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Community News: East

LINCOLN HEIGHTS : School Celebrates Its 50th Birthday

October 23, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

Rose Salcedo remembers when Our Lady Help of Christians School was just a handful of bungalows and she was one of four students of the first graduating class in 1944.

Fifty years later, Salcedo celebrated the school's golden anniversary last weekend. A special Mass was held, and current students provided entertainment and made presentations.

"It doesn't seem like a long time ago because you have so many memories from that school," Salcedo, whose last name was Ramirez when she attended Our Lady Help of Christians, said Tuesday at her home in Eagle Rock. Two nephews had recently been enrolled there, bringing Salcedo back to her alma mater for a time to help out with substitute teaching and teaching computer courses.

The 50th anniversary was an occasion to reflect on the progress of the school for its principal, Sister Maria-Esthela Gonzalez.

The school, 2024 Darwin Ave., run by the Poor Clair Missionary Sisters, now enrolls 300 students, and the average eighth-grade graduating class is 35 students.

Rummaging through the school's archives, Gonzalez found only one picture of the five old buildings that had been set up during World War II for the kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school. In the late '50s, two of those bungalows were demolished to make way for the new buildings and the students were crammed into the remaining bungalows during construction, she said.

Then in September, 1962, officials inaugurated the buildings that now make up Our Lady Help of Christians School.

"I have been here so long, I've seen the school grow and get better in many aspects," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez arrived in 1975, six years after the seventh and eighth grades had been transferred to Our Lady Queen of Angels Middle School at Hill and Ord streets in Downtown. Parents were unhappy with the transfer and were able to bring back those grades in 1978.

One of the biggest accomplishments for the school over the years has been to get a sound barrier wall to block the noise from the Golden State Freeway that often disrupted classroom lessons. Students, parents and teachers wrote to government officials, even then-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., pleading to erect the wall and restore their sanity. In 1981, the wall was built.

The freeway has provided more memorable episodes for the students, including the time a student kicked a ball over the school buildings toward the freeway when a noisy truck was barreling down the off-ramp at Daly Street.

The ball struck the wide-open mouth of a big face painted on the side of the truck, creating hysterical laughter from the whole student body.

"I was teaching eighth grade and the truck was making such a noise," Gonzalez said. "It made all the students just crack up, it was so funny."

The anniversary celebration may be one of the last memories of the school for Sister Esthela, as she is known to the students. She will soon be moving to her order's headquarters in Rome after 19 years at the school.

For Salcedo and other alumni, the reunion was a chance to get reacquainted with people who shared the same Catholic education.

"It was a day for remembrances and memories," Gonzalez said. "It was beautiful."

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