Spirit Weekwith its wild rallies, spectacular dances and the intricate floats it’s comprised of may be all-encompassing when it comes to school pride and spirit. However, few people know of its origin, or the school-wide events that existed before.
Rewind.The time is 1 a.m. and the date is Oct. 21, 2016. Junior Class President Jaiveer Sandhu stumbles into the darkness, leaving the Palo Alto High School auto shop where he had spent all day working with class members on a massive mobile construction of wood, metal and paint — the Spirit Week float. In about14 hours nearly 2,000 students, as well as family, staff and community members will arrive to see the product that has kept Sandhu and his classmates at work for the majority of the past week. It will be his job to ensure everything moves according to plan.
Rewind 36 hours.It is Generations Day and each grade has dressed as an age group. Sandhu is jumping on a table hyping up nearly 500 fellow juniors through a series of lunchtime chants, each one more repetitive and energetic than the last. The crowd, all dressed in formal attire, moves in rhythm with him as he leads them, following Sandhu’s lead in a near-hypnotic manner.
To his right a similar scene plays out among Paly’s seniors who are dressed to resemble the elderly. To his left, the sophomore class, dressed to resemble greasers recites a wave of couplets matching the overwhelming energy of the two previous classes.
Rewind two days and he’s back in the auto shop as he had been, every day after school, for the last week. Swarmed by members of his class, deconstructing the massive job of the float into smaller tasks, he shoots down questions one by one. A group of four paints a crowd on the front of the deck, while another student builds a boxing ring complete with a smoke machine. Finally other students find any work they can, stuffing the back side of the float with colored paper or covering the ring’s floor with swaths of mahogany paint.
Rewind. Rewind. Rewind.
Rewind to Palo Alto High School in 1927
According to a 1967 Campanile article from 1927-68, the Girls’ Jinx was a popular, school-wide event. An annual variety show featuring skits, pantomimes and a plethora of performances, students looked forward to the Jinx all year.
In the beginning performers were exclusively female, but in 1967 the Jinx became co-ed by popular demand, and male students began performing in skits alongside their female peers.
Paly alumna, Ainsley Baven said the Jinx was “an incredible masterpiece that showcased student talents and encouraged school spirit.”
Participation open to all grades, the Jinx brought students together to unleash their creativity and marvel at their peers.
The Jinx was canceled in 1968 when English teacher, Jon Phillips stepped down from his role as director, citing a busy schedule. With no faculty member volunteering for the position, the Jinx faded into the history books and Spirit Week took over.
According to the article, with no Jinx to look forward to, anticipation for Spirit Week consumed the school.
Class representatives geared up for Spirit Week, and began prepping for a new competition featuring hall decorations. Restricted to a $20 limit, grades competed by decorating the main halls with banners, balloons and streamers.
Rewind to Palo Alto High School in 1951
From 1951-65 participants in Paly’s Friendship Week were given an opportunity to grow closer to their school community. The week was sponsored by the Boys’ and Girls’ Leagues. Not a lot of the Paly students participated in these activities, and attendance dwindled during the first few years of the annual event.
In the week’s debut in 1951, sophomores were required to wear green and white beanies to school on one of the days. Sophomores continued to wear them at home football games.
The Soph Tyro and Big-Little Sister Dinner were both initiated in 1952, with hopes of increasing student participation in the events, according to an edition of the 1955 Campanile.
The timing of the week varied throughout the Friendship Week era. From 1960-65, Friendship Week kicked off the year during the first week of school in August. Earlier in the 1950s, the week took place at different times throughout the first few months of school.
There was not much participation from Paly’s boys until 1955, when junior boys dressed up as sophisticated gentlemen, sophomore boys dressed up as the gentlemen of tomorrow, senior girls dressed as old ladies and freshmen girls dressed as little girls. This practice started 62 years ago, appears to have continued into today as Generations Day.
Beginning in 1961 interest in these activities began to decline. The system in place had a problem.The disengagement got to the point in 1964 that the annual sophomore boys barbecue was canceled because of lack of interest. Few students came to school with clothes corresponding to the dress-up themes.
At some point throughout the Friendship Week era, the week was replaced with a single dress-up day, and according to a 1955 edition of the Campanile, more of the student body got involved. Things remained this way for some time.
Fast forward to 1968. The time is 7:30 p.m. and a massive crowd has gathered in the fields around Stanford University. A man moves to the center of the crowd where a tall pile of wood looms in front of him.
He raises a torch commanding the attention of the group. Silence pours over the crowd and the man leans downward lighting the pyre aflame. The crowd explodes with students jumping and reciting chants and poems.
This was the scene at the annual Paly bonfire, a key part of Spirit Week later discontinued and deemed a fire hazard; however, much of Spirit Week during this time still exists.
Fast forward to 1978 and the scene is much like today’s. Crowds of students gather standing on bleachers and looking down as classmates compete in tug-of-war, dances and competitions for best-dressed.
Generations Day has begun, and the attire would seem familiar to Paly students. Freshmen dressed like babies, sophomores dressed like greasers, juniors dressed in formal wear and seniors dressed in grey wigs with walkers.
