A BRIEF HISTORY OF GARDEN GROVE HIGH SCHOOL
FOUNDING OF GARDEN GROVE UNION HIGH SCHOOL
In response to the proposed annexation of Garden Grove into the Santa Ana High School District, a local election was held in March 1921 that successfully formed the independent Garden Grove Union High School District and paved the way for the establishment of a high school in Garden Grove. In June that year, A.D. Hoenshel was selected as Principal of the still-to-be opened High School. Later that summer, the boundaries of the new High School District were finalized and a permanent board of trustees elected.
Three bungalows were erected on the current site on Garden Grove Boulevard of the Lincoln Education Center and Garden Grove Union High School opened for the first time on September 15, 1921 to welcome Mr. Hoenschel, 63 students and four teachers. By an election on August 8, 1922, the present site of the School on Stanford Avenue was approved and the school opened in September 1922 at its new location.
The 1922-23 school year marked the first graduating Class from the school that included six students: Thelma Emerson, Laura Lehnhardt, Walter Lehnhardt, John Bragg, Floyd Dungan, and Marie Hogue. There were to be followed by over 30,000 graduates over the next nearly 100 years. The Chili Peppers, the area’s dominant agricultural crop, was originally chosen as the school’s nickname and for the school’s athletic teams. “Pep,” the schools’ first yearbook, was published in 1923 and the shop building constructed as the first permanent structure on campus. "The Argonauts" replaced the “Chili Peppers” as the school’s nickname in the 1925-26 school year and the 1926 Yearbook took on the name, “Argonaut."
In the fall of 1923 the two-story Main Building was the first permanent structure made ready for use, followed by the two-story science/library building in late 1925 located just to the east of the Main building, and the gymnasium in 1930 on the site now occupied by the Music Department. The Main building, since renamed Heritage Hall, remains as the oldest on campus.
Emma and Elizabeth Lehnhardt of the Class of 1928 composed the school Alma Mater, still being sung by the student body and alumni nearly 100 years later – “Come Stand Forth Argonauts All!” The following school year of 1928-29 marked the first year of publication of the ArgoLog school newspaper.
In June of 1928, Vice-Principal Dr. Leroy L. Doig, who had joined the faculty in 1924, was named as Mr. Hoenshel’s successor as Principal. By then, enrollment at the school had reached more than 220 students.
Tragedy hit the school the afternoon of Friday March 10, 1933 when the Long Beach Earthquake struck. A mass of ornamental masonry fell as students fled out the front or south exit of the Main Building, killing Elizabeth Pollard, the only person in the community killed in the quake. A subsequent structural analysis of the Main Building concluded it to be unsafe. It was rebuilt in its current single-story configuration and made available for use in 1935.
New buildings were added to the campus through the 1930’s, including several funded in part through the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). These included the Arts Building located just north of the Main Building plus the addition of showers and a laundry to the Gymnasium.
By the fall of 1941, student enrollment had topped 400 and the faculty had grown to 22 full time staff. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 brought significant changes to the school. Nearly 400 Argonauts were listed in the 1944 yearbook as being in military service; many had left school early to do so. They were joined by several faculty members who were also called to military duty. Scrap drives and war stamp drives were organized and the school cafeteria experienced shortages in certain foods. Travel to other schools for all sports was limited due to gas rationing. Students of Japanese ancestry who had comprised 10% of the student population prior to the War were now relocated by the Federal Government to internment camps.
Eleven Argonauts paid the ultimate price serving their country in the military during the War. These individuals were:
• Arthur M. Berry, Class of 1939
• Florentino T. Gonzales, Class of 1940
• Carl E. Lehnhardt, Class of 1936
• John N. Ogawa, Class of 1935
• Muriel G. Owens, Class of 1940
• George E. Spillman, Class of 1945
• David D. Sprinkle, Class of 1941
• Robert M. Stronge, Class of 1938
• J. Donald Wakeham, Class of 1937
• Milton E. Ward, Class of 1941
• Harry E. Wells, Class of 1943
Faculty additions during the war years included Eileen Reid for English and Girls Athletics. Reid would eventually become Dr. Eileen LaBarthe and the first female principal of the school. In one of her early roles as Girls League Advisor, she authored the phrase that became the school motto: “Pride, Performance, and the Pursuit of Excellence.” And, in 1942, because several of the athletic teams sported second hand uniforms obtained from Santa Ana Junior College, the school colors of red and white were formally adopted, replacing the original blue and white. “Blue and White Forever” became “Red and White Forever.”
