Monday, March 26, 2012

Garfield School, first in many ways in Santa Monica

Garfield Elementary School 1740 Seventh Street, Santa Monica

Garfield School began as an eight room, two story brick building serving grades one to eight in 1909, located at 7th and Michigan Streets. The school was notable from it's inception for the homogeneous student population. Students from "Spanish Hill" to the south, Chinese farm children north and east as well as African-American families, Italian, Japanese and Russian learned in a warm environment.

Firsts for Garfield included the first school cafeteria in town to provide warm milk and day-old bread supplied by local businesses. Using the school furnace as a cook-stove, women from the community made soup for nourishment for students without who could not bring lunch to school. Another first was the establishment of the first Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in the school district.

An experiment was tried to provide shower facilities for students whose families did not have adequete plumbing at their residences. The program was shut down as it was considered controversial by parents and other community members.

Innovation fueled development of student services at Garfield School when it was noted that student ages eight to eighteen continued to attend primary grades. Ungraded grammar grades where devised which offered what was considered opportunity training in skills such as gardening. A small plot of land was dedicated to growing vegetables. 

The neighborhood for Garfield School had a large number of working mothers which fueled the first kindergarten class in a Santa Monica School in the fall of 1913.

Under the leadership of Principal Josephine O'Leary, a new campus for the school was erected at 1811 16th Street in 1933, after an earthquake had made the original location unsafe. Americanization classes were offered at this new school for non-English speaking students.

Al Quinn and his wife Dottie, who was a long-time crossing guard for St. Anne's, were committed to providing wholesome activities and support for youth in the Santa Monica Community. Al Quinn, later Dr. Quinn upon completion of his PhD. in Sociology at UCLA, organized a youth activity center at Garfield Elementary School, that was used during the summer months by young people from schools all over Santa Monica. Monday through Friday programming included square dancing and sports activites. On Fridays it was movie day. There were crafts on the patio, hot dog parties and a unique toy-loan program. The Quinns began work with youth in the late 1940s and 1950s. Dr. Quinn was the first tenured African-American teacher in the Santa Monica School District.

The Quinn Research Center, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, convened the Garfield @ 80 program to celebrate the remarkable student body and people who shaped Garfield Elementary School eighty years ago at the Thelma Terry Center in Virginia Park on Saturday, March 24. Attendees shared their recollections of the school and the Quinn's impact on the community. Carolyne Edwards gave a presentation with photos of her memories of the school and Dr. and Mrs. Quinn.

Sources consulted -

A History of the Santa Monica Schools: 1876-1951 by Donald M. Cleland

Lecture by Carolyne Edwards, Quinn Research Center on March 24, 2012 at the Thelma Terry Center in Virginia Park, Santa Monica, California
Imagine Santa Monica (Santa Monica Digital Archives) created by Cynni Murphy, Librarian III