"Achieve the Honorable"
The contents of this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Hollywood High School, its employees or students; nor the Alumni Association.
Hobart Johnstone (HJ) Whitley, the Father of Hollywood – His involvement with Hollywood High School
From the book: The Father of Hollywood – The True Story Authored by Gaelyn Whitley Keith – the great grand daughter of HJ Whitley
Built in 1910, Hollywood High School opened just as the formerly peaceful village of Hollywood was being flooded by movie producers. It was located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, just east of a lemon grove. Students tethered their horses on the athletic field. Hollywood High School did not have the twenty-seven students in attendance, as required by law, so HJ advertised in the city papers that anyone who would move to Hollywood and have children attending the high school could have free rent for a year. He built new homes at the west end of Hollywood that he would use for that purpose. By the 20s, Hollywood High School became the school of choice for the children of movie stars. As the offspring of wealthy and prominent businessmen, they received a superb education.
One night, HJ came home from a Hollywood school meeting and found that he could not sleep. He lay awake in the dark and listened to the faint sounds of the night. The events of the meeting raced through his restless mind. Unable to shake his heavy mood, he awakened Gigi, as he wanted her to walk up to Whitley Heights with him.
“I cannot sleep. Those stubborn folks have voted against the school bonds again. I have spent nearly a year and a half trying to convince them that it would not ruin them to pay taxes for a school. As the population grows, others would help defer future costs. But still, every time I thought they were going to vote for the new school bond, someone would go around the valley and talk people out of it. How can a city grow if it does not have a high school?” he crossly said.
HJ had to have been at the limit of his endurance or he would not have awakened her. So, in a few minutes, Gigi was ready for their customary tramp up to Whitley Heights. They would walk up Whitley Avenue and then over the rough road toward Grace Avenue. When they reached the top of the hill, they sat down to rest. Then Gigi said, “We can count the lights and think of all the beautiful things that will happen to these hills someday when you begin to develop them.”
That helped to get his mind off his worries. They counted just seven lights. As they sat there on the hill, surrounded by wonderful peaks and brightly shining stars, Gigi felt the wonderful influence of God’s handiwork. It was as though they were in another world.
HJ finally said, “Mama, I wish you would figure out how to get rid of that annoying codger who keeps convincing everyone to vote against me. He cares only about his own pocketbook and not the good of the community. He is an ignorant, stingy man that does nothing but make trouble.”
“I will pray to have him removed from this town. And, furthermore, I have the faith that it will be done.”
HJ began to laugh and said, “Well, if you are successful, there are a few more people I would like to have you pray over.”
They sat talking for hours about the many other wonderful things HJ had planned for Hollywood. Around 2:00 a.m., HJ put his arms around Gigi and gave her a sweet kiss. Gigi was always able to clear his head. After a few more minutes, they walked home and went to bed.
Many times, HJ told Gigi that he thought how fortunate he was to find a wife who understood him so well, who had faith in him, and who encouraged him. He felt fortunate that she shared his home, helped increase his fortune, and inspired his success.
Several weeks later, the next meeting of the association was called. It was raining that night, and HJ asked Gigi, “Do you think he will be there?”
“Oh yes, but it will be the last time you see him,” Gigi cagily replied.
HJ’s face beamed as he heard the news. Then he turned around quite seriously as he said, “What is going to happen?”
“I cannot tell you yet, but I know he will be gone. Just last night, I dreamt that I read his obituary in the newspaper.”
Well, the same old business happened. They voted against the school bonds. When HJ came home, Gigi was waiting at the door to greet him; but he did not look as serious as he had after the last meeting. Everything else at the meeting had been quite harmonious. The old man was there, and HJ said, “He looked quite gleeful as he voted against those school bonds.”
It came as quite a surprise to HJ when he heard that, as the old codger started home that night, he caught a severe cold. In less than a month, he died from pneumonia.
HJ realized that many new residents were immigrating to Hollywood. Plans to complete the Panama Canal meant that even more would come in the future. HJ felt that for Hollywood to expand in a sound and progressive manner, the city needed to provide facilities for the education of the younger generations. How else could they become useful citizens? He would not quit until Hollywood had a high school.
Posted by Emmanuel Aquino (2009) - Community Manager