Cubberley Celebrates Its First 50 Years

It opened in 1953-54 to the onslaught of post World War II Baby Boomers. Tracts of hundreds of new homes were sprouting in east Long Beach, and new families, including lots of ex-GI's, moved in and enrolled their kids. Now, a half century later, Cubberley is still going strong. The district's first K-8 school and its first National Blue Ribbon School recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was named for an Indiana educator who went on to teach at Harvard and Stanford. Elwood P. Cubberley developed management practices used by successful schools today. Dr. Donald P. Ashley was the school's first principal. "We started small because the surrounding area wasn't all built yet," said Ashley. "We started with 400 children and grew to 800 by the end of the first year," he said. "Every Monday it seemed we were enrolling new students and setting up new classrooms. It was an exciting time." Those were the days of kids coming to school with marbles in their pockets, having nuclear disaster drills and watching the World Series in the cafeteria, according to Bill Welte, a kindergartner that first year. He and former Cubberley students, some flying in for the event from other states, will celebrate their fond memories with the school's former principals and teachers, current staff and students. "I loved that school," said Welte. "It was such an optimistic time." Attending the event will be alumni, former faculty and staff, guest speakers from the state, city, CSULB, LBCC, reporters and TV crews. The U.S. Navy will present the colors, and the school will dedicate its 50th anniversary flag. An international lunch will be hosted by local restaurants including Legends. Its owner, Gene Rotondo, was a Cubberley kindergartner in 1953. His father was the school's first custodian. Students will assemble a time capsule of memorabilia from the school's first 50 years to be opened after its second 50 years. The time capsule will not be buried until the school gets the results of its 2004 California Distinguished School nomination. "This has always been an extraordinary school," said Ashley. Current Cubberley Principal Michael Navia agreed. "All of our students feel in one way or another that it's a privilege to come to this school."