THE POST WORLD WAR II BOOM
The post-World War II boom brought rapid change to the community of Garden Grove and Garden Grove Union High School. Post war-enrollment at the school expanded significantly through the 1960’s, with graduating classes increasing from 72 in 1946 to over 500 in 1967. A campus construction program in the 1950’s included a second gymnasium and boys locker room (now called the North Gym), swimming pool, administration building and classrooms built on the southeast area of the campus, cafeteria, auditorium (eventually named Don Wash Auditorium), and lights and bleachers for the football field.
The Union High School District responded to the growth of the community by building six new high schools between 1956 and 1966. This required a name change for Garden Grove High School which dropped “Union” from its official title in 1955. The Union High School District eventually merged with local Elementary School Districts in 1965 to form the Garden Grove Unified School District.
This period also saw significant change in the faculty and administration at the school. Dr. Doig would become the first Superintendent of the Garden Grove Unified High School District in 1955 and be succeeded as Principal, in order, by Donald S. Jordan (1955), William V. McLain (1958), and Dr. Eileen LaBarthe (1961). The transformation of the faculty and administration to a generation that arrived at the school after World War II was symbolized by the appointment of Dr. John A. Reed as Principal in 1966. Dr. Reed eventually served for 15 years in the position, the longest tenure after Dr. Doig’s 27 years.
In 1955, Artie Argonaut was first introduced as the school mascot, originally accompanied by a baby ram named Argo I. Artie was dressed in the now-familiar costume resembling those of the ancient Argonauts, including sword, shield, and helmet. A two-wheeled chariot was later built to parade Artie at football games and pep rallies, usually pulled by members of the Cheer squad.
The Korean War impacted the school with numerous alumni serving in the military during the War. Five Argonauts paid the ultimate price serving their country during the Korean War. These individuals were:
• Ramon Alba, Class of 1950
• Donaciano B. Almazan, Class of 1949
• William E. Moment, Class of 1941
• David D. Pecor, Class of 1949
• Loren Rylance, Class of 1948
Another major campus construction program was begun in 1962, mostly to replace older facilities built prior to World War II. Torn down were the original gymnasium and the science/library building. New facilities included the “Girl’s” Gym and locker room (now called the South Gym); a band and music building on the site of the original gym; a two-story science and social studies on the site of the original science/library building; and a building along Stanford Avenue south of the Main Building that included a library, classrooms, and the only planetarium at a high school campus in Orange County. This left the Main Building as the only one remaining from the 1920’s.
Major cultural changes began occurring on campus during the 1960’s reflecting changing times in the nation and community. School dress codes became less restrictive and politics a more frequent topic of discussion. A significant number of Argos served in the military during the Vietnam Was; seven made the ultimate sacrifice in that conflict. They were:
• James P. Fitzsimmons, Class of 1965
• Ralph S. Fladger, Class of 1964
• Barry L. Hempel, Class of 1965
• Edward C. Hughes III, Class of 1966
• Edward L. Patterson, Class of 1968
• Thomas J. Puff, Class of 1969
• William S. Stringham, Class of 1969
THE 1970’S AND BEYOND
While yearly fluctuations occurred in student and faculty population at the school after the boom of the 50’s and 60’s, they generally stabilized into the 21st Century. Facility improvements were made year to year but another major campus construction program did not occur until 2014. Dr. Reed was succeeded as Principal, in turn, by Pedro Garcia (1981), Lou Cangiano (1985), Peggy Mahfood (1991), Gene Campbell (1995), Rhonda Friedman (2000), Colleen Cross (2004), Steve Osborne (2010), and Todd Nirk (2018).
