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Bottled up memories discovered

In the early 1950s (at left) and more recently at their 40-year reunion (at right), are (clockwise from lower left): Cat Russo, Bob Haisley, Nat Russo, Al Marazzani, Ray Robbins and Toni Cellini. (COURTESY / On File)
In the early 1950s (at left) and more recently at their 40-year reunion (at right), are (clockwise from lower left): Cat Russo, Bob Haisley, Nat Russo, Al Marazzani, Ray Robbins and Toni Cellini. (COURTESY / On File)

By RAY ROBBINS
Special to the Tribune

When I was attending Alhambra High School in the 1950s, we had curriculum and activities offered to us that would be the envy of every school district in the state of California.

We didn’t have vice principals or counselors, our teachers and coaches were there for us. We had elected student body officers who got along with the faculty very well, thank you.

Besides the three Rs and college prep classes, we had Spanish, French, typing (on yesterday’s laptops), driver’s ed, home economics – which included kitchenettes – mechanical drawing and music.

We even had a brunch period where baker extraordinaire Fred Pardini would be there when the bell rang with his trays and pastries. Fred was a minuscule guy who looked like he just stepped out of a comic strip.

Physical education was mandatory and everybody suited up, unless you had a broken leg or something.

For the blue collar minded, we had welding/sheet metal shop, machine shop and carpentry/wood shop.

I had wood shop and was a member of a crew of six that were selected to build a new refreshment stand at Knowles Field, from the ground up. The other members were Bob Haisley, Nat Russo, Al Marazzani, Cat Russo and Tony Cellini.

We were learning quite a bit about carpentry and one day we acquired a case of Bireley’s Grape Soda.

While we were sipping on our sodas, one of us spotted our teacher, Big John Atkinson, coming down the road. We decided to hide the contraband and placed the remaining bottles of soda between the 2×4 studs and slapped a sheet of plywood up.

We were very proud of ourselves when we got the building finished, and that was the end of it, we thought.

Forty years later, Nat Russo read in the paper that the building was going to be razed, and he remembered the soda bottles were in it. He contacted Ray Martellacci, who worked for the school district, and asked if he could be there during the razing and retrieve the bottles, which he did.

At our 40th graduation party, Nat was the M.C. and gave all of the crew a bottle. I have mine encased and it sits on a shelf along with a before and after picture of the crew.

Bob Haisley, the only one who became a carpenter, is no longer with us, but the rest of us are still kicking around.

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