Stepping back in time and reminiscing about Venice High School and its history is what those planning to attend the Memory and Memorabilia Archival “Show and Tell” event will do from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 10th, at Beyond Baroque Center, 681 Venice Blvd. in Venice.
For the first time ever, the Venice Historical Society is teaming up with the Venice High School Alumni Association for this special event — to return in time and remember the history of Venice High School, which opened its doors in 1911 as Venice Union Polytechnic High School. All are welcome to attend the event.
A sampling of historical information and archives — including old yearbooks, photographs and a collection of students’ notebooks — from both the alumni association and the historical society will be on display for people to peruse on the lawn in front of Beyond Baroque Center at the Old Venice City Hall.
Vintage prints, greeting cards, blankets and Venice history books will also be available for purchase.
Inside Beyond Baroque, there will be a “show and tell” panel discussion.
Venice High School alumni and anyone else who wishes to attend are invited to bring their favorite items from their high school days — yearbooks, photographs, pompoms — and share stories about old romances, favorite classes and teachers, and any other memories they have from their days at Venice High.
“We want everyone to participate,” said Jill Prestup-Eltrich, president of the Venice Historical Society. “And everyone’s invited to attend. But if you have a favorite story to tell from Venice High, we want you to tell it. We’re passionate about history.”
The free event is actually in lieu of the Venice Historical Society quarterly meeting, usually held at the Venice Library.
“We’ve never done an event with the Venice High School Alumni Association, so this is really exciting for us,” said Prestup-Eltrich.
“We have been partnering with the historical society for it seems like ten years,” said Paul Belli, president of the 1,200-member alumni association, who graduated from Venice High School in 1969. “It has really been a nice relationship where we’re helping each other out and furthering both [organizations’] goals.”
The alumni association has very little room for its historical archives and it uses some space in the high school’s library workroom.
“Basically, we have three five-drawer filing cabinets,” said Tom Anderson, historian for the alumni association, who graduated from Venice High in 1952.
So when the alumni association gets something that is too large for it to store, the article is photographed and donated to the historical society, which has a warehouse to store archives, said Anderson, who has lived in Venice practically his entire life, since 1935.
While the high school has a lot of history, a particularly tumultuous event comes to mind when discussing the school — the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake, which devastated the campus.
Most all the school buildings had to be demolished, Anderson said.
But through it all, Venice High School remained.
“The school ended up with 17 tent classrooms, some bungalows, and the gymnasium and the cafeteria, which were buildings that weren’t destroyed,” he said.
Classes were held in these locations for several years, until new buildings were constructed and opened in November 1935.
And before this, the school’s first location, at a “downtown Venice” bathhouse which hosted 15 graduates, was destroyed by a fire in 1914.
The school had already acquired property at its current location and construction had begun, but the fire required that the school move up the date of occupancy, not an easy task to overcome with construction in the works.
And many may not know that the school wasn’t actually called Venice High School until the 1920s, when the City of Venice was annexed into the City of Los Angeles and the school became a part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Anderson said.
Both Belli and Anderson — whose wife and four children are also alumni — have many stories from their days at Venice High.
“I still have numerous friends that I get together with often from Venice High School,” Belli said.
“I think all of us have memories of outstanding teachers that really made a difference in your life.”
Anderson remembers one teacher in particular — Helen Rockoff, who taught English and creative writing.
“She was a very pro-student teacher,” he recalls.
Anderson also fondly remembers the antiquities museum at the school.
For Belli, the diversity of the high school is something he particularly recalls.
“There was a mix of nationalities and backgrounds,” Belli said. “I didn’t realize how diverse it was until I went out in the business world and I realized Venice was an excellent mirror for our society. I really felt I had a good background. It was very positive.”
Belli hopes that other alumni will share their memories from their times at Venice High, which he believes is a “great” school because of the commitment and dedication from its teachers and administrator.
“I had a great experience there,” said Anderson of his time at Venice High. “This high school is a very significant high school in the community and the community needs to know more about it.”
Information, Venice Historical Society, (310) 967-5170.