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the School, a Golden Anniversary Banquet was held at the Anaheim Convention Center on November 6, 1971. The event was attended by over 500 including all past school principals except Mr. Hoenschel, past and current faculty, students, and alumni representing every graduating class. The event was organized by an ad hoc committee of alumni, students and faculty. By that time, over 9,000 students had graduated from Garden Grove High School. In addition, The Argonaut Hall of Fame and Museum, originally conceived by Principal Reed, was officially opened in Heritage Hall (the renamed Main Building) on September 17, 1971. The alumni committee members that organized the Golden Anniversary Banquet continued on and, along with other interested alumni, organized the first Alumni Picnic held on May 26, 1973. However, the group fell dormant shortly thereafter.
On July 18, 1996, the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association was officially formed with the purpose of organizing the 75th Anniversary celebration for the school and to rededicate the Argonaut Hall of Fame and Museum which had suffered vandalism and had fallen into neglect. The 75th Anniversary Banquet was held on October 11, 1996 at the Garden Grove Community Center and was attended by more than 300. A group of about 20 teachers under the direction of teacher Ron Adams and counselor Regis Urinsco volunteered their time to help alumni dismantle the old museum and create in its place an all new and significantly enlarged display area of nine built-in glass cases as it exists today. The Alumni Association has the responsibility of maintaining the Museum, including its display cases, memorabilia, and copies of past Argonaut yearbooks and ArgoLog newspapers.
The Alumni Association began the tradition of awarding scholarships to graduating seniors in June 1998. While the initial amounts were modest at $1,000 total for the Class of 1998, the Alumni Association has continued the tradition every year since and has given out more than $50,000 in scholarship through 2019. The Association maintains a Facebook page, web page accessible through a link on the High School’s web site, and publishes an annual newsletter distributed to its active members. It also reinstituted the All Class Reunion and Picnic on June 12, 1999, since held every year on the school campus on the second Saturday in June.
MICHAEL A. MONSOOR FREEDOM MEMORIAL
In 2007, construction of a memorial to honor to all school graduates who had given their lives during World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War was begun under the leadership of faculty member Ron Adams. The Memorial was inspired by faculty member Ken Frank after the death in Iraq of 1999 graduate and Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor, USN. In 2008, the Michael A. Monsoor Freedom Memorial was dedicated at a ceremony on campus. It lists the name of all 24 Argonauts who have made the ultimate sacrifice while in military service during time of war. The Memorial is mounted in the Argonaut Hall of Fame and Museum in Heritage Hall along with pictures of all 24 memorialized on the plaque. The Memorial is flanked by flags of the United States and State of California which have flown over the respective Capitol Buildings of those governmental bodies.
For his heroism in giving his life to save the lives of his fellow Navy Seals, Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. The Michael A. Monsoor Memorial Stadium on the Garden Grove High School campus was formally dedicated in a ceremony on September 8, 2017, replacing the old field and bleachers built in the 1950’s. In addition, the USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), a 16,000 ton displacement guided missile destroyer was commissioned into service by the US Navy on January 26, 2019 at Naval Air Station, San Diego.
21ST CENTURY CAMPUS IMPROVEMENTS
Beginning in 2014, the school underwent still another major reconstruction and modernization of the campus over the next three years. Existing classrooms were renovated and buildings received structural upgrades to modern code, all new infrastructure, and air conditioning. Heritage Hall received major structural improvements, Don Wash Auditorium was completely modernized inside and out, a new swimming pool built to replace the 1950’s pool, the Michael A. Monsoor Memorial Stadium built, drought resistant landscaping added throughout the campus, the campus entrance on Stanford Avenue renovated, and finally, underground drainage constructed beneath Golden Fleece Avenue to cure the school’s flooding problem that existed since the campus first opened. Non-permanent classrooms were also constructed on the east side of the campus along 8th Street to provide needed classrooms during the construction program and to accommodate a surge in student population experienced in the late 2010’s. The school was truly ready to now face its next 100 years.
