Cathedral Chapel School Celebrates its 80th
by Tony Medley
Cathedral Chapel School (known as CCS by its
students and alums, like me) first opened its doors at 8th &
Cochran Streets on September 8, 1930. Twenty-eight students comprised
the first graduating class. When the school was built, two rooms were
specifically designed for music, and piano lessons were given outside
school hours for $1.00 per hour. The monthly tuition was $2.00 per month
for the oldest child and $1.00 for additional children in the family.
The cafeteria, which opened on the second day of each school year,
served hot lunch items for five cents each.
Today there are 290 students. Tuition is $3,500
for Catholics and $4,050 for non-Catholics. Each day begins with an
assembly with a prayer and flag salute. It’s not only for students,
though. Generally it is also attended by 60 parents. The cafeteria no
longer serves lunch. Hot lunch is now provided by an outside caterer.
CCS celebrated its 50th Anniversary
in 1980 and has hosted a celebratory reunion occasionally since, the
last a 75th reunion five years ago. 1949 graduate Wilson
Winnek and 1955 graduate Dick Orfalea, brother of billionaire Kinko’s
founder Paul Orfalea, who attended but did not graduate, were having
lunch one day and decided that it was time for another celebration. The
result was that on Saturday, May 15, CCS celebrated its 80th
Anniversary starting with a Mass in the Auditorium at 4 p.m., followed
by a BBQ party in the schoolyard at 5 p.m. There were three celebrants
of the Mass, Rev.Earle Walker, Charles Shelby, C.M., and John McGarry,
S.J., all CCS graduates in 1936, 1955, and 1976, respectively.
According to Karen Ball, who coordinated the
event, more than 600 alumni attended, with 137 signing up at the door.
The oldest attendee was Forster Magers, who graduated in 1932, joining
six others who graduated in the 1930s. The event raised more than $7,000
for the science & art center, to which the cafeteria is being converted.
CCS has had more than its share of celebrated
alums. During the time I attended (for 9 years, K-8), in addition to
Orfalea, schoolmates were future movie stars Sharon Gless of Cagney &
Lacey fame, Michael Murphy, whose more than 100 screen credits
include a featured role (listed over Meryl Streep) in Woody Allen’s
Manhattan (1979), and all four of John Wayne’s children with his
first wife, Josephine; the late Michael and Toni, and Patrick (my
classmate) and Melinda. Other celebrities who attended the school
include Natalie Cole, who graduated in 1964. Prominent attorney Tom
Girardi was a coach at the school.
I have seen Sharon and Michael Murphy and
Melinda at several of the celebrations. This year Sharon flew in from
Florida for it and Melinda came up from Newport Beach. Says Gless, “I
can’t imagine being as happy as I was here. These kids had such an
impact on me, as I hope I did on them.”
But the school isn’t remarkable just for the
celebrities it has spawned. It competes every year in the Academic
decathlon against 100 schools, winning in 2002, 2005, and 2008. In 2002
it went on to win the statewide competition.
Says Principal Tina Katherine Kipp, “We foster
academic excellence and teach how to be competitive in education because
children today need to be competitive and work hard in order to be
successful and get a good education. What we teach is faith based. We
emphasize that our students should be of good character, have moral
values, and know right from wrong.
“The event we had on May 17 was truly
astonishing. For an elementary school to have so many people who are so
dedicated and loyal is amazing. I’ve worked for 37 years in Catholic
elementary schools and this school has the most loyal & dedicated alumni
I’ve ever seen.”
Among those contributing making the Anniversary
Reunion such a success was Larchmont Wine Shop, who supplied all the
wine at their cost.