The LBHS Experience through the decades

LBHS alumni gather to exchange memories. Over two hundred people attend the picnic.

Tracey Sizemore

LBHS alumni gather to exchange memories. Over two hundred people attend the picnic.

Abigail Roedersheimer, News Editor

On May 6th, the LBHS Alumni Association invited graduates from all classes to enjoy lunch at Heisler Park. With nearly 200 alumni attending, various memories and experiences were shared. 

The 1950s

Shipmates Drive-In stood in place of the current-day Jack in the Box, and was the primary hangout spot for students. The menu boasted items like a meatloaf sandwich for 50 cents, Texas tamales with chili for 75 cents, and a pineapple sundae for 40 cents.

“It was a big thing,” said Carolyn Fisch of the class of 1954, “We’d all meet down there, and they [the boys] would drive their cars down the highway.”

The main rival of the Laguna Beach Breakers was the Tustin High School Tillers. 

Tustin High School was the assigned school for Laguna Beach residents from 1921 until 1934, when the local high school opened. 

“Oh golly, [one of my favorite memories] was beating the Tustin Tillers in football,” said Phil Jones of the class of 1951. 

Jones played single-wing tailback, was an Orange League champion in track, and his all-time favorite memory was beating the Garden Grove Argonauts in football. His father and uncle owned Shipmates.

The namesake of the LBHS field, Red Guyer, was able to coach his son, Don Guyer, during the 1950s. 

“[I most looked forward to] track and field events primarily,” said Guyer, who graduated in 1956. 

That year, LBHS produced “Heaven Can Wait,” which starred Tom Pletts of the 1954 class as Joe Pendleton.

“My favorite memory was the play, ‘Heaven Can Wait,’” said Pletts, who also played reserve tackle on the football team but jokes he “played bench.”

Students looked forward most to dances, according to Fisch.

“We had our own dance band. We loved to jitterbug and we did the swing,” said Fisch. “After games we would all go down to the beach together.”

Trends that decade included two-piece bathing suits, white pants, and circle skirts.

Mr. Majors, the journalism teacher, encourages students to get their voices heard. The first edition of the Brush and Palette was published in 1954. Photos by Carolyn Fisch (Hobert)

Mr. Majors, the journalism teacher, encourages students to get their voices heard. The first edition of the Brush and Palette was published in 1954. 

The 1960s

With the coming of a new decade, the Breaker rivals shifted to become Newport Harbor High School and Brea Olinda High School, mini skirts came into the fashion, and Norm Beruki was welcomed as a staff member, which he would remain for 35 years until retirement in 1997. 

Beruki primarily taught P.E. and science while also coaching sports, but also taught some math and geography. 

After graduating from John F. Kennedy high school in upstate New York at 16 and serving in the Navy for four years during the Korean War, Beruki attended college, then accepted his teaching position.

“I’m the luckiest person in the world to live and teach in Laguna Beach” said Beruki. 

Students enjoyed wearing surf clothes like Wardy Surfboard shirts and Madras short sleeve shirts. One on-campus hangout spot was beneath the administration offices, where the lockers were located (current-day senior quad area). 

“My favorite spot to hang out was the high school pool,” said Jim “Walker” Reed, one of the founders of the alumni association. Reed also lettered in diving and water polo during his high school career.

In 1966, the movie The Endless Summer was shown.

The auditorium at the high school was packed full,” said Tracy Sizemore from the class of 1967. Sizemore was MVP in his junior and senior years in swimming and MVP in his senior year in water polo. 

“We played water polo to swim and swam to play water polo…plus we were ready to lifeguard in Laguna during the summer!” said Sizemore.

A unifying factor among 1960s graduates was the environment in the days following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

“It was somber in the days after,” said Gracie Kemp, who graduated from LBHS in 1965.

The 1970s

In the 1970s, LBHS brought a Natural Survival class onto campus, taught by John Cunningham, also a chief lifeguard in Laguna Beach.

“We learned things kids don’t learn today. His whole class went out on a campout. We had to go to a river and pull watercress to make a salad,” said Paul Latimer of the class of 1975. Latimer participated in cross country and golf at LBHS. 

While alumni don’t recall an intense rivalry between schools, Latimer and Kevin Busmiaer (Class of 1974) recall when students painted the San Clemente goalpost pink, and returned to Aliso Beach to jump off the pier. 

Students spent lots of time at the beach, eating at the local A&W Restaurant that previously operated near Main Beach. 

“It was a great school to go to in the 70s. All the things we did,” said Kevin Bushmiaer.

Historic events had a significant impact on students from this period. 

Latimer remembers seeing President Nixon’s Air Force One Flight fly over TOW, and Bushmiaer saw the Queen Mary pass by on the ocean.

