Venice Union Polytechnic High School located in Venice, California traveled north to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition through the medium of film and presented itself to the world.
Recently, the Venice High School Alumni Association found among its archives a June 1915 school publication that carried an article of a “moving picture” of the school being shown at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in San Francisco. No other documentation was found in the archives, let alone the film itself.
The film was produced at the invitation of the PPIE Department of Education on the recommendation of the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. The project was undertaken by the English Department resulting in two reels of film of 1,100 feet each. It was then contributed to the exhibit of California High Schools and shown in the theater of the Palace of Education.
The High School opened in 1911 in the old Boat House located on Venice’s Grand Canal. In 1914 the school moved to its new 29-acre campus a little further inland. The school was proud of its beautiful new facility and its educational competence.
The approach used in the film was to have two students as leading characters – “Jack” and “Beth” – who are followed through their various classes and activities at the school. Below is a description of the film, to which we’ve added a few period photos. When reading this description, remember this was the era of silent films.
The story opens with the title, “Jack and Beth attend the Venice Union Polytechnic High School, Venice California,” following which the location of Venice as the nearest beach to Los Angeles is shown. A Map of the Union High School District coming on the screen indicated the location of the several grammar school districts and schools included, with the Polytechnic High School, on its twenty-nine acres of ground and costing $300,000, near the geographic center of the district.
The introduction to the story is completed by a beautiful panoramic view of the buildings.
The arrival of a Pacific Electric train brings Jack and Beth to school. With scores of their schoolmates they leave the train and enter the buildings where they are seen at their work.
In the English class Jack may be seen writing a story, which he later puts in type in the printing department. He and Beth are both noticed in the geometry class, and again in the modern language department learning Spanish by the conversional method. At a meeting of the Student Body, Jack is placed in nomination for President. Beth is seen singing in the school chorus, which is accompanied by the orchestra. She also acts in a play written by one of her schoolmates.
While Jack is learning business methods in the departments of penmanship, bookkeeping and typewriting, Beth is developing skill in drawing, and design and its applications to domestic art. The fact that there is no age limit in the Polytechnic High School is shown by the presence of Beth’s mother and older sister in the crafts class.
Other views show the passing of classes, students in the school cafeteria and at the social hour. Jack and Beth are shown passing in their reports for credit on vacation work, and advising with the principal relative to their choice of vocations. Both indoor and outdoor study rooms are shown. In the sewing class Beth is making and having fitted a new dress, while Jack is seen in the forging class making a cake knife. A little later Beth may be seen in the cooking class using the knife, which Jack has made. During his course Jack also appears in the mechanical drawing class making house plans, and later in the wood shops making furniture. On the grounds Jack is busy in the surveying class, and in the orchard pruning and spraying trees.
Both leading characters are observed in the science classes. While Jack and his class mates are studying and experimenting with projection apparatus in the department of physics, Beth is analyzing a piece of bread in the chemical laboratory. At another time they are both seen with the class in the aquarium feeding the seals, studying fish and other live specimens, and taking notes on specimens in the museum. They are also present in the class in civics as it goes to city hall to study at first hand the government and problems of their home city.
But it is not all classroom and excursion work. School sports and the environment of the school, which always enter largely into the education of the students, are shown. Football, basketball, folk dancing, wand drills and tennis are among the amusements. Jack and Beth are seen with many other students rowing on the canals, and in a class picnic on the beach. The crowds of bathers in the surf, the pleasure.
Seekers on the pier, the plaza and the boardwalk, and views of the oceanfront, all add realism and give a true setting to the opportunities of the beach school.
The wholesome pleasures, the beautiful homes, the churches and other important features of the school environment are brought out in the pictures. Some of the grammar schools from which the high school pupils come are shown, with hundreds of busy, happy children playing and coming and going.
The story closes with the beach scenes, including the class picnic, with Jack and Beth enjoying the occasion. In the midst of the fun there are voices of the pupils mingling with the sound of the waves in the chorus of the school song to the beautiful strains of Aloha:
“Dear Venice High, where ships sail by.
And gondolas are floating near its doorway;
Down by the sea we ever are so free!
Our hearts can never leave thee.”
As the last strains of the song die away Jack and Beth are seen standing together looking outward, planning for college – perhaps!
By Tom Anderson, retired historian for the Venice High School Alumni Association.