This School Has Been Here Since 1913!

Celebrating Claremont Middle School’s Centennial
Saturday, June 8, 2013

For one hundred years, the dark gray, cast-iron gate now at the corner of College Avenue and Birch Court has had historical significance, proclaiming the neighborhood school to be "Claremont Junior High, 1913." The weathered-looking gate has remained a sentinel, watching over years and students gone by, showing veritable proof of the school's age.
In August of 1913, the school opened as an elementary school, beginning a rich history in the heart of Rockridge. I feel privileged to have learned so much about this history as part of the 2012-2013 Yearbook Committee. I had access to the archives, which contained lots of photos and mementos including the photograph of the class of 1917, below.

While looking through the archives, I found intriguing items like a program titled "Graduating Exercises, Claremont School," dated December 17, 1915. The program lists many musical performances, ranging from solo to class pieces, followed by literary readings, speeches, and a farewell song. The same file includes a document with historical facts about the school and a list of the principals beginning in 1913. It tells how junior high school grades were added in 1925, and elementary grades were transferred out in 1927 when a new building was constructed northeast of the school on Chabot Road and called the Annex, which later became Anthony Chabot Elementary School.

This April, the Yearbook Committee was honored with a visit from two Claremont alumni, who described the school as it was in the 1940s. They told us about lunchtime Jitterbug dances, after-school jobs, and the importance of patriotism inspired by World War II. One of my favorite stories was that in keeping with the trend of the time, most girls wore white buck shoes, which left white powder marks on carpets and floors.

In 1950, 28 classrooms were added to the Claremont campus, plus a cafeteria and gymnasium. In 1954, the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision led to racial diversity at Claremont that continues today. An exciting moment for the entire community was when Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, visited Claremont in 1997, accompanied by School Board President Jean Quan, now our mayor. Also in 1997, the Student Council petitioned the BART system to develop a youth fare for students, which was successful and is still in effect today.

This year, Reginald and Ronald Richardson joined the Claremont leadership team, making a new kind of history as the school's first-ever co-principals. As twin brothers already creating positive results at our school, they have been featured on NPR's "This American Life" and the CBS Evening News.

On June 1, the school hosted a centennial celebration which included visits from Claremont alumni, a festive party open to all, and a preview of the commemorative yearbook that includes a special story devoted to the occasion.

The venerable gate, a highlight of the event, will continue its affirmative declaration that the school has been open for a full century.

Happy 100th Birthday, Claremont.