In 1918, a crowd of students, teachers, elected officials and a bugle corp — the 91st Company of High School Cadets — marched from what is now Channing House on Webster Street to their new campus on Embarcadero Road. They lined up outside the Tower Building for a photo to commemorate the first day of school at the new Palo Alto High School.
One hundred years later, this moment and many others in Paly's history will be celebrated in a series of centennial events throughout the school year, starting with a kickoff barbecue next Thursday, Aug. 23.
A 25-member centennial committee made up of staff, parents, students, alumni and community members has been planning events to involve the entire community in celebrating the past, present and future of Paly.
The kickoff barbecue is open to the public. There will be food and musical performances that represent the school's ethnic and cultural diversity, including from Paly's ukulele club, two Polynesian students, a bagpipe player, the school band (which will perform two mariachi numbers) and the Stanford University taiko drummers.
During the barbecue, attendees can tour the campus and learn about its history through student-produced videos that can be watched on mobile devices.
Tickets cost $13 in advance and $15 on the day of.
On Oct. 7, the community is invited to re-enact the 1918 march. Paly partnered with the Palo Alto Historical Association to organize the reenactment.
People will meet at Paly, take buses to Channing House and then walk the same route the group took 100 years ago.
Back at Paly, people will gather in front of the Performing Arts Center to dedicate the area between the new facility and the Haymarket Theatre as "Centennial Plaza" (pending approval by the Board of Education). The plaza will include monuments to Anna Zschokke (pronounced SHAW-key), known as the "mother of Palo Alto schools." Zschokke, one of Palo Alto's first residents, spearheaded the creation of Palo Alto's first public school and built the first high school building by mortgaging her home.
"One of the reasons that we're doing this is so we can connect past and present and push towards the future to try and learn from the past — our mistakes, our accolades," said Paly librarian Rachel Kellerman, who is on the centennial committee.
"(Zschokke) wanted open pathways for success ... and she saw that as being vital to the community at the time and that was so unusual. She understood that you had to marshal the community in order to do that," Kellerman added. "Community support of public education is something that is a theme and something to be celebrated."
At the dedication, the school will also honor Palo Alto landscape architect Mary Gordon, who is behind much of Paly's landscape design.
The school has invited elected officials who graduated from Paly, including Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Assemblyman Marc Berman, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and former East Palo Alto mayor Laura Martinez, to speak at the dedication.
There will also be a musical performance: Paly alumnus Christopher Tin, a Grammy award-winning composer, has agreed to write a song for the centennial.
The centennial committee is involving other school departments and bodies, including drama, history, English, athletics and journalism, to fully integrate the celebration, Kellerman said.
Students are also organizing an alumni speakers program and will design a centennial T-shirt, among other projects.
In March, there will also be a celebration of student newspaper the Campanile's 100th birthday and a ticketed centennial gala.
The Paly Centennial Committee is accepting donations to pay for campus decorations, student projects, the Zschokke memorial, a reunion for retired staff and to underwrite tickets for the barbecue so all families can attend. To donate online go to palywebstore.myschoolcentral.com or mail checks to Palo Alto High School Centennial Fund, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301.
For more information about Paly's centennial activities, including to purchase tickets for the kickoff barbecue, go to paly.net/centennial.