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January 23, 2008 > History


Washington High on Fremont Boulevard

Students, teachers and classified employees of Washington Union High School said goodbye to the old building on Peralta Boulevard and moved to the present site on Fremont Boulevard in the summer of 1924. Freshmen class members claimed to be the first to meet in the new building, the day before school began. Borrowed chairs were set up on the unfinished sub floor for dedication ceremonies that August. The rest rooms were furnished by the Girl's League.

George Wright, who had been principal for nearly 20 years, retired and was replaced by E. B. Hodges. New organizations included the Associated Student Body, the Washington Player's Club, the Owl Dramatic Club, Campfire Girls, Boys Service Club, Glee Club and a permanent orchestra. By 1926, the school had an enrollment of 300, a $250,000 plant and was the largest business in Washington Township.

The boys gym - a dream of Mr. Hodges - was completed and Albert J. Rathbone was hired to lead the school through the depression years. He helped develop an outstanding agricultural department that took as its goal in 1936, "the improvement of agriculture in Washington Township." Homemaking and art departments were developed. New groups included the Camera Club, the Hiking Club, and the "Hoot Owls" who specialized in debate.

The Memorial Grove was developed in 1932 and trees were planted in memory of George Wright, James Logan and John Whipple. "The Hatchet" reported in 1935 that "this beauty spot is held sacred."

The main building was reconstructed in 1935 to meet Field Act requirements, and "a modern" cafeteria was added in 1939. The school was described in 1937 as "one of the most modern plants in the county." A new lighted softball field, a bus garage and bleachers were built and a new counseling system was introduced. Day enrollment rose to 580 and night enrollment to 700. Bus lines covered the township.

The l941 "Washingtonian" included a section on the history of Washington High. The fall term began as usual with some 700 students and 30 teachers, but everything changed with Pearl Harbor. Clyde Voorhees recalled that "the effects of the war were all inclusive at the school." Students and teachers joined the war efforts and classes had to be changed. Special graduation exercises were held for 15 Japanese-American students before they were whisked away to relocation centers.

J. V. Goold became principal in 1942. The school maintained a regular program and met wartime needs related to bond and scrap drives, a cadet corps, a victory garden, classes in first aid, Red Cross and defense activities. The class of 1944 was reduced from 185 to 67 by graduation.

After the war, facilities were remodeled to handle a projected enrollment of 1,600. New facilities included a gym for girls, a swimming pool and special rooms for art, music, homemaking, music, agriculture and special education.

Mr. Goold was appointed superintendent in 1954 and Irving Hird became principal assisted by Judson Taylor, Clyde Voorhees, Grace Knowles, and Don Wolfe. Student population reached 2,900 in 1958-59 creating a need for a triple staggered schedule and classes in every available space. In the midst of this explosive growth the school was granted the maximum five-year accreditation.

Goold went to Logan and established the Pop Goold trophy to be given every year to the winner of the Washington-Logan football game (much like the Stanford-California hatchet). Bill Koller took over when Goold retired. Washington Union High School District opened additional high schools - Logan in 1959, Irvington in 1961, Newark in 1962, and Mission in 1963. Irving Hird was Washington's principal until he moved to Newark High and was replaced by Glenn Houde in 1961 and Dr. Robert Callahan in 1962. Dr William Bolt replaced Bill Koller as superintendent.

Washington High School became part of Fremont Unified School District in 1964. Some of Washington's students were moved to American when it opened in 1972. Washington's main building was closed in October 1972 and the school was forced to survive with portables and no performing area. Principals of the era were Daryl Talken, Mike Martin, Judy Duran, Milt Werner and Linda Fernandez.

Tak Fudenna, named for Takeo Fudenna, the prime mover in its construction, was dedicated Oct. 13, 1972. A fire in 1980 caused $100,000 damage in the administration wing. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Students and employees celebrated the schools 100th birthday in 1991 in the midst of dilapidated buildings and a demolished gym. The new gym was opened the next year and the Boosters Club raised money for equipment. The Alumni foundation raised $10,000 and saved the arch as the rest of the historic building was demolished and replaced.

An outdoor amphitheater was opened in September 2000 midst some grumbling about "years of neglect," but Washington still has no indoor theater. Tak Fudenna Stadium was finished and rededicated in 2005 with a new track, new bleachers, a press box and handicap access. The baseball fields were named after Dennis Eckersley, restored by the Oakland A's organization, and the school worked to restore the memorial grove.

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