Who knew it was the custom to smash opponents back in the 1950s?
Jerry Barton knew.
And the Escalon High alum shared that little tidbit with a huge crowd that gathered in the EHS gym on Saturday to celebrate 100 years of Escalon High School.
The final speaker in the afternoon program, Barton got the loudest cheers when he wrapped up his reminiscing with the fight song.
“Eski High, Eski High, tah-rah-rah-boom-de-ay,” Barton said. “Smash ‘em, bust ‘em, that’s our custom, Eski High.”
With a triumphant fist pump, Barton drew thunderous applause.
He was just one of several guest speakers for the event, which also featured a variety of activities in the quad area on campus prior to the 2 p.m. program.
Outside, there was a tri-tip luncheon served by the FFA, the school’s fire truck and ambulance were on display with members of the CTE firefighting/EMT classes there to give tours. There were games for kids, craft projects, face painting, a photo booth and more.
Inside the new gym, Escalon High through the decades was played out on several boards that featured photos and historical snippets covering the 1920s through present day.
Included in the display was such information as when the Cougar name was first used for the mascot, what clubs were popular on campus in the 1950s, information on title winning teams, past Homecoming royalty and more.
Current high school principal Eric Simoni welcomed in the crowd.
“This is a special moment, a special occasion, a special place to be,” Simoni said.
Now in his fourth year at EHS, Simoni said it was a day filled with surprises.
“It has been great to hear the stories,” he shared. “The generations that have been a part of this place, I get goosebumps.”
The National Anthem was performed by the EHS and alumni choir and then former District Superintendent Bob Wallace took the podium. He also served the district as El Portal principal before moving into administration. He brought longtime school board member John Largent to the podium briefly as well, noting that Largent is “a walking history of Escalon” and wanted him to share some highlights of the school’s growth timeline.
“In 1967 we unified, like a lot of districts,” Wallace said.
He also pointed to the 2003 bond issue passed by voters that helped build the high school’s Performing Arts Center and the gymnasium at El Portal.
“This community is lucky, you have one school here in town and everybody pulls together,” Wallace said. “Escalon is much like my hometown of Orland … a small town with traditional values. The community rallies around and supports its high school. They are co-dependent, each bringing life to the other.”
He likened Escalon to a Norman Rockwell painting and said there have been many great teachers, coaches and board members, along with parent volunteers, that have worked to make EHS a special place.
Simoni gave special thanks to the committee that put the celebration together, headed up by April Adams and Lisa McCune, working with a crew of staff and students to put on the day’s festivities.
Also taking the podium was Class of 2020 member Jack Fitzgerald, who said he was “proud to be a third generation EHS Cougar” and Gustavo Arzac, an EHS alum who now serves as a Spanish teacher and administrator. Arzac said he found himself asking “Why Me?” several times in high school when posed with challenges he didn’t think he could face. As each hurdle was overcome – many with the help of supportive family, friends and teachers – he said that thought began to change to “Why Not Me?”
There was also a cheer performance featuring current and many alumni cheerleaders, showcased in a couple of different routines, and raffle prizes were presented.
Barton, a former school board member, then took the podium for his speech, which focused around the 1950 football team, known for taking down the Los Banos Tigers and winning the first TVL title in school history. The team was coached by Lloyd Engel and the 27-0 win over Los Banos snapped a three-year winning streak by that team.
“Our team scored 284 points in nine games,” Barton told the crowd. “We held our opponents to 24.”
A roar went up when he listed the 33-0 win over Hilmar – and an even bigger cheer erupted when he reported the 1950 team beat the Ripon Indians, 39-0.
Following the conclusion of the formal program, attendees rose for a singing of the Alma Mater and then had the chance to mingle, visit with friends and former classmates and spend more time perusing the ‘wall of history’ as the EHS story through the decades unfolded.