Piedmont High Social Clubs

The Clubs:

1925: PHS Yearbook:

Boys: Kimmer Shielding

1934 PHS Yearbook:

Boys: Kimmer Shielding and Rigma Lions

1942 PHS Yearbook:

Boys: Argyle, Kapa Klan, Kimmer Shielding, Rigma Lions

Girls: Winema (a woman's club) 

1950 PHS Yearbook:

Boys: Argyle, Kapa Klan, Kimmer Shielding, Rigma Lions

1951:

Boys: Kapa Klan, Kimmer Shielding, Rigma Lions (Argyle is missing)

Posted by a 1963 PHS Alumni

Wikipedia 2021:

The social scene was once dominated by social clubs, which resembled college sororities and fraternities, reminiscent of Lindsay Lohan's Mean Girls. While the social clubs raised money the organizations with which they were affiliated, their charitable exterior was just a front for what they really were, mainly drinking clubs. The male clubs died out in the mid-1990s when they grew irrelevant, but the female social clubs didn't end until 2004 when the incoming senior class exhibited overwhelming indifference and distaste for retaining the tradition. ”The school was covered in the New York Times when in the mid-1990s it began breathalyzing all students before dances.

Trying to find out history of our social clubs/high school greek system of sororities and fraternities is quite difficult due to the lack of historical documentation, secrecy after being banned in 1955 (post Stinson Beach incident) and lack of people alive today to contact that know the whole history. The early yearbooks I own and those posted on ancestry.com show the men's groups but interestingly enough do not post pictures of the women's groups. There are quite a few obituaries, a few biographies and even Linkedin profiles on the internet that mention Rigma and Kimmer, Junior Assistanvce League memberships showing how important these clubs were to many members, similar to many of us in the Greek System in college. When I was graduating high school (1998) the active women's clubs were BH, JA, JO and Rigma and Kimmer for the men. When my sister graduated PHS, quite later in 2014, the clubs were no existent and she had never heard of them.

Queen of the Hills (1953) described not belonging to these social clubs at Piedmont High as "the greatest tragedy imaginable for many students."

This page is an attempt to put together a picture of what the clubs were like through the information that is available if you have any more documentation or stories please contact me and I would be happy to document it. Personally, on what I believe was bid night, I had JA come to my house around 12am or later, knock on my door, hand me white flash cards with everyone's name written in red and asked me to go with them. I politely declined and returned to bed. Our neighbors said you could hear them blocks away coming. (Somewhere in my bins of Piedmont history I still have the JAL invite cards and a ticket or two to a winter JA party my senior year.)

Frats and Sororities Dominated Social Scene of PastUntil the mid-1990s, selective – and hard-drinking – social clubs were a prominent part of the Piedmont High School scene

The Patch - Sun, Mar 11, 2012:
 

Selectiveness. Social domination. Smirnoff.

Words that physics teacher Glen Melnik uses to describe Piedmont's social clubs that grew popular after the high school's founding in 1921.

Membership to one of PHS's six fraternities or sororities was crucial for acceptance, until they grew irrelevant in the mid-1990s.

"They totally dominated the social scene," Melnik said. "If you weren't in a social club, you wouldn't be invited to any parties."

Social clubs were associated with drinking pools, Melnik said.

"When I first got here, I went to a club event when I didn't know they were going to drink," Melnik said. "The principal was really mad and said, 'Melnik, I should fire you.'"

There were six clubs at the high school, Melnik said. There were three for the boys, the Kapas, the Rigma, and the Kimmers, and three for the girls, the JO's, the JA's, and the BH's.

To join a fraternity or sorority, students first had to endure a bidding process in which they applied for acceptance. If they were deemed worthy, prospective frat members had to perform initiation rituals, some of which were taken to the extreme, Melnik said.

"I remember there was one kid who had to run through Bonfare naked," Melnik said. "Another had to run down Sea View naked."

P.E. teacher Mike Humphries remembers similar hazing, he said.

"One club of guys hosted the 'Undie 500' from Hampton Field to Mulberry's, which was called Convenient back then," Humphries said. "Guys in the bushes would try to tear the runners' underwear off so they were half naked by the time they finished the race."

Drinking was so prevalent that students would drink in the early afternoon right after lunch, Principal Rich Kitchens said.

"It was not uncommon for them to have Friday afternoon parties after lunch, where there'd be beer," Kitchens said.

The clubs were so influential that they interfered with everyday life, Kitchens said. "They were so selective that on teams with Kimmer and Rigma players, players in [social clubs] wouldn't pass to the other players as readily."

