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November 1, 2011 > A little history

A little history

Submitted By Donald G. Jamieson, Photo courtesy of Phil Grasso

Editor's Note:
Last year, the original principal of Walters Junior High School, Donald G. Jamieson, visited and organized a luncheon with the staff. He took the time to explain the school's history and some of its artifacts such as the fireplace, clock and rock mural, now situated in the office. We would like to share Mr. Jamieson's story, in his own words, with our readers.

George M. Walters came to Washington Township in the early 1850's. According to an 1878 Historical Atlas he owned 132 acres of farmland at Washington Corners along what is now Fremont Blvd., both north of the corner toward Centerville and south towards Warm Springs. The property extended north, to where the Old Irvington Grammar School was located, opposite Connolly's Furniture Store and south to Carol Avenue. To the west, it likely included the Irvington Cemetery.

Walters and his wife, Fannie, donated the little park at Five Corners where the flagpole and monument are now located. Up until about 1960 the monument was in the middle of the intersection and cars had to negotiate the corner by driving around it. Until I-880 was built this was State Highway 17, the main road between Oakland and San Jose.

The Walters' lived in a large farmhouse immediately south of the brick building on the corner. The brick building housed Ed Rose's Hardware Store in the 1950-60's and is now Bay Street Coffees and Broadway West Theatre. I was able to go through the Walters' house in 1960 just before they tore it down. The sister of Ben Cramer was in charge and my dealings at that time were with her. She lived in Mission San Jose. I would have liked to move the house onto a farm but had no financial means to buy it and do that. However, I did purchase, from the family, a mirror that still hangs on the wall over our piano at home and salvaged enough of the white picket fence to put up in our backyard when we lived at 1818 Berry Ct., in Fremont.

The family donated the marble fireplace to the school that was originally installed in the Old Library but in 1968 placed it into the enlarged Principal's Office. The Architects, Falk and Booth, were approached about using the front door of the house for the Principal's Office, but fire code regulations prevented that from being done.

After touring the house, various items were donated to the school such as some old clothing that was later displayed at the Dedication Ceremony in 1962 and then donated to the Fremont Women's Historical Society.

The school was named in honor of George M. Walters as he was one of the first three men on the Irvington School Board. The doors opened in September 1961 with about 400 students housed in the central "T" shape of the building. The first year most of the core classes were held at the Noll Elementary and Linda Vista Elementary Schools. From Noll they could walk back and forth, but from Linda Vista they were bussed. On the first day of classes, we had a short day as the student desks and chairs did not arrive until midday. By opening day there was already a first addition under construction that consisted of the multi-use building, music, P.E. shower & locker rooms, library and four classrooms attached, and a science, home economics and metal shop along the driveway. For three or four years we had many portable buildings in use that the teachers and students liked because they had air conditioning. Then in 1967 a second addition started that expanded the facilities to its present size. The new rooms were occupied about Easter vacation time in 1968.

The Walters' had two daughters. One died at the age of 12 years old and was buried in the front yard. Unless she has been moved, she is under the parking lot in the small shopping center just south of the brick building on the corner. The second daughter, Ida, married George Cash. I know nothing about them except that they had two children, Fannie and much later George (Jr.), possibly 20 years.

Fannie married Ben Cramer who was a plumber and had his shop in the "lean to" attachment on the east side of the brick building. It is still there to this day. I met them in regard to business way before I knew who they were and by the time I found out that she was Walters' daughter they had died or gone away somewhere. The Cramers had no children.

Contact was made with grandson George Cash (Jr.) and his wife Margaret (Peggy). They lived in Oakland or San Leandro where he had worked for the Boys Clubs of America. George and Peggy would come to various evening functions at the school when invited, such as to the Dedication Ceremony and musical events. They were friendly and enjoyed being a part of the school named for his grandfather. They donated two clocks to the school, one a metal-faced mantle clock that is in the Principal's Office and another smaller brass one that used to be on the Principal's desk, but seems to have been stolen in one of the break-ins. They also donated a picture album with pictures of some of the family. Other pictures are unknown. George and Peggy Cash did not have any children. Thus, the George M. Walters branch of the family died out. Their will shows that they donated half their estate to the Boys Club of America and the other half to San Jose State College (University) for athletic scholarships. George (Jr.) said there was a lighthouse in New England named for his Cash grandfather. He was proud that on both coasts his family is remembered.

George and Fannie Walters are buried in the Irvington Cemetery along with George and Ida Cash, Fannie and Ben Cramer and George (Jr.) and Margaret Cash. From Chapel Way you can see the large monument with "Cash" on it and "Walters" on the back side. The plot is three or four rows back from the street.

In another related piece, Timothy Rix and his wife had a daughter by the name of Margaret (Maggie). The wife and mother died when Maggie was young and for reasons that I do not know Maggie went to live with the Walters family. It may be that the picture on the wall in the Library shows Maggie as the smaller girl in front of a building along with George Walters. That building still exists and is next to the brick building on Bay St. In 1961, I was able to visit with Maggie when she was in Craig's Rest Haven in the Warm Springs District, though she was very old and not able to remember much. She did say that when a small girl she used to follow George Walters when he was plowing the fields. Maggie Rix married Joshua Chadbourne for whom a school is named in the Mission area.

As for my own educational background, in 1958, after teaching for four years, I became the first Vice Principal at John M. Horner School, later Junior High. In 1960, I was then appointed as Principal for the Walters School where I served from 1961 - 1968. The two Vice Principals who served under me were John Lanthier and Ernie Severson.

But, as the land transactions were not progressing very quickly the school did not open until a year later (1961). As a result I was able to work with the architects on many issues about the design of the Walters School. We decided to duplicate the Horner School with appropriate changes.

One change was to not have low windows in the classrooms. Another was to tile the halls and use gray grout so as to not show any pencil marks students might make. Another was to place an outside door in each classroom so students would not always have to use the halls while passing between classes, thus avoiding noise and traffic jams. In later additions we were able to enlarge the office area, build a much larger library and make other changes including a tennis court. One year, possibly 1964 or 1965 twenty-two new teachers were hired due to increased enrollment. During my last year at Walters (1967-1968) there were about 1,200 students enrolled in the two grades and contrary to what happened in the three other district junior highs, Walters Jr. High achieved full accreditation through WASC.

I enjoyed very much my years as principal at Walters Jr. High. Around 1965, we took the name of "junior high" when unification took place and thought it would sound better to be associated with the secondary schools in curriculum planning and the like. The School Board agreed and the name has remained until this day.

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