The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Secrets of MSJ

By: Vivian Jair and Shirby Wang

Have you ever wondered about that creepy-looking house behind the E-Wing? Were you that freshman who couldn’t find the elusive P7? The Smoke Signal has embarked on a journey to disprove the unfortunate misconception that MSJ lacks intriguing tidbits of information and history. Learn about the truth about numerous buildings, the remarkable history of our famous Mission Bell, and something out of this world about two of our math teachers. Perhaps you may discover something new about our beloved school!
Here’s a more in-depth continuation of the article that ran in the March 28 issue of the Smoke Signal.

Memorials – A Commemoration:

There are memorials scattered around MSJ, pieces of history and commemoration that are only fleetingly noticed by pedestrians. Everyday, students may walk past the memorial stone beneath the foliage next to the office without realizing that it stands in memory of a former MSJ student who passed away while only 14 years-old. Scott Dankwardt, a class of 1992 freshman at the time, was killed in a car accident. Dankwardt had ridden his bike next to the old railroad tracks on Paseo Padre when a bus drove too close and fatally crashed into him, resulting in a tragic loss for the community. Dankwardt had been an active student at MSJ, playing sports, participating in leadership, and writing for the Smoke Signal. His family was also strongly connected to the MSJ community, with his mother, Joann Dankwardt, being the registrar and manager of the career center at the time. In honor of his memory, the school placed the plaque in the stone that we see today while walking down the inclined pathway to the amphitheatre. The memorial next to the library steps remembers a long-time basketball coach and teacher named Aldo Andersen. Both of his children went to MSJ, and his wife also worked as a counselor. Because of his connection to the school, the plaque was placed next to the library to honor and remember him after his death in 1992. Another memorial is next to a large tree by the bus stop, placed there to commemorate soldiers in WWII. Unfortunately, Andersen’s memorial is faded and the memorial for the soldiers has been rendered unreadable.

Healthy Vending Machines – An Interesting Treat:

At the point when this article was posted, the Healthy Vending Machines in the Gym Quad have an interesting quirk that most students don’t know about: if you put four quarters in the Healthy Vending Machine and press “A”, you’re rewarded with a gold dollar coin. The supply of gold coins the vending machine may be limited, so be sure to put your coins back in the machine so everyone can enjoy this revelation!

The Vandal Watch House & The Nurse Station- Not Dilapidated Haunted Mansions:

Behind the E-Wing stands an unkempt abandoned home, its windows boarded up and lawn overgrown. Few know the origins of this mysterious house, built years ago to protect the school from vandalism. This vandal watch house was constructed in the early 1980s as part of a program combating campus vandalism occurring during non-school hours. The program allowed an individual or a family to reside in a house located next to the school for free in exchange for keeping watch over the campus. All six high schools and several junior high schools had homes installed, including MSJ and Hopkins Junior High.
The program lasted for many years, but over a period of time the houses were vacated, with the one in MSJ unoccupied for over a decade. At other schools, the vandal watch houses are already demolished, but because of expenses, the one at MSJ has not been discarded yet. There is, however, a plan in progress to remove the house and replace it with a sustainable garden.
Next to the vandal watch house is an old portable nurse’s station. It was used by itinerant workers such as nurses as a headquarters when traveling from school to school. The station is no longer in use since the nurses have moved to the special services department in the district, but still remains as an empty portable and relic of the past. Today, it is mainly empty except for several pieces of abandoned furniture.



Asteroids- A Legacy in Space:
Few legacies can surpass the prestigious tribute of having a space asteroid dedicated to an individual. At MSJ, Math Teachers David Lau and Charlie Brucker both have asteroids named in their honor. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has the Ceres Connection program, in which asteroids between Mars and Jupiter are named after student finalists in science competitions and their respective mentors.
Lau was the mentor of Class of 2009 Alumna Marianna Mao, who wrote a paper about the general theory of relativity and became an Intel Science Talent Search Finalist in 2009. Lau’s asteroid, 25517 Davidlau, was discovered in 1999. Meanwhile, Brucker mentored Senior Kevin Chen, a 2013 Intel Science Talent Search Finalist who worked on a low-cost ferroelectric analyzer. 28653 Charliebrucker, first discovered in 2000, was hence named after him. Both teachers received certificates from MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Additionally, both Mao and Chen have asteroids named after them as well, called 25457 Mariannamao and 28556 Kevinchen respectively.

