At the conclusion of the reopening ceremonies of good ole' Excelsior on November 21st 1997, Alumni Assn. president, Teri Medina-Bearden proudly rang our "Victory Bell' - 16 rings - one for each year that the campus had been closed. And the local press chose to run that picture the next day .... Remember? ....The Victory Bell....Remember
by Rosie Rosenloft and Frances Mays Doyel
. . . And the press, at times, knowing not what they do, happened to print a picture of the most recognizable "landmark" at our campus - our Victory Bell (Actually the Bell Tower which houses the Bell itself). It must be said that our Excelsior that grand lady continues to instill pride into each one of us. The buildings on our campus remain, after 75-years, some of the most attractive in L.A. County. But the -Victory Bell is still the most instantly recognizable part of Pilotland. At its ringing, its clarion vibrations continue to undulate the soul long after its sounds have faded away! .... Remember? And that is what this story and assortment of photos are about.
The Bell was donated to the school from the Class of 1942. Many Excelsior Union High School Pilots had given their lives in the first year of World War II by this time.The class of 1942 contacted Mrs. Forbes to create the bell. She had achieved wide acclaim for her art in creating bells. At that time, her bells marked highways such as Highway 101, California's famous Mission Highway, the El Camino Real Highways. (Some of these Bells are still standing today.)
Its first ringing was by Donovan Martin, Dean Roberts and Clarence Williams on October 9, 1942, following the Pilots' 8 - 0 varsity football game win over the Covina Colts. It thereafter stood as tradition for the bell to be rung after all football victories. The Bell has been silent since the school’s closure in 1981.
This one-half size replica of the bell tower houses the original bell. It was created by Art Doyle and Ron Langford for their 50 Year class reunion in June 1998. The bell tower was donated by the Class of 1948 to the Alumni Association for use by other Classes and alumni events, thus becoming... A VICTORY FOR ALL.
Frances Mays Doyel Class of 1955
The Bell's history shown here, this beloved tradition, started the day when Martin rang the bell and the students would count aloud at each stroke in a tradition that the Excelsior Life wrote at the time: "After each time that the bell is rung the students would count aloud. This practice will be carried out after each Excelsior High victory until new plans can be made”. And its pretty obvious that new plans weren't necessary - the system remained popular and lasted for 39-years!, until the school's closure in 1981. The bell remained silent until Medina-Bearden's 16 rings at the reopening ceremonies... 55-years later!.
Martin was again one of the first to ring it following Medina-Bearden, at our return to the campus at the opening of Excelsior's annual picnic in 1998...Remember? These photos show the "Victory Bell' during good times and bad; used and abused; neglected and cared for. But the relic has stood its ground through all of the elements since 1942: Earthquakes by the score; seemingly gallons of graffiti paint; she weathered all of the elements that southern California could produce; and during the school's closure; it stood its ground like a soldier in a war zone during all of the reconstruction - And the place surely looked like a war zone at the time.
One picture shows what it was really all about. It was taken following another football game victory being celebrated by the ringing of our "Victory Bell”, by our yell leaders, and assisted by the song leaders - one ring for each point our Pilot varsity gridders had scored in the “victory”. This shot was from the 1947 football season (the '47 team won five games that season, so we got to do it five times!); it shows our yell leaders Mickey Bower ('48), and Ray Megerle ('48) leading a yell during the celebration of a “victory" in front of the entire student body. No matter how much I try, I would never be able to explain the pride that I had in this ceremony. They were so much a part of our Excelsior experience! What fun that was! ....
"Onward and upward"