GHS Echoes in the 20th Century

Grossmont High School
“Through the Decades”
Compiled by The Foothill Echoes


July 12, 1920, a unification election was held, Riverview High School and Cajon Valley were consolidated. They temporarily became Grossmont High School for the 1920 – 1922 school years.

Earlier that year, Col. Ed Fletcher donated 14 acres atop the Murray Hill summit as a new school site. A bond was approved on November 5, 1920, and construction began on this new school September 17, 1921.

320 students began school on September 25, 1925. The cost was $135,050 and by comparison, the cost of building West Hills in 1988-1989 was $28 million.

The first senior class graduated from the La Mesa campus. They choose Green and white as their colors. But, by 1927, the colors were changed to blue and gold.

Emma May Ayers (class of 1925), remembers that J. Howard Becker’s school bus had to turn around and back up the Grossmont Summit. The reverse gear was the only one low enough to handle the steep grade.

Grossmont’s first San Diego County championship was earned in 1921 by the baseball team. The first title for a team playing at the school’s current site came in 1923 – 1924 when Jack Mashin’s 130 pound Hilltoppers’ basketball squad finished with a 14 – 2 record.

An auto mechanics class was introduced in 1924, and woodworking was another of the school’s offerings.

The first Christmas Pageant was presented in 1925

The first issue of The Foothill Echoes came out in February of 1927 and was in a mimeographed broadsheet form. Margaret Wieban’s business class produced The Echoes. It became the official newspaper that fall under the guidance of Dorthy Cooke-Smith.

Hill Chatter, a literary magazine, had published its first issue in December of 1924.

The passenger rail service to East County was ended on March 3, 1928. Many students relied on this train to get to school. It was reopened in June of 1989 as part of the MTDB’s trolley line.

The first night-time football game was played in San Diego at the old Navy Field at the foot of Broadway against St. Augustine.


Jack Mashin’s1933 and 1934 football squads are Grossmont’s only undefeated football teams. However, the Foothillers never got to play a Southern (California) Section CIF championship. School administrators believed it was too expensive to bus the players to Los Angeles for the playoffs.

In December of 1934, Principal Carl Quicksall announced elimination of the 1935 El Recuerdo due to “not enough deposits to insure financial success of the yearbook.” Students and their advisor, Dorothy Cooke-Smith proved him wrong.

In January of 1936, 100 new freshmen entered Grossmont.

1936 and 1937 saw renovations to the New Gym (now the Old Gym).

Girls’ League votes to allow female Foothillers to wear the “shirt”.


The New Gym (now the Old Gym) opens with 240 new lockers and an additional music section for performances of the annual Christmas Pageant was done in October of 1941.

World War II began December 7, 1941 and the only mention in The Foothill Echoes is an oblique reference to “blackouts”

Due to World War II, seven January GHS graduate are drafted immediately out of high school.

February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed the executive order evacuating more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, including the GHS Commissioner of Finance, student Tami Takehara.

The Foothill Echoes printed air raid instructions on February 24, 2943.

In March of 1943, naval aviators informed Foothill seniors that men are now able to enroll in the army at 17 instead of 18 years of age.

The Echoes reported that 930 Grossmont boys “would go out fighting for our country” from 1942 - 45.

On October 30, 1945, the Boys’ Fed members wore the first GHS sweater/jacket to represent Grossmont.

Campus Aides were hired in May of 1946 to patrol Grossmont’s halls.

A cheering section (now the pep squad) was organized on October 18, 1946. The fans dressed with blue and gold caps, white blouses and t-shirts

The Class of 1947 changed its graduation site to Mt. Helix.

A record was broken at the beginning of the 1947 – 1948 school-year by a record enrollment of 2296 students attend Grossmont (areas included are Spring Valley, La Mesa, El Cajon, Santee, Lakeside, Bostonia and Julian).

The new science building opens in October 1948. A year after, the new art building opens in September of 1949 at the cost of $200,000.

In September of 1949, student’s pictures were added to ASB cards which cost $1.80.


