There is nothing quite like kids’ faces! I’ve been fortunate over the years to have been given the chance by several former students to scan class photos from the 1930s to the 1960s. I present them here in reverse chronological order without commentary.* My thanks to Marty Hackett, Mark Sultana, Julie Spalasso Vozza, Bill Wilson, and Greg Gaar for sharing these with me. View more class photos here.
The current building of Sunnyside Elementary School (250 Foerster Street, San Francisco) was built in 1927. Read more about its history.
In 1948, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a survey that the Second District PTA made at Sunnyside School to find out about when and how students were listening to the radio — the “wireless” entertainment of the day. The reporter noted that the Sunnyside student body then represented families who were “neither overly rich nor overly poor … a most ideal medium between the two.”
The survey asked about 220 students in grades three through six about how many radios they had, when and what they listened to, and what their favorite programs were.
One of the points the reporter harped on was the use of of the radio during studying. Making it sound slightly shocking, he lauded the PTA for revealing this possibly harmful practice as “something that must give educators a morning-after-sized headache.” (Hardly an apposite metaphor to use for supposedly responsible adults!)
Presenting a feature in the San Francisco Examiner in 1899, detailing the state of Sunnyside’s first school, located in a cottage. More about the difficult early years of Sunnyside School here.
The conditions for these children were incredible. The house where the school was located was in poor condition and no bigger than most houses here today. Imagine one full of 117 children!
This house still stands at 143 Flood Ave and was recently sold for just over $1M. (How did the house number change?) Despite what the article states, Sunnyside was then largely Irish and German immigrants and their families.
Until the mid-1970s, Sunnyside Elementary School had an odd structure that projected into the playground area, called the Arcade. It was about twelve by forty-five feet, one large room, and at least during the 1950s and 1960s housed the school library. What is the story behind this quirky feature?
The first dedicated schoolhouse to be built for the neighborhood was neither big enough nor safe enough to serve the needs of families in Sunnyside in the long term, but for 18 years it was a busy and productive place. During this time, Sunnyside emerged as a vital neighborhood, no longer ignored by City government and able to garner its share of public monies. Community and parental involvement was effective and intense, centered on a newly founded PTA. Then a group of mothers helped bring to the City’s attention the schoolhouse’s dangers and inadequacies. When it came time to build a replacement, rather than drag the process out for a decade, as the City had with the first provisional school in a cottage, that new building went up in just a few years.
Despite the profiteers who sold lots in Sunnyside in the early 1890s primarily as investments, families did move here, and they had children–often lots of them. But there was no school. Then they were given only a rented cottage for a one-class school. The story of how long it took before the district finally built a real schoolhouse here is a lesson in both City government corruption and the perseverance of the early residents.