Purple pride turns 75

Tim Willert

Ask Clara Mae (Roe) Tronowsky to recall her Hoover High School days,

and you'll get a long pause.

After all, it's been nearly 67 years since the Glendale native was

Girls League president, more than six decades since she drove her

dad's 1927 LaSalle around town with her giggling girlfriends.

But it is not every day that Hoover has an all-class reunion to

commemorate the school's 75th anniversary.

"Even though I'm only eight blocks away, I haven't been on campus

in a long time," Tronowsky said this week. "I'm looking forward to

seeing the school and my old friends."

In 1937, the year she graduated from Hoover, a double hamburger at

Bob's Big Boy on Colorado Street cost 15 cents, and orchestras

played at proms.

Classmates who drank beer and smoked cigarettes were considered

"fast," which was akin to being uncool.

"Only one girl got pregnant, that's how wild it was," Tronowsky,

84, said this week. "It was an innocent time."

Kirt Kohlmeier, Class of 1971, doesn't have any trouble

remembering his days at Hoover, because the school has been part of

his life ever since he was born.

His father, Dee Kohlmeier, spent 36 years at Hoover as a teacher,

basketball coach and athletic director beginning in 1953.

"My mom used to drop me off at the school in afternoons so she

could get away from me," Kirt Kohlmeier joked. "My dad's [office] was

my playground from the time I was 2 or 3."

Kirt Kohlmeier returned to Hoover in 1978 and spent the next 25

years coaching varsity basketball and softball before retiring from

coaching in June.

"I think in my mind, the magic [of Hoover] will never go away," he

said. "I put my heart and soul into this school -- I think this

school has made me who I am today."


Hundreds of Hoover alumni dating to 1931 will turn out today for

the school's diamond anniversary celebration on the school's athletic

field. Organizers are expecting between 1,500 and 2,500 people to


Lois (Merriken) O'Brien, Class of 1931, is traveling from

Camarillo to attend the reunion. Her daughter, Judy (O'Brien) Cash,

Hoover '56, will be doing the driving.

"I hope I'm not the oldest one there, but I probably am," O'Brien,

91, said this week. "Most of my friends are gone, but I'm still

hanging around."

Said Cash, whose sister and three children also graduated from

Hoover: "I could tell she really wanted to go. She's excited."

The event, hosted by the school's alumni association, will run

from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes a tour of the school, historical

exhibits, performances and demonstrations by current students, and


"I'm looking forward to seeing people from the community that I

didn't know were Hoover grads," said Tom Miller, '73, executive

director of the Glendale Community Foundation. "You don't talk about

the old high school days every year."

Miller and his best friend -- Hoover classmate Randy Sottile --

are looking forward to visiting their old haunt.

"He and I are planning on walking the campus, where we used to eat

lunch and hang out," Miller said.

Plenty of after-parties are expected to follow the reunion,

including one at Oakmont Country Club for members of the classes of

'61, '62 and '63. Up on Hillcrest Avenue, Marilyn (Whiteside) Butler,

'49, will host about 80 classmates and their spouses for dinner.

"Since it's been 55 years for this group, we all have a lot to

talk about," Butler said this week.

Classmate Judy (Fortner) Ruzicka pulled double duty in preparation

for the reunion. On Friday, she lent Butler a hand, and showed up at

the school to help decorate about 100 tables with purple tablecloths

and centerpieces of purple and white balloons.

"My days at Hoover, those were the best days," she said. "Whenever

we get together, we always relive high school memories."

Butler and Ruzicka -- the school's 1949 Fiesta Queen -- dated and

married Glendale High students.

"A lot of Hoover girls married Glendale boys," Butler said. "I

think that the grass is always greener."

Together, the two couples have seven children who attended Hoover.

Husbands John Butler and Stan Ruzicka will attend today's reunion.

"My husband will be helping me decorate tables," Ruzicka said.

For Sheldon and Marilyn Baker, Class of '54, the reunion started

Friday and won't end until Sunday.

The Bakers, whose three children also are Hoover alumni, hosted a

bus tour of Glendale on Friday for classmates who will attend their

50th class reunion tonight. Sunday, the couple is hosting a brunch at

Casa de Adobe.

"I owe a lot to Hoover because I met my wife there," said Baker,

an attorney who served on both the Glendale City Council and Board of

Education. "All of our family bleeds purple."


Hoover's list of famous alumni includes a Nobel Prize winner, a

former congressman, a state assemblyman and an Emmy award-winning

screenwriter. The school has also graduated its share of actors,

musicians, doctors and lawyers, not to mention professional athletes,

successful businesspeople and community leaders.

Pediatrician Forrest Beaty, '62, was a world-class sprinter

without peer. As a junior, he covered 220 yards in 20.2 seconds. The

world record at the time was 20.2. In his senior year, he clocked a

9.4 in the 100-yard dash, which was 0.2 seconds off the world record

at the time.

"I beat a lot of guys, but I never beat that guy," recalled Jim

Pagliuso, '63, a varsity basketball player who also ran sprints for

the Tornado track team.

