The roots of Armijo High, my alma mater, go back to 1891. For decades it was the only high school in Fairfield. In the 1950s and 1960s, however, a population boom fueled in part by Travis Air Force Base, the creation of Interstate 80 and the attraction of Fairfield’s advantageous geographic location accelerated the need for a second high school.
Fairfield High School was originally part of the Armijo Joint Union High School District and their first principal, Sam Tracas, had been an Armijo vice principal. The 1964 Armijo yearbook contained a greeting/friendly challenge for the new school:
“We encourage them to compete with us in a race for excellence in scholarship, citizenship, athletics and other worthwhile activities.”
Fairfield High broke ground in 1963 and started receiving some students in 1964. Since construction was still taking place, students took part of their classes at the new school and were bused to Armijo for others.
Then-student Shar Richardson-Smalarz hated going to Armijo in the mornings because her friends went in the afternoons. For others, though, it worked.
Carol Dillon Potter: “My family lived across the street behind what is now Kmart, which back then was an empty field. I was lucky enough to go to Armijo in the morning and Fairfield in the afternoon and walk home from there.”
Developing a school culture is important and Fairfield needed a mascot, school song and more. Some locals, who back then were eighth-graders who would be incoming freshman the next year, recall being allowed to choose those things. Others remember it as not being quite so democratic.
Jim Parks: “I remember being bused over to the campus with the other eighth-graders. We were to vote on the school colors, mascot and other things. What I also remember was that these things were already decided, but they let us feel like we were the ones who chose. We were told that the colors would probably be red and white because they were the cheapest, but to go ahead and vote anyway.”
Some interesting remembrances from various early Falcons:
Soon after the school was established, crosstown rivalry pranks began in earnest.
Marianne Israel Jennings: “We put chicken manure on the Armijo campus. They hung a live chicken from our gym. (A classmate) rescued him and he became our mascot!”
On June 7, 1968, members of the first senior class of Fairfield High received their diplomas in the quad with Kay Jenkins given the honor of being the very first Falcon to graduate.
But . . . while the class of 1968 may have had the first graduating seniors such as Janice (Beck) Birk, the class of 1969 — which included Janice’s sister Tamara (Beck) Watson — was the first to go all four years exclusively at the new school. I’ll let them decide who the true “original” Falcons are.
Dan Monez: “I graduated in Fairfield High School’s first class of 1968 and we all got to write our names in the new cement in the quad where the big red ‘F’ was.”
Sadly, the 1968 cement has not survived, but a 1969 memorial, a slab of concrete topped with a now nearly illegible plaque, has.
Generations of Fairfield graduates have now made their mark on the world by becoming productive citizens and lately had even splashier accomplishments with one winning a Pulitzer Prize and another an Olympic gold medal.
Looking back at the friendly challenge issued in the 1964 Armijo yearbook, this Indian must begrudgingly admit that our crosstown rivals have more than held their own.
First Fairfield High School principal Tracas, now 85, still calls Fairfield home.
“I’ve always tried to explain to students that the road to success is through education. Education may not make you rich, but it can bring a lot of satisfaction to your life. You can never get enough education,” Tracas said.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]