Boy’s athletics at the school began with the initial football team in the fall of 1921. The school first competed in the Orange League in 1924 against other Orange County high schools. The school remained in the Orange League until the fall of 1955 when, due it its growth into one of the larger schools in the County, it began competition in the Sunset League until it moved to the Freeway League in the fall of 1962. The Garden Grove League, consisting solely of high schools in the Garden Grove Unified School District, was formed in 1966 with Garden Grove High School as a charter member. The school remained in the Garden Grove League until the fall of 2018 when it joined the Big 4 League for football and the Golden West League for all other sports. The school competes under the auspices of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section (CIFSS).
Girl’s athletics initially consisted of the intra-school competition in the Girls Athletic Association. In the early 1970’s, the CIF SS formally recognized competitive girls athletics and formal competition against other school began. Special note is made of faculty member Vicki Toutz who coached Coed Badminton at the school for 31 years, from 1968 through 1998. During that time, she coached four players to CIFSS individual titles and another 11 to reach individuals finals, and led the Argos to four team CIFSS finals and two championships. She is considered an icon of the sport having represented the United States in world competitions as a player as well as having coached US National teams in the 1986 World Championships, 1992 Olympics, and 1995 Uber Cup, the sports equivalent to tennis' Davis Cup. She was ranked nationally as high as second as a women's singles player. She has also been inducted to the CIFSS Athletics Hall of Fame.
The school has had CIFSS team championships in Co-ed Badminton, Boys Football, Girls Softball, Girls Field Hockey, Boys Swimming, and Boys Soccer; individual CIFSS champions in Boys Badminton, Girls Badminton, Boys Swimming and Diving, Girls Swimming and Diving, Boys Track and Field, and Boys Wrestling; and CIFSS Players of the Year in Boys Baseball, Girls Field Hockey, Boys Football, Boys Soccer, Girls Softball, and Girls Water Polo. Two Argonauts also achieved CIF State Championships in Track and Field: Tony Kryzosiak for the 400-yard run in 1971 and Mark Schilling for the mile run in 1972.
The 2009 Argonaut Football team completed one of the most remarkable seasons in the long history of GGHS. The season was marked by early tragedy with the on-field death of team leader Kevin Telles in the first game. Yet, the team vowed to continue on and dedicated itself to completing the season in Kevin’s memory. The Argos finished the season undefeated and untied in the regular season and ranked #1 in the CIFSS Southern Division. They were victorious in their first three playoff games before losing in the championship game. The 2010 team also dedicated their season to Kevin’s memory and went on the win the school’s first CIFSS football championship.
A more comprehensive discussion of Garden Grove High School athletics history and championships is provided elsewhere on this web page.
Since its founding in 1921, more than 30,000 students have graduated from Garden Grove High School, beginning with the smallest class of six in 1923. Five generations totaling twenty-nine direct descendants of Frank and Lena Launders, along with eight of their spouses, have graduated from the school, probably the largest single family of graduates in school history. Argonaut alumni have gone on to varied and successful careers, including a United States Congressman, a Rose Bowl hero, the first Mayor of the City Garden Grove, film and television stars, accomplished artists, members of the Garden Grove City Council, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Chiefs of the local Fire and Police Departments, a Miss California and 3rd runner-up to Miss USA in the Miss Universe Pageant, members of the California State Legislature, a National Basketball Association player, Emmy and Grammy award winners, National Football League players, explorers and adventurers, Major League Baseball players, a Medal of Honor awardee, authors and journalists, as well as everyday citizens and military veterans. Many graduates have returned to the school as teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators. Regardless of chosen career and path taken after graduating, and as evidenced at the Annual All Class Reunion and Picnic, most can still proudly sing the school alma mater from memory – “Come Stand Forth Argonauts All!” - and remember the school motto of “Pride, Performance, and the Pursuit of Excellence!”
By: Chuck Lake, GGHS Class of 1968June 25, 2019This article is by no means a complete and comprehensive history of Garden Grove High School and no slight is intended by any omission of events or individuals. Comments, corrections, and updates can be sent to email@example.com.