Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
John Cooper ’48
My name is John Cooper. I graduated 8th in a class of over 400 in June 1948. My immediate family came to the Bay Area from Washington D.C. in the fall of 1945. I had come earlier that summer and stayed with my aunt and uncle and cousins (one of whom was to be a senior at Tech the fall of ’45). We lived on Broadway Terrace in Montclair. I started in the 10th grade at Tech, because my cousin went there and because it was the most convenient school to attend. It also had an excellent reputation as a college prep school. Although at the time I did not know where I might go to college, I knew I would go on from high school.
Tech in those days was three schools in one: kids like myself who planned to continue on to college, kids (girls primarily if not exclusively) who took shorthand, typing, etc. to prepare them to go directly into the work place, and boys who were in the shops learning carpentry, metal working, automobile repair, etc. Except for gym, study hall, and one class I will describe below, there was little mixing of the three groups.
I was extremely active in clubs and committees throughout my 3 years at Tech. I started in the 10th grade, with Scribe News, instead of English. That was my major focus. In my last semester, I was editor of the paper. Thanks to our journalism teacher, Jessie Smith, who taught me and hundreds of others how to write, our paper continually won national recognition. She and Talcott Williamson were the most memorable of my teachers. “Tully”, who was head of the English Department, taught a class which he refused to have limited to college prep kids. He taught all of us how to think (!)¬ imagine that! Not simply to memorize facts or learn tables, but to think.
My wife, Ann, who also attended Tech, and I have maintained about ten or so high school contacts over the 66 years since we graduated. Several of us continued on to UC Berkeley where I received an AB in 1952 and, after several years in the army, a law degree from UC’s Boalt Hall. Over the years our class has held several reunions, the last being our 50th in 1998.
One lesson learned at Tech: how to get to know and get along with kids of different races. About 10 per cent of our class was black and there were also many Asians and a few kids of Spanish background. Many of the blacks were children of Pullman porters. Some were strongly encouraged to go on to college and many were not, some being children of World War II defense workers with no concept of the importance of higher education. Yet we all got along.
I’m proud to have gone to Tech when it was in its heyday years. I am also pleased to learn that it once again has a college prep program that I understand is drawing more academically inclined students back to the school.
My advice to current Technites: read, read and read. Perfect your writing skills. And be tolerant and keep an open mind.
After the army and law school, I went to work for PG&E in San Francisco, first as a lawyer, then as a department manager of several different groups, including the one that started the company’s energy conservation programs in the 1970s Then I was vice president of customer operations, then, for my last five years, I was a senior vice president and served on the company’s management committee. I retired in 1986 and now live in Rossmoor (part of Walnut Creek).