by Chris Arellano
It was 1956. Ramona Lopez was in her senior year at Polytechnic High School.
Daniel Arellano had recently graduated from Poly and was now in the Marine Corps.
Together, the two Mission District kids went to the Poly Senior Prom.
Afterward they joined her classmates Loretta John and Raul Arellano, Daniel’s
younger brother, at the Mark Hopkins Hotel where they heard the popular musical
group, The Four Freshmen.
Four years later they were married and Ramona gave birth to
their first of four children – me.
It has been more than 50 years since that star-crossed
first date which led to the birth of me, my two sisters and my brother. However
their marriage did not end the way Hollywood movies of that era were supposed
to; no happily ever after. My parents divorced in 1970. My mother, who went on
to become an executive secretary at the California State Automobile Association
in downtown San Francisco, died in 1984. My father remarried in 1972, flourished
as a civil engineer and still lives on the Peninsula.
I am 48 now. While I never attended Poly High myself, I am the
son of two Polytechnic High School Parrots!
I live firmly in the world of the present. I am
married and have two kids and Poly High very seldom, if ever,
emerges as a topic of discussion. Yet, once every five years or so,
I pull down my mother’s 1956 yearbook and enjoy being transported
back in time to a high school universe that included my amazingly
youthful parents - youthful kids I never knew!
In the yearbook you can see my mom standing in the midst of a
color-coded cheering section that spelled out “Poly.’ She is also
listed as a member of the Tri-Y Club. Then there’s a picture of my
mother (as a teen-ager!) in Golden Gate Park where she posed with
the other members of the Camera Club. My father’s graduation picture
is embellished with the remnants of a red lipstick kiss.
My mom once said that Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood were the Hollywood
glamour couple and that no one used drugs at Poly and if anyone stole a sip of
alcohol that was quite the scandal.
I saw a lot of Poly as a boy. My father, in the late 1960s, took
my brother and I to Kezar Stadium to see the pre-Candlestick,
pre-Super Bowl 49ers play football. My Uncle Raul and his sons
usually sat with us. Between watching John Brodie throw touchdowns
and interceptions from our end zone seats, I'd often glance over
Waller Street and gaze at the Poly High building; which was usually partially
obscured by packs of flying seagulls or what my family called “The
Kezar Air Force.”
I remember, as a boy living on 19th Street,
flipping through my mother’s yearbook. Much to my mother’s horror, I
wrote wobbly boyish stars over the one-paragraph summaries that
highlighted a Poly victory. ("Go, Parrots!") But what startled me
then was something that seemed unreal: I noticed that Poly played
their football games at Kezar Stadium too. I looked more closely at
the yearbook pictures and noticed that the Parrots of that era
attracted more people to the Kezar than the NFL 49ers I saw every
week. The 49ers, whose games I attended as a boy, only drew 30,000
to 35,000 fans to their games but the Poly Parrots could fill the
stadium with 60,000 screaming fans.
I wondered if my eyes could be deceiving me:
What kind of high school team plays at a NFL stadium
and has that many fans?
“It was a real football factory”, my father
had said. Recently, while looking through the 1956 yearbook once again, I
noticed that the Parrots had, that year, lost their first regular season since
I also own one other Poly memorabilia item. My
mother attended her 25th class reunion in 1981 and came home with a giant red
coffee mug with a picture of Poly on it. After she died it fell into my
stewardship. For years afterward I didn’t know what to do with the oversized
mug. I kept it in a box tucked in my garage. In recent years I’ve restored it to
a place in the kitchen cabinet. I still don’t use it much, but it makes me smile
looking at it. My father and my stepmother still attend the Poly reunions with
my Uncle Raul and Auntie Loretta, who have been married now for more than 50
Why should I care so much about a school I
never attended and which closed decades ago? Envy, I suppose. My brother and I
graduated from a sterile high school in the East Bay; where my father had moved
after my parents divorce. It opened in the early 1960s to accommodate the
increased enrollment from Baby Boomers and it closed in the middle 1980s when
the Boomers left high school.
were nice enough but its alumni does not include NFL players or celebrities. It
wasn’t located near a world-famous site like Golden Gate Park. In fact my former
school was so close
to the Nimitz Freeway that a shopping center was constructed over the site. Its football team did not share a 60,000 seat stadium, located
directly across the street from the high school, with an NFL team!
It was nothing like Polytechnic