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Unending [Apr. 5th, 2006|04:15 am]
This comes close to qualifying as a monsoon. The rain falls, seldom easing, and the sky remains darkened even by day. Wet squirrels scamper about, birds alight on branches and flick the rain from their feathers every few seconds, and even the stray cats no longer remain sheltered, but are forced to go out seeking food however wet they may become. All the beasts grow accustomed to the new state of things. The frogs, of course, continue to sound delighted. If they kept histories, they would likely remember this as their best year ever. I, however, would like just a bit more variety. If there can't be sunlight, I'd settle for as little as a thunderstorm. Just, please, an end to the monotony. It's water torture.

From: the_road_to_l_a
2006-04-05 03:56 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2006-04-06 02:01 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
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[User Picture]From: whiteboyhalf
2006-04-05 09:43 pm (UTC)
yeahp, i posted those pics on wikipedia!

MKHS is a kick-ass school. senior year is the best ever!

the district is ready to modernize the school with three new buildings and interior renovations. they want to put a parking lot on the front lawn and demolish the entrance to the auditorium.
but the school being as beautiful as it is, i've appealed to the school board and the alliance.

things are looking better...
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2006-04-06 03:09 am (UTC)
I'm glad to hear the school is doing well (I read your entry about the Academic Decathlon. 15th in the nation is excellent. Congratulations!)

I'm also glad the district is finally spending something for improvements to the school, but I can't believe they'd be stupid enough to even consider a design that would damage the front of the building... oh, wait. It's the Alhambra High School District. Yes, I can believe they'd be that stupid- they did a pretty bad remodeling job on the north wing about thirty years ago, without regard to the architectural integrity of the whole.

Keppel is one of the best examples- maybe the best example- of a 1930's streamline modern school building in California. It really deserves to be a registered architectural landmark, and it really needs that landscaping to show off the design. The whole thing is all one piece, and any changes to the facade or the removal of any of the landscaping would destroy it.

Even as far back as the 1950's, it was obvious that the best place to put additional buildings would be at the back, maybe with a two-level garage along the freeway frontage to help block the noise, then a new classroom building against it, opening to the south, enclosing the lunch court and turning it into a regular quad. I'm sure the old student parking lot is big enough to accommodate something such as that.

Thanks for helping to preserve the place. If the district keeps trying to push through its plans, could you let me know? I'm still in contact with a few alumni, and there are several of us who regularly post on the Mark Keppel message boards at classmates.com (that's the Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, not the Mark "Kepple" High School listed there as being in Monterey Park. Heh. Some of our classmates didn't learn to spell very well.) Most of those I know are from classes from the mid-1950's to the 1980's, and everybody is scattered all over the country, but we remember the place fondly. If they knew there was a threat to the building, I'm sure many of them would be willing to at least mount a letter writing campaign to the district, expressing their concerns. Somebody might even be able to get in touch with Foster Hirsch, class of 1961. He was president of the National Forensic League at Keppel, and could undoubtedly construct a good argument for preservation.

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[User Picture]From: whiteboyhalf
2006-04-06 07:08 am (UTC)
i will keep in touch!

Finally! I have alumni contacts!

check out their plans, and my (older) one here http://whiteboyhalf.livejournal.com/37662.html#cutid1

I know what you mean about the bad job on the north wing. I always noticed that it was VERY different from the rest of the building, and ugly.
i mean, gee, instead of building a higher wall, or adding insulation panels on the INSIDE of the walls maybe, they had to do... that.


hey, when you went to keppel, did anybody know the Alma Mater? we play in at the end of football games, but i think i'm the only one who knows the lyrics--at least in the band.
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2006-04-06 11:02 am (UTC)
I'd say that your plan is definitely better. That grand entrance on the district's plan looks like it would be an arbitrary extravagance, as well as destroying the integrity of the original design. It would add an inappropriate symmetrical, semi-formal element to a building that's all about asymmetry and informality. The money that would be spent on that cosmetic alteration would be better applied to real improvements elsewhere in the project.

I think that too much money being misdirected was one of the problems with the north wing renovations, too. It's likely that less extensive structural changes could have achieved the necessary soundproofing. They actually closed the school for a year to do the work, moving the students to the Alhambra High School campus, which had to hold classes in the mornings so Keppel could hold classes in the afternoons. Adding insulation, installing the air conditioning system above a new dropped ceiling, and re-fitting the windows with triple glazing could have reduced the building's noise problem sufficiently, and that could easily have been done over the summer and at considerably lower cost- in fact, the entire school could probably have been retrofitted at that time for what they spent on the north wing alone. I had classes in the north wing before the renovation, and as long as we kept the windows closed (and they were only single-glazed then) the noise wasn't seriously distracting. The only real problem was having the windows closed on hot days. With no air conditioning, it got very uncomfortable in those rooms by the afternoon.

Though the Alhambra district has always built impressive high school buildings, they've usually been bad at maintaining and preserving them once they've been built. San Gabriel High, a very nice piece of 1950's modern design, began having portable buildings added to the campus only about five years after it opened. The old Alhambra High School main building was knocked down in the late 1950's (along with most of the other old buildings on the campus) because it didn't meet modern construction codes, especially those for earthquake resistance. It could have been retrofitted and restored easily enough, but the district chose to demolish everything and start over. The main building fronting on Main Street was the biggest loss- a very nice, two-and-a-half story neo-Moorish structure that included a splendid 1500 seat auditorium with a balcony.

