Time to ring the bell: Part 2

Time to ring the bell: Part 2Carl Barker would retire as assistant superintendent of personnel of the China Lake district. Carl’s wife, Irma Barker (my third-grade teacher), would retire from Richmond Elementary School. Their daughter Carolyn (1958 Burroughs Homecoming Princess), married Bob Roseth (BHS 1959), who would anchor of the Burroughs History Department for decades, also serving as head football coach in the early 1990s. Carolyn would retire from Burroughs as secretary to the athletic director.

The “Teacherages” at Inyokern School were destroyed in the 1980s as a firefighting training exercise.

The photo of the Indian Wells Valley School District combined 8th grade graduating class of 1949 is courtesy of Carolyn (Barker) Roseth in last weeks edition. Her father, Carl (dark jacket and first adult on the left), was the 8th Grade teacher at the Ridgecrest campus on Warner Street. To his right is Norman Luttrell, 8th grade teacher at the Inyokern campus. Luttrell would become superintendent upon the death of James Monroe, who was principal at both campuses. These graduating 8th graders became part of the Burroughs High School class of 1953. A member of 1953 class, Robert Rockwell would later be elected to the SSUSD board of education, as was his son Kurt (1979 Kelly Award recipient). Kurt currently serves on the SSUSD board.

Bev (Butler) Ewbank is the current Inyokern School principal. Her father, Dan Butler, was a member of the class of 1946, the first Burroughs graduating class. He returned to teach 5th grade at Richmond School and served several terms on the Indian WellsValley SD board. Likely, he was the first Burroughs graduate to return to the valley as an educator. Her mother, Barbara Butler, was school secretary at several schools, partnering with this writer at Richmond School. Both Dan (in memoriam) and Barbara are dedicated Rotarians.

The China Lake Elementary School District facilities construction program was orchestrated by Grant Pinney (father of Sergeant John Pinney, for whom Pinney Pool is named). First a teacher turned federal funding expert, Grant was one of five founders of the federal impact aid program.

Groves Elementary School construction, however, was not a part of that program. Completed in the summer of 1948 and opened in time for the 1948-1949 school year, this twelve classroom K-6 school was named for Lt. General Leslie Groves on March 14, 1949. Groves oversaw the construction of the Pentagon. He also directed the Manhattan (Atomic Bomb) Project, including China Lake’s “Project Camel.” Under the leadership of the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), China Lake developed the explosive lenses, detonators and contact fuzes, but not the nuclear components of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb (named for Sir Winston Churchill). CalTech at China Lake also conducted the static tests of the bomb. The “Fat Man” was deployed on August 9, 1945 over Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Project Camel and the Groves School construction, which was uniquely funded by the Atomic Energy Commission, were top-secret. This top-secret school construction project created great frustration among the California school facilities authorities, who were not on the “need to know” list and were denied inspection of the facility. Groves School closed 1996.

A “Fat Man” is on display at the China Lake Museum, clearly visible from Las Flores Avenue. For detailed information on this CalTech/China Lake partnership, “Proceed With Great Urgency, Project Camel” by Jack Latimer is available at the museum’s gift shop.

As the workforce at China Lake grew, demand for additional schools on station grew. The nearly identical “twin” schools, first called “north and “south” were completed just months apart. The” north” school would become Richmond School. It is named for Commander John Richmond, the Station’s first Executive Officer, hand picked out of retirement by Captain Burroughs. He would later, as a civilian, serve as the civilian administrative officer to the China Lake Community Council. Richmond Road is also named for John Richmond. However, Richmond School was not located on Richmond Road, but a “dog leg” away on Wasp Road and Kearsarge. Wasp Road had ten duplex housing units in one short block, but only on the west side of the road, as the school was on the east side.

In the 1960s, 100 students resided in those twenty residences, the highest concentration of students anywhere on station. Richmond School was severely damaged by the 2019 earthquakes and was closed. Its student body and faculty were transferred to Vieweg School, its twin.

Vieweg School, the “south” school, is named for China Lake Commander, Walter V. R. “Bowser” Vieweg. Vieweg School was closed in 1999, yet saw continuous service as administrative offices and later as temporary classrooms for schools undergoing modernization.

Richmond School now resides on the former Vieweg campus. Richmond School moving to the Vieweg School, marked the first time since 1944 that there is no public school on the China Lake “mainsite.” A new Richmond School is in the design phase.

Pierce School was first named Desert Park School in 1959. It is now named for Harold Pierce, Burrough’s first football coach and ultimately superintendent of the China Lake Elementary School District.

Just miles northwest of its predecessor 1915 location (near Walmart), Las Flores School was opened in 1960 on Las Flores Avenue.

Opened in 1966 with just four classrooms, Ridgecrest Heights School was renamed Lt. Cdr. Theodore Faller School in honor of the US Naval aviator who piloted his disabled F-86 Super Sabre away from residential neighborhoods, crashing and dying on vacant land near the school campus.

Gateway School opened in 1992. It is located on the corner of Gateway and Upjohn, thus its name.

In sum, the SSUSD schools are named for five military officers, four denote their physical location, three for school superintendents and a tree (with due respect). Although officially recognized as the Sierra Sands Unified School District in 1974, the district has been educating local students for nearly 130 years.

Pictured: A drawing of Capt. Sherman E. Burroughs

Story First Published: 2021-08-13