When dinosaurs roamed Pleasants Valley, I went to Vaca High. At least it seems that way; it was more than 60 years ago. Our Class of 1952—all 67 of us—was the to graduate from the creaky, wooden citadel atop Andrews Park. Vacaville Grammar School was on its left hip and the hardpan baseball and football “stadium” were just behind its back stairs. On its right, a red-brick wing, built later, with classrooms and basketball court. And at its front was the white concrete bridge spanning Ulatis Creek to Main Street Vacaville, in the 1950s a village determined to become a city. With a soaring bell tower and fairytale turrets, Vaca High was one part Camelot and nine parts haunted house, inhabited largely by the ghosts of graduates who walked its halls as far back as the 1890s. In spring, bats would come out of its walls and flap around Study Hall. Maybe the ghosts, too.
We loved every clacking stairway and oiled floor. By the time we graduated, the new Vaca High on Monte Vista Ave. was ready. The school board wanted to show it off, and scheduled our graduation in the school we had never seen. We protested, and won, the closest we ever came to staging a demonstration. We got our diplomas in our comfortable old gym, where scoring 20 points on a Friday night was almost as important as the sock-hop after the game. A year later, an accidental fire destroyed the brick building, and the old citadel was unceremoniously torn down. The bells from both Vaca High and adjacent grammar school were saved, and are on display along today’s CreekWalk.
I had a GPA (Glad to Pass Anything) with no numbers. I was more fortunate than most, since my fate was to spend my life at the Vacaville Reporter, the community’s newspaper since 1883, and my family’s since 1943. My father John was a Vaca High dropout at age 15, so he could take a fulltime job at the weekly paper. He ended up owning it, and I ended up spending most of my life there. We sold The Reporter in 2002. I continue to write a weekly column for it; in fact, my musings will be 50 years old in July, 2013. How we all endured one another through the years I’ll never know.
Now as then, high school students are told “these are the best years of your lives,” until their eyes glaze over. It all goes by like smoke through a keyhole. And in no time you are an alumnus, reliving your best ballgames whenever you get the chance. If you’re lucky, you’ll be asked to contribute some memories to an alumni magazine, and you replay the tapes in your head all over again. You are reminded that you are still stirred when you hear the school song, or catch a glimpse of the Orange and Black.
Vaca High, my Alma Mater and Pater. Even old dogs are Bulldogs forever.