A first turn was given Monday, when members of the Historical Landmark Committee of the West Side Pioneer Association voted unanimously to ask Tracy Unified School District trustees to name the building after Dr. Joseph S. West, who a century ago was the driving force in establishing a high school in Tracy.
In a February column, I had mentioned touring the new music-cafeteria and library-classroom buildings on the Tracy High campus. On the tour, I discovered one of the new buildings was labeled Building C and the other Building D.
The two-story building that replaced the 1917 building was officially labeled Building A. (There’s no Building B as yet.)
The original 1917 Tracy High building was in the years before its demolition called the West Building, because of its location on the Tracy High campus. There was no connection to West High, which was named for Merrill F. West, a longtime high school district trustee.
And since the West Building’s two-story replacement is still called by many the West Building, naming it for Dr. West wouldn’t be much of a stretch. Rooms in the building would still be labeled A-1, A-2, and down the line, as they are now.
The idea to name the building for Dr. West registered strongly with Bill Swenson, the former Tracy High basketball coach and vice principal who is now a member of the TUSD board.
Bill was present at Monday’s meeting of the Historical Landmark Committee and urged its members’ support for naming the two-story building with the Mission Revival façade after Dr. West. He noted that several buildings on the THS campus already have been named. They include the Emma Baumgardner Theater, the Hawley-Westlake Building (now a science building) and the Joe Foster Music Center. Bill was too modest to mention the main gym is the Bill Swenson Gym, but someone (I think it was your trusty correspondent) added that to the list.
Everyone agreed that naming the building for Dr. West was entirely appropriate, given his contribution to establishing the high school district, and that dedicating the building to his memory could be part of a centennial observance held next year to commemorate the founding in 1912 of what originally was the West Side Union High School District.
As a reminder, I should note that Dr. West, a native of Virginia and once a physician, was confined to a wheelchair without one leg and partially paralyzed, but he still managed to operate a notions store on Sixth Street and take an active role in community life.
He was one of the pushers for the incorporation of the city of Tracy in 1910, and in the following two years was a key leader in establishing the high school district. He was also secretary of the high school board for its first five years.
When the original high school building was dedicated in 1917, Dr. West was carried onto the stage to the cheers of Tracyites who jammed the new building’s auditorium.
It’s quite likely that Tracy-area residents will have a chance to cheer again next year, when the 100th birthday of the high school district will be celebrated.
n Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached by phone, 830-4234 or by e-mail, email@example.com.