In January of 1950, a new girls’ gymnasium was opened just east of the pool. A new cafeteria was built costing $126, 000 and served hot meal for the first time since October 1946.

Grossmont High School’s ASB convention was dedicated by Principal Lewis F. Smith in 1950. The Freedom Foundation praised it as “the most outstanding contribution to democracy” by American high school students. Grossmont was the first U.S. high school to feature such a nominating convention.

Tom Pfimlin, the Foothill Echoes editor-in-chief, interviewed U.S. Vice President Alben Barkley, for a front-page article.

In November of 1950, the East County voters overwhelmingly approved a local bond issue for $1.9 million that financed “the University Avenue high school.” Grossmont would remain on double sessions for two more semesters until Helix opened in January of 1952.

In 1951, Grossmont won the CIF Southern Section of the baseball championship.

On January 1, 1953, Grossmont’s Blue and Gold band participated in the annual New Years’ Day Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena.

The Foothillers’ Cross Country Team wins the CIF Southern Section Championship in 195

El Cajon Valley High School was opened in September of 1956

El Capitan was opened in 1959 to accommodate the increasing students in the El Cajon Valley.

An oil painting by freshman Frank Zappa, who would later form the band “Mother’s of Invention” was the winning entry in the California Division of Forestry’s 1955 poster contest.

Grossmont lost 16 of its teachers in 1957, when Mount Miguel High School opened.

Life magazine’s April, 1959, issue featured Grossmont’s tenth-annual ASB nominating convention.


In 1960, Pulitzer-Prize winner, Carl Sandburng, saluted Mary Thieman’s sophomore English students for their “interesting and independent definitions of poetry.”

On March 3, 1960, eight-year old Woody Clark became the youngest recipient of a Grossmont Varsity Letter, as the Foothiller’s Basketball Mascot.

Grossmont students vote in February of 1962 to eliminate the school’s songleaders, citing “competition between songleaders and cheerleaders [as] too distracting.”

September of 1962 began with a new tradition at Grossmont of, Freshman Welcome Week. Freshman still paint the “G” on Cowles Mountain blue.

On October 19, 1962, the mascot Guhs (Gus) brought a girlfriend to the football game. Her name was Gertie and she was welcomed by the Hill Howlers’ Spirit Club.

The following November saw the faculty parking lot be dedicated.

The new math building was added to the campus in September of 1963, just two months after President John F. Kennedy is assassinated on November 22, 1963.

On March 27, 1965, “Television and Film Star” Ronald Reagan, before this successful gubernatorial and presidential campaigns, was the keynote speaker to delegates of Grossmont’ 16th annual Nominating Convention in the auditorium.

The first mention of Vietnam was in The Foothill Echoes in a 1965 editorial.

In 1967, Grossmont cancels its Nominating Convention “because of the lack of spirit and enthusiasm displayed by underclassmen.” This had only occurred once before in 1956 when only two candidates were running for each office.

Grossmont began conducting a 10-day course detailing “the dangers and effects of various drugs” during PE classes in November of 1967. 70 students were expelled this year for drug-related offenses.


Soccer is the first new sport stated at Grossmont in the 1970s.

In 1971, due to students’ anti-war protests during the Vietnam War, Grossmont drops its campus battalion of the California Cadet Corps.

Grossmont’s football, basketball and boys’ and girls’ swim teams all win CIF championships during the 1971-72 school year.

Citing conflicts with Grossmont’s administration and ASB, President John McDaniel, Vice President Dan McLain and two other ASB commissioners resign their positions before spring break of the 1972-73 school year.

With the passage of Title IX legislation in 1972, girls were now allowed to participate in boys’ athletics beginning with the 1973 school year. The Aardvarks, Grossmont’s girls’ swim team, wins consecutive CIF titles in 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975.

The San Diego Section’s CIF adds seven girls’ sports – basketball, field hockey, gymnastics, softball, tennis, track and volleyball to its athletics calendar for the 1974 -75 school year.

