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Windows Shed Light on High School's Sacrifice

For 75 years, stained-glass panels at the Los Angeles High library have paid homage to 20 graduates who died in World War I.

May 29, 2005|Cecilia Rasmussen | Times Staff Writer

Harry M. Lockwood, John Clyde Collison and James Noel Kerr are among the 20 Los Angeles High School graduates who died in World War I. Today their names would be virtually unknown -- except for the 75-year-old stained-glass window installed in their honor at a library their classmates were determined to build.

Los Angeles High School Memorial Library opened in 1930, a quaint Tudor-style brick building set in the 3-acre Memorial Park across from the high school at Olympic and Rimpau boulevards. Its centerpiece was a wall of locally crafted stained-glass windows bearing the names of the 20 fallen alumni, the year each graduated and the inscription "Peace Among Nations."

None of the honored graduates had reached his 40th birthday. Among them were a promising sculptor and a musician who had already composed an opera. Along with his name inscribed in the window, Lt. Greayer "Grubby" Clover, a World War I pilot, is also the namesake of Santa Monica Airport's Clover Field.

The library effort began in 1922, four years after the end of "the war to end all wars." Students raised more than $20,000 to buy the undeveloped land, which they enhanced by planting oak trees. Memorial Park was intended to honor the some 800 L.A. High School graduates who had served in World War I, and to commemorate those who had lost their lives.

Because of a law prohibiting students from owning land, the students donated it to the city, which built the library. Then they raised more than $2,000 for the stained-glass tribute fashioned by Highland Park's well-known Judson Studios.

Every Memorial Day for several decades after the May 2, 1930, opening ceremony, students, alumni and American Legion representatives held ceremonies at the tiny park.

William Allen, a former student, retired teacher and co-president of the school's alumni association, said he would like to see a return to the tradition, "but I'm afraid it's a thing of the past."

The best known of the 20 students was Clover, who resembles actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

A year after Memorial Park was purchased, a crowd of 50,000 gathered at the dedication of Santa Monica's Clover Field, a 173-acre landing site for the U.S. Army and where Douglas Aircraft tested its planes.

Clover had enlisted as a French ambulance driver and then a pilot before America joined in the war. His plane went down over France in 1918. His name and that of two other dead soldiers were put forward as possible names for the new airfield. Clover's was chosen not so much for his short flying career, but for his generosity.

"He gave his own blankets and all of his sweaters and mufflers to a family of Belgian refugees whom he discovered almost destitute in the winter of 1917, and he diverted every cent of his pay that he could spare, to their support," wrote one of his flying buddies.

He hoped to be a writer, like his father, Samuel Travers Clover, a writer, editor and publisher for early Los Angeles newspapers, including the Evening Express.

In France, young Clover wrote about his frontline experiences and his friendship with a French family, owners of a "romantic little inn." He tells of the owner's beautiful daughter, Suzanne, who had been engaged to a French fighter pilot killed in the war, which is perhaps why the family invited all aviators to dine with them. Clover wrote of how thrilled he was to sign his name in the family's "big book" for special guests.

He hoped someday others would pause over his name, as he did at the names of such renowned wartime aviators as Rene Fonck, whose later attempt at transatlantic flight would inspire Charles A. Lindbergh.

On Aug. 30, 1918, Clover was killed in a formation training flight over France. He was 21 years old. Clover's father arranged to have his son's World War I accounts published the following year, under the title "A Stop at Suzanne's."

Although Clover Field was later renamed Santa Monica Municipal Airport, his moniker lives on at Clover Park and Cloverfield Boulevard in Santa Monica.

Lockwood, who graduated in 1912 with a promising career as a sculptor, was also named on the window. Lockwood joined the Marine Corps five years after graduating. On June 6, 1918, he was wounded in battle in France. He returned to the battlefield the next day, when he was reported missing in action. It would be another six months before his Los Angeles family would find out that Lockwood survived yet another wound, only to later die in battle at Chateau-Thierry.

Collison was one of at least four of the honored students who died at Camp Kearny in San Diego during an influenza pandemic. Collison, a 1906 graduate of Los Angeles High, had been a USC professor of music and bandleader of the 66th Field Artillery at the camp. He wrote an opera titled "The Resurrection" and brought other operas, choral music and the rich score of Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" to audiences in churches and auditoriums across Los Angeles.

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