Castlemont – Another Beginning..#44 (the 50’s)

Castlemont High School – 1929 voted the country’s most                        beautiful new brick structure

The first impression “It lives up to its name”,  standing and reflecting on the serenity of the lily pads adrift on the embayment of water in the large structured reflection pool dawning before this magnificent complex.  Gary sensed Castlemont wasn’t merely another public school building it was a pulsating vibrant entity with its historic Tudor facade,  towers adorned with ivy stretching heavenwards.  The Host presenting an intuitive beckoning as if welcoming a prodigal son, a consciousness of belonging occupied the young man’s substance and he felt accepted.

Castlemont was conceived by John J Donovan who propagated the conception of many schools throughout the nation included among them was Oakland Technical High.   The school building and grounds was conceived in 1927 and given birth in 1929 as East Oakland High School.  The name was short-lived and changed to Castlemont after a vote of students and faculty prior to receiving an award for being the most  beautiful new brick structure in The United States, the award was from the prestigious  Common Brick Manufacturers Association of America.

The Castlemont campus was immense, with its track, football field, swimming pool, staff and student parking and a two-story modern addition added to the classic building, plus the presence of several portable buildings, an area encompassing over 25 square city blocks. The city of Oakland having added 90,000 citizens to its population since 1929, Castlemont having greatly increased its staff, Gary estimating the student numbers between 2500 and 3000.  The staff consisting of Mr. Baker, Principal, Mrs Brohm and Mr. Quellmalz Vice Principals, 8 officer workers, 9 maintenance personnel, 16 cafeteria workers, 3 librarians, a nurse and 89 educators better known as teachers., a goliath of a three-year public school.

Castlemont – another view from MacArthur Blvd.

Gary found an environment totally dissimilar from what he had envisioned.   The hustle of student activity was organized, unlike the sinuous rush in junior high an aura of knowledge existed,  radiating a viable sense of attainment, the teenager initiating the educational classroom with his presence and behold academicism  prevailed, the Teen soon finding himself with the burden of study.   Geometry was a test of memory,  axioms,  postulates,  theorems,  he tried his best to find an application for instant recall,  but resolved to a commitment of memory.   The similarities in equating his junior high algebra teacher and his present geometry teacher was uncanny, both instructors resembling each other in appearance.  Gary often wondered if Castlemont geometry teacher Mr. Malmsten played a musical instrument with the Oakland Symphony whom engaged the algebraic instructor Mr. Conley at Frick Junior High.   After Mrs. Funnell Latin class in the 9th grade, the Young Man opted for Mrs. Haist  Spanish tutorial,  considering it would acquire less effort.   Perquisites included English with Mr. Darling; Biology, Mrs Harris, One eyed Coach Street in P.E. and one semester of typing as an elective to improve his  self-taught  typing, having been typing since Junior High on a  1927  Underwood that his mother purchased from Natalie Calhoun,  a close family friend and Professor at Mills College.

Mr. Malmsten & Mrs. Harris

One Eyed Mr. Clarence Street

A new experience was dressing for gym.   Prior to starting school, the sporting goods store on MacArthur Blvd. was patronized and an athletic support and a pair of gray gym shorts purchased.   Gym lockers were issued and with tennis shoes and other  required vesture suitably stowed,  Mr Street proceeded to instruct the class on the rules of the shower room.   The rules were basic,  you would participate,  you had an allotted time to get in and out and with great amusement the P.E. instructor demonstrated how to properly dry one’s body with a towel.

Hank Ball and Don Bryant

82 nd ave.

Six uphill blocks of 82nd Ave.

Gary’s high school year beginning with two options for traversing to school, the first was taking the bus as did Hank and Don, the second was ambulatory indulgence.   A walk up Shone Ave. and Sterling Drive to Crest Ava overlooking the vastness of San Francisco Bay, then taking the path shortcut down to 82nd Ave. continuing the six blocks to MacArthur and the three blocks to the Castlemont.  The walk to school wasn’t considered physically depleting, but the reverse meant going up 82nd Ave from MacArthur’s 73 ft. elevation to Crest 479 ft.  Gary estimated the distance was only a mile,  but the six blocks was like walking up flights of stairs  in a forty story building.   The #56 bus could be boarded at 90th and McArthur providing another way home, a decision that both options would be exploited,  depending on the situation.  The youth was once more joined in educational habitat with his friends,  Don and Hank,  his cohort Dale Spady  would be moving  to Castro Valley after this spring semester,  their high school system not participating in midterm graduations,  enabling Dale  to move ahead a semester.   Many  acquaintances from junior high failing to accompany Gary to Castlemont,  their residency being outside the Castlemont  attendance region, instead most attending Fremont High.  With the dawning of a far larger class,  he was looking towards acknowledging a host of new advocates, sharing expectations, aspirations and formulating new friendships.

Castlemont represented more than an advancement to a higher educational plain,  the opportunity introducing one to a host of diversity and a legion of  new experiences,  ascertaining some detrimental, but others offering  enlightenment,  Gary reasoning that the proof is in the pudding.


One Response to “Castlemont – Another Beginning..#44 (the 50’s)”

  1. Susan Joyce Says:

    Thanks for posting this Gary!! So very many fond memories were made at Castlemont High!!

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