members would be surprised to know that if they wanted to manufacture something authentic, it would be the uniforms the girls wore the first year BHHS opened. They were of heavy Irish linen, in pastel shades of yellow, green, pink, blue and, I think, lavender. They buttoned down the front to the waist and had a panel of set-in box pleats about a third of the way down the front of the skirt. Where the pleats were stitched in, there was a binding, making six layers of linen to iron. Heavy linen has to be ironed almost dripping wet. So many of us went to school with damp skirts it’s a wonder we didn’t grow moss.

The uniforms had belts and the girls who had no more hips than iced-tea spoons wore them low. The rest of us wore them where we hoped our waists would be. It was academic with me because I was the same up and down like a butter churn, probably because I was 11 years old. I think we only had to wear those awful things one year.

The mayor of Beverly Hills says the new line of clothing is “a sensational idea” that could place the city’s public schools “on par with the best private schools in the nation.”

I’ll bet that will thrill Mayfield, Choate, Hotchkiss, Sacred Heart Academy, Marymount and Webb. It’s a tacky idea, as tacky as poor old Rodeo Drive, full of wannabes and tourists who miss the bus for the movie star home tour.

In the article, one BHHS senior leaning out of her 1988 BMW said, “It sounds like a good way to raise money but I haven’t seen it, you know?”

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Yeah, like I know, see?

Another senior said, “It sounds like something that the people in the Valley would wear--with socks matching the pants and shirts, but Beverly Hills kids like the Melrose Avenue look.”

The young woman makes me want to say something nice about Valley girls. She was described in the article as wearing a denim jacket, white T-shirt, white tights and pink ballet shoes. A string of safety pins dangled from a loop in one ear.

I wonder what Harriet C. Robbins, girls vice principal in my day, would have said to this apparition?

Beverly Hills was a nice little town to grow up in and a wonderful high school. Now, sadly, it is laminated, imitation, schlock. I wish they’d take the name of my high school off all that “sensational” stuff made in Georgia and promoted by San Diegans.

Win the fight for orange and white and I hope their strings of safety pins get caught in their hightops.


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