Napa County students, their activities and local programs or facilities established for their benefit garnered considerable attention from the Napa Register. The 1950s editions of the local newspaper featured numerous local youth-related stories that were both expected and unexpected in subject.
In the spring of 1956, the Register proudly announced the local young ladies who were members of the Napa area Brownies and Girl Scout Troops produced a great showing at the local district rally. Similar to a Boy Scout jamboree, the gathering drew over 2000 Napa area scout members who participated in activities and rituals prescribed by their national leadership.
As those young ladies conducted their rally, the Napa city council was pondering the question of establishing a youth oriented program and facilitate. However, this consideration, if approved, would be a significant departure in policy and stance for the council and community.
A 1956 Register article explained, “Napa’s city fathers indicated last night they may recognize billiards as a wholesome sport for teens—if school authorities don’t object.”
Napa attorney James D. Boitano requested the change on behalf of the Napa Recreation Hall located on Coombs Street. The article continued, “Boitano said numerous public officials, including law enforcement officers, had agreed that the pool hall would be a good place for teens to indulge in a wholesome, clean sport.” When Boitano suggested lowering the age limit to 15 years old with parental permission, “Councilman H. Drummond Harris commented, ‘That would be difficult. We were boys once,’” added the Register.
That aforementioned remark by Harris regarding the potential issues resulting from young males’ activities and actions could have been applied to a story from a 1951 Register issue. It began, “Two Pacific Union College (PUC) chemistry students who made a wager as to which could invent the better bomb were successful enough to land in justice court today on charges of violating the Public Resources Code and a county ordinance governing explosives.” The Register continued, “They had set off seven homemade bombs in all. Pope Valley residents were startled last week when two explosions were heard and a minor grass fire was found in the explosion area.”
The Division of Forestry, sheriff’s office and college officials traced the explosive remains to the two 19-year-old sophomores. In court they “admitted they had set off seven bombs.” The Register continued, “Both were given probation in lieu of $100 fines and 25-day jail terms.”
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As a side note, but a related global event, on May 8, 1951 the world’s first thermonuclear reaction was set off by U.S. nuclear scientists.
Contemporaries of those two PUC sophomores attending Napa schools were facing their own potentially volatile situations. A mid-1958 Register article provided the details. “Possibility of charging tuition for some adult classes offered by the Napa public schools is under study by school district officials. A program outlined for trustees by Paul Lathrop, director of the Adult Education Program, further calls for adult groups to meet all their own expenses for classes in cultural and recreational activities, with the schools providing only the facility.” The 1958 report also noted the adult program served about 2,400 people.
The article added, “Tuition would not be made for regular students of Napa Junior (Valley) College—those carrying 10-1/2 or more units of work—or for members of classes in citizenship.”
While the Adult Education students did eventually pay fees, as they continue to do today, it seemed for a short time another vocational option might have been a possibility for Napa County residents. A very brief notice in an early-1950 Register edition reported the Napa County airport was one of three sites being considered for an Air Force academy.
As the local adult student negotiated the changes in their scholastic endeavors, the local elementary and grammar school students also anticipated significant changes in the near future.
In the years 1953 and 1954 the Napa public school system altered its existing facilities sites. In 1953, the district purchased the site for the future MacPherson elementary school. The Pueblo Avenue acreage was purchased for $19,000. The following year, the early 1900s intermediate school for grades seven and eight, once located on Polk and Jefferson Streets, faced its final sessions and ultimately its closure. The building was razed to make way for the construction of a Hagstrom’s grocery store. With the intermediate school building demolition, that parcel ended its history as an educational site which began in 1860 with the opening of the Napa Collegiate Institute.
A side note, that site was eventually the location of the downtown Napa Safeway grocery store—now shuttered itself.