“Alexander Hamilton opened its doors to an initial enrollment of 798 students. The school at that time contained the seventh, eighth and ninth years of school in addition to the normal three grades of high school; but the two lowest grades were successively dropped in the years 1932 and 1934, the ninth grade being retained for the benefit of the graduates of Culver City’s eight-year grammar schools.” (Anna Mae Mason’s Master’s Thesis.)
Architects John Corneby Wilson Austin (1870-1963) and Frederic Morse Ashley (1870-1960) designed the structures in the Northern Italian Renaissance style with “multicolored and patterned brickwork, elaborate cast stone decoration, and a bell tower clad in verdigris copper.” (Historic Schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District (March 2002) by Leslie Heumann and Anne Doehne.) They planned it for 1,000 students, allowing for expansion up to 2,500. Building costs were $125,000 for the land, $400,000 for the structures, and $200,000 for equipment.
As of 2021, Los Angeles Unified School District was planning a Comprehensive Modernization Project for Alexander Hamilton High School, revamping nearly the entire campus, while preserving Brown Hall and the Norman J. Pattiz Concert Hall.
Before advancing to the big leagues (like Hamilton’s star athletes Warren Moon and Sidney Wicks in following generations) Peanut worked in movies. Lowrey grew up by the MGM and Hal Roach movie lots in Culver City. Clark Gable used to have Lowrey keep an eye on his car while he was on the set, and Buster Keaton bought the boy ice cream cones. The “Our Gang” comedies were filmed on location at a farm owned by Lowrey’s grandfather, and he hung out with the cast and filled in as an extra. (RetroSimba, “Cardinals history beyond the box score.”) A Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) biography reports that the “Peanut” nickname came either from the fact that his grandfather described him as “no bigger than a peanut,” or because actress Thelma Todd reportedly gained his good behavior by promising to buy him some peanuts. SABR also tells that, at Hamilton, Lowrey “earned ten letters in baseball, football, and track and field. He ran the 100-yard dash in ten seconds. In his final high-school football game, he scored six touchdowns on runs of 65 yards or more.”
Lowrey played for the Chicago Cubs (1942–43; 1945–49), Cincinnati Reds (1949–50), St. Louis Cardinals (1950–54), and Philadelphia Phillies (1955).” (Wikipedia. He managed in the minor leagues for three seasons, then coached in the majors for 17 years. RetroSimba continues, “Staying true to his roots, Lowrey appeared in some Hollywood baseball movies. According to the Internet Movie Database, he had a credited role playing himself in the 1952 film about Grover Cleveland Alexander,‘The Winning Team,’ starring Ronald Reagan and Doris Day. Lowrey also had uncredited non-speaking parts in ‘Pride of the Yankees,’ ‘The Stratton Story,’ and ‘The Jackie Robinson Story.'”
Reporting by Hamiltonians
The Federalist newspaper, “Owned by the Student Body of Alexander Hamilton High School, 2955 Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, California, Published Weekly during the school year by the Journalism Classes,” has been archived by the Hamilton Alumni Association. The papers, from the 1930s through the 1990s, are a trove of history. For instance, The Federalist:
Like Clark Gable had generations before, Steve McQueen granted an interview to The Federalist. In 1979, McQueen, who was notoriously unavailable to the press, came to Hamilton to film The Hunter. The Federalist’s editor-in-chief Rick Penn-Kraus got the one-on-one interview. How big a “get” was it? As Penn-Kraus recounted in 2015, on radio and in print:
The Los Angeles Times’ first article on Hamilton, dated August 3, 1930, was headlined, “High Schools to be Erected – Work Starts on Completion of Final Drawings Spanish Renaissance, Tudor Styles Employed Provisions to be Made for Future Expansion.” (The other school was Los Feliz’ John Marshall High School.) Following are some other L. A. Times articles focusing on the school during some of its more turbulent years. (The Times’ historical archives are available free through the Los Angeles Public Library to those with a library card.)
