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Piedmont High School

The Western journal of education
by Wagner, Harr, 1857-1936; California. Dept. of Public Instruction; California. Dept. of Education

Publication date 1895:

Piedmont has just constructed a beautiful high school plant, extraordinarily well finished and equipped, at a cost of $350,000. H. W. Jones, superintendent of Piedmont schools, expects an enrollment of around 600 in the high school.

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Piedmont High School was designed by William H. Weeks, and when it opened in 1921, it offered classes for both junior and senior high school students. Officials expected 260 students, and 325 students enrolled. There were 400 students by the end of the year. Piedmont Junior High School and the athletic field were soon added in 1924, and additions to the high school were built in 1937 and 1939.

PHS website:

In the early 1900’s, Piedmont students attended Oakland High School. By 1921, the casino in the park served as a classroom while the Piedmont Church provided an auditorium for Piedmont High’s first 389 students.

In 1922, the school board recognized our rapid growth and designed a school for 600 students. By 1929, the new school had over 1100 students. School traditions were established early with the “Highlands” Scottish theme reigning over our school.

The Business Educator

Publication date 1922-1923

A most interesting installation of Magnovox Telemegaphones has recently been completed for the Piedmont High School, Piedmont, California. The installation consists of a central or master station and 25 receiving stations. The master station is operated with an ordinary telephone. Talking into the Magnovox in ordinary tone, the speech is amplified in any or all of the 25 clasrooms as desired, in sufficient volume to be distinctly audible to all the students.

The American School Board Journal, Nov 1923:


The thought that architecture must not only adopt itself to practical uses as influenced by climatic conditions and environment in order to fulfill its mission, but also express the cultural aspirations and finer impulses of a people, is generally accepted.

That American school architecture has not only lent itself in an efficient manner to the purposes of the school but has also partaken of the graces of form which appeal to the finer sensibilities, must be conceded. These have found eloquent expression, too, in the light of climate conditions. California has demonstrated this fact, and the architects of the Pacific Coast may be credited for originality in this direction and for schoolhouse creations which not only command attention but admiration as well.


It is the purpose of this article to describe in word and picture some of the later achievements of a leading architect in the field of school architecture as exemplified in the state of California.


The School at Piedmont.

The Piedmont high school is probably one the most complete school buildings in the state of California as regards equipment and appointments. No efforts or expense have been spared toward the accomplishment of this end, and this beautiful new school building stands day as one of the most complete and up-to-date school plants in California. It is the first the combined one and two story school building types being used with such a large degree of success in California by W. H. Weeks.

The central structure, which is two storied, contains  all the major academic departments, while the sciences are housed in the one story wing buildings. This type of plant lends itself admirably to the climatic conditions found in California, and is particularly well adapted to future expansion of all departments of the school, so that with a minimum of expense, not only the academic accommodations can be increased, but the science laboratories and auxiliary rooms may be similarly added to when the need arises.

In the main academic building are located the administrative offices, including a large general office with private offices for the principal and vice principal Ever necessary requirement has been taken care of in this department. Facilities for school management, storage of records, etc., are all planned in a minimum of space, and with an idea of handling this phase of school work with the greatest amount of efficiency.


There is an auditorium with a bowled floor, and seating capacity for one thousand people. The stage contains all the modern equipment and appliances that may be found in an up-to-date theater. In this particular building the auditorium is placed in the front central portion of the academic building. In the matter of orientation, this front exposure happened to be undesirable for classroom purposes, and is henceforth devoted to auditorium use. The various academic rooms are located on the first and second floors. The various departmental groups have especially designed furniture and equipment for the needs of this particular school building.


On the main floor opposite the auditorium is located the study room with library opening to the rear. This arrangement permits one teacher to supervise these two rooms. There is an open air study terrace in connection with the study hall, where the students may study in the open air. On the ground level, at the low point of each incline, is located the boys’ and girls’ main toilet rooms. These are easy of access, both from the playground and from the school building proper. Medical examination rooms, student activity rooms, teachers’ rest rooms, girls’ rest room, and similar auxiliary rooms, are on the main floor.


The second floor of the building is reached by fireproof inclines or ramps, instead of stairways. These have proved to be very successful in actual operation, and are being used exclusively by Mr. Weeks in all his finer school buildings. The corridors and inclines are covered with cork linoleum, making them absolutely noiseless, and very comfortable as well as safe to walk upon.

The fenestration of all of the classrooms is taken care of with the “open-air type” of window.  There are three separate sashes to each window opening, and a translucent shade is affixed to them individually so that when open, each forms an awning in itself, and gives perfect control of both the sunlight and window ventilation.

On the second floor of this main building are located emergency toilets for both boys and girls. On this floor are also the commercial department, art department, radio department, and other miscellaneous academic subjects.

