The decision to build Torrance High School came out of need. The ground work for this new community was already underway with many companies like Llewellyn Iron, Union Tool Plant, and the Pacific Electric Railroad moving their factories and shops to Torrance; however, many wives of the workmen were reluctant to move because there was no school in the area. It did not seem to matter that homes were constructed or that more roads were paved because people wanted a school. Unless they got a school, many workers were willing to continue on commuting from Los Angeles. The only thing Torrance could do was build a school, so they did. If they did not, money would continue to be generated in the community but none would be filtered back into the community. This seemed like too great of a loss, since Torrance, at this time, was making money left and right. World War 1 was nice to the community of Torrance because many of the factories profited from the war. The many jobs and the prospect of making money were reasons that drove people to Torrance for work. Like in most of the country, industry in Torrance was thriving. Also during this time the population and land costs in Los Angeles were rising and people were looking for new communities to move in order to escape these problems. With the building of a new school, it was thought that people would then choose to settle and live in Torrance.
Torrance High School has a long history. It first opened its doors on September 11, 1917, and was the first unit of the public school system to be provided by Los Angeles. Classes included kindergarten for children four to six years of age, eight grades of elementary school, and four grades of high school. It costs $40,000 to build, and provided seven classrooms, a principal's office, and a makeshift auditorium. It was a two story cement structure and was designed so that it could be raised an additional story and have an annex added on. It was build on the highest and most picturesque portion of the city. The first annual commencement took place June 18, 1918, and saw two students receive their diplomas. Later in 1923, the school cafeteria was opened, and was greatly appreciated by the rapidly growing school population. The influx of students was due to the oil boom of the 1920-30's. Also, this year elementary students stopped attending the high school because a new elementary school was opened. Two years later in 1925 the Torrance News Torch, schools paper, was started. Also this year something at Torrance High is recognized ---"Senior Ditch Day". Later that year the first yearbook was published and called The Torch. In this yearbook, the Senior Patio is first seen. It is not noted in the original plans; however, it can be assumed that the patio area was constructed between 1925 and 1927. Today it is called the "Senior Patio" and if an underclassmen walks across, he or she should expect to be dunked. Many other firsts happen in the twenties like the first sell of doughnuts on campus for way of raising money for activities, the first Open House, and the first Senior Luncheon in 1928.
The thirties saw the grand opening of the new remodeled cafeteria (1931), and the destruction of the top portion of the main building and the whole auditorium, both results of the 1933 earthquake. Also in 1934, the school started their own miniature Hoover Dam. They attempted to go at the real one's pace. Next came the forties, and that decade started off with the opening of Assembly Hall (1940) which replaced the old and damaged auditorium destroyed in the earthquake. Also in 1940, Torrance High held their first variety show and introduced their first uniformed Marching Band on November 8, 1940. In 1947, four-foot palm trees were placed around the Senior Patio. Today they reach well above the main building. Also this year control of Torrance High transfers from Los Angeles School District to Redondo Union High School District. Then, after Torrance voters elect to become a unified school district, Torrance High becomes a part of its own school district on July 1, 1948. Enrollment at Torrance High skyrockets from 1948 through 1963. The fifties bring about two events. A new gym is built in 1952 and the first foreign exchange student arrives in 1955. The sixties bring many more firsts.
The school has their first Disneyland All-Night Party in 1965 and their first Sweethearts Dance in 1967. There are so many students in 1967 that the yearbooks now have an index and the faculty pages are reduced. Next comes the seventies, and only one event is noted and that is the first free concert given on campus in 1973. This probably coincided with other free festivals and concerts around the country at this time. The eighties brought the first colored senior pictures in the yearbook in 1981. Also this decade, Torrance High becomes the first Torrance property to be placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1983. The eighties also sees Torrance High getting recognized on film; however, it does not reach the peak until the early nineties. In 1990, the weekly teen drama begins filming on campus "90210". In 1993, there is a bomb scare on one of the show sets on campus. Local news choppers fly overhead as a result. The bomb was a hoax. Also this year fast food chains come on campus selling their products. In the fall of 1994, Torrance closes its campus at lunch and gates are put up all around the school as people start questioning safety. Soda machines now appear on campus as well. Two years later in 1996, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" begins filming on campus. The year of 1997 saw the schools 80th anniversary, and the movie "She's All That" being filmed at Torrance. The nineties also represented an great increase in minorities at Torrance, and as of now, the campus is more diverse than it ever was.
The history of Torrance High School clearly reflects the history of the community, state, and nation. First, the progress the school has made in terms of expansion or social aspects clearly mirrors Torrance as a city and its progress in ways of expansion and social progress. One can just look in the school's yearbooks over the years and see how the school went from mainly white population to having quite a few other ethnicity's attending now. This is just like the city of Torrance. There was a time when Torrance was mainly white, but now look at it. As far as state history goes, the increase in the population of California can be seen as well by looking at the yearbooks. Last the nation's history is reflected again by looking at the yearbooks. For example, the yearbooks made during World War II were very skinny. They were not skinny the years before the war. Why were they then? This is simple, for there was rationing going on during the war; therefore, the amount of materials used to make the yearbooks was limited. Imagine that the history of our nation reflected in the size of a school yearbook. Also, clothes and trends can be seen in these yearbooks. Yearbooks are great sources of history.
Torrance High School is Torrance history. It offers too much as far as architecture and beauty to be destroyed. Just knowing that it withstood an earthquake, and was the set of many television shows as well as movies are proofs of its value. It cannot be expressed enough how much pride one gets by attending such a school as Torrance High. Torrance High is a very unique and special school.
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