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RUHS Alumni Association

Redondo Union a link through the decades

Thousands of Sea Hawks will join forces for four days of various reunion festivities this month as the school celebrates its 100th year.


She’s Pat Ramsey now, but about 65 years ago she was Pat Caldwell, the blond, freckle-face tomboy who liked everything about her high school.

Then came war, casting a pall on what seemed like days of innocence, especially with former classmates marching off to fight overseas.

“It was kind of like a gloom cloud that was over your head,” says Ramsey, 80.

Tracy Hattingh was a member of the student council, the drill team and the newspaper staff in the early ’70s. It was a time when streaking was the rage, she says, and when surfers, low-riders, jocks and cheerleaders all seemed like best friends.

“That’s what was nice about being at Redondo,” she says. “Whether you were a jock or a band member, everyone was friends with everyone.”

Sure, more than 30 years separate the graduating classes of Ramsey and Hattingh. But they and thousands of others are forever linked as students who have laughed with friends, studied with classmates and courted unknown destinies at Redondo Union High School, the coastal campus on the cusp of celebrating 100 years.

“It sounds like a corny thing — Sea Hawk family,” Hattingh concedes, referring to the school’s winged mascot. “But it really holds true. Once you’re a Sea Hawk, you’re always a Sea Hawk.”

In honor of the school’s birthday, as many as 6,000 to 10,000 Sea Hawks, young and old, are expected to descend upon the sprawling campus at Pacific Coast Highway and Diamond Street this month.

The four-day centennial bash, set to kick off June 23, will include just about every kind of get-together, from reunions and tours to dinners and picnics. On June 25, there’s even a car show, a carnival and a breakfast to honor the 100 most distinguished graduates, a list that includes fraternal comics Dick and Tom Smothers.

But for most, the Centennial Celebration is simply a homecoming, one that will offer former students the chance to catch up with old flames and pals from bygone eras when everyone was a little thinner and only the teachers were sprouting gray hairs.

“It’s more of a home than just a school,” says Steve Bopp, a 1967 RUHS graduate who is chairman of the Centennial Celebration Committee.

The campus may be the second largest in the state now, but it emerged from humble beginnings.

Redondo Union was organized in 1905 by the Redondo Beach and Hermosa school systems, and the first classes were held in two upstairs rooms of the city’s Masonic building. According to the alumni association, there were 10 pupils and just one teacher.

Voters ultimately approved $25,000 worth of bonds to construct a bona fide high school campus, and in December 1905 the current site was selected.

The swatch of land, known back then as the “Old Chautauqua Place,” was purchased for around $8,000. The following January, plans were submitted for the remodel of an abandoned cultural center.

When it was all finished, the site featured physical and chemical laboratories, a lecture room, a principal’s office and five recitation rooms along with bathrooms and a spacious assembly hall.

In 1915, that makeshift schoolhouse was torn down to make way for the permanent structure that would be the face of Redondo Union for decades — a stately, six-pillared auditorium.

But the school continued to evolve and grow over the years.

Red and white were picked as its colors in 1906. The first two graduates — Albert Lerch and Mina Sanderson — were honored a year later. The High Tide newspaper began life in 1920.

In 1939, the science building joined the fray, and the campus was expanded further with the addition of a new gym, a swimming pool and new classrooms in 1952. In the 1960s, the historical auditorium was officially condemned, and a new facade took shape.

These days, the campus stretches across more than 50 acres from Pacific Coast Highway to Prospect Avenue, and modern-looking buildings dot the sloping landscape. And the school still offers prime views of the Pacific.

For whatever reason, the picturesque panoramas didn’t seem nearly as impressive when Carl Dreizler was roaming the halls as a student with dreams of becoming a pilot in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

“As an adult, I’ll walk through the campus for an event and I’m like, ‘Wow, you can see the ocean from here,’ ” says Dreizler, who at 50 owns a travel agency.

If the name “Dreizler” sounds familiar to alumni, it should. From 1962 to 1980, a Dreizler brother or sister was enrolled at RUHS every school year except 1972-73. His nephew also graduated in the mid-’90s.

Carl Dreizler has since been active with the alumni association and he still likes to show up when Redondo Union takes on its rivals in football, basketball and baseball. A quick glance around the grandstands, he says, often reveals scores of other former Sea Hawks cheering on the Red and White.

“I feel like Redondo Union isn’t something you graduate from,” Dreizler says, “it’s something that’s part of you for life.”