Independence, Inyo County, California

Owens Valley High School in 1926

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By Marion Varnum Willis

When I first came, in the fall of 1926, to teach at Owens Valley Union High School in Independence, the faculty consisted of four teachers, including the principal.  The average daily attendance was seldom over forty.  It was hoped (especially by the local young men) that the new single lady teachers would soon marry there and settle down.  The common saying was, “If it weren’t for the school teachers bringing in new blood, many pioneer villages would have become definitely below par, physically and mentally”.  So, I taught Physical Education (coached Basketball and Tennis), English (put on two plays for the student body) and Home Economics (raised money to buy the linoleum and curtains for the cooking room).

Were we the traditional, conventional pedagogues?  Well, I remember one first day of school that had to be postponed, since the principal and several of his teachers were still on a High Sierra jaunt.  A few old timers, especially those then on the local school board, might remember the year they added to the teachers {sic} contracts, “I will not smoke nor drink alcoholic beverages in public”.

There was academic work going on, too.  Is that bust of Lincoln still in the high school halls.  I remember taking several students over the mountains from our tiny school, to attend the oratorical contest against participants from the giants —Fresno and Bakersfield.  Then when our Mona Gracey, with the magical voice, placed — how proud we were!  The Lincoln bust was one of the recognitions of her ability.  It could not have been brought back in the “Teacher’s” green jump seat Dodge roadster.  There just wouldn’t have been room.

Ah, those golden years!

{*Copied without permission from Saga of Inyo County ©1977 by Chapter 183, Southern Inyo American Association of Retired Persons.}

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