Orinda and Miramonte Then and Now

Orinda and Miramonte Then and Now

This was the typical look that students in the 80s had for their Junior Prom.

Natalie Vigo and Kyle Rechnitz, Staff Writers

Most Miramonte students can’t wait to graduate and move far away to escape the shelter of “Borinda.” A lot of parents that grew up here felt the same way, but as they became adults, many of them realized that this small town was a great place to raise a family, and they came back.

“We liked the idea that there was a strong sense of community. Everybody knows everybody else, but that means that people look out for each other, and help each other,” Dan Judge, father of sophomore Grayson Judge, said.

According to Tomi Van de Brooke, mother of junior Michael Van de Brooke, many graduates moved back due to Orinda’s safety and the quality of schools.

“I realized my first year of college what a good education I got at Miramonte. College came pretty easily,” Van de Brooke said.

These parents have witnessed the transitions that Orinda has undergone since they were Matadors in the 70s and 80s.

“Back then it was more of a small town feel,” Laurie Lowery, mother of junior Brenna Lowery, said. “Kids could be kids and have tree forts and beebee guns and ride bikes everywhere.”

Our generation relies heavily on the use of technology, and we depend on our phones. Because our parents didn’t have cell phones when they were in high school, a lot of things were different.

On Fridays, the buzz around campus was always weekend plans, and most kids would meet at Blacks Market (now Bevmo) after school to discuss them in further detail.

Kids were always looking for inexpensive and creative ways to have fun. A typical weekend could include making the trip to Berkeley, entertaining projects such as go-carting with no brakes, going to the movies, skateboarding, sports games, ice blocking or hanging out at friends’ houses. The Orinda Deli, Loard’s, and the mysterious “water tower” were popular hangout spots as well.

“It was a big deal when Nations opened because it stayed open so late,” Peggy Manrique, mother of freshman Claire Manrique, said. “You could go there after a party or a concert.   There hadn’t been anything like that before.”

If the attire of today and back then were compared, you would find interesting results.

“Guys wore jeans, flannel shirts and hiking boots. Girls dressed up a little more for school then. I never wore jeans and a sweatshirt, always an outfit,” Lowery said.

Preppy outfits were all the rage back then and bell bottom jeans, long dresses, khaki, and button downs were the go-to outfits. As for shoes, topsiders were super cool, but everything was mostly platform with high wooden heels or thick rubber soles. Even the tennis shoes had a lift. Hair for both guys and girls was kept long.

Despite the many changes, the stereotype of the classic Orinda kid has generally remained the same: privileged, wealthy and not so diverse.

The layout of Miramonte has also remained almost the same, but the facilities have improved. The current library is fairly new and was moved to its present location from what is now the art center. In fact, if you look upstairs, you can still see many books lined up along the walls. Some of the sports complexes are new along with the small gym, and a lot of grass and plants were taken out along the halls.

There was a tremendous amount of school spirit during our parents’ generation. Almost the entire school would fill the stands at football games and basketball games to support their highly successful teams. Kids would even travel to away games. There were cheerleaders, Pom-Pon girls, a head male yeller and someone dressed in the Matador costume.

“There were two groups: the ‘Rahs-Rahs’ who participated and planned everything, and the kids who were too cool to participate,” Manrique said. “But everyone participated in everything.”

Campolindo was still a huge rivalry, and the Mats played pranks on them like dying their pool green.

Homecoming was also a bigger deal for students of the past. During Spirit Week, each class would go to someone’s house and work on crafting a float made of wood and chicken wire on the back of a flatbed truck. They were mainly decorated with tissue paper, and the identity of each float was kept a secret. It got very competitive as every class tried to destroy the others.

During the halftime show, Pom-Pon girls and class officers paraded around the track in convertibles, while the nominees for royalty rode on the floats.

Although Homecoming is still around today, back then there were many traditions that we don’t have anymore. Rules were more lenient, and there weren’t as many restrictions.

“I used to drive my car through the halls just to get music on the lawn,” Jennifer Vigo, mother of junior Natalie Vigo and freshman Olivia Vigo, said.

When you became a senior girl, you got to look forward to “Big and Little Sister Day.” Each senior was paired with a freshman, had lunch together, and got to know them throughout the course of the week. Then on Friday, the seniors would perform skits for the younger girls in the gym. Although no boys were allowed, some dressed up as girls and tried to sneak in.

There was also the famous Sadie Hawkins dance called “Fall Fantasia,” in which the girls asked the boys to a dance.

“Days on the Green” were popular in the spring, and everyone would bring in beach chairs and listen to music while they barbequed on the quad during lunch.

Instead of choir grams or candy grams, students sent flowers around campus. During “Push a Bug” days, classes would compete to see who could push a VW bug across the lawn the fastest.

Dances were a lot different as well. There was always high attendance, but normally you did not go unless you were asked by someone. You didn’t dance in groups either, but always with a partner. Live bands or DJs played music. Boys wore button down shirts with tight pants and girls wore floor length dresses.

Academically, Miramonte today is much more challenging. Parents say that their kids have much more homework than they did. There were not as many AP classes available, and it was a lot easier and less stressful to get into college. Computers weren’t an option, so research and papers were also less rigorous.

“There was no SAT prep, and you just showed up cold turkey to take the test and only took it once,” Lowery said. “College applications were handwritten. I only applied to two schools. If you applied to the UC’s you filled out one application and ranked the schools in order of preference and just hoped you got your first choice.”

Many of us will move back to Orinda, although some would never admit it, and raise our own kids. Maybe in 50 years from now, our school will finally be painted a different color. Or the mascot will change. Perhaps even a second route to school will open up besides the famous Moraga Way.