In the room adjoining the stage is the radio department. The Piedmont high school has probably the most complete radio installation of any school in the whole world. Every piece equipment necessary for complete instruction in this work has been installed. It Is possible to receive messages from any station in the world.

In connection with the radio, a “telemegaphone” system has been worked out by Mr. Weeks. With this system it is possible for the principal to make an announcement from the central station in his office, so that this announcement may be heard in every room of the building simultaneously. It is also possible for him to make an announcement in an ordinary tone of voice in one, or any number of the rooms, by plugging in on the transmitting board. This system is also connected with the radio, so that any messages being received via wireless may be transmitted to any, or all departments of the school. For instance, a concert being received by wireless may be transmitted to the music department, or a speech by some prominent speaker may be relayed to the English department, etc. This one feature alone has been one of the biggest steps in the advancement of school administration of anything in recent years.


In the south wing building, which is connected to the academic building by a cloister, are house all the sciences and science lecture rooms. The equipment in all of these laboratories was specially designed by the architect to meet the individual requirements of the various departments. An idea of the completeness and compactness of this science unit may be gained by referring to the plan and photographs which are illustrated in connection with this article.


In the north wing are the music department and household art department. The cooking laboratory is absolutely original in its make-up. It is divided into “cubicals,” each resembling a miniature kitchenette with sinks, storage bins, ranges, etc., for group instruction. Each “cubical” has complete facilities for teaching four students. There are also a model dining room, sewing room, fitting room, millinery, laundry and a large cafeteria in the household arts department. The gymnasium and manual arts departments are housed separately.


The construct costs of this building was approximately $275,000. Accommodations for 650 students are provided in the school plant. It is the finest type of reinforced concrete construction, and has a steam heating plant with automatic ventilation and temperature control.

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1923 Yearbook:


PIEDMONT High School is a young school. This yearbook is a record of the second year of this institution. Less than two years ago four hundred boys and girls were brought together in the Piedmont High School from fourteen different secondary schools. Obviously, there would be found a wide divergence of ideals from a group of this character. The great work of molding the spirit and incentives of this congregated group into the ideal Piedmont High School has gone forward through the past two years with amazing rapidity. There have been one common inspiration and one ideal which all have shared. This has been the thought that Piedmont High School should be the best secondary school in the West. There have been a common purpose and an effort toward the attainment of this end. A perusal of the pages of this book will reveal the fact that in two short years a definite and most highly desirable Piedmont spirit has been developed.


In order to bring about a common purpose in the efforts of the students of Piedmont High School, it seemed wise to incorporate the ideals of the school upon a school shield, an etching of which is shown on this page. This shield has been worked out and designed by Piedmont High School students and represents the several phases of the Piedmont High School spirit.


At the left hand edge of the scroll at the top of the shield is shown a winged sandal. This is to characterize the athletic ambitions of our school. In classic myth the winged sandal enabled its possessor to perform unusual physical feats. Its inspiration to our athletic teams is to triumph over all opponents. It carries a broader significance, however, for it stands as an inspiration to every student to develop a strong-bodied physical being in order that he may have a fit basis upon which to build a successful life.


The classic torch of learning at the right hand edge of the scroll stands as an inspiration for scholastic achievement. It represents the idea that the light of the world is ready for those who will pursue and achieve truth. It further presents the idea of service. Those whose lives have been led upward by the light of the intelligence which has been handed down to us by past generations should feel obligated to perpetuate this light through service to all mankind.


In the left hand triangle the helmet of knighthood is revealed. During the Medieval Ages the institution of knighthood stood for the preservation of learning, the defense of womanhood, the protection of the arts, classics, and sciences throughout that unfortunate period. So the helmet of knighthood stands as an inspiration to the Piedmont boys to achieve personally, in their day, the ideals of Medieval knighthood.


In the right hand triangle is a characterization of Minerva, the classic example of noble womanhood. This stands as an inspiration to the Piedmont girls to achieve the highest type of noble, intelligent and beautiful womanhood.


The stripes and bars are represented on the shield in the school colors of royal purple and white. White stands for purity. Royal purple stands for regality and suggests to all Piedmont students the necessity of learning to rule their lives, ambitions and passions by the mastery of their thoughts and actions. The open book of learning at the lower edge of the shield sets forth the ideal that one's mind should be kept open to new thoughts and to the advantages of learning at all times. Upon the book is inscribed the motto of Piedmont High School, “Achieve The Honorable."


The records set forth in this Clan-O-Log will reveal that during the past school year great headway has been made in achieving these ideals. While there still remains an opportunity for improvement, the work that has been started will be carried on and from the foundation which has been laid in these first two years of the life of Piedmont High School, the superior Piedmont High School of our dreams is sure to grow.

-H. W. Jones

1924 Yearbook:



As Mr. Johnson has so thoroughly impressed on our minds, history is a record of the past in relation to the living present. It has become our duty to show what the past of the class of 1924 has been, and as the happenings of the last four years are directly responsible for the great events of the living present,-namely, our career as seniors and our graduation from high school, the truth of Mr. Johnson's statement is apparent.


