News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Alumni say school was spared most ethnic strife felt elsewhere

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories looking at San Dieguito Academy’s 70th anniversary.

According to one San Dieguito High School alumnus who graduated in the early 1940s, there wasn’t too much concern about the ethnic diversity of the student population.

“That’s just the way it was around here,” said Bettie Grice Wolfe, who graduated in 1941 with four Japanese-American students and four Mexican-American students.

“There was only one African-American student at the school,” Wolfe said. “There were quite a few Japanese and a few Hispanic students.”

According to Wolfe, the Japanese and Latino students were children of Japanese-American and Mexican-American farmers, many of whom lived in Olivenhain.

“There were a lot of Hispanics and a lot of Japanese,” added Sid Shaw. “They were in the agricultural business.”  Shaw was one of 38 students in the first class to graduate from San Dieguito High School in 1938.

“This was kind of a retired area,” Shaw said. He explained that the school had students from Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The area was rich in agriculture.

“There were all sorts of crops,” Shaw said. “Tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes and avocados.”

When the United States joined World War II in 1941, life changed dramatically along the coast of California. Many, including Shaw, joined the armed forces. Of the 38 who graduated with Shaw, eight were killed in the war.

“We didn’t have any defense at all,” Shaw recalled. “They didn’t even have rifles; they were patrolling the coast with fake guns made of wood. We were really afraid.”

On Feb. 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the exclusion of Japanese-Americans from the Pacific Coast. Most of Shaw’s Japanese classmates were sent to internment camps.

The government “had to put them in camps to protect them,” Shaw said. “It was a very difficult time. Every one had a difficult time.”

Takeo Sugimoto was 15 years old when his family was sent to an internment camp in Arizona.

Sugimoto told the Encinitas Historical Society in a 2005 interview that growing up in Encinitas, his dream was to graduate from the new San Dieguito High School. His teacher, Mrs. Yott, took a vote of his classmates, and all but one voted for him to graduate with his class.

Sugimoto was the first Japanese-American allowed back in North County in January 1945. He was given special clearance to return and graduate with his class.

Said Sugimoto: “I’ve never forgotten the fact that graduation night the whole audience, and of course there’s only about 37 of us graduating, but the whole audience gave me a standing ovation.”

According to San Dieguito alumnus Tom Cozens, “Tak never saw any of the hateful anti-Japanese sentiment in Encinitas that were common in San Diego and other areas of California during the war.

“Encinitas and San Dieguito have a long tradition of being blind to racial, cultural, social and economic divisions,” Cozens continued. “We are so fortunate to have grown up here.”

When Pam Walker attended San Dieguito in the early 1950s, “there were quite a few Japanese and a few Hispanic.” Her 1955 graduating class of 100 students was 2 percent Japanese-American and 10 percent Latino.

According to the 2000 census, the racial makeup of Encinitas was 86.60 percent White, 3.10 percent Asian, 14.80 percent Hispanic and 0.59 percent African-American.

The racial makeup of the campus, now known as San Dieguito Academy, closely resembles that of the city. Of the 1,335 students in 2000, 87 percent were White, 2.6 percent were Asian, 9.6 percent were Latino, and 0.6 percent were African-American, according to San Dieguito Union High School District figures.

After 70 years, San Dieguito Academy has grown tremendously, but the ethnic diversity remains about the same. The 2006 graduating class of 1,565 students was 5.5 percent Asian-American and 12.3 percent Latino, according to the district.

“Our kids are very accepting and open,” said Lois Delanty, administrative assistant to San Dieguito Academy Principal Barbara Gauthier. “It doesn’t seem to me that (ethnicity) really makes a difference to them.”

Sid Shaw, now 86, lives half a block from San Dieguito Academy. “I see all the kids that go here. It’s really successful – they’re doing a really good job.”