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NHHS History

Circa 1935
Newport Harbor circa 1935

History of Newport Harbor High School

The doors opened at Newport Harbor High School for the first time on September 22, 1930. The paint on the walls was still wet, the cement was still damp, and the rooms had no heat, but the students who came from Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Balboa Island, Lido Island, the Peninsula and Corona del Mar overlooked all inconveniences. At the end of World War I, the harbor area was a small town with few students of high school age. These students were attending either Santa Ana High or Huntington Beach High School. After a five-year battle to form a new district in the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, the school was built on the border of the Costa Mesa area and the high tower was built so the people of Newport Beach could see it. At that time, Irvine Avenue was a dirt road with fields of sweet potatoes and lima beans on both sides. When ground was broken on June 14, 1930, the nation was in the midst of a depression. There were an abundance of workers willing to put in long hours and work fast and cheap. It took only four months and $410,000 to complete the original school building. Now school could begin.

 

The original school comprised a main building, the main gym, the tower, a wood shop, the bus garage, and a caretaker's cottage. The total enrollment that first year was just 178 students, taught by 12 faculty members. There were no seniors, as they had chosen to remain at their original schools to graduate with their alma maters’ class.

 

New additions did not appear until the late 1940's when the math building began construction. It was named Dodge Hall after Judge Donald Dodge who had campaigned for years to separate this school district from Santa Ana. During that same year, some students went down to Mexico to find a bell for the tower. In 1948, metal shop, and snack bar were built. Eight army barracks were also installed to use as classrooms.

 

As the student population grew, the girls' gym and Irvine Avenue pool were added (1949). The home arts building was added in 1955 and Beek and Sims Halls were added even later. These two building were named for James Sims, who was a popular English teacher, and Joseph Beek, owner of the Balboa ferry line and a member of the board of trustees.

 

Academically, the school has grown from a very basic program, which included agriculture, to a very sophisticated school with many academies and advanced classes. In the year 2000 the school offered 12 advanced placement (AP) courses, had 5 computer labs, and offered many classes that were never dreamed of when the school opened. Students from Newport Harbor are accepted at the most prestigious universities in the country.

 

Ralph Reed was the man who started the Athletics program at Harbor High. He was the first teacher hired and he coached all of the sports the school offered in the thirties. He served thirty-two years as Athletic Director before retiring in 1963. In the beginning, athletics had to develop its own traditions. Because of the proximity of the harbor, Newport Harbor athletes chose their mascot to be the Sailors.

 

Newport Harbor was the smallest school on the Orange league. There was a big rivalry with Huntington Beach High because these were the only two high schools near the beach. School was often dismissed early so that everyone could go to the football games. Fans sat on wooden bleachers made in our own woodshop. When the big football stadium was finally built, it was named Davidson Field in honor of Sidney Davidson, the school's first principal. He had the altruistic distinction of working for the first seven months without pay.

NHHS First Staff Photo-1930
First Staff Photo-1930

Student Life

In the early days of Harbor athletics, the basketball team played Catalina and would take a two-day trip sailing to the island to compete. In those days, the school had no pool, so the swimmers would practice and compete in the bay.

Since 1930, the school has won at least one league championship per year. The sailors have won more 'All Sports' trophies than any other school with which they compete. In 1985, every major sports team won its league. The major rivalry is now across the bay with Corona del Mar High School.

 

Social life and crazy fads have varied over the years When the school first opened, girls were required to wear white blouses with navy blue skirts. The boys had no official uniform, but everyone wore dirty cords. They were washed as rarely as possible. The dirtier they were, the more students liked them. In the forties, the girls wore their hair in high pompadours and the boys wore crew cuts. The first homecoming dance was held at the Santa Ana Country Club in 1941. During World War II, many evening social events could not be held because of the threat along the coast. Even car headlights had to be turned off when drivers reached 15th street.

 

Secret societies and fraternities became popular in the fifties. As the car became the big thing in students' lives, drive-in movies and drive-in restaurants were the place to go. The school had sock hops in the gym. This all changed with the rebelliousness of the sixties when school uniforms were brought to an end. Folk music, Elvis, the Beatles, and Woodstock led to the style of boys' hair growing down their necks. Balboa's Rendezvous Ballroom, which had been a major hot spot for many years, burned down and teenagers learned to dance apart from each other.

The seventies found Harbor girls in mini-skirts and the boys with hair down their backs. Students toilet-papered houses, raised money with donkey basketball games, and initiated 'Can you top this?' pranks at graduation ceremonies. The school population topped 3,000 and there were over 150 teachers on the faculty.

 

The eighties saw the enrollment dwindle to around 1,100, and many of the older faculty members from the forties, fifties, and sixties retired. A $25,000 donation allowed Heritage Hall to be developed which preserves the history of the school through photographs and memorabilia.

