photo-1-3We talked a lot about kids and surfing and being dads. We talked about the west coast skateboarding scene in the early 1990s and the movies of the 1980s, today’s technology and yesterday’s farming communities. Our conversation, ostensibly about Oly’s experiences at San Dieguito High School ranged from his growing up with a surfboard under one arm and a skateboard under the other to what it’s like to teach at the school from which you graduated.

It was a discussion that reminded me just how much the story of San Dieguito is the story of Encinitas. Ours is a school at the heart of the community, a touchstone for our coastal town, and a shared memory for so many.

Whether it was hanging out at the Straw Hat or going to hear a local band at a  house party, Oly remembered a feeling of community at San Dieguito and in Encinitas. “The bond of San Dieguito was greater than any subgroup,” he said, acknowledging that the distinctions skater, surfer, jock, and brain existed, but mattered less than the greater identification …Mustangs.

“It was different then than it is now,” he told me. “If we wanted to do it, we had to create it.”

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In a time when no one had an iPhone or laptop, that do it yourself attitude applied to music, skating, and life.

That music, the post punk experimentation of the mid ‘90s, saturated San Dieguito. Oly remembered the “network of garages, houses, and alleys” where bands like NIV, Niner, and The Barracudas jammed with a diversity of styles that would keep them underground and a popular part of Enicnitas life.


9th grade Oly (far right) with friends Shawn Haggar, Jon Foreman, and Brian Barker

Oly talked about skateboarding down the breezeways at San Dieguito, being chased off and relocating with the pack of boys skating together at Oak Crest. I could picture the young hoodlums rolling down Balour Drive, laughing and planning their next tricks. “By the time we got shooed out of Oak Crest,” Oly told me with a smile “we could go back to San Dieguito and skate.”


Those memories “stand still in time” for Oly, even as he walks the same breezeways as a current teacher at San Dieguito. The students he teaches now are building their own memories of school, and there is something full circle in the fact that “Mr. Norris” is a part of those memories as many students’ favorite history teacher.

Talking with Oly reminded me that schools change and towns change, but in many ways people stay the same. Students today are curious, adventurous, and filled with hope, just as those were who graduated with Oly in 1995. The adult Oly is owes much to the student Oly was. The school Oly is a part of now is built on the memories and traditions of the school Oly attended.

When we talked about how San Dieguito continues to change from year to year, we talked most about the people who compose our school. Many of Oly’s teachers grew up in the 1940s and 1950s and brought those attitudes to their work. Today, a generation of teachers of Oly’s vintage bring their own experiences and perspective to their work with kids. Those teachers, and their interactions with the youth of the day, help to shape our school.

It’s a story that has been going on for the whole history of San Dieguito; Mary, who graduated from San Dieguito in 1940 returned to teach here, moving the school forward with her modern perspective; today Oly, and more than a half dozen current San Dieguito teachers are also San Dieguito grads.

San Dieguito is a school that loves its own, and a school loved by its students and alum. That so many teachers are grads and that so many families have multiple generations of Mustangs brings a feeling of small town America to our community. As he left my office I looked at Oly, a man of stories and sincerity, and thought: there goes the spirit of San Dieguito.

One thought on “Oly

  1. As the Encinitas students of then and now would say: “This story is so Rad.!” Awesome testament to the feeling one gets at SDA, what a cool school we have here by the beach, our little slice of Americana in SoCal.!

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