Ethel Richardson, Oakland born and raised. 65 years young, breast cancer conqueror. Loves to motivate and inspire others to be their best. Trains at Dam Sport Fitness. Ultra Masters Gold Medalist Ms. Olympia 2015, 2015 Night of Natural Champions Ultra Masters first place winner, 2015 USA Ultra Masters Second place, and 2016 Ultra Masters Northern California.
Photos of Ethel Richardson ’68 at a recent International Natural Bodybuilding Association competition in Budapest, Hungary:
I had the best time in high school. I enjoyed every minute! I never understood why people cut school. All my friends were in school.
I was a dancer in high school. Ms. Folberg was the teacher. It was an elective class. I did talent shows too. I remember I did a toe dance– I’d danced since I was 6 years old– and I did it to rock and roll. That was fun! We put on West Side Story. Pat Pointer was supposed to be Anita and I was her understudy. When she missed practice, I got to be Anita. They loved me in West Side Story. My mother didn’t like it. Anita got bumped around and even got raped. My mom hated that. I said, “Mom, it’s just acting!”
I was also involved in PE — I ran track. And I was a pom-pom girl and my senior year, I ran for head cheerleader and got it my last year. We even went away to a competition and won. I still do the cheer “I saw Sister Lucy” which we made up and used to practice. We practiced all summer to be ready for football in the fall. If they missed practice, I made them pay a fine. We sang the Tech song at the games and at assemblies. Pom-pom girls danced and used pom-poms. Cheerleaders had precision movements and wore skirts and sweaters. The head cheerleader in 1967 was a guy, but the pom-poms were always girls. There were 5 or 6 of us, all black and one Japanese girl. More white girls were pom-pom girls and more black girls were cheerleaders.
I was in college prep and I was usually the only black student in the class. I was friends with everyone. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all being the only black student. The teachers really liked me. I hear talk of racism, but I never experienced that. I was the only black Girl Scout in my troop growing up. I was used to being around white people. Mother was a domestic, and I knew those families.
The Black Panther office was on Grove near 44th, and I lived on West. My sister went to school with Huey Newton. 5 sisters and 1 brother all went to Tech. One of my sisters was a cheerleader but they were less involved. None of that affected me. I didn’t get caught up in that. Not my thing.
I remember people were acting crazy after MLK was shot, tearing up the school and being stupid. I never felt that violence was the answer. Sometimes people do things just to get attention. I was unusual in being friends with everybody. I had black, Asian, Mexican friends – all kinds.
I remember MacArthur drawing perfect circles on the board to describe US history. He was cool and always comes to our reunions. MacArthur called me “6 ounce” because I was little. I had a good relation with him. Mr. Elridge – science teacher. Just fun. It was fun to learn. Teachers made it fun to learn. Miss E., the gym teacher – doing burpies back then when she was our teacher. Aileen is likely in touch with her. I had really good teachers. Mr. Whayne, drama teacher. Worked on West Side Story. Everybody liked him. He was really down to earth. Frank Lettich taught English. Mary Smith, who is now in Piedmont at Piedmont Gardens since having a stroke, was a math teacher.
Ms. Folberg taught dance: jazz and modern dance. Performed for the school.
We used to have to swim to graduate, but dance counted for me. I got out of it and didn’t learn to swim until I was 28 years old.
Principal Mr. Lucas – kids liked him. All the teachers were well-liked.
There were over 500 in graduating class. It was a 3-yr high school then.
Someone dressed up as Bobo, but not a real dog.
Ted Lange ’66 (Love Boat) – I dated him. We’re still friends to this day. He’s still acting. Writing. He and his brother Michael write plays and he produces. Sadie Hawkins [was the dance] when you could invite the boy. I invited Ted Lange, as a friend. It was in the girls’ gym.
Pointer sisters – Pat Pointer was there with me but we haven’t been in touch in years. They were at the Circle Star – big theater with revolving stage in San Carlos. Ruth the oldest was married to a friend who played in a band called Phoxx in 70’s.
I was student representative, maybe one time. I went to Jr. High at Woodrow Wilson — Emerson, Woodrow and Tech.
Life lessons learned at Tech: Enjoy life and accept people just as they are. Don’t label and judge people. There is good in everybody. Look for the good.
Proud Bulldog: means it was a school where I learned a lot about life as far as creating your own reality. I believed I could do anything I wanted to do. I felt that from my teachers who always gave me positive feedback on how I related to different people. Let me see that people will see you as a good person, from any walk of life.
I went to Cal State Hayward and studied PE with emphasis in dance. But I hurt my back in car accident. I went back for my AA years after from College of Alameda in PE. I worked at Kaiser in HR; retired in 2010. I have lived my whole life in Oakland. The rest of my family was born in Mississippi. My aunt moved my family here from Mississippi. She was the one who put me in dance classes when I was 6. I did shows. I was confident. I did bodybuilding in 1985. I have always been active. I was on the softball team at Kaiser. I dance the whole night at reunions. I am still that one that can dance and move. I have 14 nieces and nephews and lots of great-. I lost my sister 2 years ago.
I spoke at graduation. I can’t remember what I said. The dance teacher gave me the solos because I wasn’t shy and she knew I would do it. The old girls’ gym was still there. Boys’ gym was there. I loved to watch ROTC do their drills. They would perform.
I got an award for school spirit. I got a framed drawing of the school, and I still have it.
I just love it. I passed it the other day and saw the kids on the grass. It still looks wonderful.