History of the Bell Tower – A Towering Achievement:
As strange as it may seem, the Bell Tower was not always the iconic structure that we know today. The original Mission Bell, made of 200 pounds of solid brass, was presented to the school in January 1965 by the Santa Fe Railway, a year after MSJ was founded. The bell had travelled across the nation atop a train before being given to MSJ. Rung only to celebrate significant victories and rally spirits in competitions, the Mission Bell was a vital part of MSJ culture—it even had a special bell-ringing committee to care for it.
The Mission Bell originally sat atop the first Bell Tower, which had a wooden base. Unfortunately, about twenty years later, the tower’s legs were infested with termites, and the whole structure was removed. Alumni, upset by the removal of their traditional icon, began a campaign and raised money to build a new metal base. This resulted in the Bell Tower we have today, which possesses a decorative and nonfunctioning bell.
The Mission Bell, on the other hand, was removed and safely taken to the office during the demolition of the old Bell Tower. Today, it hangs outside of Principal Sandra Prairie’s office as a reminder of the traditions of our school. In fact, this original Mission Bell is sometimes rung over school announcements in the mornings to commemorate special achievements.

E-Wing – Esoteric Enigma:
Several aspects of our school’s buildings have often perplexed many freshmen wandering around MSJ for the first time, but none more so than the elusive E-Wing. Here, the mysteries range from the lack of a female bathroom to P7’s seemingly-sporadic placement and numbering.
The E-Wing was originally built in the late 1970s for industrial arts such as metal shop, autoshop, and woodshop. Believing that these were “masculine” classes, the administration at the time decided to only build a boy’s bathroom there. In addition, there used to be two computer lab classrooms, called E1 and E2, which eventually were split into separate classes. This resulted into the four classrooms of E1A, E1B, E2A, and E2B.
P7 is also a particularly popular enigma. Originally an office or break-room for custodians, P7 was intended to be the last of the portables after P6. However, the administration later built P8, P9, and P10 in succession. The only space left for P11 was in front of P10, due to the limitation by the parking lot, hence the strange orders of the P-portables. P7, however, has not been renamed due to complications regarding the set blueprint records, which would have to be altered for the police department, fire department, and others in order to maintain maximized security. It would also require many expenses and the district office’s approval.

C120 Secrets – A Look at the Past:
It is generally unknown that our lecture hall, C120, has a hidden room in its ceiling. This secret room was originally used as a projector room, when the digital age of computers and LCD projectors had yet to commence. A 8-millimeter projector was held in the room, which required a staff member with special training to constantly switch reels in order to keep the film running. Also in the projector room was the opaque projector, which projected enlarged images onto a wall and allowed the image to be traced onto a larger sheet of paper. The school employed this technique in order to make large banners or signs efficiently. However, technology has since left the use of such projectors behind, and the room is now used by English teachers as a place to store books.
The structure for C120 has also changed slightly over the years. As MSJ used to run on a block schedule, C120 was used in the past as a lecture hall for students who signed up for teacher’s lectures at certain times. Students would switch between lectures and one-on-one class time with teachers. During this system, the chairs in C120 had desks attached to them, in order for the students to take notes and work during the lecture.

The Office on Fire – A Heated Subject:
In 1977, MSJ’s office was lit on fire by an arsonist, resulting in drastic changes in its structure. Before the incident, the principal’s office had been located where Assistant Principal Diana Brumbaugh’s office is now. In the place of where Principal Sandy Prairie’s room is now used to be an atrium, an open space within the building. A former student had targeted the administration building, causing significant damage to files and documents. Today, some salvaged documents still bear the marks of fire on their corners.

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