Class of ‘39: Cardinal classmates still chirping at regular luncheons
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: January 30, 2013
There’s always something to talk about when these friends meet, the conversation always lively with plenty of laughter and much chirping about Cardinal buddies and their hi-jinks.
It’s easy to enjoy the stories and the easy camaraderie of these classmates, just kids that graduated together from Santa Paula High School - in 1939. And Leo Bartley, Virginia (Bailey) Bartley, Robert “Bob” Daires, Beatrice Huerta and Ruth (Scurlock) Walker continue to meet each month for lunch, often with Louise Taylor who was not present at the last mini-reunion held at La Cabańa Restaurant.
There were 108 students in the Class of ‘39, and Bob’s well-worn copy of the yearbook - El Solano - contains the signature of most, if not all of them, as well as salutations from admired administrators and teachers. Stars mark those Cardinals now gone.
The friends have been meeting for lunch for years, the group a mixed gender offshoot of what had started as a ladies only gathering when organized by the late June (Mosher) Maland. Beatrice, who lives in the family home in Santa Paula, was still working during the heyday of those luncheons, so, “I wasn’t as active... but I kept close contact through the years with my friends.”
Ruth said there are 24 graduates “for sure” still remaining from the Class of 39, although “many are in assisted living,” unable to attend the monthly gathering.
Bob never misses it: “The first thing I do is mark it on my wall calendar,” at his Ventura home. “These people are friends, good friends.” And contemporaries, all in their early 90s, not that one would believe it.
Bob, a widower, was chief draftsman for Union Oil - later Unocal - Western Region, when he was charged with the creation of the original museum in the company’s original headquarters at the corner of 10th and Main streets. The first museum opened in 1950, and now he’s an active docent for the California Oil Museum, renovated and reopened when the now-defunct company celebrated its centennial.
Ruth said, “I just love getting together with everyone, visiting... I look forward to it.” Many of the classmates knew each other as small children, “just grew up together,” said Ruth.
Like the others, Ruth still has her SPHS El Solanos and a strong determination to keep track of classmates. “I tried to contact Roland Kamachi in Rolling Heights,” and although her letter was not returned, Ruth did not hear from family members or even a friend with an update on Roland.
The Class of ‘39 had two members whose names are easily recognized: Herbert Mercer and Robert Prieto both lost their lives while serving in the military during World War II, as did Herbert’s sister Henrietta and Robert’s brother Isabel. The Mercer-Prieto VFW Post #2054 is named in honor of the two sets of siblings, still remembered with fond stories by their classmates.
Bob served in World War II in the military as did Beatrice, who as a volunteer was closer to home preparing medical supply kits for the Women Ambulance Auxiliary.
As a SPHS student, Virginia said, “I had no idea we’d be lifelong friends,” or for that matter that she would marry classmate Leo Bartley. “Oh, we weren’t high school sweethearts,” said Virginia.
“I lived across the tracks,” joked Leo, who went on to a military career that started with the National Guard then moved into the Army Air Corps. The couple married in November 1943, said Leo, after “I came through Santa Paula in uniform and ran into Virginia.”
“He was one of those fly boys,” said Ruth. “They always got attention!”
Leo - who retired in 1966 and was a co-founding board member of Santa Clara Valley Bank - said although a champion rope climber (urged on by world champion SPHS coach Randall Bryden), he shunned his studies. But, he noted, “In my senior year I became a student” and received a most improved award in three subjects.
The almost six-feet-tall Beatrice was also an athlete: “I found it an outlet to participate in sports. I was really active in that” at a time when girls’ sports were mostly before and after school activities.
Beatrice played baseball, basketball and volleyball. “We even played hockey... I remember the cold mornings when we played in the area in front of the school, that was our hockey field. It wasn’t competitive, we played just to enjoy playing.”
Ruth, a resident of Fillmore and a staple of the Elkins Golf Course who retired in 1987, said the classmates not only meet for lunch but also, “talk on the phone all the time.”
The last time they were on the historic campus varies: Ruth said she attended a school play “about 20 years ago,” and the Bartleys attended a class reunion function in the “late 80s or early 90s.”
Beatrice said although it’s been quite a while since she’s been at the school, each time she drives by she is impressed by the changes at the Campus on the Hill.
“The last time I was on campus,” said Bob, “was when I graduated!”
All have fond memories: “The teachers were great, very understanding,” said Beatrice, who later graduated from Ventura Community College and over the years returned for more studies. Beatrice worked first as a seamstress, and then later at Santa Barbara and Ventura county schools - she took several breaks for family care giving - until she retired in 1985. She remains active in the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church.
When it comes to keeping in touch with classmates, Beatrice noted, “Ruth is the really the one that keeps us together.”
Beatrice, Bob, Leo, Ruth and Virginia have their own memories, although a common thread runs through their recollections: they all admired their teachers and believe that in many ways the Class of ‘39 truly graduated in the good old days.
Perhaps Virginia said it best: “It was great living here, but when Leo and I got married we lived all over the world. But we came back here because Santa Paula is special, the people here are special and things here are special... and always were.”