Revisiting school history: 1960s school spirit, untold

Kim and Mary Monroe

Kim and Mary Monroe, the ASB president and treasurer of the Saratoga High School Class of 1968, recall moments that marked their high school experience.

In 1968, Mary Monroe was a senior at the school and was the ASB treasurer. She lived in a secluded house on top of a hill surrounded by orchards on Glen Una Drive. Her high school sweetheart and later husband, Kim Monroe, the Class of 1968 ASB president, frequently biked through streets that were then still lined with orchards rather than multimillion-dollar houses on his way to school. 

Then, the school’s 1,461 students were mainly from white, upper middle class families living in booming suburbs of a growing tech industry. Other students came from farming families who tended to vineyards and horses. 

School culture was dramatically different in the 1960s. The married couple, Class of 1968 ASB President Kim and ASB Treasurer Mary Monroe, believe students had much more free time to explore different interests. 

For his part, Kim participated in rock ‘n’ roll bands since middle school, swam competitively for a few years of high school and was part of the football team in his senior year. When he and other candidates were campaigning for school government, they put on skits or other activities in the quad.

Though student activities were more organic, restrictions on student behavior in the 1960s were significantly stricter. Kim recalls how the Dean of Boys — assistant principals who supervised different groups of students based on gender — had refused to let one student graduate with a mustache. A similar instance happened to another male student with very long hair.

Mary also remembers how she and Kim were told not to hold hands when they were walking down the hallway. The Dean of Girls did not allow female students to wear pants to school and required that their dresses be a certain length. There were also separate P.E. classes for girls and boys. The school’s rules generally reflected the opinions of parents in the community. 

However, parents and students alike “fought like crazy” when “New Math,” a learning crusade that stressed conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts over technical computing skills, was introduced to the nation in the 1960s.

While getting into a top college is one common goal for the student body now, Kim said students in the 1960s weren’t particularly focused on college admissions. Mary was even advised not to go to college. Even so, both chose to attend college and graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1972.

The year they graduated from high school was a year rife with political upheaval and civic action, from the Vietnam War to the height of the Civil Rights movement. During this time, many schools on the East Coast held “incredibly active” Black student unions.

Interestingly, the school rarely had more than two African American students at a time. In 1968, approximately 97% of the school’s student population was Caucasian; of the 1,461 students enrolled, only six were “East Asian” — a far cry from the 60% of Asian American students who now attend the school.

In an attempt to educate students about racial diversity and to promote active change against racism and override stereotypes, Kim Monroe led student exchanges by bus that year with Overfelt High School’s Black student union in East Side San Jose. Students discussed issues pertaining to race in all classes — foreign language, science and mathematics, for example. The day ended with a small party and dance.

“We thought, well, here we are in lily-white Saratoga and we don’t have much connection with other people from different backgrounds,” Monroe said. 

Photo courtesy of Thompson Photography.