In May of 1974, the Governing board votes to eliminate all extracurricular activities during the upcoming school year because of a $1.5 million deficit in the Grossmont Districts’ budget, but voter override this crisis when they narrowly approved Prop E on the June 4th ballot.

Grossmont’s enrollment swells to 2800 in 1975 and the Trustees vote to extend the school day to nine 47 minute periods with Foothillers attending in morning and afternoon shifts.

Hiller’s Outpost, a new student store was established by Grossmont’s Distributed Education Clubs of America members (DECA), beneath the drama room.

In December of 1975, Principal Walter Barnett bans personal advertisements from El Recuerdo. Mr. Barnett, a member of GHS’s Class of 1928, retires at the end of the school year having served 17 years as the school’s principal and 12 as a GHS teacher and coach.

Grossmont’s band is involved in a local brouhaha when it played during President Gerald Ford’s October 24th campaign rally at Grossmont Center.

In the spring semester of 1977, PE classes became co-educational.

Work began on Grossmont’s pool and aquatic center on December 18, 1977. It was ready in September of 1978 for water polo and swim teams.

On July 17, 1977, the state legislature makes PE classes optional for upperclassmen. Foothillers no longer have to take four years of PE.

GHS Counselor, Frank Kowalki, names San Diego’s new NBA franchise the Clippers.


In the 1980s, Grossmont reinstates many of the honor courses that had been dropped in previous decade. 300 Foothillers sign up for 14 honors courses in September 1981.

The local booster club commits to raising $200,000 for a lighted football stadium and six months later on October 23, 2981, the Hillers play their first truly “home” game since 1952.

In May of 1983, Grossmont’s 70 teachers switch over to computer attendance to keep track of tardies and absences.

Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, students needed to have a 3/3 GPA in order to take a sixth class. Only 18 percent of Grossmont’s students were taking six classes, but in September of 1984, the trustees boost the graduation requirement to 220 credits.

A new 2.0 GPA standard for students was instituted in order to be eligible for sports and some extracurricular activities.

The Grossmont Conference celebrated its silver anniversary in 1985, right before the Principal’s Council voted to split the conference into separate leagues for divisional play.

In November of 1985, a loosely organized student protest to “show support for their teachers” during an impasse in contract talked escalates into a chaotic walkout. 750 referrals were written the next day for students who had missed their 3rd period class.

The Class of 1987 votes in October to become the first class in almost 50 years to graduate on campus when seniors choose Jack Mashin Stadium as the site of their commencement.

In 1988, three years after the school had celebrated its diamond anniversary, the last curtain came down on Grossmont’s annual “gift to the community.” The Pageants’ founder, Eva Quicksall, had died in May.


During the summer of 1990, trustees approve a PE opt-out test to waive Foothillers second year of PE. This is no longer offered.

September 1990, Grossmont begins the lockout policy.

In 1991, Principal Steve Larivee had students’ lockers removed from campus. Six years later, Principal William Ashman reinstates lockers.

Human Relations Council begins its successful peer mediation and counseling sessions to resolve campus conflicts in 1992.

In November of 1992, the Foothillers’ Academic Decathlon team places fourth overall among 44 San Diego County schools.

During the 1994-95 school year, Grossmont dabbles with a limited block schedule.

Proposition O, to renovate and update the Grossmont District high schools were endorsed by East County voters, but did not receive the two-thirds approval it needed to pass.

Superintendent JoAnn Smith promotes “open access” to honors and Advanced Placement courses. The enrollment for these classes doubles for the 1996 – 97 school year.

In 1996, drug dogs began visitations on campus.

150 Foothillers, their parents and community members rallied in the Old Gym to show trustees their support for Minitown, trustees unanimously supported the program.

In April of 1997, trustees double the length of spring break from one week to two weeks.

Superintendent Thomas Godley resigns in December of 1998. Godley had tried unsuccessfully in December of the previous year to censor The Echoes for its coverage of local board politics.

An investigation by the Office of Civil Rights revealed disparities between athletic facilities for boys and girls. This was a violation of Title XI, 1972 which required equity in opportunity for both men and women. District administrators had until February to resolve these problems.

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