Students at Porter School in Alameda, California

This is my first post with photos from California.  I don’t know the names of the kids or the year the photo was taken.  It was for sale together with another class photo that must have been taken a year or two earlier, because many of the same kids are in both photos (see below).  On the back of the earlier photo, someone wrote “Porter Grammar School.”  The Porter School was built in 1916 and burned down in 1973, on St. Patrick’s Day, with no loss of life.  The fire started at 9:35 p.m. on a Saturday night.  The building had previously been slated for demolition and replacement because it didn’t meet strict new earthquake standards.

The city of Alameda is “a unique island community located in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area,” according to the website of the Alameda Museum.

You can see large scans of the two photos by clicking either thumbnail below.  After clicking a thumbnail, you can click the information icon in the lower right corner (the letter “i” in a circle) and then select “View full size.”  My guess for a time period would be late 1920s.  I reached out to the Alameda Museum, and was told by someone there that the Porter School was in a neighborhood where many Japanese Americans lived.

The text of this post has been edited.

27 thoughts on “Students at Porter School in Alameda, California

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  1. Oh yes! Definitely that West Coast vibe. And they all look so happy, compared to East Coast or Midwestern school children in pictures from a similar time. Well, the boys look so happy. Well, most of the boys look so happy.

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  2. What a happy photo! Yes, Alameda is a charming little city located on an island in the San Francisco Bay, adjacent to Oakland, and across the bay from San Francisco (where I live). I was there just last weekend. And old brick buildings like this school are seldom up to modern earthquake safety standards without significant retrofitting, which can be very expensive, so it makes sense that it was slated for demolition.

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  3. Interesting to see this old school photo and their hairstyles and clothes. You estimate the date as late 1920’s – I would have guessed later than that – but I don’t know!
    It looks like a small happy school. 🙂

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    1. Yes, the coats! That’s why I assumed they were farther north, although San Francisco is known for its cool weather. Speaking of styles, do you have a guess for the year?

      I just realized there are many more boys than girls in the photos, which is a bit strange (20:8 in the earlier photo and 16:7 in the later one).

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The racial and ethnic mix is another interesting aspect of the group, although it doesn’t surprise me. The Bay Area and California generally has attracted every sort of immigrant group over the years (and sometimes been home to those who came there unwillingly).

    I have a blog friend in her 90s who grew up in the area. I can’t quite remember whether she lived on Alameda, but I know she’s mentioned it. I’ll make some inquiries. She still gets together with women who were in school at the same time she was, so there might be some information to be had.

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    1. How great that she’s blogging in her 90s!

      The racial and ethnic diversity of these photos is a big reason I was drawn to them. The photos reflect the fact that East Asian immigrants have been a part of the California story from almost the beginning (long before these kids were born).

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My grandmother, Irene Jacobs, was a teacher at this school for many years beginning in 1916. Her & her mother moved to Alameda from San Francisco (where both were born)after the 1906 earthquake. Alameda is an Island in the San Francisco Bay between Oakland & San Francisco. We graduated from the same High School as did my mother. I still live here.

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    1. That’s so neat, Pamela! Your grandmother might have taught these kids! Someone at the Alameda Museum told me that the Porter School was in a neighborhood where a lot of Japanese Americans lived. It must have been an interesting place for your grandmother to teach and for your mother to grow up. Thanks so much for your comment! Brad

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Went to kindergarten at Porter School in 1960. My teacher was Mrs. Johnson. I was in the Berkeley hills with a friend when we both noticed a large fire burning in Alameda. Turns out it was Porter School. Sad day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s quite a memory, Larry. Thank goodness no one was killed in the fire.

      This post is almost two years old, but it continues to get visitors at least once a month, which is more than most of my posts. I guess there’s a lot of interest in the Porter School. Thanks very much for your comment!


  7. Brad,
    What a diverse group of students as early as 1920 living on an island community in SF Bay. What was their community solidarity like at that time? Was there any racial, ethnic discrimination or were times different then? I can’t help but wonder how many of those Japanese Americans were moved to internment camps during WWII. Thanks for posting a photo that raises so many questions. Stewart

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good questions, Stewart. I can’t answer them with any authority, but the kids of Japanese descent must have experienced discrimination at times. I hope their peers saw them as equals, even if older generations didn’t always.

      This post continues to be visited more regularly than most. I don’t know if visitors are interested specifically in the Porter School or if they’re researching Japanese-American or Asian-American history more generally.


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