When I went to Keppel, I think most of us knew the Alma Mater, though it wasn't due to school spirit. We had assemblies almost every week, and they pretty much drummed the song into our heads for the first couple of months each year. Incoming Freshmen were given a 32 page, magazine sized handbook with information about the school, including page after page of rules and regulations, and, on the last two pages, the words to various school songs and yells. One feature of the assemblies was having the entire crowd (half the student body at each of two assemblies) do an assortment of yells and end up with the Alma Mater.

This was partly because the school had just ended a long period when it was a major football powerhouse in the area. The Alhambra-Keppel games were so popular that they were held in the Rose Bowl, to accommodate the crowds. By the time I got there, that age was over and neither team was doing very well. I think the best football season while I was there, they won four games, and my senior year there was only one league game win. If the weekly pep rally assemblies were supposed to help bring back the golden age, they failed miserably.

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[User Picture]From: whiteboyhalf
2006-04-07 05:14 am (UTC)
wow. i read up about the north wing renovation on Mr. Acosta's "A History of MKHS:" http://www.mkhs.org/MKHSWebsite/Information/General/History/history.html

the renovation that they did was terrible. the entire school closed for a year? how inefficient! triple glazed windows and a new ceiling sound MUCH better than what they did. the north wing looks like a space station now! gah!

my dad is a CPA, and he was on a committee for the AUSD for some bond projects a few years back. he was astounded at how they handled business: voting to pass bonds and budgets without checking how much money was being thrown around--or WHERE it was going. as he put it to them, "You don't know what you're spending money on."

Alhambra High's new buildings look like, as one of my ex-Marine Substitute teachers put it, a Barracks. i remember when those three-story cracker boxes went up, my parents tsk-tsked at the millions pouring in. At the same time, my fellow elementary schoolers and i quailed at the thought of going to under-funded Mark Keppel: with it's decaying gym roof, run-down hallways, and bathrooms with doorless-stalls.

You are absolutely right about bad maintainence. I've seen the mountains of bird-crap on the AHS staircases, as well as the broken asphalt, unkept trees, broken lockers, and missing stall doors at MKHS. Even at Monterey Highlands, pipes are backing up and flooding classrooms. Maybe some draino a few years back could have helped? (not that I'm very well informed on the problems at highlands, but pipes aren't exactly "high maintainence")

Oh man, you are NOT going to like this; it made me sick to my stomach:
They took out the brass banisters in all the staircases, and all but one or two of the mahogony ones, and replaced them with higher rounded-steel ones.
again, instead of simply raising the existing, NICE handrails with fifty-cents worth of steel brackets and adding a handle at the bottom to meet ADA codes, they elected to tear out the entire thing and kill some more of the school.

the murals on the auditorium are starting to decay as well. those things are valuable art pieces by Millard Sheets--he did the murals at the Home Savings of America in Hollywood. those are historic!

the next meeting i go to, i'll be sure to invite you. get all of your Alumni in the loop--tell them about the whole $55 million renovation plan. maybe you can all come out and tell the district your perspective on their misapportionment of funds, projects, and especially now your take on this one.

i think they'll get a real kick out of it...
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2006-04-07 01:41 pm (UTC)
Though I'd like to be able to get to the meetings, it would be a long trip, as I now live in Butte County, in northern California (about a 500 mile trip.) But what I can do is post the dates of any upcoming meetings to the message board at classmates, where there are a few active members who still live in the area. I could also post something there pointing to your journal entry with the plans, if that's OK with you (I can't post a hyperlink there, though, or even a link that can be directly copied and pasted, as Classmates is a very controlling web site and doesn't allow them- I guess they're deathly afraid that someone will find it too easy to leave their site to look at something that the site isn't being paid to advertise.)

I wonder what was done with the brass and mahogany stair railings that were removed? There's a market for such things, and I'm wondering if the district was dumb enough to just let whatever contractor installed the new railings keep them. If so, the contractor has probably sold them (very profitably) to an architect or designer for installation in a project somewhere else.

I noticed the damage to the murals as shown in your photos at Wikipedia. A couple of them look as though they might have been shot at.
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[User Picture]From: whiteboyhalf
2006-04-09 08:52 am (UTC)
i asked a construction worker what they did with the banisters.
he said he wasn't sure, but they probably scrapped them.

(tsk. tsk.)

Same goes (probably) for the marble stalls, laid tile, porcelin toilets, sinks, and brass fixtures from all the student and faculty restrooms.

real smart, huh?

there is a rather large hole on the mural above the auditorium. that one is in the worst shape. the other two have only minor paint scrapes and rust in a couple spots. Strange, because they're enamel on stainless steel. (i found that Mural Conservancy website a while back, too!)

BUTTE COUNTY?!!! that's where Dr. Keppel was from!

...how weird...
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2006-04-09 02:26 pm (UTC)
I've looked around on the Internet to see if I could find the exact birthplace of Mark Keppel, but no luck so far. In 1867, the only town of considerable size in Butte County was Oroville, but there were also a few smaller gold rush towns still hanging on. But Butte County may have been larger in 1867 than it is now. It was one of the state's original counties and, as were many of them, it was divided over the years, but I've been unable to find exactly when the various pieces were broken off. Parts of its original territory are now in Plumas and Tehama Counties, and some of it may be in other counties as well, so it's possible that Dr. Keppel was actually born in one of those areas.

I did just find this interesting used book for sale, though.

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