Additionally, Kelly Atkins of the 1974 class highlighted the impact of Watergate and the Vietnam War on his experience. 

“We were in high school right at the end of the Vietnam War, and we were all wondering if it would be over or not when we graduated and if we would have to go.” said Akins, who played football, basketball, and golf during his time at LBHS, and his father, Hal Akins taught art and coached football.

The 1980s

Early in the decade, one of the strongest El Niño events on record occurred. About 31 inches of rain fell in 1983, compared to the most recent El Niño event of 2018-2019, which is just less than double. 

This rain not only resulted in mudslides, but also the addition of unique swimming partners. 

The canyon had flooded,” said Dru Murphy, who graduated in 1983. “My buddy lived in the canyon so we were able to drive out to the Laguna Lakes and we grabbed hundreds of fish from the roadway and put them in our pool in the middle of the night. Well, fish don’t like chlorine so it was an absolute disaster.”

Murphy participated in football and baseball, making varsity for both in his sophomore year. 

In the 80s, Dana Hills, Mission Viejo High School, and Capistrano High School were the main rivals.

Taking Creative Writing proved to be an essential lesson for Murphy. 

“Mr. Roche’s instructions were simple, read through the entire test first and then you may leave when finished with the test,” said Murphy. “Turns out, if I had simply listened to Mr. Roche and read the entire test first, the last problem said simply ‘If you are reading this, turn over your paper and you are excused’. The life lesson I took with me and still work on being a good listener to this day.”

The influence of music was prominent during the period, with the rise of MTV music videos to the popularity of Record Shed and Sound Spectrum, contributing heavily. 

A large event of the year was the Jose Cuervo Volleyball Tournament.

“We would sleep on the beach to get a good spot by the main court,” said Murphy.

The 1990s

LBHS looked towards a facelift in the 90s, so students often had to move to unfamiliar classrooms. The renovations ultimately demolished old classrooms, built new ones, and constructed a new pool, with some changes targeting aesthetics as well. 

“Things were in flux over them having to remodel things over a number of years,” said Amanda Horton from the class of 1993, who serves as the Alumni Association President.

Horton, who played tennis for the high school team, identified Estancia as their rival. She recalls Mr. Shapiro’s math class as her favorite, and highlighted looking forward to going downtown with friends to the library or Taco Loco. 

While students looked forward to plays, dances, and football games, the end goal of graduation was captivating.

“[Something we looked forward to was] definitely graduation in the Irvine Bowl because it was the end, and it was somewhere else,” said Horton, “It was the finale and the finalization of all of those years.”

Shortly after graduating, Horton’s class watched tragedy unfold as over 400 Laguna Beach homes were destroyed by the fire in October of 1993.

“We were all bonded over having just left home, not knowing if our houses were burning down and we had just left home weeks before that and we were all trying to get ahold of each other to see if our families and homes were alright” said Horton.

The 2000s

Laguna Beach, the popular reality T.V. show of the early 2000s, turned the LBHS into a tourist attraction as visitors began to seek a way to experience the lifestyle of the cast. 

While students enjoyed coming to LBHS for school, they found themselves at the beach frequently. 

“We were always at the beach,” said Casey Stearns from the class of 2009. Stearns was on the soccer team for all four years of high school.

Junior year was one of excitement for students, as they looked forward to getting permission to go off campus for lunch, where they would frequent Adolfo’s and Wahoo’s. 

Sports had a large influence on the campus culture in the 2000s. In 2007, the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup, and because a student’s dad worked for the team at the time, the cup was brought to campus for students to see.

Another large sporting event affected student life just two years later, when Abu Dhabi hosted the World Cup. 

“The teachers would have the World Cup on during finals,” said Stearns.

Stearns enjoyed having Mr. Gonzales for Spanish and Mrs. Pellow for photoshop, whom she spent two years as a teacher assistant for. 

“[Coming into town] is kind of nostalgic and sad but I love Laguna and I loved my time at Laguna Beach High School,” said Stearns.

 Looking Ahead

All alumni at the event were enthusiastic about the prospect of younger generations partaking in the yearly picnic. 

“[It would be great] if younger people could take some initiative to meet some of us older people. They have different experiences than we do,” said Paul Latimer.

The picnic welcomed nearly 200 alumni this year, and is still working on returning to pre-covid numbers, according to Amanda Horton. 

“I love going to the reunions. I love seeing everybody. I belong to the alumni association and I’ve been part of that for a long time. I just really enjoy seeing the people still around,” said Carolyn Fisch.

The overarching theme of the LBHS experience is gratitude, not only for the four years but for all the time after. 

“Every LBHS student or former student should go home and tell their parents ‘thank you,’” said Norm Beruki on advice for students.