Hollywood Professional School

My Memories of

Hollywood Professional School

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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris

Class of 1974

In 1971, I was about to enter 10th grade; I was overwhelmed because I was a competitive figure skater who was on the ice six to eight hours a day. I was very worried about how I would fit all that I wanted to do into a twenty-four hour day. As the summer ended, and the school year approached I begged my dad to allow me to attend Hollywood Professional School, a school that many skaters attended due to their heavy skating schedules. Somehow I talked him into it, and Daddy called the school and set up an appointment for an interview with Bertha Mann, the executive director and owner of the famous school.

Bertha Keller Mann

I still remember the day my dad took me to HPS to register. I was wearing one of my favorite dresses, a turquoise peasant dress I had made myself with puffy sleeves and elastic right under the bust area (in the style of the late 60s, early 70s)-- what made the dress my favorite is that it barely covered my underwear! Mini-skirts were in then! Mrs. Mann asked me that day if I was wearing a skating dress, and told me that the dress code was three inches above the knee, and to NOT wear that dress to school.

I remember buying books that day and I also remember Mrs. Mann giving me an Annual from the year before. There were pictures in it of very famous people who had attended HPS: I noticed right away that Peggy Fleming was an alumna and so was Mickey Rooney!

School started a week later, and I fell in love with the school. During the hours of 8:45ó12:45, five periods were squeezed in, and that gave me plenty of time to skate two hours before school in the morning from 6:00ó8:00 AM, and then from 1:45ó8:00 PM. I did all my studying in the car as we drove between ice rinks in Los Angeles.

My dad insisted I take college preparatory classes; my schedule was filled with English, Geometry, Biology and Drivers Education, Typing, History, and French. Although this course load sounds difficult, much of our work at HPS was done in class, so I was able to get most of my homework done between 8:45ó12:45, and my life as a skater and teen was manageable.

Mary Anderssen

The sophomore class all came together during English, which I seem to remember was during 3rd period with Miss Mary Anderssen, the schoolís principal. She was a red haired lady who didnít walk very well. When she came to work each day, she would hold on to the walls as she walked towards her classroom and to her big desk that sat there. Her classroom was the best looking and largest in the school, and English class was also combined with homeroom. Once she arrived at her desk, she did not move from it until school ended at 12:45.

The entire tenth grade probably consisted of a group of 25 students, and so we became very close. Kids were really nice to each other; my previous years of mean kids in a public junior high school were still in my memory, but at HPS, everyone was kind. I loved the atmosphere, and developed enough confidence to run for sophomore class secretary. I won!

1971--72 HPS Sophomore Class Officers

President Randy Rose, Vice-President John Alsobrook, Secretary Jo Ann Schneider, Treasurer David Gordon

I finished my sophomore year as a happy teen, and was so sad when my parents told me that they just couldnít manage the drive out to Hollywood for my junior year. Our family moved to Arcadia from Belair in early 1972, so, during the 1972ó73 school year, I attended Arcadia High School as a junior, and combined a half-day schedule from 9:00 AM until 12 noon there with correspondence courses from the University of California so I could skate. At the end of my junior year, I was behind since the correspondence courses were terribly difficult, and pleaded with my dad to allow me to attend HPS once again as a senior. He gave in, as long as I agreed to drive myself to Hollywood.

I was so happy to return to HPS! Most of my friends from 10th grade were still there. I remember Leon Fromkess Jr., John Alsobrook, Randy Rose-- all were leaders. They were so happy to see me return, and encouraged me to get involved with the school as much as my skating schedule allowed, so during my senior year, I ran for class President. I lost to a boy; I lost to Leon Fromkess. It was my first experience of there being a bias against a woman; I didnít have a chance. The way school elections worked at HPS, was that if you lost for President, you could run for Vice-President. I lost the election for VP, and was allowed to run for class Secretary, and won once again.