Floats paraded around campus and thousands flocked to watch Paly hammer Gunn in the annual Homecoming Football Game. The senior class took home the crown, and the event that is known today as Spirit Week had finally taken shape.
Fast forward to 1991 “That particular year chose to use camo as their green theme,” said Paly math teacher, Arne Lim. “The juniors liked it so much that they continued that idea of camo the next year and it’s stuck ever since.”
Fast forward to 2001and students gather around the quad at lunch. It is a typical lazy, post-AP-exam spring scene on campus. Suddenly commotion strikes. The crowd quickly parts and students fight to get in front of one another engrossed by the uproar of their fellow classmates.
Two bodies devoid of clothing sprint from one end of the quad to the other before pulling themselves into a jet-black car and speed off: It is the fourth streaking incident that week.
The first Paly Streak Week landed and lasted for over a decade. Over that time, it is estimated that over 75 streaking incidents took place on Paly campus. While the tradition of streakers at Paly may have diminished, recently streakers have moved away from the small crowds of Streak Week to a much larger audience: Spirit Week.
Fast forward to Spirit Week 2016.Assistant Principal, Jerry Berkson sits in his golf cart hidden from view by tree cover at a lunch rally. He watches the football field with the eyes of a hawk looking for a streaker. And suddenly, the crowd’s cheers become significantly louder and unified in one direction.
Berkson looks out and spots his target. A teenage boy, covered in paint, sprints length wise down the football field making his way down the field in plain view of the student body.
He revs up the cart and takes off but he’s too late. The streaker effortlessly climbs a fence and disappears into the patchwork of Palo Alto’s Southgate neighborhood.
Fast forward to the early hours of Friday morning. Sandhu makes his way home, stumbles into his bedroom and collapses into a deep sleep.His work will not be in vain. His float will not only land the first place in the float competition, but also a spot in local papers.
The year 1917 marks the birth of The Campanile. As a paper, we are honored to be a part of this 100-year anniversary and have dedicated the special feature, “Centennial Report,” to exploring our history. In each issue, we will travel into the archives of The Campanile. Our first report will venture back to the first available historical issue, Jan. 22, 1919.
The Campanile wrote its first issue in the fall of 1918. Students produced the first issues by writing on typewriters and printing the paper at a factory located on campus.
The January 1919 issue included four pages, quite the change from our current 24-page issues. However, the overall structure of our issues have stayed surprisingly consistent over 10 decades. The nameplate font for our logo remains the same and our overall page layout is similar. This original issue did not include the range of stories that are now produced, but it highlighted several Palo Alto-centric stories, including those from the neighborhood, and covered Paly sports as well.
The front page of this issue incorporated stories ranging from “Armenian Fund Drive Nets $177.10” to “First Game of Basketball Is Lost.” The top story on the page detailed Paly’s contribution to “feeding the starving Armenians,” referring to the extermination of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide.
Specific tags sold for 10 cents each ($1.50 today) to contribute to a fundraiser. The total amount raised, $177.10 ($2600 today), obliterated the school’s past record of giving to worthy causes. John Domby was credited with selling the most tags, contributing $14 to the relief fund ($290 today). The second major story on the front page detailed the Paly basketball game against Campbell High School, which took place on Jan. 11, 1919. The game ended in a nail-biting 20-19 loss for the Paly team.
“Many Alumni in Hall of Fame” dominated the front page of the January 1919 issue of The Campanile and highlighted the achievements of former Paly graduates. This particular issue told the story of Paly graduate Edgar Kirk Soper, class of 1904.
“On Wednesday of last week Edgar Kirk Soper, class of 1904, sailed with a party of geologists for the Island of Trinidad to investigate the southern part of that island for deposits of oil. In high school Edgar Soper made a fine record in scholarship and was prominent in student affairs as president of the student body and as captain of the baseball team.”
The Campanile has undergone changes in its 100 years. Librarian Rachel Kellerman has structured an online library, which will include the full archive of all Paly’s publications. It can be found at palyjournalismarchive.pausd.org.
To mark the building and opening of our grand campus, many events are being planned for the year. The cornerstone of the building was laid 1918.
Activities will officially begin in 2018 and continue through February, 2019 culminating in a recognition of the first graduation in February, 1919.
Everyone is encouraged to participate. Please check this site regularly for updates and invitations.
If you have suggestions for the committee to consider or wish to be involved, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paly Student Body December 1918
HISTORY: After a delay because of the influenza epidemic, the current Paly campus opened officially on December 24, 1918. Students, faculty, and local dignitaries marched from its Channing Avenue location to the new Palo Alto High School on Embarcadero at El Camino, with the 91st Company of High School Cadets triumphantly leading the way. The community was impressed with the school's auditorium - unique at a time when even Stanford had none - and the high-ceilinged library doubled as a ballroom.
When the present Palo Alto High School was built in 1918, some townsfolk were critical of a location so far out of town. But the 30-acre site with its Live Oak trees was being sold by neighboring Stanford University at the token cost of $1.00 per acre, and optimists thought that Palo Alto might well grow to the south.