Payne School Celebrates 80 Years

Payne School Celebrates 80 Years

    Willard F. Payne School hosted a spectacular 80th Anniversary Celebration, commemorating 80 years of educating the children of El Monte.  The school originally opened in 1937 as Mt. View Junior High and was renamed to Willard F. Payne School in 1965.   It is one of the oldest schools in the area and was the first school located at the end of the historical Santa Fe Trail.  Much of the original architecture and structures make up the current campus. 

       Along with Payne’s current preschool through 6th grade students and staff members, MVSD was honored to have many former Payne and Mt. View Jr. High alumni and staff members join in the celebration. A special reception room featured historical photos, yearbooks from back in the day, and other memorabilia from years past.  Former students and staff enjoyed browsing through the items and reminiscing about their time spent on the campus.

      The special program featured each classroom representing a significant event from 1937 including Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, the formation of the USA Blood Bank, the premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the formation of the National Basketball League, Joe Louis’ boxing championship, the publishing of classic novels The Hobbit and Of Mice and Men, and the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

       Former students, Ken Weldon and Donnie Pollet shared their memories of attending the school many years ago and encouraged the current Payne Panthers to work hard and reach for their dreams.  They also acknowledged the vital impact of teachers, administrators and support staff who each day make a difference in the lives of students. 

      “I remember fondly the classrooms I was in and the teachers I had,” said Weldon, retired El Monte Police Chief.  “My hardest class was when I was in 8th grade and it was that class that did the most for me. The teachers and staff were great when I was going to school here and I regret not telling my teachers how much I appreciated them so students be sure to thank your teachers.”

        Pollet who started kindergarten at the school in 1947 and graduated 8th grade in 1956, remembers Will Payne, the school’s future namesake, was his principal and was always warm and friendly.  He also recalls the huge influx of people into the area after World War II.

         “Many of my classmates were born outside of California,” said Pollet.  “Their families fled the dust bowl of the 1930’s and moved west, settling here in El Monte.  The demographics have changed in the community, but it’s still a blue collar town like it was back then.  I really enjoyed my time at this school and looking back I have many fond memories of Friday after school dances and of teachers who gave me the impetus to pursue a career in aerospace engineering.  To all of you students, life is ahead of you, be sure to learn to write well and express yourself, it’s immensely important and will be your biggest asset.” he said.          

      Representatives from L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office, Assemblyman Ed Chau’s office and Senator Blanca Rubio’s office presented the Dr. Hugo Moreno, Payne’s current principal, with special certificates and proclamations honoring Payne’s 80 years. 

      “What makes an institution great is not the buildings but the people in them,” said Evan Lu, a field representative for Assemblyman Ed Chau from the 49th Assembly District.  “Students you are this community’s future leaders and you have a very bright future ahead of you.  Congratulations to Payne School on 80 wonderful years of education and on behalf of Assemblyman Chau, we wish you many more successful years educating our future leaders.”

         Former students, Sandra Llamas, Guadalupe Martinez and Lupe Llamas had a great time at the celebration and reminiscing about their time on campus. 

          “We attended school here in the mid 70’s and one of my favorite memories was when my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. McEntire played the piano and we sang.  We loved our time at Payne School.  I also found my tile on the wall in the hallway, it’s still here,” she said referring to a wall of student painted tiles that still remain from years gone by.

        Concluding the celebration, the Payne Panther mascot took the stage with a large 80th birthday cake and everyone sang happy birthday before enjoying refreshments.

        “Thank you all for joining us for this wonderful celebration and making today a special day for our school,” said Dr. Moreno.  “You all make a difference in the lives of our students and we are grateful for your support.  Our 80th Anniversary Committee did an extraordinary job putting together this wonderful celebration and their efforts are greatly appreciated.  We look forward to continuing the exceptional instruction that has been provided at this wonderful campus for many more years.”       

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