I had a shorter schedule during that year: I only had classes from 8:45 AM Ė 12 noon. I was excused from the last period so I could get to the rink earlier. I remember I had Ethics with Mr. Joseph Squigna during first period, followed by Advanced Algebra, English, and Chemistry, and I think Trigonometry too. I got P.E. credit for Skating. Since my skating sometimes ended late in the morning, I was late almost every day to Ethics. (To this day, I really have no idea what that class was about since I was late so much, but somehow I got a "A" in that class!) I was also always late since I was so cold when I left the ice rink, that I would sometimes stop and eat breakfast before I went to class. I found many good breakfast places in Hollywood!

Since I had to drive to and from school myself, I could no longer do my homework in the car, so it was very important to me to get as much work done as possible while I was in the classroom. Advanced Algebra class was the only class where I could get everything done though. The teacher would put the homework assignment on the board, and then would spend the entire class going over the problems from yesterdayís assignment. I discovered, along with everyone else, that you just had to be alert when she came to you, and she went around the room from desk to desk. When it was my turn, I would go through the problem out loud and as soon as I gave the correct answer, she called on the person that sat next to me. I would then return to getting tomorrowís homework done. Every day I finished before the period was over.

There are many distinct things I remember about HPS:

1) The entire school, even the floors, ceilings, and desks, were painted at the beginning of the school year with a dark gray paint. The schoolís custodianís name was Sam. He did a great job painting the school and keeping it clean.

Sam, the school Custodian

I seem to remember things being scrubbed clean every single day! Most of the classrooms did not have windows. The chemistry classroom, library, and auditorium were entered from Hollywood Blvd.; I remember climbing a steep set of stairs to get to that part of the school. Mrs. Mannís office was at the front of the school and did have a window.

2) Lockers were outside in the back of the school in a little yard. To get to the lockers, you had to walk outside, pass an auto repair garage that seemed to be in the same building, and go into an area surrounded by a chain link fence that was near the pre-school classrooms. A concession truck would come to that area after 2nd or 3rd period, and students would have a chance to purchase a snack during that time. I remember having to rent a locker for the school year.

3) During my senior year, I was too lazy to use the lockers, since my lock never worked right, so I kept my books in my car. This was before backpacks, so I couldnít possibly carry all my books around from 8:45óNoon. One day I couldnít find a parking place on Serrano Street, the street on the side of the school. I parked on the other side of Hollywood Blvd., and walked across Hollywood Blvd. during break time to drop off some books, and get the ones I need for the following classes. Laura (Mackenzie) Phillips (who was already famous for being in American Graffiti) was also crossing the street at the same time as me. Vice-Principal Mr. Lawrence Stuppy, stopped both of us as we returned into the building, and I discovered that I was in trouble for crossing the street during school hours. (Until this day, I tell people I still remember getting in trouble with MacKenzie Phillips!) I still remember Laura telling me her dad (John Phillips, of "The Mamas And The Papas") was going to kill her. She had crossed the street to visit with a boyfriend.

9th Grade Officers 1975

President Brenda Smith, Vice-President Karl Jones, Treasurer Danae Shivers,

and Laura "MacKenzie" Phillips far right was Secretary

4) I remember the special assemblies (AUD CALLs) we had once in awhile, and that the kids that were in the arts would perform for us. Some of the students were already famous and very talented. I was good friends with a girl named Pepa Hoffman (a young singer; I donít believe she became famous) during my sophomore year. I still remember her singing a Carole King song for us. I remember there was a tradition around Christmas of the foreign students reciting "A Partridge in a Pear Tree." It took forever, but was quite interesting to see so many countries represented.

5) I remember visits to the schoolís library upstairs. It was a room filled with dusty old books that no on ever read!

6) The teachers were really old. I think most were retired and enjoyed having a part-time morning teaching job. I heard from someone once that the math teacher (Ella Musser) dropped dead and her body wasnít discovered for two weeks!