 

In 1994 the school's football team brought the CIF championship to Newport Harbor High for the first time. Amazingly, just five years later, in 1999 this feat was repeated, and again in 2005. At the turn of the millennium, the senior class dedicated a monument to seventy years of school excellence. The enrollment rebounded to approximately 2,200 students. Currently, during the 2016-2017 school year, the enrollment is at 2,370.

 

During the 2013-2014 school year, Newport Harbor High School inducted its first Hall of Fame class-five faculty and fifteen alum were part of the inaugural class. This school year, 15 more members of Newport Harbor High Schools' illustrious history are being inducted.

Opening Day-1930
First day of school - 1930

September 21, 1929 Newport Union High School district created by 894-23 vote of citizenry

December 29, 1929 Irvine Company offers 20 acres to district at 15th and Irvine for $15,000

February 8, 1930 Bond election to raise $410,000 to build NHHS succeeds

1930   Harbor Area Boy Scouts raise flag at Groundbreaking Ceremony

1930   Ralph Reed is first teacher hired at NHHS

September 22, 1930 twelve faculty and hundred seventy-eight 9th, 10th and 11th grade students open school

1931   First school play “The Jade Necklace”

1931   First school musical: “Belle of Barcelona”

1931   Girls Athletic Association (GAA) formed under direction of Miss West

June 1932 fifty-four students become first graduating class

March 10, 1933 School and tower withstand Long Beach earthquake

1934   First school dance held in cafeteria in afternoon-ended at 4PM

1935   Senior Class buys first piece of art, Thomas Hunt’s “Snow Scene”, as class gift.

1937   Federal Art Project mosaic murals, The Girls by the Sea, Jean Goodwin and Boys by the Sea, by Arthur Ames, are installed in Inner Quad

1940   Math wing (5 classrooms) added to main building, cost of $44,470

1940   Bell added to tower

1941   First Homecoming Dance held at Santa Ana Country Club

1942   Football wins first league (Sunset) championship; plays in CIF title game

1942   Student Victory Corps established (one job: prepare school for possible air raids and fires).

1942 Japanese-America students at Newport Harbor High School sent to Poston, AZ War Relocation Center per Executive Order 9066.  

1942-1945NHHS students raise $50,000 for War Bonds

1943   Galleon dedicated to 33 former Newport Harbor High School Students who had become part of our armed forces in World War II

1946   First of twenty-one annual Newport Harbor Art Exhibits takes place in the library; 46 oil and watercolor paintings are added to the Newport Harbor art collection

1948   Metal and machine shops constructed

1949   Girls Gym and A.H. Fitzpatrick Pool (Old Pool) built

1949   Bob Hope broadcasts from NHHS auditorium with Les Brown and his orchestra featuring Doris Day

1949   Teen Canteen opened

1950   Dodge Hall dedicated

1950   NHHS adopts Chonju Senior Boys and Senior Girls High Schools in Korea

1955   Domestic Home Arts building completed

1957   Beek Hall completed

1957   Clock added to tower (gift from classes of 1952 through 1956)

1958   First CIF Championship: C Swimming

1962   Ralph Reed, first NHHS Athletic Director, retires after 32 years at NHHS

1963   Female students vote to keep dress/uniform code and add civic days

1963   Davidson Field dedicated

1966   NHHS becomes part of Newport-Mesa Unified School District

1966   Girls dress code is eliminated

1966   First Advanced Placement Test (English) is taken by NHHS students

1967   Boys Water Polo wins first of 12 CIF Division 1 Championship

1967   Boys Tennis wins first of 3 CIF Championships

1968   Boys Water Polo wins CIF Division 1 Championship

1969   Governor Ronald Reagan addresses NHHS student body at assembly

1970 Boys Water Polo wins CIF Championship

1970 Boys Tennis wins CIF Championship

1971 Boys Tennis wins CIF Championship

1971   East Hall (renamed Sims Hall around 1974) completed

1972   Band marches in Rose Parade

1972   Environmental Nature Center created by NHHS teachers Robert House and John Echtenach

1975   NHHS enrollment tops 3,000 students

1975   Environmental Nature Center wins Disneyland Community Award (environmental ecology)

1975 Boys Water Polo Wins CIF Championship

1978   Band marches in Disneyland Parade celebrating Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday

1979   Major renovation of auditorium completed

1979   Girls Volleyball wins first of 7 CIF Championships (79, 87, 94, 97, 98, 99, 03)

1980   Over 1,000 alumni attend 50th Anniversary Celebration

1980   NHHS ASB begins Adopt-a-Family tradition

1980 Boys Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1980 Boys Water Polo wins CIF Championship

1983 Boys Water Polo wins CIF Championship

1984   Girls Cross Country wins CIF Championship

1984 Boys Water Polo wins CIF Championship

1984   PTA holds first Grad Night on campus

1984   Web Jone Heritage Hall opens

1985 Changing Times/Changing Styles: The Ruth Stoever Fleming Collections of Southern California Art is published in conjunction with retrospective exhibit

