Time capsule from 1970 unveiled at Los Alamitos High School
Griffins from high school's first graduating class and current students share in historic moment
The past and present merged on the campus of Los Alamitos High School recently.
An unveiling ceremony to open a more than 50-year-old time capsule connected the Griffins of yesterday with the Griffins of today.
On March 7, Tim Thomas, the Associated Student Body Senior Class President from the Griffin class of 1970, was joined by current members of the school’s ASB to unpack the 30-pound lead box that had been stored on the campus for decades.
Nearly 80 people witnessed the unboxing, including numerous Griffin alumni who were among the first students to learn inside the school’s classrooms from 1968-1970.
“There's an energy and a passion that comes with being a Griffin graduate. And so we're fortunate today to witness and honor history. To celebrate the foundation of our past Griffins, … what you have laid down for all of us in this community,” Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Andrew Pulver, Ed.D., said at Tuesday’s event.
“You might be called, you know, the O.G.s – the original Griffins,” Pulver told the former students.
Some of the former students had helped in the time capsule’s rediscovery in 2020. It was found as the school’s original administrative building was being torn down to make way for the new three-story S.T.E.M. building which opened this academic year.
That was 50 years after the time capsule had originally been created, according to the Los Alamitos Unified School District. The district contacted Thomas when it was unearthed during the demolition, but the official unveiling ceremony was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The district and a committee of alumni worked together to arrange the ceremony. On Tuesday, the school’s Career Center in the new S.T.E.M. building was decorated with memorabilia from decades ago for the event.
That included newspaper clippings from the late 1960s, a school schedule, old photographs from a Grad Night at Disneyland in 1970, vinyl records from bands including The Beach Boys, a Life Magazine from 1971 with Griffin graduate and former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby on the cover, and more.
Before the unboxing, Thomas reflected on what was happening in the world when he and his classmates were enrolled at LAHS. “I don’t have to remind you that  was filled with excitement but it was also confusing times,” he said.
Thomas looked back on the era of his teen years. There was the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and student protests, rock music and The Beatles, hippie culture, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
At the ceremony, Thomas admitted he had opened the time capsule but only to see that it could be done. He said he did not look at its contents.
So what had been hiding in that heavy box for 50 years?
A lot of paper. Proclamations from numerous cities, local organizations and government agencies, the first edition of the high school’s newspaper The Crusader, an old issue of the News - Enterprise covering the high school’s opening, decals of the Los Alamitos High School mascot and logo, a directory and more.
Current Griffins read from the proclamations from the past, the words of yesterday uttered by the students of today was the moment time capsule unveilings are known for.
“Whereas the Los Alamitos High School will be an asset to the community educationally, culturally and athletically and whereas the historic aspects of Los Alamitos will be perpetuated by name and action,” current LAHS student Kyle Miller read aloud from the proclamation from the city of Los Alamitos declaring January 20, 1968 Los Alamitos High School Day.
After the time capsule had been emptied, Thomas shared his thoughts on what was inside. "I was hoping to see some predictions from students about what life would be like from 1970 until now. I don't think we would have thought about Apple watches, Spotify and artificial intelligence. I don't think anyone could have predicted that back then."
The peek into the past naturally led to discussions about the history of the school.
Los Alamitos High School was part of the Anaheim Union High School District when it opened in 1968. (The Los Alamitos Unified School District formed in 1979.)
The first graduating class started their high school careers as roughly 600 sophomores at what was then known as Pine Junior High School, which today is known as McAuliffe Middle School, according to Thomas. Once the high school was finished being built, the students transferred to the campus just a few blocks down W. Cerritos Avenue.
The campus buildings were not the only new feature of LAHS. It also offered pupils a unique new way to organize their classes in what was known as “flexible scheduling.” Students were actually able to decide on a daily basis what classes they would attend for the day.
“It was considered to be an educational innovation that would allow students to take more advanced placement classes, to allow students to take more electives and to do important academic work in greater depth,” Richard Herzberg, the LAHS ASB President from 1968-1970, said during the ceremony. Flexible scheduling was phased out around 1977, according to Dr. Pulver.
Herzberg praised the teachers of that era at LAHS. “They wanted to be part of this grand experiment to try to increase opportunities for students at Los Alamitos High School and so we benefited from an incredible faculty,” he said.
For Jerry Harwell, the teachers he had while at Los Alamitos High School had a significant impact on his career choice. “I was so influenced by the amazing teachers on this campus that they influenced me to become a teacher. So I was a teacher for over 30 years,” Harwell shared after the time capsule opening.
“It was just such an amazing place to be,” Harwell added with a big smile. “You were a part of a big family here.”
Although decades have passed, the school spirit was still very strong among Harwell and his former classmates at the event. At one point during the ceremony, the crowd spontaneously broke into a cheer that grew louder and louder. “We are the Griffins, the mighty, mighty Griffins!,” the audience chanted. “Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are, so we tell them,” they shouted before erupting into applause.
The first graduating class was credited with coming up with the Griffin as a mascot, and the school’s colors of blue, red and gold.
Many attendees were wearing Griffin gear. That included Bart Lundblad who was sporting his original football letterman jacket from his days of playing tight end for the Griffins in 1969 and 1970. The first football coach for the Griffins, Frank Doretti, was also there.
Lundblad said he was impressed with the turnout and shared that he was “very proud to be a Griffin.”
He said his ties to Los Alamitos High School reach beyond his time there. His children graduated from the school, his wife was a counselor at LAHS for 15 years, and now one of his daughters is a teacher on the campus.
Lundblad said the biggest thing that’s changed from when he was a Griffin to now is technology and the advent of social media in particular. Lunblad’s classmate, Tim Thomas, agreed. “We didn't have technology and communication ... we had rotary phones,” he said.
But here’s what hasn’t changed. Some of the same issues from last century are hot topics on campus in our current academic year.
An unearthed newspaper from the time capsule included an article from The Crusader covering a poll of students about the campus dress code including the question, “Do you think the miniskirt should be allowed on campus?” Most respondents thought it should be allowed.
Fast forward to this academic year, and the high school’s latest journalism publication, The Griffin Gazette, had a story with the headline, “School dress expectations: The nationally debated topic.”
Thomas concluded the time capsule unveiling by reminding attendees that opening a box that was packed away last century isn’t the only way to learn the history of Los Alamitos High School. He said that everyone in the room was a “living time capsule” with stories and memories to share.
Dr. Pulver captured the meaning of the event this way: “Today's celebration is a tangible reminder of what we often say: ‘Once a Griffin, always a Griffin.’ Or sometimes now we even say, ‘Griffin for life.’”
David N. Young contributed reporting to this story.
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