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Orcutt Junior High History

Photo1921 WAS A YEAR of forward strides in Orcutt. For the first time the town had electricity, thanks to the Midland Counties Public Service Corporation. At last, electric lights began to replace the gas and kerosene lamps that helped make fire a constant danger in a community built almost entirely of wood. 
One of the first structures to utilize electricity was the new Orcutt School. Another symbol of progress, the elementary school, was built at the site of the modern Orcutt junior High School to replace the two-room schoolhouse that had served the community since the earliest days of the oil boom. Ralph Dunlap, an early Orcutt resident, watched with pride as the new school rose. An engineer for Union Oil, Dunlap found extra time to devote to his community; as a member of the Orcutt Union School District. The first school buildings were found at the cross streets of Washington and Betteravia. Those tiny one-and two-room schoolhouses in the oil fields and on the farms - some built as early as the 1870s - also were focal points of community life. 
Ida Redmond (later Taylor) arrived in the oil fields in 1915 to begin a two- year teaching stint at Newlove School, built by Union Oil in the Orcutt hills. "People lived all over those hills (but) only one or two families had a car," she recalled. "The children had to walk from all over ... maybe two miles ... to get to school. When I was there we had about 86 pupils, 30 in the upper grade and 56 in the primary grade. I had the primary grade." 

Taylor had a reputation for gentleness. Other teachers did not. Willard Forbes remembered his first teacher in Orcutt, one Alice Holland, part of "an old pioneer family. She had a good, big hand. She'd slap you and pretty near knock you out of your seat if you didn't behave yourself. No nonsense - it paid you to behave." 

At Bicknell, Bud Richards recalled, "they had big, old Portuguese kids and farm kids and at recess all some of them wanted to do was play baseball. When they rang the bell for recess, they all hit the door at one time, quite a stampede going out there to play baseball." 
Bicknell students were fortunate to have their own ball field for recess. At Washington School in the farmland north of Orcutt, playground equipment was limited to "a high-and-low bar and a pole with ropes or a swing on it," said Pauline Stubblefield, a farm girl. "There was no baseball diamond, not even a teeter-totter." 
For those who completed elementary school, "they had a bus that operated out of Santa Maria High School," said Richards. "The driver of the bus was always one of the older high school kids. There were always a few rowdies, and once in a while they'd have to kick one of them off the bus and make them walk."

Copied in part from, "Old Town Orcutt, A Small California Oil Town Remembered" by Bob Nelson

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