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Tony Gex inspired students in his various English classes at Arcadia High School for nearly 30 years from 1959 through 1988.
We  asked Mr. Gex to share some of his fond memories and to discuss his many productive years at Arcadia High.


 


Arcadia High was a fantastic high school with great students and staff, and I feel quite honored to have been a part of it. Here are some of my remembrances of Arcadia High School past:

One of the most important remembrances that come to mind was the introduction of the Musicals to Arcadia High School. This was meant to be full productions, handled as completely as possible by the entire school. In all we were able to produce eight before calling it quits.

Our first attempt at the musical theater was with “L’il Abner”. This was accomplished by our Drama teacher, Mr. Richard Wilson. I would say that this came as a complete shock to him as he had never done any musicals before. Too, he was just returning from a one-year stint in the reserves. But the production went forward. We knew very little about productions of this magnitude that we went everywhere looking for answers and help.

When the day finally arrived, we were ready. Our performances were staged at Monrovia High School auditorium and, even though there were many hang-ups, the show was a big success. Because of this success, it was decided that we would try another, but not until we had time to recuperate from the first. So, the faculty and administration that we would wait a year before trying another.

In 1966, two years later, and another Drama teacher, Mr. Marvin Kirshman replacing Mr. Wilson, we began production on “Oklahoma”. Again we attempted to make this an all school effort, but some things even then were not to be. Mr. Kirshman did not like the way the women P.E. teachers taught dance, so he went to Melvin Kaiser’s Dance Studio on First Avenue and hired them to teach the boys to dance. This was an enormous step forward as it had been like pulling teeth to get the boys to dance, much less trying to get them on stage to dance before an audience of their peers. But the show must go on, and the boys did such a fabulous job of dancing that at each performance they were given a standing ovation by the audience that they were given time each night to do an “encore”.

With the close of school that year Mr. Kirshman informed the staff that he had been hired by a college in Florida and would be leaving us. But we did have two years to re-group.

Mr. Tom Payne was then brought up from Dana and said he looked forward to continuing the musicals, for which we were grateful. So in 1968, with the exception of a few backdrops, we went into full production for our next production. Everything was done by the high school classes; Shop helped build the stage sets, Drama and Art classes did the painting of props and scenery, Home Ec classes produced the costumes, Music classes produced a wonderful orchestra and all the music, Student Body handled the ticket sales, Journalism and Student Body classes handled the publicity, Girls’ Gym teachers and students handled the dance instruction, Volunteers from other classes handled the stage and any and all other things that needed to be done. In this manner the stage sets were built in the Little Theater, broken down and transported over to the Gym for rehearsals, then broken down again and transported over to the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium for the productions. Under Mr. Payne, Arcadia High School produced the following:

1968  “The Music Man"

1970  “How To Succeed In Business”

1972  “My Fair Lady”

1974  “Mame”

1976  “George M”

1
977
  “Fiddler On The Roof”

By the time the school had reached the production of “Fiddler On The Roof”, many members of the community were getting involved. At this point there was so much pride in the productions and so much interest, the community, under the guidance of Mr. Al Coke, put together an Opening Night Black Tie dinner prior to the first night’s performance and sold out before the publicity could even hit the streets.

By this time though we had created a “tiger by the tail”. So much effort had gone into these productions and so much energy had been spent that we as a staff backed off to take another look at the monster we had created. It was good experience for the school and all of the many who participated, but it was beginning to take its effects out on all of us. Mr. Payne almost had a nervous breakdown during the rehearsals for “George M” and in order to make dress rehearsal and opening night, the teachers who were closely involved (i.e. Mr. Starr, Mrs. Voznick, Mr. Gex) had to do dress rehearsal without Mr. Payne as the doctor had ordered him to bed.

Also, the productions were costing more than the amount of money taken in. With so much going out for production costs, and the limited amount of time for the musicals to be performed, it became a wise decision by our administration that we as a school should put them on hold. Thus the last musical, “Fiddler On The Roof”, became our “swan song”.

While it is indeed unfortunate that Arcadia High had to discontinue these wonderful musical productions, AHS has always, and continues to, provide numerous invaluable extra curricular activities and opportunities for the thousands of great students that have and will always pass through her halls and classrooms. I will always recall with much love and fondness my nearly 30 years with my extended family of Arcadia High School.

 

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