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Culver High’s First Graduates in 1953

Notes From Your City Historian
by Julie Lugo Cerra

Did you know that 50 years ago, Culver High opened as a three-year high school? Next door, the Junior High accommodated students from 7th-9th grades. Plans for the secondary schools began in 1949, when we became a “unified” school district. The Titans were the first graduates, the Class of 1953. Their graduation gift was a painting of the Centaur on the Gym. Where did students go to high school before Culver? (Answer: Hamilton or Venice).

• There was a reunion of World War II Combat Photographers in December. I met Robert Elliot, now a Florida resident, who served as a Sergeant in the Army Air Corps, First Motion Picture Unit. Mr. Elliot was stationed at “Fort Roach” (Hal Roach Studios), from 1943-1945. He recalled riding into Culver City on the Venice Short Line, and then walking over to the studio to check in. He spent his first night sleeping on a soon-to-be “struck” movie set for One Million B.C.
Mr. Elliot was a wealth of information about the war years and Culver City. Their barracks housing was the Pacific Military Academy (PMA), which had been established in 1922 by Harry Culver in honor of his late father, a volunteer colonel. The PMA sat on a hill just outside Culver city limits, on Cardiff and Cattaraugus. Mr. Elliot told me about one clever training film entitled, “Learn and Live” whose purpose was to reduce preventable deaths of flying cadets. In that film, a noted actor played by St. Peter, who was shown conferring with a training officer. The officer was complaining about training the men, only to have St. Peter “call them.” Special effects included swirling smoke looking up to the pearly gates. Mr. Elliot said they were also asked to compile their “bloopers” for entertainment.
• Sony Pictures Entertainment is in the process of creating a local history-related Art in Public Places project with school children in Culver City. Upon completion, a mural from each of the five elementary schools will be on permanent display at Sony Pictures Plaza, and a mural will be displayed at each school.
• On Monday, December 11, 2000 the Culver City Council observed a moment of silence for Congressman Julian Dixon, who passed away on December 8. Dixon had been a recognizable presence in Culver City since his days as an Assemblyman, more than 20 years ago. Historically a problem-solver with common sense and empathy, Dixon cut to the bottom line and quietly used his power to benefit all. Julian Dixon was a mentor legislator, whose support and respect crossed party lines. We will miss Julian Dixon, a great friend.

Look for “Historic Culver City” soon on California Sentator Barbara Boxer’s website (http://www.senate.gov./boxer/).

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