The class of 1924 has several distinctions which cannot possibly belong to any future group of Piedmont students. First, we are the initial group to complete four years in Piedmont High School. We are, therefore, the first real representatives of the school. Next, we never have suffered the trials and tribulations ordinarily experienced by freshmen, because when we were in our first year, we were the school, there being no other classes above us. Finally, we have the honor of numbering among our classmates Ross Brown in person. Ross, better known as “Magnavox," is said to have given the inventor of that instrument the inspiration for its production. It is our conviction that the magnavox system now in use in the school will be far more appreciated when Ross graduates.


When we started school in August, 1920, conditions were slightly different from those which prevail at the close of our high school career. Mr. Cooper was then our principal, and we were occupying the shacks. The only teachers who were with us when we started and who have had the courage to remain to see us graduate are Mrs. Lohse and Miss Drury.


Our chief opponents in athletics were the pupils of Havens School. The exciting moments of these games were recorded in an Annual, the forerunner of the Clan-O-Log, edited by Bill DeWitt. This book, now historic, consisted of a number of mimeographed pages. Jimmie Tyson proved to be an embryo artist by his illustrations; it is to be regretted that he did not develop his talent further. We must also mention the humorous section, and hope the joke editor's sense of humor has improved since then.


Among other notable events we mention Elvin Pfister's frequent visits to the office. According to the best available statistics, he spent more time there than any boy is likely to spend in the future. Here our class set another record for originality, or efficiency, as you may wish to call it.


While we were sophomores, Piedmont High grew into a real school and our class enlarged proportionally. We chose Mr. Jones as our new principal, and to help him, as additions to the faculty, we brought Miss Haub and Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin cannot be mentioned without a reference to his famous watch which came to be as well known as its owner. On every possible occasion he would extoll the merits of this remarkable timepiece. We can never forget “Mac" Willimann, our coach, who struggled very successfully to produce winning teams on an athletic field that ran up hill and down as it chose.


The presidents of the class for the year were Harmon Bell in the fall term, and Fred Bullard in the spring term. The question of school colors, of the names for various publications, and of the school seal came up this term and were settled after due consideration on our part. A spirited debate took place between those who wished to see gray and crimson as the school colors, and those who desired purple and white.


The names, “Clan-O-Log,” “Highland Fling,” and “Highlander,” were selected at this time after much argument. We were also instrumental in the success of the bond election for the completion of the new school.

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Piedmont High School 1926 yearbook

A high school play with 12 students in blackface


The first Minstrel Show at Piedmont High School was presented on the evening of Thursday, April 15, and on the afternoon of Friday, April 16. The purpose of the Minstrel Show was to raise money for the uniforms of the new school band.


There were three parts to the entertainment. The first, a pictorial entitled “Our Boys," was composed of jokes, songs, ballads, and stunts. Tom Murphy, Pierre Crosby, Don Brown, and Merrill Reynolds were the "four funny end men." Tom Ball made a humorous interlocutor, and splendid talent was discovered in Gilbert Edgar, Gordon Craig, Walter Zimmerman, William Balsley, and others. The second part consisted of an “Olio" composed of a number of specialties. A feature of this part was the chorus of six little “coons” which provoked much amusement from the audience.

The last part was a burlesque on a well known opera, entitled "Ill Treated Trovatore.” The students supported the Minstrel Show very well and showed Mr. Ball how much they appreciated the Piedmont Band. The performance not only provided a great deal of entertainment, but it brought out a great deal of hidden talent which will be useful material for the next opera. Much praise is due the orchestra for its splendid playing. This organization has always taken a great part in school life, and besides playing for operas and plays, it furnishes the music for assemblies and entertainments.

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Oakland Tribune - Tue - Feb. 11, 1969:

School Dress Code Modified


The board of education last night adopted a modified version of its dress and grooming regulations after the original proposals caused an uproar with parents, students and teachers.

Under the new code, the board said the students must be clean and neat, dress and grooming should be modest and appropriate for school wear and shoes shall be worn at all times in school.

In addition, the board avoided specific limitations but said it believes slacks for girls are inappropriate for school wear, hats should be removed in the buildings and well-groomed hair for all students is desirable.

Board members then voted unanimously to send a letter to parents of all students in the district notifying them of the regulations and urging the parents to encourage their children to comply.


Principals of the high and junior high schools, and a committee of students and teachers worked with the board to form the compromise agreement.

The board had originally proposed eight new rules which included a specific ban against “bizarre" costume- type apparel such as Nehru jackets and floor-length skirts, shirts with tails out and boys with long hair and beards.

Parents, teachers and students protested that such codes would infringe upon personal freedom and the board was forced to back down.

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Clipping from the Oakland History Room - Originally printed in the Piedmonter or Post.

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