Legends of the Hill: School Daze

By Terry Milne

Photo: Seventh-grade class of Fairmount School, 1909. Courtesy Mary Cados.

The pride of Bernal Heights sits for a class portrait in 1909. This is the seventh grade of Fairmount School, just west of Bernal Heights across San Jose Avenue. The kid in the middle is Lawrence Anderson, who was raised on Richland Avenue. At the time, Fairmount was the closest school to his house. The Andersons were Swedish immigrants who settled South of Market. By a stroke of luck, Andrew Anderson, Lawrence's father, bought a house in Bernal in 1905, so the family could be mere spectators to the fire that destroyed much of San Francisco due to the earthquake on April 18, 1906. Andrew was in the structural iron business, so there were abundant opportunities to get jobs on the many significant buildings rebuilt on Market Street and in the downtown area after the quake.

The photo is from the family album of Mary Cados, daughter of Lawrence, granddaughter of Andrew. She was raised in the Avenues and now lives down the Peninsula.

In 1909, the only school in the neighborhood was Bernal Grammar School, built in 1886, on the Cortland Avenue block where the library stands now. The real estate rush to the solid hill of Bernal after the 1906 quake brought many families to the neighborhood. The City responded to this transformation by constructing a trio of elementary schools to corral all the youthful energy unleashed on the serene environs of century-ago Bernal Heights. None of the original buildings survive: Junipero Serra, built 1911; LeConte (now Leonard Flynn), built 1912; and Paul Revere, built 1917.

This item was originally published in the April/May 2011 issue of the New Bernal Journal.

More articles by Terry.