June 16, 1949 — Tiny (2"x3") snapshot of the first graducation ceremony (1949) from the Santa Clarita Valley's first high school (William S. Hart).
Photo from the collection of Gwen (Class of 1949) and Dean (1950) Gallion.
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.
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).
Back in 1946, after surveying the mascots of other
high schools in nearby communities, Gwen's committee settled on "Indians."
"In the late 1940s all the mascots were animals or people," Gwen explained in a 1997 interview. "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."
Gwen said the committee felt the name was appropriate because "the Indians were our explorers, and there was certainly nothing wrong with being Indians.
There was an Indian settlement at Castaic, and at the Highway 126 junction, and at Agua Dulce."
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.
Next came the school's renaming.
"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, who had donated money and land to the construction effort, and asked permission
to use his moniker. Newhall's most famous citizen initially felt unworthy but ultimately acquiesced.
Gwen remembers that the school and the district officially changed their name in March or April 1946, just a couple of months before the actor's death on June 23.
By that time, Gwen's committee had already settled on "Indians."
The mascot came first, before the school became "Hart."
And that's whey they aren't the "Hart High Cowboys."