Long Beach Polytechnic High School’s 60-year reunion weekend kicked off at Joe Jost’s on Friday and reminiscing continued at Long Beach Yacht Club on Saturday. Back in 1959, the classmates’ prom was in Poly’s gymnasium, and the now long gone Municipal Auditorium hosted an all-night dance.
With the motto “Enter to learn, Go forth to serve,” these students did just that, with the list of alums that reads like a “Who’s Who.”
Long Beach-born Bob Burgess attended Poly his senior year. Before that, he was busy at Disney on the Mickey Mouse Club. The class voted him “Most likely to succeed” and his fellow students would shout across campus, “Hey Mickey!”
His bride of 48 years Kristie attended Rolling Hills High School. They met while Burgess danced his way into America’s hearts on the Lawrence Welk Show. Myron Floren, the show’s popular accordionist, is her father and she would join the cast for the annual family shows. Today the couple runs Burgess Cotillion, formally Long Beach-based Call’s Cotillion. Burgess spends every Wednesday in Long Beach, where he has rental properties.
Alum Judith A. Vander Lans was a judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Vander Lans began serving on the court in 1998 and retired at the end of her term in 2012.
Michael Noll, who served as planning commissioner, councilman and Mayor of Signal Hill, was devoted to what he calls the “Heart of Long Beach,” because the town is completely surrounded by Long Beach. Classmates are agreed that Noll “makes it better” no matter where he goes or what he does, and his devotion to public service is unmatched.
Long Beach Vice Mayor and Sixth District City Councilman Dee Andrews, received the All-American High School Football and Track Awards while at Poly. He also was the first African-American student body president in the school’s history. Andrews's other achievements are the induction into the Long Beach State Hall of Fame, All American Junior College Football and Track Award, and he holds the World Record for 330 Intermediate Hurdles.
Andrews played in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, then returned to Long Beach to teach Black History and Government at Long Beach Poly and Wilson high schools.
Poly Football coach Dave Levy attended the reunion and “held court,” reliving various games with a table of past players.
According to Long Beach Press-Telegram articles, “The 1958 and 1959 Poly teams both won CIF championships under head coach Dave Levy (who made the jump from Poly to USC after that, and then a long career coaching in the NFL). Those two teams went a combined 22-0-1, and featured arguably the best rushing attack in Southern California history.
“With All-America lineman Mike Giers leading the way, Poly’s backfield featured talented RBs Dee Andrews, Willie Brown, Lonzo Irvin, Harvey Crow, and Willie Martin. In ’59, they outscored opponents 420-118 in 11 games, averaging nearly 500 rushing yards per game. The LA Times wrote at the time that four of the five best running backs in SoCal were on that one team — five NFL players came off of those two Jackrabbit squads.”
John Green, who retired after a 35-year career with the Long Beach Unified School District, serving as vice principal at Lakewood, Marshall, Hill, and Reid middle and high schools. Green said, “Dave Levy saved my life and never knew it.”
In high school, Green was struggling emotionally and abusing alcohol, his grades were suffering and he was on a path to nowhere. According to Green, “Coach Levy let me on the football team — I was not a good player, but he gave me a chance.”
Soon, thanks to Levy’s coaching style that includes motivation and discipline, Green was earning As and Bs.
Sororities and fraternities as well as athletic clubs were big during that era, and each group had their own area in the quad at Poly. According to alum Linda Rushing Day, “One grand tradition hosted by the campus fraternities was an annual contest where the guys would race tricycles.”
Alum Keith Thomas was a champion spring board diver, whose family had recently relocated from Wales when he attended Poly. According to Thomas, in high school his favorite date night location still exists today in Belmont Shore. Domenico’s Pizza and the classic salad paired with a ground pepperoni pizza — one meal that stands the test of time.
Another first involved the school mascot, Jonathan Jackrabbit. 1959 was the first year a woman held the role, Carol Striegel Sheerin. Some administrators on campus didn’t like her breaking the glass ceiling in a character “not befitting a woman.”
1959 was, as the 1971 song "American Pie" puts it, “The year the music died” when the plane with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed. 60 years ago, the top song was Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” and in 1973 Darin married Poly 1959 classmate Andrea “Andy” Yeager Delany.
Long Beach Polytechnic High School is known as the "Home of Scholars and Champions" and the class of 1959 had more than its share of high achievers in industry, community service and athletics. But more importantly, as reunion committee member Pat Glover Moland put it, “Our class genuinely cared for one another and our reunions are a celebration of long term friendships.”