Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Bill Moore ’45
I was born in Wichita, Kansas and lived there until I was about 9. Times were tough during the Depression although my dad had a bunch of jobs. He was a pharmacist, worked in a paint store, was in the Navy and Army. In 1936, we moved to Oakland, an apartment on Colby Avenue above a deli. It was $60 per month, fully furnished. That was a lot of money for us and we soon moved to an apartment that was $22 per month.
I rode my bike to school everyday. During the war, I bought a motorcycle and used to ride that to Tech. Those of us who had motorcycles, and there were a few of us, got a lot of attention, but not necessarily the good kind! And, it was hard to get gasoline during the war. I remember one guy had a 1938 Packard convertible and he was definitely the king of the campus. Most kids didn’t have a car. Kids definitely hung out in packs and everyone had their own area at lunch time.
Doc Welty was the principal, who was very distinguished and Doc Hess was the vice principal, who ran the school. He knew all the kids and they all knew him. I remember kids cutting school to go swimming at Lake Temescal. One time Doc Hess caught us, but I hid under a float at Temescal and didn’t get caught!
Mrs. Anga Bjornson was a very impressive teacher; she was very outspoken and critical of Sacramento and state politics. She even ran for State Assembly later on, but didn’t have the blessing of the Democratic Party and didn’t win. Mrs. deFremery was a very nice, and very precise teacher who taught Spanish and French, part of the deFremery family that was a pioneer in Oakland. Al Girard was the drama teacher and had the most interesting and fun class in the whole school. He wore really expensive suits and was such a funny guy that we all loved him.
There was a lot of school spirit, kids always turned up for the football and basketball games. I was mostly interested in art and wanted to be a commercial artist. I took night and weekend classes at the California College of Arts and Crafts. After graduation though, I joined the Merchant Marines and sailed on a liberty ship (cargo ships built during the war) for one year. In 1946, a friend suggested we join the Marines and I went through boot camp in San Diego where I worked on fighter planes.
After the war ended, I went to art school but didn’t love it because it wasn’t as creative as I thought. I met my wife, Vanna, we got married and then I got drafted for the Korean War. I was nine days short of serving an entire year when World War II ended, so I wasn’t exempted from the draft. I was in Korea for one year and then came home and joined the Oakland Fire Department which was my true calling. I was there 27 years and retired as Chief of the Department. I have three honorable discharges, from the Merchant Marines, the Marine Corps and the Army. My daughter, Deborah Moore Brooke graduated from Tech in the late 1960s and became a technical writer in Silicon Valley.
Tech High is where I learned to be more socially adept and was exposed to all different types of people. My advice to kids today is to enjoy school because you will remember it for the rest of your life. Pay attention to who you’re hanging out with and pick your friends carefully.
I’m so happy Tech is celebrating 100 years. The building is such a trademark and so unusual looking. I am glad the school is so strong academically now.