7) Melanie Griffith, graduated with me in 1974. She was a really sweet person. None of us had any idea she would become so famous. I remember she and Laura Phillips were good friends. At graduation, I donít remember Melanieís family attending, but I do remember Laura taking pictures of Melanie. I also remember Melanie using the phone in Mrs. Mannís office one day. Her mother (Tippi Hedren, famous for Alfred Hitchcockís THE BIRDS) was on the phone telling Melanie she had just got a part and I remember Mrs. Mann and Melanie were so excited. (I have no idea why I was in Mrs. Mannís office during the call.)

Melanie Griffith, at graduation, 1974

8) For graduation, Miss Anderssen had us all write a thesis and get it professionally bound. I wrote mine on skating, of course. It was called Figure Skating, Love it or Leave It! Miss Anderssen gave a special pen to the student who completed their thesis first. I still have the pen since I was the first to finish! We carried our thesis in graduation exercises.

9) I got to give a speech at graduation: "The Americanís Creed." I memorized the speech word for word. When I went up in front of the audience at graduation and took a look at the crowd in front of me, stage fright set in, and I almost forgot the speech entirely. I stared at the microphone and made it through!

10) One funny memory is that long hair and beards were NOT part of the dress code. The school annual was filled with photos of boys with their hair and beard chopped off in the photo!

11) Coats and ties were required on Friday. One guy named David Gordon always wore a jeans jacket and a bandana on Friday to follow the dress code! I think Randy Rose and John Alsobrook did the same.

12) In tenth grade, Nina Behar, our French teacher tried hard to have a class that involved student participation. We kids were used to doing work in class and never quite cooperated. I once studied in advance so I could recite a paragraph in French fluently. Mrs. Behar was impressed, but someone told on me, and I ended up getting in trouble. Oh well, it was worth a try!

13) I remember a day when a bunch of us ditched school and went to Griffith Park. Pepa Hoffman got away with being 21 years old (donít ask me how she managed, but she was probably also an actress), and went in a liquor store and purchased some liquor. We had a great time in the park; I think we had a picnic and all felt so grown-up. I did not drink anything since I knew I had to be on the ice in the afternoon. I remember seeing a bunch of friends getting drunk in the park and talking with a long-haired hippie about school and skating. What an adventure for a fifteen year old! At 12:45, my mom picked me up, and took me to the rink like nothing happened. Years later, my dad told me that Mr. Stuppy had called him and told him I had ditched school, and my dad had answered, "Sir, my daughter would not do such a thing!" Little did I know that day that my parents were on to me.

14) On the Serrano side of the school was where most of us entered the building. There was a ramp we walked up. I did not like to walk in at the front door since I had to pass Mrs. Mannís office. Everyone knew not to bother Mrs. Mann. In 1994, I visited Hollywood with my husband, and found a vacant lot where the school stood, but the ramp was still on the lot.

15) There were only 2 restrooms (only 2 or 3 toilets) in the building for the high school girls. There were probably other bathrooms somewhere, but I just remember the two restrooms.

16) Biology and History were taught by a very old lady named Marian Fetterly. She also taught Drivers Ed. She had us outline our entire Biology and History books and put the outlines in a folder. That was all that was required in Biology and History. No tests, no homework, just an outline. We were given the class time to make the outline.

17) I learned to type at HPS. Typing class met in a tiny noisy room equipped with ancient manual typewriters. I loved typing class. I would open up sort of a teach-yourself -to-type book, teach myself a bit everyday, and listen as Mrs. Fichman would stop us and give us a typing test once in awhile. Iím not sure if I would have learned to type if it hadnít been for Hollywood Professional School.

18) Leon Fromkess had quite an unusual name. I remember going out to eat with Leon once. When he gave his name to the restaurant host, the host didnít believe Leon that his name was real! Later on, I found out Leon was the grandson of a famous budget film producer. I wonder what happened to Leon?

19) The Chemistry teacher, Mrs. Garland called us all by our last names and didnít use our first names. I was "Schneider." I remember causing a small fire in Chemistry class during an experiment!