On October 22, 1970, Times staff writer Skip Ferderber called Hamilton “one of the most experimental and exciting schools in the Los Angeles system.”(“Innovations Transform Hamilton High.“) The Los Angeles Unified School District administration, with the freedom given it by California’s 1968 Miller Act, had allowed Hamilton the “flexibility to experiment with classes, curricula and programs.” With physical education cut from 500 to 400 minutes out of 10 school days, and with foreign language requirements reduced, students were given the option of elective classes: “philosophy, anthropology, mass media, Asian and Afro-American history, modern European history and computer math.” During an optional “activity period” at the end of the day, students could study “Japanese culture, American Indian society and culture, chamber music, the ‘Brown Brotherhood’ and the Japanese game of ‘Go.'” There was even a yoga class which “attracted 150 students.”
Mr. Federber detailed other innovations:
The reporter contrasted that with the Hamilton of 1969, when the new principal, Paul J. Schwartz (c. 1921-1985), had arrived, and looked at the changes his administration had made:
Mr. Ferderber continued,
Paul Schwartz was principal for a year and a half before a six-month sabbatical leave in February 1971. (The Federalist, “Bon Voyage, Mr. Schwartz” (Jan. 29, 1971).) In his absence, George Thomas Cole (1925-2019) was principal. Schwartz did not return to Hamilton after his sabbatical; instead, he became a district administrator. (The Federalist; “Mrs. J. Jimenez Named Principal” (June 16, 1971).)
Their successor, Josephine Matilida Casanova Jimenez (1912-2012), had started at Hamilton in 1954 as a foreign language instructor, became the girls’ vice-principal, and would be principal for 15 years before being promoted to oversee 30 Los Angeles high schools. In a biographical video recorded in her 90s, Principal Jimenez recalled, “I was [at Hamilton] for 32 years and I helped the school transition during very, very difficult years of the social, political revolution.” Principal Jimenez shared a story about difficulties Hamilton faced:
Principal Jimenez’s story was included in the Los Angeles Times‘ five-part series, “The Changing High School,” byeducation writers Noel Greenwood (1937-2013), Jack McCurdy (c. 1932-2016), and staff writer Celeste Durant. With the principal’s blessing, the reporters spent a cumulative two months at Hamilton High, attending classes and talking with students and teachers.
The Los Angeles Times articles, published on June 10-17, 1983, were headlined:
The final article editorialized,“The story of Hamilton is the story of public education, far short of the goals set for it by society. But it Is a story that Identifies things that can be done to help mediocrity yield to excellence, the excellence already manifest in the work of some teachers in some classes.”
A Teacher’s Perspective (1940)
Anna Mae Mason (1901-1983) began teaching physical education at Hamilton in Fall 1938. She retired at 65 years of age in 1966. In June 1940, Anna submitted her Master’s Thesis: “A Study of the Pupil Personnel of Alexander Hamilton High School of Los Angeles.” Ms. Mason presented on, in her words, “racial and national heritages and native abilities of the pupils, their economic and social backgrounds, their major interests as expressed in their scholastic achievements, their activities outside the school and their home environments.”
She found things mostly “ideal” for students in this new and growing part of Los Angeles’ suburbs:
She reported that student population included rich and poor, stabilized by the middle class:
And she found racial harmony among the nearly all-White student body:
With the school “overwhelmingly (97.8 per cent) of homogeneous racial background,” she concluded that “the possibility of racial prejudice exerting any considerable influence in the school would be very slight.”
The tiny fraction of minorities attending Hamilton was unremarkable given that in the more recently developed areas the school served (including Cheviot Hills and Culver City) developers, redlining kept nonwhites from living there unless they were domestic workers in those households.
Under the heading, “Social and Economic Background of the Community,” Mason linked Christianity, morality, and prosperity:
Alumni Perspective and Suggestion – What Worked (2016)
In 2016, the Los Angeles Times published anOp-Ed by Hamilton alumni Paul Wallace and Joel Strom (Class of 1972) discussing the tempestuous times and suggesting Hamilton’s past success provided a model to be followed. Their essay included:
Also worth reading is the L. A. Times’ June 20, 1991, story, “The Music Man: Education: Los Angeles’ youngest principal has transformed Hamilton High with energy, hustle and a knack for getting private business to play his tune” – on how James Goodman “Jim” Berk got Hamilton its Music Academy (which opened in 1987). Berk would be principal from 1989-1992.