In many situations, the sororities were crueler than the boys' fraternities, Melnik said.

"The sororities were like Mean Girls," Melnik said.

"They were selective and hurtful to the girls who didn't get in. It was very harmful to the psyche of many kids," Kitchens said. "Today, we try to include everybody."

Humphries shares similar sentiments.

"I just remember feeling particularly sorry for girls who didn't make it into the club," he said. "You could always hear the cars going around and honking in the town after the bids had been chosen. It must have been like rubbing salt in the wounds for those who didn't make it."

Special Education Para Educator Diane Robb, who graduated from Piedmont in 1983 and was a club member, remembers the club's charitable contributions.

"We raised money for our organizations and we had parties on the weekends," Robb said. Although the social clubs posed charitable exteriors, they had ulterior motives, Melnik said. "One of the girls' clubs, the BH's, stood for 'Baby Hospital', so they donated to Children's Hospital," Melnik said."junior assistance league"School administration deemed the fraternities and sororities illegal because they encouraged drinking, Kitchens said.

"They were selective, discriminatory, and I think there was open acknowledgment of alcohol use," he said.

Melnik said that students gradually grew uninterested in the clubs, so they grew irrelevant.

"There was a large [influx] in the Asian population at our school, and there just wasn't as much interest as there had been," Melnik said.

Humphries is glad that the era of social clubs at Piedmont has come to an end, he said.

"[The clubs] were just a way for the cooler kids to separate from the not so cool ones," he said. "I don't know that the administration could have done much about the drinking … It hasn't changed that much now in terms of drinking, it's just not as organized."

The_ San Francisco Examiner -

Sun - Oct. 26, 1947

The_ San Francisco Examiner -

Sun - Nov. 2, 1947

The Piedmont Highlander

Piedmont’s Past: Academics, Social Life, Athletics, and the Bird Calling Contest, March 17, 2014:

In 1976, the PHS football stands would have been crowded to the brim with enthusiastic “clubs” cheering on the Highlanders on a Friday night.

However, students today experience a more blended social atmosphere, compared to the fraternities and sororities, also known as clubs, that shape PHS’s social past.

“In those days,” Rick Kurkjian, Class of ‘73 said, “the high school was tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade. Piedmont Junior High was seventh to ninth grades.”

Kurkjian said there were four boys clubs: Kimmers, Rigma Lions, Kappas, and Bishops.

“In 10th and 11th grade I was in the Kimmers. They threw several parties a year including a South Seas Party and a Senior Farewell formal dance,” Kurkjian said. “Parties were for members and their dates, no one else was included.”

Kurkjian said he quit Kimmers because they were exclusive, like many of the clubs at PHS at the time.

“There were three girls clubs: Baby Hospital, Junior Assistance, and Junior Organization,” Karen Ellis, Class of ‘84 said.

Ellis said the club parties all had different themes and were in the Hills or at students’ houses. She said each club chose four sophomores to join, and in the fall many juniors and a few seniors were chosen by giving bids which were dropped off on doorsteps early in the morning.

“Looking back now, especially since I have kids, I feel horrible these clubs went on and how hurt the kids must have felt who never got bids,” Ellis said.

Kathy Kelleher, Class of ‘79, was a member of the Junior Assistance League, and said that the social scene was a bit cliquey. "In hindsight, they were exclusive and left a lot of great people out,” Kelleher said. “The girls clubs were loosely associated with charities.”

 

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Nov 21, 1933:

Tomorrow will see the third annual service club basketball contest at Piedmont High gym when the Kimmer Shielding and Rigma fives meet in a charity contest. Both groups are parts of prominent school clubs and on both teams is almost the entire Piedmont varsity.

Oakland Tribune - Thu - Nov 1, 1937:

Piedmont High School officially opened its basketball season yesterday, when the Rigmas downed their close rivals, the Kimmers, 26 to 19.  The Two teams are boys' clubs in the school. 

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Nov 13, 1940:

Sweetland Home Setting for Tea

The Glen Alpine Road home of Mrs. E. J. Sweetland was the settings for a fashion show and bridge tea this afternoon, given by the Kimmer Shieldings, of Piedmont High School.

Assisting the boys' club to entertain were a group of Junior Assistance League girls, who modeled Winter sports outfits for the guests who numbered many score. 

Oakland Tribune - Sat - May 22, 1948:

Highlight of the noon hour carnival was the Kapa and Argyle mud and water concessions...

