History of SAHS
St. Anthony High School
The Legacy Lives On
“Whether we will it or not, we cannot journey without leaving footprints, and others will follow where we go because we have marked the way.”
With those words Sister Gabriel of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary opened wide the doors of the only Catholic secondary school in Long Beach in 1920.
Who would have predicted the long legacy of St. Anthony High School back in 1920 when a rudimentary two-story frame building housed a handful of Catholic teenagers and a small faculty seeking an alternative to Long Beach’s public education system. In reality, the story of the St. Anthony High School of 1920 can be traced to a time much earlier, starting with the founding of the parish.
The history of St. Anthony High School becomes a history of Catholicism in Long Beach, which has deep and dedicated roots. Back in 1903, our city’s first Catholic church, seating just 200 congregants, was built under the leadership of Father Ramon Ferrer on the southeast corner of Sixth and Olive (this first church faced Sixth, rather than Olive as does the current church). The Catholic population in Long Beach was small but growing, comprised primarily of Irish, Italian and Mexican immigrants and emigrants from the Midwest and East Coast. Early Long Beach was predominantly Methodist and Congregationalist, so the growing Catholic population was of some concern to a few in the Protestant community. Long Beach was founded as a “dry” town and the appearance of a Catholic parish caused concern over the perception that Catholics would bring with them bars and saloons. In Bishop Montgomery’s cornerstone-laying ceremony for the church in 1902 he was reported in the L.A. Times as addressing this concern with the following: “I understand that some people have said that when a Catholic church was established here there would be a grog shop on every corner, or something to that effect. I hope there will never be one nearer to this church than at present.”
Father James A. Reardon was appointed Pastor after Fr. Ferrar, in 1907. At this point, the humble church was nearly bursting at the seams. He quickly noted the need for not only a new, larger church, but also the need for a parish school to serve the growing population of Catholic children.
The parish school was built in a similar style to the original church. With one large room and two cloak rooms, the three lay teachers and Fr. Reardon assumed educational duties over more students than anticipated. Several ninth grade students were taught at this first facility, making this original school the incubator for what would become St. Anthony High School.
Fr. Reardon’s 1907 school closed its doors in June 1909. The enthusiasm for it was not matched by monetary contributions. At the same time, plans for construction of a new, larger church were underway, diverting attention to that project over the needs of the school. The new church building was completed during the middle ‘teens and the original church was packed onto moving wagons and rollers and carted up to 1851 Cerritos Avenue where it resides today, as Mt. Carmel Cambodian Church.
Once the new church was completed, Fr. Reardon could address the issue of a school once again. This time he asked four Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to come to Long Beach. They did so in 1916. They taught at the second St. Anthony’s school which was dedicated in 1919. It was a single story frame building with six rooms with no halls or cloakrooms. The entry into each room was from the exterior porches, or through connector doors in each classroom.