Nan Horton Warren ‘60
I have often been asked what it was like to be a student at Anna Head School when the old school was located in Berkeley at Channing and Bowditch streets. I was in school there between 1956 and 1960, when I graduated.
The answer is that I thought it was hard. It never occurred to me to use the word “rigorous”, but that is what it was, and the main thing that I learned was how hard I could work. The classes were small, and there was no escape if you hadn’t completed an assignment. We were required to memorize some Shakespeare every year, and I can still remember with pleasure what I learned to recite. When I finally got to college, I was surprised that it wasn’t as difficult as high school.
The building itself was pleasant to work in. On the outside there was a brown single wall surrounding the campus, and inside the wall, the buildings were cloistered around a quadrangle. One could keep dry in wet weather in the colonnade surrounding the quad.
Chapel began at 8:30 am every day with a hymn, a five-minute presentation by a senior or the head of school, and a few announcements without which any school can’t function. School lasted until 1:00 with a snack provided by the school about 11:00. Usually, it was apple juice in thick plastic cups accompanied by graham crackers, not a very interesting combination. There was always someone standing by to see that you only took one graham cracker. After one o’clock there was lunch, study hall, and gym, outdoor games, or exercise classes and then a bus ride home to study.
We wore uniforms, which were (in our minds) not only unattractive, but downright ugly: light grey sweaters, white blouses, and dark grey skirts. For the many years after high school, I never wore grey, but now I find that is not so bad.
But there was opportunity for adventure as well, and once we decided to make beer. Did we know anything about making beer? Of course not. And there was no internet to answer a quick question. So, we assembled what we thought we needed. We had a quarter can of beer, an envelope of yeast, some leftover fruit, and some water and sugar which we put in a gallon container with a round cork lid. We heated the water, put in all the other ingredients, and disguised our experiment by putting the container high up in a cubby hole below which other students kept their books between classes. The heating in the building was erratic, but quite warm at the ceiling level. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that eventually the cork lid came off under pressure and the contents slithered its way down to the other cubby holes and all over the books and papers kept there. The smell was fearsome. I cannot remember whether the guilty were exposed and letters to parents were written, but my memory is that nothing happened at all, though the smell lingered for some time.
Graduation was quite special. The graduates wore long white dresses, carried bouquets of flowers, and processed up the school driveway singing and being sung to by the rest of the school. The parents stood by as their daughters were being sent out into the world, accompanied by the headmaster’s dictum: “Remember who you are and what you represent.” No quick answer for that.
After graduating from Anna Head, I went to UCLA, where I studied political science. After college I went to work for the U.S. government and was stationed Berlin for five years. I have always been grateful for the ability to work hard and to get things done by a deadline. That was certainly instilled by a rigorous education at the Anna Head School. That, in turn, made it an easy decision for me to send my daughter to Head Royce in the early 90’s, where she complained about the hard work as much as I did.
Nan Warren, a member of the Save Anna Head School Steering Committee, served as a long-time member of the Head-Royce School Board of Trustees, and currently is a director at Third Walnut Creek Mutual in Walnut Creek.