Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Mike Moffitt ’64
I really looked forward to going to school. I guess that’s because I was involved in so many things. I was part of the student government. In fact I served as Student Body President my senior year! I was also in the Key Club, Swim Team and was also the Head Yell Leader (which was typically a “girl” thing. One person I vividly remember was Tiny Barber. He was African-American and was one of the most enthusiastic guys I have ever met. I had been the Assistant Yell Leader in my junior year. Tiny held that position or maybe he was going to be the assistant, but he passed away unexpectedly. It was so tragic. He was a fanatic about supporting the school. It was a huge loss for all of us. I remember we wore a purple sweater with gold stripes at the bottom and a bulldog on the sleeve. And I got to wear Bermuda shorts! We couldn’t wear shorts to school but I could wear them to the games. That was also the time when Letterman Jackets became popular, virtually replacing Letter Sweaters.
I went to my 30th and 35th high school reunions and I will go to 50th! We had this book of yells. At the 30th, most of cheerleaders were there and we tried to lead the yells! We were not athletic like cheerleaders are today. We did not do acrobatics. We had routines that primarily used our hands and feet and we were available to cheer for any sport but mostly we cheered at the football and basketball games and rallies. The song girls (or pompon girls) joined us at the school wide assemblies. Back in the day, the football games were very well attended. That’s both home and away mind you. There was always fence that separated the fans. We’d do stuff to taunt the fans from the other teams. Part of my job was to make sure that the fans really enjoyed being there. We would really get the crowds going! That was a lot of fun. In 1964 we may have finished last in the football league but we won the trophy (Keyes Trophy) for the most school spirit!
Skyline High School opened after my 10th grade year. That was 1962. Many students had a choice as to which school you wanted to attend. Don’t recall whether I had that choice, but I stayed at Tech. I do however remember dating a girl at Skyline who had gone to Tech in 10th grade. But I’m glad I stayed at Tech. We had a good mix of kids and most of the kids I ran with stayed at Tech. Our student government at the time had some power. I mean the serious infractions were dealt with by the administration, but the students decided on the penalties for the less serious stuff. Student government kids would represent Tech at the Oakland school council meetings as well as district wide meetings. The classes planned their own events like proms and such plus lent a hand for school-wide related events. Our school dances were held in the Girl’s gym which was near the tennis courts. The yearbook had each committee pictured separately.
One thing I vividly remember is the day JFK was assassinated. I was backstage at an assembly in the Auditorium. The Principal came out and took the microphone and made the announcement. People started screaming. It got a bit hectic. We all went back to class in shock. We had lots of discussion about this in our classes. It is something that I will never forget. I was a senior at the time.
There were definitely some teachers who really stood out for me. One was Pete Cuttita (Biology/Anatomy). We dissected worms in his class. He was so dynamic. I can still tell you the names of most of the bones in the body. He had a skeleton in the classroom and he would point to a student and you had to name that bone. It was purely rote memorization. But he was so animated and fun. Believe it or not kids would still fall asleep in his class and he’d bang his pointer on that kid’s desk. I can’t recall a student that didn’t like him. Next door to him was Otis Handy an African American man who taught Spanish. He spoke only Spanish in the classroom. I took Spanish in Junior High and a couple years with him at Tech. I also took it at Air Force Academy. I also took one semester of drama under Mr. Wayne. He too was an animated and fun teacher. We did some plays in the class but I wasn’t in any of the bigger shows. Mr. Bob Coy taught art in the shop area. Maybe it was mechanical drawing. He was also the teacher advisor to student government. He was a really good guy. I was also in band, and therefore the ROTC band, in my sophomore year and then dropped out.
There was diversity in the school. But we all got along as far as I can remember. When I ran for Student Body President, we made posters and hung them around school. You also had to give a 2-minute speech during an assembly. There were three of us running for President – ¬ Glen Angelo, Craig Fisher and me. I was last one to speak. My competitors were both white and talked about race relations. Maybe there was an undercurrent. They felt they were saying something important by bringing it up. Maybe because of the post-Kennedy assassination? I was last, and wondering what to say after that. I departed from what I had prepared to say, and acknowledged what they had said, but then remarked that I thought all students at Tech worked together really well – evidence the Keyes Trophy. This was the first time I recall race issues coming to the surface – probably naïveté on my part. The other two probably split the vote – in any case, I ended up being elected.
I also remember that Ruth Pointer (of the Pointer Sisters) was a year ahead of us. Proud that she signed my yearbook. She was also a cheerleader and we talked frequently. I remember that she was smart, very quiet, reserved and soft spoken. First time I heard the Pointer Sisters sing, I was quite surprised.
I am a firm believer in public schools. Nowhere else can you develop the social skills that will carry you far in life. My family always went to public schools and I think we benefited from the diversity. We weren’t aware of this at the time, but as I look back on it, the skills we learned were pretty significant. Tech was definitely a melting pot. We really benefited in so many ways being at Tech. McClymonds was primarily black. Skyline was primarily white. But we had the diversity (Asian, Latino, African-American, White, and others) which gave us the chance to interact with a very diverse ethnic student body. That was the best thing about Tech. You met a lot of different people. One thing I liked most about high school was that I had a chance to be involved in so many different things and learned to get along with all types of people. It was a life lesson. I feel proud to be a Bulldog. I still have my tassel with “64” on it and I will be going to my 50th reunion this year.
All of the cheers were bulldog oriented. Bobo was an actual bulldog and he came to all of the games. We wore rally hats and had yellow megaphones with a bulldog on it. I still have mine. We had lots of school spirit!
I’m proud that Tech will be 100! I am also proud to say that I went there. With over 28 years in the USAF, I traveled to a lot of places in the world, and met a lot of people from the Bay Area. When I mention that I lived in Oakland, the first question is always “where did you go to school?” I have always proudly answered – “TECH!”
My advice to all students is to appreciate what you have while you have it. High school years carry a lot of memories – mine were very positive.