Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Ronile Lahti ’60
Ronile is part of a family of three generations of Tech alums. Her grandparents were married in 1912 and built a house on Mather Street, across from Tech. Ronile’s great aunt was in the first graduating class at Tech and Ronile remembers hearing stories about school bonfires and speeches in those early days. In total, 11 of Ronile’s family members went to Tech, with teachers knowing the family through the different generations. Growing up across the street from Tech, Ronile would hear the first bell ring in the morning and knew she had just enough time to get to school.
She remembers it feeling like “Happy Days” at Tech, with a focus on cars and hanging out in the back of the school to smoke. Big cars like the ’57 Chevy and customized trucks were popular with students. There were sock hops and dances, and even though the Civil Rights movement was starting, Ronile said she didn’t feel the impact yet at school. Students chose one of three tracks: college prep, business courses and industrial arts (auto shop, wood and metal work, drafting). Music was always big at Tech with an excellent orchestra!
Ronile was active in the Representative Assembly (student government), the Future Teachers Club, and the French Club, which culminated in an end-of-year French dinner prepared by the French teacher. Miss Ward and Mr. Bartanina were two of her favorite History teachers, which Ronile ended up majoring in at San Francisco State. The journalism teacher, Ms. Crystal Murphy, was also an inspiration to the students. The Principal instilled pride by going around and cleaning the school. Corporal discipline was in place with the use of a paddle. She is still friends with three women, who lived together during college and still see each other when they can. Tech taught her to have loyalty to her school. She says Dr. Bliss demanded it!