Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle

In the middle of Loara's campus are a few bricks and some cement, surrounded by pavers.  There is a bronze plaque mounted on a roughly-poured block of concrete near the center of that "circle" at the foot of a statue of Sammy Saxon wielding a torch  We use the word "circle" lightly since it now appears more like a hexagon due to upgrades and changes made in the mid-2010's wherein half the original bricks are gone, and the walls have become a seating area, and it is no longer a "Senior Circle."  The history of the forlorn circle is well chronicled by Ken Hecker, Saxon Shield staff and Class of 1966. 

 

Larry Lawrence's Vision

Larry Lawrence (Wayne Lowell Lawrence, Jr.) was Loara's first Senior Class President, Class of 1965.  He was also an athlete (quarterback and pitcher for the baseball team - however, he didn't quarterback during his senior year due to breaking his leg in the summer), and the main force in developing plans for a Senior Circle.  

The Planning and Building of the Circle

The Senior Circle was envisioned as an area where Seniors could socialize, eat lunch, and study.  It would give them something to be proud of, and to look forward to year-after-year.   The vertical surfaces would be red brick, and it would be raised approximately one and one-half feet above the surrounding pavement, have three ramps up to the center of the Circle, and have raised lawns, trees, and shrubs. In the center would be a fountain. 

Sadly, Larry would not see his dream completed.  During the summer of 1965, Larry died while attempting to save two women, members of a tour group he was with, who were caught in heavy surf off the coast of Italy on June 30th.   At home, shocked Loara alumni and students were brought together for a memorial service.  Per the Los Angeles Times (Aug. 1, 1966), Larry's body was found offshore (and his niece Erin Armstrong later confirmed this) a day or so later.  Larry is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.  

 

For his sacrifice, Larry was awarded the Medaglia D'Argento Al Valore Civile, which is Italy's second highest civilian award for bravery.  Larry's family was invited to the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1966 to accept the award on behalf of Larry. 

The Senior Officers examining plans for the senior circle.  They are (l to r):  Phyllis Greenhouse, Vice President; Larry Lawrence, President; Bob Whitmore, Treasurer; and Billie Barnett, Secretary
(from the 1965 Seaxe) 

It appears that by the end of the 1965 school year, the plans had changed.  Money was possibly the main concern, and thus the brick walls were shortened to about one quarter their original length, and the height-above-grade of the Circle decreased to about six inches.  The long brick walls were replaced with brick pillars and a chain.

 

Overhead view of the original draft of the Senior Circle

(Saxon Shield, Vol. IV, No. 3, 10/21/1965)

A computer-generated model shows how the original design might have appeared if built as planned

Construction began in late Spring 1965.  Lynette (Penhall) Delamore, Valkyrie and Class of 1966, indicated that her father, Leroy Penhall, and uncle of well-known L. B. Penhall Construction did much of the Phase I construction including laying the bricks.

A promise the Senior Circle would be completed by December 1965

(Saxon Shield, Vol. IV, No. 3)

Larry Lawrence Dedication and the Sammy Saxon Statue

By the Homecoming of 1966, it was decided the Senior Circle would be dedicated to Larry Lawrence's memory and subsequently renamed the Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle.  A plaque was created and incorporated into the design.

John Longtin, 1966 ASB President,

presides over the dedication ceremonies

Leonard Rumery, 1966 Senior Class President, and Loara Principal O. G. Thomason

The plans to replace the fountain at the center of the Circle with a statue of a Saxon became more of a reality in 1969.  "Bonds" were sold for $.50 per share to help pay for the statue.  Art Department head, Wilber Alvers, designed the statue and metal shop instructor Ronald Tracy constructed it.  Interestingly, per John Marshall, there was to have been a propane tank installed in one of the inner walls which would allow for lighting of Sammy's flame.  Thankfully, smarter heads prevailed and the plan was scrapped.

 

The Senior Circle  in Spring 1968 before the Saxon Statue was installed
(1968 Seaxe, p. 39)

The final concept of the Senior Circle.  The outer walls were replaced by pillars and chains; however, although the pillars were installed the chains were not despite Larry's feelings that they were important to the design.

"'It takes three years to make a Saxon,' protested builder Ron Tracy, who nevertheless produced a massive golden replica [of Wilber Alver's Saxon statue concept] in just nine months.  Loara's Class of 1969 has completed a project begun four years ago by other Saxon seniors." 

(1969 Seaxe, p. 215)

Loara's senior circle has come to symbolize growth and attainment -- maturation of the reaching indivdual through the process of united effort.  Today's striving, yesterday's accomplishments, tomorrow's promises mold the form of each Loara Saxon"

(1969 Seaxe, p. 215)

Installation of Sammy Saxon statue in Spring 1969 completes Phase II construction

The Beginning of the End

It didn't take long for the Senior Circle to become a controversial focus point.  Ironically, underclassmen would often declare their disdain for the unwritten "seniors only" rules, but their dislike of the situation was actually a way to honor the upper classmen and their own hope for the future when it would be their time to "rule."  Sammy Saxon would also be a continuous target of league and cross-town rival schools wherein he was sprayed with paint and knocked off his pedestal.