...The Kimmer concession settled to its own muddy and watery grave before the carnival started.

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Feb. 12, 1952:

Friday was "invitations out" and answers in" day for Piedmont High boys clubs... with a goodly group of the hillcity school's eligible young men (they're eligible for club membership when they've hit the L11) receiving bids and joining up with the Rigma, Kapa or Kimmer clans... Junior Assistance League invitation another Friday night even for Highlanders... the girls attending a movie together early in the evening... ending up at Ann Conwell's for initiation... the boys (Rigmas, Kapas and Kimmers - new members and old) providing extra local color via sidewalk heckling 'round 'n' about the Conwell home.

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Jul. 23, 1963:

There was anguish when the frat status was supreme here. One teacher recalls a grieving mother demanding the fraternity be banned because the grieving mother's son wasn't accepted for membership. A few years later the same mother had another son at Piedmont High.

BIG SWITCH

This son made one of the frats, and mama collared every faculty member she could grab to spout great praise for the good old high school fraternity system, God bless it.

 

general - Berkeley_Daily_Gazette_Thu__Nov_22__1906_.jpg

Berkeley Daily Gazette - Thu - Nov. 22, 1906

KIMMER SHIELDING, 1923

Piedmont High 1925 Yearbook:

An organization was started by a group of Piedmont High School boys in the early part of the year 1923. Kimmer Shielding was chosen as a fitting name for the club, because it was a Scotch name that would coincide with a Scotch theme already a tradition in Piedmont High.

 

This club has two objects in view: one, to promote good-fellowship, and the other to do something for the benefit of the community.

 

In the meetings once a week bring the members close together where they may talk over the affairs of the club. There are about 30 active members and about the same number of associate members. It has been the tradition of the club to give a banquet and dance to the retiring officers, every six months. Throughout the year various other forms of entertainment are also included in, such as theatre parties, tug rides, socials and dances. Its thus that the object of good-fellowship is carried out.

Oakland Tribune - Wed - June 10, 1936:

The Kimmer Shielding Club of Piedmont gave a dinner dance at Castlewood last Saturday evening for its members.

 

Oakland Tribune - Mon - Jan 5, 1942:

A pre-school sport dance was held at the home of Stephen D Bechtel in Oakland on the night of Jan 1. The guests included members of the Kimmer Sheilding Club at Piedmont High School and their guests. 

This is one of the outstanding parties for the school set during the Winter vacation.

Oakland Tribune - Fri - May 26, 1950:

...Piedmont's Kimmer Shielding Club's South Sea Island dance... For their dance tomorrow night Kimmer Club members at Piedmont High will take over the WIlliam Letts Oliver Piedmont home and deck it out in South Sea Island style. They'll dump a truckload of sand in the backyard, add a few palm trees (or reasonable facsimile of the same) and call it an island. Inside too, they'll have much in the way of tropical decor. 

RIGMA LIONS, 1930s

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Jun. 18, 1963:

"The night before was also a hurry-up," said Doryce, "because we had the Rigma (teen group) dance for Gray, with about 60 young people  - and he only told us about it two days before! But it was delightful to have a group of teen-agers who acted so beautifully while having such a good time.

ARGYLE, 1940s

1942 PHS Yearbook picture

KAPA KLAN, 1940s?

BISHOPS, 1960s?

Junior Assistance League (JA, JAL), 1934:

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Nov 5, 1939:

The league, organized in 1934 under the guiding hand of Mrs. Roy Shurtliff, is a charity group composed of young girls mostly drawn from the ranks of Piedmont Hugh or Miss Anna Head's School. 

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Apr 19, 1942:

A coterie of younger girls, who make up the Junior Assistance League membership, met recently for their annual tea, the affair taking place at the home of Miss Doryce Veitch in Woodland Way, Piedmont. The girls assist in the supporting of Children's Home maintained by the Ladies Relief Society and at the present are lending every effort toward supplying the needs of the little ones at the home.

In the Assistance League are many of the girls from some of the most prominent families in Oakland and Piedmont and every year they plan a tea the proceeds of which go to the Ladies Relief Society to aid in supplying the wants of the children.

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Oct 8, 1947:

Junior Assistance League sponsors two parties a year, a garden party in the spring and a dance at Christmas time, the proceeds of which they use for their philanthropic activities. For the past few years they have been giving their attention to the De Fremery Home.

