When you Google Santa Monica High School, you find images of the faces we’ve seen before. The shining smiles that once lit up the fading bulbs of the auditorium and a burning spotlight on the silver screen. Rob Lowe, Robert Downey Jr., Sean Penn, the Rat Pack of the Eighties. An era where Hollywood was the place to be, and SamoHi was the school with proximity and a beach. But our school goes deeper than the stars of old rom-coms and blockbusters.
Today, Santa Monica is known for its famous Pier and the popular tourist spot on the 3rd Street Promenade, and of course the waves that never crash. But our school is more than the views and the test scores.
There are a select few teachers that have poured their hearts and souls into their passion, and have been able to pass down the way they love and the words that once left them enchanted to a generation of students eager to delve into the history of America, starting with our very own hallways. The stories of broken best friends, love at first sight, and adventures in the middle of the night are created as every student hangs on only to finish writing their page. The scripts are still in the editing process for many of us here now, but the touch of the beauty that every legend has left will stain our own forever.
The school auditorium, Barnum Hall, was built in 1938 and was designed by the firm Marsh, Smith and Powell. It was later designated as a city landmark on Dec. 9, 2002. Originally it was named the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and served the public as a retreat from ordinary life and an escape into concerts, plays, musicals, and ballet for all to enjoy.
Over the years, it has become a sacred hall where students can share their gifts and perform on a stage that shines amongst the pixie dust of an era that never grows old. W.F. Barnum held the position of Samohi Principal from 1916 to 1943 and worked with the architects to design and build the auditorium, that was later named after him.
In 1997, Barnum Hall underwent a five-year restoration, but the renovators made sure that the delicate and time-honored acoustics of the theater remained to leave us in the atmosphere of a true legend of Samohi.
The History Building opened in 1912 with only 50 students enrolled at the school. As the population improved in our sleepy beach city at the time, so did our campus.
The Open Air Memorial Theater was built in 1921 to honor the veterans of World War I. Today, we use it for pep rallies and for strengthening our athletes. Some days, when the air is crisp and the ocean is opaque in the view from the top, you can close your eyes and still hear the roaring chants and feel the dripping sweat from all those that began their stories in the heart of our Greek Theater.
In the same halls where my great grandmother once flew through the golden era, and left her legacy, it makes me wonder how will our shadows and our fading steps change the fleeting moments of high school forever?
Within the walls and windows of our hometown, known for its summer sea shining beneath the wooden logs of our Pier and where the Ferris wheel flies us high above the streets of Silicon Beach, we sit in classrooms where we glance to our left and see the falling horizon and to our right, only the rising stars of Hollywood.
We’re in the crossroads of two clashing streets and stuck between the ocean or the mountains, between adolescence or adulthood, and between facing our reality or becoming our dreams.
The landmark of our auditorium stands to remind us that there were more before us, struggling to find their way, and that even through the turmoil of our daily lives, our old math classroom and the desks from Spanish in second period, will still be there waiting for us to return tomorrow morning.
The history of our school was taught to us all the first week we stepped through the doors. The legends and the myths we hear from upperclassmen about the echoes of the old bathroom by the business building, or the superstition of stepping on the Viking stamp, they stay with us as we carefully walk around that holy circle and avoid the ghosts in the halls, but the strangers that lived far before us meant to honor the dignity and the respect Samohi deserves.
They were trying to tell us something. The message of our lives that we will ignore over and over again until we learn it ourselves. They were trying to teach us, maybe unknowingly, but insistently about the lessons that aren’t taught in science labs or dusty books. Those that sat in the same Greek all those years ago were whispering that all we needed was right now because our teachers will one day retire, and we will lose touch with our closest friends, but today our lives are tied to each other and we discover more in the eyes of the people we will meet in these seats, and these halls, and between the bells than in the pages of our favorite stories that we all once lived only a lifetime ago.