Switch to the Focus Away from Seniors

A different, and more pressing, issue raised its ugly head in 1980 when the Anaheim Union High School District change all high schools to a 4-year institution.  Previously they were 3-years as were junior high schools.  The problem with this decision was Loara was originally built with three "courts" (or quads) ... Sophomore, Junior, Senior.  With the addition of a Freshman class, the question of where to put them became increasingly acute.  

 

The choice was made to give the "Senior Circle" to the Freshmen.  Who made this choice and why "they" didn't give it to the Seniors and reassign the quads to the Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors is currently unknown.  Whatever the case, the circle was now the "Frosh Focus" or the "Ninth Grade Nerve Center"; and per an Opinion Poll in the Sept. 26, 1980 Saxon Shield, not everyone was happy about the decision.

Phase III Construction/Destruction

Between 2007 and 2013, Loara underwent significant modernization and upgraded construction.  The 2006-2007 School Accountability Report Card (SARC) indicated on page 3: "The estimated total budget [of the modernization and construction] is $28.5 million. All projects should be complete by January, 2007 with occupancy beginning after winter break, 2007. Loara will have 18 new classrooms, four new science labs, and a practice gymnasium. In addition 16 buildings are being modernized, including the administration building, the library/media center, and the auditorium with its support facilities."  There was no mention at that time any planned changes to the main quad or the senior circle area.

 

In the 2007-2008, SARC the planned improvements indicated the following:  "Loara High School is undergoing extensive construction and landscaping. The estimated total budget is $3 million. The project includes new pavers in the entire quad area, seating walls and benches, new landscaping, an outside stage area, and new lights for the quad. It is estimated to be complete by spring, 2009."  This same statement was repeated in the 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 SARC; with a final "Loara High School recently underwent extensive construction and landscaping" in the 2011-2012 SARC.  In actuality the construction on the seating walls and benches didn't begin until 2012 (3 or more years behind schedule) and wasn't completed until the first part of 2013.

 

Who originally requested the changes to the circle area and the plans submitted to the district are presently unknown.  The principal during this period (2005-2012) was Pam (Maahs) Krey who was a Loara Class of 1967 graduate.  She retired before the circle landscaping upgrades were completed.  When Pam attended her first Fall Athletic banquet as Loara's Principal (2005), she found the coaches awarding a trophy named after Mike Carr.  Mike was the same class as Larry Lawrence ('65) and like Larry a great member of the football team; but, people had confused one Loara Saxon with another.  No one at the time had a clue; Pam, however, who had lived it, corrected that mistake immediately.

 

Sadly, we are left today with a very small imprint/shadow of what was planned and why.

"The Circle" c. 2000 with high walls, trees, grass area surrounding and benches

"The Circle" c. 2010 just after quad paver installation (no more grass area and many trees removed)

"The Circle" c. 2012 during wall reduction

Timeline

Fall 1964:  The concept of the Senior Circle is finalized by the Senior Class officers.

Spring 1965:  Grading and Phase I construction of the Circle begin.

Summer 1965:  Larry Lawrence dies in Italy while saving two girls in rough seas.

Fall 1966:  The Senior Circle is dedicated in Larry Lawrence's name and a placque is incorporated into the design near the center fountain area.

Unknown:  The center fountain idea is scrapped and the area is instead slated to have a statue of Sammy Saxon.

Through 1969:  Phase I and II construction continues mainly with the help of Penhall Construction donated time, materials, and labor.

Fall 1968:  "Shares" are sold by the ASB to pay for construction materials to build Sammy Saxon statue and complete the Circle.

Spring 1969:  The Circle is completed.

Fall 1970:  The lower-classmen (specifically the up-and-coming class of 1973) attempt to take over the Senior Circle ... and fail.  It was the first time, but wouldn't be the last to assert power and flex muscle.

Fall 1973:  The class of 1974 Seniors SQUIRT squad take back the Senior Circle in a 15-minute "war."

Fall 1980 (Class of 1981):  Loara becomes a 4-year high school, and the Senior Circle is given to the Freshman Class in lieu of a "quad/courtyard".

2007:  The AUHSD approves a contract of $3 million to "upgrade" landscaping and other construction of the circle and surrounding area."

2010:  The Circle and quad area are "refurbished" to replace landscaping.  The grass area outside of the walls is completely removed and replaced by pavers.

Fall 2012:  The inner walls are shortened to provide "seating space" and the trees are completely removed.

 

Sources:

Ken Hecker, Class of 1966

Los Angeles Times, Aug. 1, 1966

Lynette (Penhall) Delamore, Class of 1966

John Marshall, Class of 1969

L. B. Penhall, https://www.penhall.com/ 

Saxon Shield (numerous editions)

Seaxe (numerous years)

Loara School Accountability Report Card (SARC), https://loara.auhsd.us/Loara/5948-SARC.html