Beaty, who lives in Forestville, a small Sonoma County town north

of San Francisco, is expected to attend today's reunion, along with

several other prominent Hoover athletes from the past.

Pagliuso, a Glendale attorney, was a pretty fair athlete in his

own right. He was captain of the basketball team that won the

Foothill League in 1963 and reached the quarterfinals of the CIF

Southern Section playoffs.

"It was really like the 'Happy Days' TV show," he said of Hoover

in the early 1960s. "After [football] games, an unbelievable number

of students from the three high schools [Crescenta Valley High opened

in 1961] would go to Bob's [Big Boy] on Colorado."

Carlos Moorhead, '40, who first won election to the U.S. House of

Representatives in 1972, and Glendale Assemblyman Dario Frommer, '81,

prepped at Hoover.

Both will attend today's all-class reunion, and Frommer will

present a resolution congratulating the school on its 75 years.

In addition to participating in student government, Frommer was a

member of the Latin Club, and wrote for the Purple Press, the school


"I got a very good education at Hoover," he said. "I had some

really great teachers who really pushed me."

Irv Currier, '40, got his start in photography at Hoover High, and

later made training filmstrips in the Air Force. In 1946, he went to work for Gayson's Camera on South Central Avenue, and 10 years later

bought the store. By the time Gayson's closed for good in 1986,

Currier had developed glaucoma. He lost his eyesight about two years


"When I heard about [the reunion], I thought it would be fun to

go, but I have to have somebody guide me around," he said.

No problem.

Classmate Aaron Yaussi volunteered to pick up Currier and take him

to the reunion. Along the way, they'll stop and pick up classmate

John Palmer.

The three men have remained close friends over the years, and

Yaussi often drives Currier to Kiwanis meetings.

"I am so darned lucky to have people who pick me up," Currier



Between 1910 and 1930, Glendale's population grew from 2,500

residents to more than 60,000. In March 1926, voters authorized the

purchase of 20 acres on Glenwood Road for a new high school in the

northwest part of town.

Architect Alfred F. Priest designed nine buildings of tan ruffled

brick, with conservative use of cast concrete blocks for

ornamentation. Ground was broken in March 1928 using horses and

plows, and Hoover opened Sept. 10, 1929, under Principal Aleck L.


The school's original name -- Glendale Union High School West --

didn't go over too well with many residents, and in April 1929, the

Glendale Union High School District Board of Trustees renamed the

school after President Herbert Hoover.

The auditorium, which faces Glenwood Road, is the only major

building remaining from the original campus, which was rebuilt

beginning in 1966 with the help of a sizable bond measure approved by

Glendale voters.

On April 16, 1969, the new Hoover High was dedicated. Among those

in attendance was Herbert C. Hoover Jr., son of the late president.

About 700 freshmen stepped on campus for the first time in

September 1992, when the district adjusted high school enrollment to

include ninth-graders.

Janet Balekian, '94, is among the Hoover graduates who have come

full circle. Balekian, 28, who is in her first year as a 10th-grade

biology teacher at the school, is working toward a master's degree in

administration and hopes to one day become a Hoover administrator.

"I have to say it is kind of surreal, because now I'm on the other

side of the desk," she said. "I enjoy [being a teacher] because I can

give back some of what I learned from the great teachers I had at

Hoover who are still here."

Balekian, like many of those returning to campus today, is

volunteering her time to make sure today's event goes smoothly. She

is working with members of about 10 clubs on campus that will make

presentations for alumni.

Linda (Schall) Sevilla, '58, will oversee the reception desk at

today's reunion. The foster adoptive mother of six children, Sevilla

has nevertheless managed to find time to attend every class reunion.

She looks forward to renewing old acquaintances.

"I think it's a great opportunity to see everyone and have a great

time," said Sevilla, 64, who was sophomore class secretary and

married a Hoover graduate.

Balekian, meanwhile, sees the reunion as a chance to learn more

about different eras at Hoover.

"I want to get their take on how things were and maybe get some

suggestions about what worked then and how, and apply them now," she

said. "The school is what it is because of the students from the past

as well as the present."


Much has changed in the 75 years since Hoover opened its doors

for the first time. But some things, like the football rivalry

between Hoover and Glendale High, will never wane.

That includes the student body, according to Kohlmeier.

"I think kids are kids," he said. "I think kids want to be the

best they can be, and I think the direction has to come from the

adults to achieve that."

Balekian, though, sees it a little differently: "When someone sent

us to the principal's office, we would be scared. The kids today are

more free-spirited, more fearless."

Every graduate interviewed for this story agreed that Hoover High

was -- and continues to be -- a place where school pride runs deep,

no matter the decade.

"It's very apparent that administrators and teachers at Hoover put

their hearts into making everyone feel welcome," Balekian said.

"Administrators give support to the teachers, who in turn give

students the education they deserve."

Said Sheldon Baker: "I got as good an education at Hoover as I

think anyone could get anywhere in the nation, public or private.

Truly outstanding."

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