Highland Park was, from the very beginning, a forward-looking community when it came to education. Benjamin Franklin High School was founded in 1916, originally on the campus of Monte Vista Elementary School. The Arroyo Seco Branch library had already opened around the corner in 1913, and the following year saw the opening of the Southwest Museum. Throw in Occidental College and Free Methodist Seminary, and you have an area thick with institutions of leaning.
At the time of its founding, the school served the area's suburbanites; a quick look at yearbooks from the 1910s reveals a student population that was predominately white. Interestingly, the school's first club was the Spanish Club, perhaps bringing awareness to the area's early settlers. But it remained that the student body included only a sprinkling of minorities, mostly Asians and Latinos, as was the case even when future Chicano Movement activist Rosalío Muñoz attended Franklin High in the early '60s.
By the 1970s, Franklin High students had formed a MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Atzlán) chapter, bringing to their campus the national group seeking empowerment and unity for Chicano youths. MEChA had come together in the late 1960s through a consolidation of several entities with similar political aims, such as the Mexican American Youth Organization and the Brown Berets. MEChA exists to this day, with several conferences held annually on college campuses throughout California and rest of the country.
Eventually, Latino students outnumbered white students. Today, Franklin High School has 2,600 students—more than ten times as many as it did when founded almost 100 years ago—and educates the core of Highland Park's Latino community.
Here are photos from Franklin High yearbooks through the years, showing the changes in student body demographics, along with fashion and hairstyle trends of the day in Highland Park. Images courtesy of the Franklin High School Library.
Class of 1917. First graduating class of Franklin High:
Student Editors of the Fraklin Almanac, 1917:
Harmonica Club, 1929. "This club was organized under the direction of Gerald Holcombe, who has much interest in it. Several of the members gave selections at the 'pep' rallies and they were enjoyed by all":
Girls' League Jazz Orchestra, 1929:
The Almanac Parade Comic Strip, 1935. A humorous look at the school year at Franklin High, with nods to their rivalry with Lincoln High and Belmont High:
Furniture made by Franklin students, exhibited at the Pomona Fair, 1935:
Students in front of the original structures at Franklin High, 1939:
Students in courtyard, 1939:
In Memoriam'' for Franklin students served in WWII:
Franklin athletics, 1949:
"Business Machines is one of the very practical courses taught by the Commercial Department, which prepares students for life in the business world":
Aerial view of the original structures, 1950:
Sketch of original structure, which stood from 1917-1962:
Sketch of new structure, erected in 1962 after the original structures suffered structural damage from earthquakes:
Student body, 1962:
Student body, 1966:
Cover art of the Franklin Almanac, 1968:
Parade of colors in the courtyard, 1968:
Students in front of school sign, 1969:
Members of M.E.C.H.A., 1971:
The presence of a Mexican-American or Chicano organization on a campus with such a large number of Chicano students is very improtant to help the people answer just who and what they are. Too long have Chicanos been ignored and pacified. The purpose of M.E.C.H.A. is to try, in a constructive manner, to stop this pacification and create or bring out the dignity, pride, glory, and honor which people of Mexican descent should cherish very dearly. The letters in M.E.C.H.A. mean Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Atzlon.
Students on mezzanine, 1976:
Students during lunch, 1977:
Student body, 1981:
Campus student party, 1982:
Student body, 1988: