Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Pearl Habermehl McCarthy ’47
The War shaped her high school experience. As an example, dances were only held in the afternoons because of the night time curfew. She also recalled that shoes and sugar were rationed. While at Tech she dated a boy who gave her an extra coupon for shoes, and she was thrilled with his gift. Another way the War impacted Tech was the number of students whose parents had moved to Oakland to work in the shipyards.
Looking back, she believed that people, whether the person was black or white did not matter, who came from the south were educationally and culturally deprived. She remembered the term “Okie”. Tech became less of a neighborhood school because of all the new people who made their home in Oakland.
She also recalled that African Americans have a long history here because of the Pacific Railroad. After the Civil War many African Americans made their way to Chicago. Some went to work for the Pullman Company, where they were trained as porters. Since Oakland was the terminus of the Pacific Railroad, many of the porters settled here. They purchased homes and were an integral part of Oakland.
When she started at Tech, she joined the Glee Club. However, early in the school year, a young, good-looking teacher named George Kyme came to the Glee Club looking for students to participate in the Orchestra. She and two girl friends who followed handsome Mr. Kyme to the orchestra class. McCarthy played the oboe. This class was her first introduction to classical music. As an adult, she has subscribed to the Oakland Symphony for decades because of her experience.
Mr. Kyme also started a jazz band. Some of the high school players were so outstanding that they played down at Sweet’s Ballroom on Broadway between 19th and 20th. They also played for school dances. Mr. Kyme eventually went on to teach at Cal.
McCarthy remembers that ROTC had a presence at Tech. Once a month, they would march at the school. Some of the boys were able to substitute their participation in ROTC for PE. Because of the War more students worked. She remembered that Sears, which was located on Telegraph at 27th, was open on Thursday evenings and all day Saturday. Girls were paid .50/hour and for the same work boys were paid .75/hour!
She recalls a fellow student who was a casualty of the Korean War. His name was Jerry Krohn (she was not sure of the spelling). He was one year ahead of her in school. He was an outstanding student and was head of ROTC. After high school he married Roberta Goodfellow. He was shipped out to Korea in the early 1950’s. He was killed in action. She remembers being just shocked because he was such a capable, talented person. She thinks a street in Montclair is named after him–possibly Krohn Way or Street.
After graduation, she attended UC Berkeley. She lived at home and worked at Sears and at the San Francisco Circulation department while she attended college. The cost of tuition, she did not think they even called it tuition, was $37.50. She married, settled in Piedmont and raised a family. She still gives historical tours of Jack London Square.
Her advice to current Tech students is to study hard!