“Teenagers in World War II”

November 17, 1999
Santa Paula High School
“They left as boys, but came back as men!!!” These words, written on the note pad of Santa Paula High School 10th grader and JV cheerleader Savanna Gleason, spoke volumes. As she looked into the eyes of Doris Murphy, a former WWII “pin-up” model whose own teen photos helped in the selling of war bonds aiding the United States military effort during the second world war, she quietly asked herself, “Gee, what’s a war bond?” Thirty-three Santa Paula High School students, in conjunction with the Santa Paula Union Oil Museum, are collaborating in a first-of-its-kind exhibit entitled “Teenagers in World War II,” scheduled to open December 12th and run for approximately one month in downtown Santa Paula.As described by their teacher, Edward Arguelles, “My students are meeting and interviewing the teenagers of yesteryear to know the realities of their great-grandparents and how the war years affected the teenagers of the 40s. The students picked the theme, and they’ll be doing the work...and they felt they could pull it off.”Because their target years go back almost 60 years, many challenges face these budding historians. “The students want to show this part of history, they do not want the visitors of this exhibit to just read about it. They want to recapture the teenager mood of Santa Paula in the early 40s. They want to build a time capsule within the museum and romantically and culturally portray, with music, photos and artifacts, the effects the war years had upon diverse groups of teenagers between 1941 and 1948.”All work began with one-on-one interviews. “My interview with Mr. and Mrs. Hector Borrego made me realize that I better take advantage of my opportunities,” responded Edgar Cordova, another of Mr. Arguelles’s Agricultural Academy World History students. “Listening to how tough life was, for Mexican-Americans and all poor people in those days, made me feel that I am indeed fortunate to be given a better chance to improve myself.”Following her interview with Carol Jean Shilton, sophomore Hailey Fox remarked, “I felt I was there with her. We sat down together and looked at her 1943 El Solano, the yearbook she helped produce, and it made me think of how my current years at S.P. High are going to affect me later.”
Arguelles encourages anyone within the community who has any display memorabilia from this period to contact him at his classroom telephone number 525-4406 ext. 150. Among the themes his students are hoping to build for public scrutiny are: “The War Effort,” “Teen Idols and Sports Heroes,” “Teenagers at Santa Paula High School,” “Romance in the War Years,” “Teenagers Off to War” and “A Teenager’s Workday.”The exhibit is an academic collaboration between the school’s history, English, science and vocational educational departments recently molded into Santa Paula High School’s new “Agricultural Academy.” “The beauty of having a school within a school is that we can build partnerships with the community for a smaller group of highly motivated kids who then can focus on issues concerning subject-related topics and inquiry. This is where education is going today - empowering kids to create their own investigations.”But time is of the essence. The students only have about four weeks, until the projected December 12th opening, to come up with the garments, antiques, war memorabilia and photos that capture today’s senior citizens as teenagers. Savanna Gleason perhaps said it best, after spending several hours with Doris Murphy, “Sitting down, and at one point holding her hand, I felt connected. It was an emotional experience - one that I will never forget.”

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