Unless opposition forces can prevail, or piles of money ooze out of the woodwork, it looks like the merger of El Molino and Analy High Schools is going to happen. If it does, it means the end of El Molino High, which is a sad thing for many of us.
Our daughters went to El Molino and both of them now teach school in the lower grades. I know one El Molino graduate who became a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and received a MacCarther Award for her work helping New Orleans rebuild to its original glory after hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
I know another El Molino grad who got a full scholarship for four years at Harvard and, last I heard, went on to live and work in Japan where he became proficient in the language. Other notable graduates are listed on the school’s website. And El Molino sent many graduates back into our west county communities to make worthy contributions to our economic and cultural life.
I also remember a day 40-some years ago when the Russian River Rotary Club, with its many members in the building trades, designed and constructed an outdoor stage at El Molino where graduations and other events have been held. I, who know very little about designing and constructing anything, was given a shovel that day and told to move a pile of dirt from one place to another, which I was glad to do. A lot of people did a lot of work of many kinds in support of our high school, and it’s little wonder than many of us feel a particular kind of loss as its final days seem to be drawing near.
But it’s hard to get past the argument that the feeder schools just don’t have enough young people in them to justify two high schools in the west county, one of which is down to less than 600 students. Where did all the west county kids go? I wonder. We have a lot of senior citizens in these parts, and I’m pleased to be among them, but youngsters have become scarce.
Whatever the cause of this shift in demographics, it brings to mind many of my longtime friends and neighbors who were bussed from River precincts to Analy High before El Molino opened in 1964. Earlier, kids from the River and points west and north took the train to Forestville where a bus waited to take them on to Analy High in Sebastopol.
In the ever-loving ways of high school kids, our River scholars were branded “River Rats” by their peers at Analy. But the River kids did not cringe under the River Rat label; they took it as a badge of honor. With all that time on the bus together, these kids formed a special bond. Some of them ended up as husband and wife.
Still today, this particular species of River Rat holds reunions more or less every other year. Rods and Coupes, a group of River Rat guys who transformed old cars into snazzy roadsters, have a newsletter they call “Rodent Review.” Ties that last a lifetime formed from riding the school bus to Analy High and being called a River Rat. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
My hunch is it might happen again. A whole new generation of River Rats may be in the making. If so, I wish them all the good spirit and cohesiveness of those River Rats of old.
And I hope it’s all right to mention that my book “Proud to be a River Rat, Vol. I” is available on Amazon and at the Guerneville Five and Dime. Volume 2 will be out soon.