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Paul Spitzzeri

As a rare alternative to the incarceration of troubled young men, Boys Republic seeks to instill life skills to guide its charges to the path of productive citizenship as embodied in its motto of “Nothing Without Labor.”  In the 1937 commencement issue of its newspaper, The Caljurean, the institution, known then as the California Junior Republic (CJR), celebrated its graduates as well as its 30th anniversary.

In June 1907, the CJR opened in the “Boom Hotel,” built in the early years of the city of San Fernando, but it was soon realized that it needed a bigger property so, in March 1909, its nearly four dozen citizens relocated to a parcel on the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, secured with the assistance of trustee Valentine Peyton, whose ranch was adjacent.

The resulting three decades, it was written, saw the institution manage through “storms of discouragement and disaster” and become “a monument to those who gave and served so unstintingly in the beginning.”  While there were financial struggles, the CJR persevered through donations, modest endowments and other support, as well as auxiliaries in Pomona and Ontario, while the Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board oversaw the broad operations of the facility.

At the graduation ceremony, a wagon of boys represented the 1909 trip from the San Fernando Valley and the “fun and frolic” included an early 1900s style “beauty contest” with the selection of a “Miss Junior Republic,” a comedic gymnastic program and “a historical sketch . . . with the boys forming an outline of the Republic grounds and filling in the various buildings in the years of their construction.”   

There were also demonstrations of martial arts, boxing and wrestling; an obstacle race; a “catch the pig” contest; and a greased pole competition.  After this “lawn party,” a dozen seniors were granted their diplomas while “outgoing citizens” who were not completing the high school program were given citizenship certificates.  A picnic supper capped the program and vacation began at 6 p.m.

A historical calendar, or timeline, listed highlights such as the opening of the print shop in 1911, an auto shop debuting the following year, the Caljurean’s first issue appearing in 1924, a mountain camp at Wrightwood finished and the first yearbook published two years after that, and a “Boy’s Week” instituted in 1932.

Activities for the 1936-1937 school year included the outcome of the most recent election (these held every four months) for the student governing body; the senior banquet held with the Chino Rotary Club, which also gave out annual awards to five students voted on by their peers; summaries of talks and entertainments; and personal news of staff, including the recent return of an East Coast trip by longtime superintendent Charles E. Wright.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a school newspaper without mention of sports.  While the Porkies (that was the school’s nickname, thanks to its extensive pig farm!) lost their final baseball game to league champion Chino, 2-1, it was noted that one Chino player who scored a run was named Ayala—this was undoubtedly future Chino mayor and State Senator Ruben Ayala and namesake of the public high school next to Boys Republic.  In any case, the CJR squad had a very successful 17-4 campaign, impressive given the larger enrollments of its competitors.  Also highlighted were the ten young men who earned their letters on the track team.

As for those twelve graduates, their names and portraits were accompanied by their dates of arrival and lists of school activities, including government positions held, club memberships, teams on which they played, and more.  Reading through it, one wonders what these young men did with their lives, especially with the Second World War just a few years in the future.  Class photos and names of those in the underclasses were also printed.

Nearly 90 years later, Boys Republic continues its commitment to helping troubled youths turn their lives around and has greatly expanded its student population, onsite curriculum and programs (most notably the Della Robbia wreaths for the holidays), and public outreach.  Reading The Caljurean is both historically interesting and highly instructive regarding this important local institution.

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