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Sept 5, 1951:

Several branches of the East Bay open to Piedmont girls, by invitation that is... new groups often formed by individual crowds. Junior Assistance League, creme de la creme of Piedmont High's social realm, is sponsored by the Children's Guild of the Ladies Relief Society, not by the school, but draws its membership from the young ladies of the student body. Girls from the H10 through L12 are invited... but membership is limited to 40.

Baby Hospital (BH):

Junior Officers (JO):

Need more info...

Winema, 1930's:

Oakland Tribune - Thu -Feb 5, 1931:

 

Six of the 24 applicants to the Winema club of Piedmont High were voted to join the club at a meeting this week.

Oakland Tribune - Sun -Mar 1, 1936:

 

Piedmont - New members were initiated into "Winema," senior girls' organization, by President-elect Grace Erskine and other officers Tuesday night. All initiates have earned the rank of Torchbearer and fulfilled all requirements for membership.

Oakland Tribune - Sun -Jan 21, 1940:

 

Election of officers for the new term will be held by Winema next Tuesday night. Plans for an open house in early February were discussed. Members of Rigma, Kimer and Kapa Clan of the Boys' club will be invited.

Oakland Tribune - Sun -Mar 7, 1943:

 

Wimena, senior high school girls' organization of Piedmont, held an informal dance honoring its new members Saturday evening in Camp Fire headquarters. 

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Dec. 8, 1946:

 

Winemas of Piedmont Camp Fire Girls will be hostesses at a dessert bridge party Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Piedmont Community Center.

Banning:

The San Francisco Examiner - Wed - Mar. 16, 1955

Boys' Club Banned

A Piedmont High School boys' social club was suspended by school authorities yesterday because of a riotous party staged at Stinson Beach last Sunday. 

In another development of the case, the Marin County supervisors received the resignation of one of two deputy sheriffs who were bitterly criticized by Sheriff David Menary for allowing all participates in the wild beach party to escape.

Blow Admitted - - 

And a Marin County deputy reported finding a 17 year old Piedmont boy who, he said, admitted leaning out of a moving car on the way to the beach brawl and striking a 72 year old woman hiker with a wooden paddle. The woman received a slight concussion, when she fell after being struck, the deputy said.

The social club, known as the "Kimmers," was suspended from all of its activities pending a review of the case next Monday night at the Piedmont board of education.

Rules Violated - - 

Suspension was ordered because there was drinking at the beach party and because, in violation of school rules, the affair was planned without the knowledge or approval of the club's faculty advisor and was held without supervision. 

The San Francisco Examiner - Mon - Mar. 14, 1955

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Jun 16, 1959:

Board Bans High School Social Clubs

Three social clubs for boys have been banned fro functions at Piedmont High School on the grounds their activities are "distracting" and a "deterrent to the individual student's study habits."

The board of Education unanimously voted to lift the official recognition of the Kappa, Kimmer, and Rigma Clubs which have been in existence 25 years. The ruling prohibits any boy or girl student wearing any jewelry or clothing indicating membership in the clubs. "Any breach will be sufficient grounds for disciplinary action," the edit declared. 

Post Banning, still going strong:

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Sep. 12, 1956:

Question... Do you considered recognized boys' social clubs and unrecognized girl's social clubs a problem in the school? ... 98 said yes and 58 said no, and many said that the difference in requirements between the boys' and girls' clubs was unfair.  A considerable percentage felt that social clubs were undemocratic. 

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Nov 2, 1956:

Rigma Lions of Piedmont will honor their 15 new frosh members this evening at a dance, "Night in Bohemia," to be held in the home of Bob Garcia... Kimmers feted their 13 freshmen at a Saturday night dance event in Paul Michael's home on Crest Road, Piedmont.

For the Kimmers, "Honky Tonk," found some 26 couples wearing costumes...

...Twenty couples are expected at the Rigma party, which will feature live music and decorations and refreshments with Bohemian air.

Oakland Tribune - Mon - Oct. 22, 1962:

Most of the lads came from three social clubs - the Kimmers, Kapas, and Rigmas. They are unofficial groups and have no school standing since fraternities are not allowed. Some of the club's activities have been questioned in the past, but they were first to come forth in the wake of the water and mud. They reported with shovels, hoes, rakes and enthusiasm to help out.

Other Schools with similar clubs:

Reading through newspaper articles it looks as if other schools also had similar social clubs​

Berkeley high frats - The_San_Francisco_Call_Sun__Aug_13__1905_.jpg

The San Francisco Call -

Sun - Aug. 13, 1905

Oakland Tribune - Sat - Feb. 16, 1924

Oakland Tribune - Mon - May 26, 1924