Gwen Booth was a member first class to attend and ultimately graduate from the Santa Clarita Valley's first high school, William S. Hart High, in 1949.
When she entered as a ninth grader the year it opened, 1945, the school was located on the campus of Newhall School (which went through eighth grade) at Walnut and 11th streets, and it wasn't called Hart.
It was called Santa Clarita Junior and Senior High School — Santa Clarita being the diminutive form of the local river's name, by which the valley was known.
The school district, created by a vote of 1,184 to 7 earlier that same year, was called the Santa Clarita Union
High School District. Its only school opened with one grade level (9th) and added a grade each year until the freshmen of 1945-46 became the seniors of 1948-49.
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Gwen, a cheerleader, would go on to marry her high school sweetheart, an athlete from Saugus named Dean Gallion of the Class of 1950. But first, there was work to do.
Gwen was a member of the student council and the committee tasked with selecting the mascot and school colors. The committee picked maroon and grey
for the colors — which changed, according to Fred Trueblood III, in 1964 to red and black because the maroon hues were too hard to match in sports
uniforms and cheer outfits. According to Nanette Lagasse Gaither (Class of 1968), it was June of 1966 when the colors changed, on a vote of the following year's
juniors and seniors (Classes of 1967 and 1968).
"Santa Clarita" was a new grammatical contruct recommended by historian A.B. Perkins in the 1940s while the school district was forming. You really
couldn't have two "Santa Clara" high school districts in California — there already being one up north, complete with a "Santa
Clara High School" that opened in 1872. We'd have lost in a boxing match to our northern namesake, so we gave up our claim.
But "Santa Clarita" took forever to catch on. Folks didn't like it. So in August 1945, as the first school
year was starting, the school board approached cowboy actor William S. Hart and asked permission
to use his moniker for the district. Newhall's most famous citizen initially felt unworthy but ultimately acquiesced.
On petition of the school board, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the name change — for the school district — on October 16, 1945.
The new campus welcomed its first students in September 1946.
While the adults dealt with the school and district name, the selection of a mascot was relegated to the freshmen who would become the Class of 1949. (Freshmen were the only class in 1945/46.) They made it a contest.
It wasn't a weighty matter. It made the back page (Page 6) of The Signal — not a news story by Signal staff, but a community submission from
Joan Looney, secretary-treasurer of the Hart ASB. Her report doesn't actually call it a mascot, but rather a nickname.
The winner was selected January 10, 1946. It came down to a choice between "Indians," proposed by Carl Clymore, son of the local Ford dealer,
and "Buckaroos," proposed by Harry Kidder. Clymore won $2 for his winning entry.
Fifty years later, Gwen Gallion had a different memory of the mascot selection. After surveying the mascots of other
high schools in nearby communities, she said in a 1997 interview, her committee settled on "Indians."
"In the late 1940s all the mascots were animals or people," Gwen said in 1997. "We thought about the Panthers,
but there weren't any panthers around here. We wrote on a chalkboard all the school colors and nicknames of every school that we might be in a league with,
and nobody had 'Indians.' We wanted a name that would sound good in a yell, too, and with three syllables it was an easy one to put in a cheer."
Minor grumblings over the mascot pertained to the notion it was "too common," according to editor Jerry Wiles, writing in the first edition of the school newspaper,
The Smoke Signal, in March 1946, long after the selection was final.
The mascot has endured even if the original motto hasn't. The same contest/election of January 10, 1946, that picked the mascot also picked the motto, "We Are Always Striving to Win and Learn," entered by Jim Craig.
Second place was George Koller's entry, "We Will Beat Them Yet." At some point, the motto was changed to "Alive With Pride."