“Tomales Union High School opened on Aug. 5, 1912, with 23 students and one teacher/principal,” notes a Tomales Regional History Center Bulletin. On Sunday, Aug. 5, the museum opened an exhibit celebrating the school’s last century.

Approximately 300 people, including many former students, packed the history center, which is located in the high school’s former gym in downtown Tomales. The crowd at times was so thick that just getting around in the history center required a litany of “excuse me, excuse me, excuse me.”

The original Tomales High schoolhouse.

The class of 1916 was the first to complete four years at the high school. Teacher Edith Wilkins is at left and principal Benjamin Pratt is at right. Between them are (from left) students Marie Dempsey, Elsie Basset, Truman Fairbanks, Jane Burns, and Vivian Swanson.

Before the two-classroom school was a decade old, it was expanded to 10 classrooms thanks to a $30,000 school bond. “A hyphen-like hallway,” in the words of the history center, connected the new classrooms with the original school.

“The boys locker room in the school’s basement was one of the amenities of the larger school,” notes the history center.

Tomales High’s first school bus was chain-driven. Standing outside the bus is student and driver Harold Maloney, class of 1919. Original photo by Ella Jorgensen.

Tomales High’s third school bus as seen in the 1930s.

Attending Sunday’s opening of the exhibit was May Velloza of Point Reyes, a 1946 graduate of Tomales High and a school bus driver for almost eight years in the 1970s. How did students on the bus behave back then? “I had really good kids,” she replied. “You know why? ‘Cause I knew  the parents.”

Tomales High’s first agricultural teacher, William Reasoner, started the Tomales chapter of Future Farmers of America in 1929. Here is Reasoner with his National Champion dairy-cow judging team in 1931. From left: Reasoner, Neibo Casini, Donato Albini, Donovan Rego, and Ed Williams.

The National Championship trophy.

During Sunday’s opening of the history center exhibit, guests could also get tours of the new high school to see recent construction there.

The California Field Act mandates that all the state’s public schools be earthquake safe, and Shoreline School District trustees in the 1960s were faced with either retrofitting the old school or building a new one.

“Bond elections to finance various options followed and were twice narrowly defeated,” the history center bulletin notes. “One vocal group of residents believed the school should be abandoned altogether and its students dispersed to other, larger schools. Thus the question of Small-local-school versus Larger-more-specialized-school insinuated itself into the referendum process, its echo reverberating to this day.

“Finally in 1967 a third election was successful. Affirmative votes in all precincts except Inverness resulted in an overall 73 percent approval for the $1.1 million bond to finance a new high school. In a busy two years, a piece of property just east of Tomales was purchased from Romero Cerini; architects and contractors were consulted. The trustees worked hard to educate themselves about modern high school design.”

In 1969, the new high school opened along the Tomales-Petaluma Road.

Remnants of the old school. After the new high school opened, the old campus was largely unused, and in November 1977, most of the old school burned in a fire that many people suspected was arson although that was never established.

Left undamaged by the fire was the school’s gym, and in 1998 the building was restored to become the Tomales Regional History Center where the school exhibit is now on display.

Tomales High’s sports teams have done well over the years. The girls volleyball team won its division in 1998.

During World War II, Tomales High sports were limited to intramural games. The history center bulletin explains why:

“Student Kathie Nuckols (Lawson) clearly remembered the Monday morning of Dec. 8, 1941 — little more than 24 hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed. ‘Our principal called all the students… into the auditorium to hear President Roosevelt call our country to war. His voice came through a small radio, and we strained to hear his words, overwhelmed by the drama as only teenagers can be.’

“Blackout shades lowered in the auditorium, tanks passing the school on their way to occupy Dillon Beach, the imposed limits on travel because of gas rationing, especially affecting the sports programs which were, for the duration, limited to intramural games. These are some of the things students of the war years remembered.

“Yet these events were undoubtedly put into perspective by the biggest effect of all, the nine Tomales High students who did not come home from the war.”

The 1946 Tomales High band.

The 1954 band performs at a football game.

The Tomales High band in 1973. The school didn’t hold a nighttime football game until 2004.

Tomales High teams were originally called the Wolves, but in 1950, the name was changed to the Braves. Originally the mascot was symbolized by a cartoon-like Indian, but that image was later changed to the one here. In 2001, Shoreline School District trustees decided the name was disrespectful to Native Americans and voted to change it.

However, many district residents objected, including several Miwok descendants who said the name had been changed to Braves to honor them. A petition signed by 90 percent of the student-body objected to the change, and more than 100 of the school’s approximately 175 students cut class for half a day in protest.

Eventually the trustees voted to keep the name Braves but to drop the Indian image, saying it looked like a Great Plains Indian, not a Miwok.

Sports, agriculture, and sewage. Cows peacefully graze beside the town sewage ponds Sunday afternoon. The bleachers of Tomales High’s ballfield are in the background.

The tranquility of this scene was in sharp contrast to the high-spirited crowd at the history center. The biggest contrast of all, however, occurred a few hours later.

NASA illustration of Curiosity on Mars.

About 10:30 p.m. local time, a global audience went into a frenzy of excitement as NASA scientists endured what they called “seven minutes of terror” and gently landed a sizable exploratory-robot called Curiosity on the planet Mars 154 million miles away. What an historic day!