A still from a short film by Kim Aronson about Willard and its history. The school is celebrating its centennial

Willard Middle School is getting ready to celebrate its centennial this year. Former students, staff, and parents are planning a huge gathering for Sunday, Oct. 16 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

As part of the celebration, Berkeley filmmaker Kim Aronson has made a 19-minute film that features 13 current and former Willard students reminiscing about their time there. Starting with Paul Grundland, a 1939 graduate, and continuing to Nakalia, who will graduate in 2017, the film highlights some enduring memories and the cultural context in which students attended the school at 2435 Stuart St. Check out a timeline of the school.

Some highlights:

Harold Hayashi attended Williard in 1941 and half of 1942 – when he and his family were sent to internment camps. He remembers how Willard teachers (unknowingly) helped prepare him for the three years he spent at the Topaz internment camp.

Jane Wallace talks about how the entire school watched the Richard Nixon – John F. Kennedy presidential debate in 1960 on small screen, black and white television sets. The occasion felt monumental, she said.

Spreck Rosekrans remembers that in 1969, police chased People’s Park demonstrators through Willard. The campus was gassed and a few students were shot with bird shot.

In 1970, P.E. class was cancelled because the National Guard was camping out in the gym.

The film is full of testimonials to various Willard teachers and makes clear just how important teachers are to the shaping of their students. Gary Kamiya remembers Mr. Williams, who was a “formidable, bald-headed pierced-eye teacher. He was really tough.” Thomas Spivey remembers how Mr. Felker took a group of students to San Francisco to see a musical. They were supposed to see 1776 but went to Hair instead. Felker got in trouble for this since there was nudity at the end of the musical, said Spivey. And many students remembered the security guards who stood outside school each day and shook every student’s hand as he or she entered – Mr. Brantley, Mr. Williams, and “Grizz.”

Here is the film:

YouTube video

For more information about the centennial celebration, visit the Willard PTA website.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...