DOWNEY – Reading the stories of life experiences in the Patriot has caused me to reflect on my nearly 85 years, more than 70 of these in the southeast area of the Los Angeles Basin. Much of the time, prior to the last 40-plus years in Downey, was spent in Lynwood, Compton and South Gate. As a person active in reunions, many of my recollections and reminiscences have centered on my school days. I would like to share a page from our past with the younger generations. At the same time since there are still others of my era around, I would like to discover who these people are and invite them to join us in a bi-monthly lunch.
After a brief period in Los Angeles, our family moved to Lynwood in 1942 where I enrolled in Lynwood Junior High School. This school was the second part of an education system of that day known as the 6-4-4- Plan. There were no pre-schools and few kindergartens. At age six you began first grade. Elementary school, also called grammar school, consisted of six grades.
Next came four years of junior high school. There, at Lynwood, athletics and some of the organizations were designated as junior activities (seventh and eighth grades) and senior activities (ninth and tenth grades).
Lynwood was part of the Compton Unified School District. There were five junior high schools: Lynwood, Clearwater, Roosevelt, Enterprise and Willowbrook. All were four-year institutions and highly praised by their alumni. At the end of tenth grade, about 300-plus students from each junior high moved on to Compton Junior College, the second four-year segment of the 6-4-4 Plan.
Perhaps the plan should have been called the 6-4-2-2- Plan as Compton Junior College consisted of an upper and lower division. The lower division was the last two years of high school, or the eleventh and twelfth grades. Each class graduating from the high school exceeded a thousand students after WWII. Many of these grads moved on to the two years of Compton Junior College’s Upper Division.
Both divisions occupied the same campus. This created somewhat of a social problem as you had college men dating high school coeds. Some of the boys hated the system because of the competition but the girls loved it.
Upon completion, these college students received an Associates of Arts Degree. Most of the students graduating from the Upper Division transferred to four-year universities. Because of the athletic opportunities at Compton and other junior colleges, many moved on with scholarships.
Biographers have been confused by this system. My sister, who never attended a college class, in her wedding announcement in the local newspaper, was credited as being a graduate of Compton Junior College. Likewise, Polly Burgen (Bergin), class of ’48, who left for Hollywood after she graduated from high school or the lower division of CJC, was also credited as having graduated from Compton Junior College. Our diplomas state that we graduated from Compton Union High School.
In 1952, the 6-4-4- system was abandoned. Lynwood and Paramount (formerly Clearwater) formed their own high schools. New junior highs were formed and later Centennial and Dominguez high schools were established.
In 1953, the college separated from the high school and moved to their new campus on Artesia Boulevard.
Up to this time the school colors had been maroon and gray. The lower division sweater letter had been grey with maroon backing. The upper division had a maroon letter with grey backing. When the high school separated from the college it also changed its colors to blue and grey and later to blue and white.
While the colors changed the school symbols did not. Compton College remained the Tartars and the high school remained the Tarbabes. The name Tarbabes was derived back in the early days from Tartars and Baby Tartars. The name had nothing to do with the children’s story. Although change was voted on several times, the Tarbabe name always won.
Turning to more recent times, periodic reunions have been held by each of the junior highs. Yes, junior high school reunions. The days spent at these five junior highs have remained emblazoned on our memories. For over 20 years LJHS alumni have met in bi-annual reunions and would continue if a new committee would volunteer.
Both Lynwood and Compton high schools now have official alumni associations. Bi-monthly Compton alumni lunches have been held for over 15 years with 50-100 attending.
Anyone who attended either Compton High or Compton College is one of us.
For more information on a reunion, call Jim Brown at (562) 861-8450.
Published: Oct. 30, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 29