01-17-2018 - Fred Morgan, Remembered by many for giving BRIAN WILSON, leader of the Beach Boys, an 'F' for writing
Written by Fred Morgan for the 1977 HHS El Molino Yearbook
Remembered by many for giving BRIAN WILSON, leader of the Beach Boys, an 'F' for writing "Surfin' USA," later to be a million dollar hit for Hawthorne High's BEACH BOYS. Morgan answers the obvious question: he simply didn't bring in the assignment asked for!
Fort Knox... My Funny Valentine... Surfin' USA... Bean Fields... Inglewood Avenue in A Row Boat!
Most people wouldn't connect these things to Hawthorne High, but to FRED MORGAN they bring back memories of a school where he helped develop a music program, still one of the best known in the area.
Morgan, now VP at Lennox HS, is remembered by many for giving BRIAN WILSON, leader of the Beach Boys, an 'F' for writing "Surfin' USA," later to be a million dollar hit for Hawthorne High's BEACH BOYS. Morgan answers the obvious question: he simply didn't bring in the assignment asked for! Fred Morgan recounts those days in the 50's and early 60's with pleasure. "There was real empathy between teacher and student back then. Some of those kids are among my best friends yet today."
Passing on to Brian any Beach Boy mail that might occasionally show up at HHS, Morgan has joked about the 'Surfin' USA" episode. Supposedly the paper marked 'F' hangs framed next to the gold record of the same title! But, he finds that kids today don't seem to joke as much as before. "I don't understand it, but they don't seem to have as much fun in school, or laugh as much," he told an EL MOLINO staff interview.
The day was recalled when teachers could walk into their classrooms to find a tarantula on the desk or a snake in the drawer. "I wonder if kids are really allowed to be kids any more," he mused. There's more seriousness, maybe more responsibilities, but it seems they sometimes miss the fun of school."
It's doubtful the Wilson boy named Brian missed out on all the "fun, fun, fun." In fact, some remember him as turning school days into fun for himself and a headache for his teachers. KATHY ADKINS, who with ROBERTA BURKET returned to teach from the HHS Class of '61, recalled the time in LARRY KIRKPATRICK'S English class when "Brian was always beating on his desk and singing to himself. One day the vibrations had worked the screws loose and the whole desk came apart with a crash!"
Morgan came to HHS in 1956 as band director, answering a newspaper ad. Participation quickly grew from a fledging 15 to 35 musicians.
"I believe one of the reasons the band grew so rapidly was the pride students had in their school."
The band room, originally the choir room, was affectionately known as FORT KNOX. "Not a window in sight!" Morgan recalled the room winning, ironically, a prize as best bandroom in California. "That plastic ceiling! What a terrible vibration with 80-plus musicians in there."
"In the early days HHS had no field, and football games were played at EI Camino College. Our first half-time show, MY FUNNY VALENTINE, was played in old USC uniforms, or anything from blue jeans to yellow jackets and old shirts."
The Cougar band won the Sweepstakes award in its very first parade. "It was in Santa Monica, and somehow we were the only ones in the Christmas parade who played a Christmas song!"
"The school grounds, you know, used to be BEAN FIELDS. When all the beans were plowed under for construction, the decomposing beans gave off gas. Students would light hundreds of little fires around the campus by igniting the gas. Sometimes people say they can still smell it!"
When the rains came, Hawthorne's new campus turned into a mud lake. "There were no sidewalks or drainage around here, so everything flooded. INGLEWOOD AVENUE would become a river. Folks would come to school in rowboats. Seniors used to carry teachers across the campus so they wouldn't get wet!"
Actually, it was a common sight in the Hawthorne 50's to witness boats traversing the area and vehicles stalled in the water and mud. Such conditions caused much property damage in the city. The problem was further complicated by the fact that Hawthorne Boulevard was a state highway controlled by the state. The county of Los Angeles was responsible for flood control. After several years of public meetings and protest hearings, the city succeeded in eliminating the flood conditions.
Whether the problems were flooded streets, missing sidewalks, no place to eat or play ball, a barren tree-less campus, seeping gas, or whatever, HHS students seemed anxious to chip in and help. In fact, most of the trees on campus were planted by students in those early years.
Fred Morgan, still in a reflective mood, talked more about closer feelings among students and teachers. Hawthorne High was a united and high spirited community. Lots of fellowship. People truly friends. "Now, with so many students, we have sort of lost touch with each other. There just isn't that camaraderieship.
At least not the way Fred Morgan enjoyed it years ago.
(1982 Leuzinger Counselor Once Gave Brian Wilson An 'F')