1986   NHHS library earns John Cotton Dana International Library Public Relations Award for school and community activities

1986   NHHS earns the first California Distinguished School Award

1987   Girls Cross Country wins CIF State Championship

1987 Girls Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1987   Boys Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1988   Girls Cross Country wins CIF State Championship

1991   Boys Soccer wins CIF Championship

1991 Girls Cross Country wins CIF Championship

1991   Girls Cross Country wins CIF State Championship

1992 Boys Cross Country wins CIF Championship

1992 Boys Cross Country wins CIF State Championship

1992   Girls Volleyball wins first of 4 state championships

1993 Girls Cross Country wins CIF Championship  

1993   Girls Track and Field wins first CIF Championship

1993   Navigators parents group is founded

1994   Football team wins first ever CIF championship capping off a perfect 14-0 legendary season--CIF Hall of Fame Coach Jeff Brinkley establishes his place in football lore at NHHS. 

1994 Girls Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1994 Girls Volleyball wins CIF State Championship

1994   Implementation of the academy program begins (smaller learning community)

1995   Newport Harbor Educational Foundation is founded

1995   Girl Tennis defeats Peninsula, unbeaten in prior 122 matches

1996   Tie in ASB election results in historic co-ASB Presidency (Michael Hoevel and Reagan Roney)

1997 Girls Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1998 Girls Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1998 Girls Volleyball wins CIF State Championship

1999   NHHS earns California Distinguished School Award

1999   Girls Volleyball wins CIF Championship

1999 Girls Volleyball wins CIF State Championship

1999   Boys Golf wins first CIF championship

1999   Girls Water Polo wins first CIF championship

1999   Football wins CIF championship

1999 Boys Vollebyall Wins CIF Championship

2000 Boys Water Polo wins CIF championship

2000 Girls Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2000   Plaque dedicated to honor students killed while serving in armed forces in 20th century

2000   NHHS earns National Blue Ribbon Award from U.S. Dept. of Education

2000   NHHS receives Digital High School grant

2001   First Evening of the Arts showcases performing, visual and culinary student art

2002  Girls Volleyball wins CIF championship

2002 Boys Swimming wins CIF championship

2002   NHHS first website, www.NewportHarborHigh.com, is inaugurated

2003  Girls Volleyball wins CIF championship

2003   Girls Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2003   Girls  Water Polo wins CIF championship

2004   Beek Hall is renovated

2004   NHHS Culinary Arts team wins 1st Place in the California Restaurant Association statewide culinary competition and 4th Place in the National Competition

2004 Girls Water Polo wins CIF Championship

2005   California Distinguished School

2005   Football Wins CIF Championship

2005 Girls Cross Country wins CIF Championship

2006 Girls Water Polo wins CIF Championship

2007   Boys Water Polo Wins CIF Championship

2007 Iconic and original Clock/Bell Tower at Newport Harbor High School esd demolished as it was deemed seismically unfit.

2007 Girls Cross Country wins CIF Championship

2007 Girls Cross Country wins CIF State Championship

2008 Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2008 Girls Water Polo wins CIF Championship

2009 Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2009 Girls Volleyball wins CIF Championship

2009 Girls Volleyball wins State CIF Champioship

2009 Replica of Iconic Bell Tower and Robbins/Loats building open up for students.

2010 Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2011 Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2012 Girls Water Polo Wins CIF Championship  

2014 Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association inducts first Hall of Fame Class consisting of 10 Alum and 5 Faculty.

2015 Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association inducts second Hall of Fame Class consisting of 10 Alum and 5 Faculty.

2016 Field Hockey wins Tournament of Champions

2016 Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association inducts third Hall of Fame Class consisting of 10 Alum and 5 Faculty.

2017 Faculty, staff, students, and community members form Inclusion Council at Newport Harbor to start discussing/planning actionable projects on campus to build a more inclusive and tolerant educational community. Further, Inclusion Council took closer look at polices and programs at NHHS to empower traditionally marginalized populations on campus.

2017 Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association inducts fourth Hall of Fame Class consisting of 10 Alum and 5 Faculty.

2018 Girls Water Polo Wins CIF Championship

2018 Football Coach Jeff Brinkley inducted into CIF Hall of Fame capping off a 31 year career at NHHS

2019 Boys Water Polo CIF Regional Champions

2019 Newport Hgh School Inclusion Council hosts Gender Empowerment Summit

2019 Boys Volleyball wins CIF Championship

2019 Boys Volleyball wins State CIF Championship and is ranked #1 high school team in the country

2019 Newport Harbor High School Alumni Association inducts fifth Hall of Fame Class consisting of 5 Alum and 3 Faculty

2019 Cathy Tong wins CIF Individual Title-first girls golfer in NHHS history to win the CIF title

2020 Newport Harbor High School finishes school year online due to COVID-19 Global Pandemic. 1st time in 89 years in person graduation is canceled.