20) Seniors had class sweaters. It was blue and with gold trim and had a large badge sewn on it with our names embroidered on the front. I loved my sweater, and wore it all the time. I still have it somewhere; it kind of looked like a lettermanís jacket.

Graduating Seniors 1975 in HPS Sweaters

(I recognize Carol Christensen, David Gruner, Patricia Sempertequi, Teri Elliott, Willis Collier)

Now, it is the year 2000. Hollywood Professional School has been in my memory for over 25 years. When Iíve told people about the school, Iíve only had the school yearbooks to prove that such a place existed. I have always treasured those yearbooks, and have enjoyed showing people pictures of the schoolís famous alumni. How many can boast that Betty Grable, Mickey Rooney, The Brady Bunch, "Eddie Munster," Peggy Fleming, Melanie Griffith, and MacKenzie Phillips attended where we went to school?

I have realized I know little about the schoolís history. Iím sure alumni from earlier years, from the schoolís hey day, know how the school began. Was Maurice Mann a friend of Louis Mayer of MGM? Did the school begin because of a need to educate Judy Garland?

I know Mrs. Mann, in the 70s, was already a widow, and she was desperately trying to keep the school going on a budget. I remember my dad saying once that the tuition was so cheap and that Mrs. Mann never raised your tuition once it was set. I believe my parents paid something around $300 a year!

Also, the school had no physical education program. I got credit for skating. I think everyone was responsible for fulfilling the physical education requirement on his own. At the time, I thought that was great since I needed a short school day, but I think only a school on a budget would have sacrificed sports.

In addition, no lunch was served because of the short school day. Again, this had to be a way to cut costs. No eating area was required since school was over by lunchtime, so no personnel were needed to supervise children or to run a cafeteria. Again, this cost cutting measure was disguised by the fact that HPS was there to help those who were busy pursuing professional endeavors.

I do remember that electives such as drama were offered, but I donít remember any art classes or music classes or field trips. Mrs. Mann did her best though. I remember the Presidentís Dinner, the Annual Dinner, the Senior Bruncheon and the Senior Prom, the display of awards in the hallway, and the caring attitude towards the schoolís students. I remember Miss Anderssen, Mr. Stuppy, and Mrs. Mann always calling me "The Little One." I was special in their hearts.

There was a commitment to being an accredited institution. I was very proud that I was going on to Colorado College, and I know the schoolís staff was pleased that many of its graduates went on to the University of California and other schools of higher learning.

I returned to HPS during the summer of 1978 and worked there part-time as an assistant. I remember the school had changed. Very few students were from the entertainment industry, and much of the schoolís population was made up of adult foreign students. What happened?

Why did the school close its doors? When did it close? What happened to Mrs. Mann? What happened to Mr. Stuppy? How did he end up getting involved with the school in the first place?

I remember the drama teacher, Celeste Rush. She was such an interesting individual. I wonder if she inspired future stars in the acting industry?

In the early 80s, I ran into Miss Behar, the French teacher. I heard from someone that she passed away soon after that. Are any of the teachers from HPS still alive? I remember my dad couldnít believe his eyes when he saw how old Marian Fetterly, the Biology/History teacher was!

Iíve been disappointed that no alumni network has existed for HPS, and have been out of contact with anyone from the school since 1978. It is really exciting to think that a reunion for 2000 could happen!

I am now a skating coach and skating director, and Iím the author of the book How to Jump and Spin on In-Line Skates. I have been married for over twenty years and am the mother of three children. I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

What happened to some of the other graduates of Hollywood Professional School? It will be great to find out! It would be interesting to hear stories from students from other eras. I bet in the 40s and 50s, and even in the 60s, the school was quite different from what I describe from the 70s. What was Mr. Mann like? Also, why did parents send their young children to HPS? Is there an alumna out there who attended from first through 12th grade? It would be great to hear about that individualís experiences.

Happy Remembering!

JO ANN SCHNEIDER FARRIS

(This is a photo of me in 2000 with my daughter, Rebekah Abigail Farris)

Class of 1974

February 6, 2000

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