A 50-year reunion is planned for anyone in the community who wants to celebrate with Canyon High School. An event is planned in conjunction with the school’s Back to School Night on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 from 6-9 p.m. at the school, 19300 W. Nadal Street in Canyon Country.
The anniversary celebration will start in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) with a welcome message and screening of a 50th Anniversary film. Throughout the evening there will be student performances, and entertainment by the alumni band, a memorabilia walk in the gym and a car show. Visitors can purchase food from several food trucks at the event.
Members of the community can purchase a 50th Anniversary Brick, which will become a permanent part of the Performing Arts Center at Canyon. To find out how to buy one, just visit Engravedbricks.com/campaign/canyon.
In next month’s Canyon Country Magazine you will learn who is on the “50th Most Influential List.” Individuals from the school’s history will be recognized for their contributions in the areas of athletics, arts/entertainment, business, education, and government. It will include a picture and a short biography on display at the event.
It is Canyon’s “Back to School Night” as well, so teachers will be present and available to answer questions regarding curriculum. The Cowboy community and the public are invited to celebrate 50 years of school pride, the many traditions, and academic excellence. For more information about the Canyon High School 50th Anniversary, visit CanyonHighCowboys.org.
Blasts in the Past
Cheerleaders (L to R): Heather Moran, Leah Purcell, Kelly Houston (Seidenkranz) and Cyndi Yee
Now a Canyon High School Spanish teacher, Kelly Seidenkranz graduated from CHS in 1988. As a student, Kelly was very involved on campus, including journalism, cheerleading, and a program called “Special Friends,” where she had lunch with visiting students who had Down syndrome. She was the president of California Scholarship Federation (CSF), was a member of National Honor Society, and was in Spanish Honor Society, officially called “Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica,” or SHH.
How is Canyon High School different than it used to be?
Kelly: Technology has changed everything. When I first started teaching at Canyon, we took roll call on paper, did our grades manually, and listened to announcements on the all-call instead of watching what is now CNN (Canyon News Network) on TV. As a student, I was using a typewriter to type all my papers – it wasn’t until my senior year that I got a typewriter with which you could edit, but you could only view one line at a time. And, of course, we didn’t have the Internet!
What is Canyon High School like today?
Canyon has become a very beautiful campus, as they have done many
Kelly Seidenkranz (left) with retired teacher “Señor Ed,” who inspired her to become a Spanish teacher and helped her get a job at Canyon. “He was a Canyon High legend pretty much, and he started at Canyon the year the school opened,” Seidenkranz said. “We are friends to this day.”
renovations, but it still maintains some of its original charm and beauty, in my opinion. Ethnic diversity is much more apparent on our campus than when I was a student. There is also now an exceptional leadership program at our school that helps fight bullying, prevent violence, and foster communication among different peer groups and staff. It is completely led by students, and I believe it is one of our greatest strengths as a school. This program would have been wonderful, had we had it when I was a student, and I wish every school in our district had a similar program.
What is the same about Canyon High School today?
Canyon still feels very much like a family, in that people support each other and take an interest in each other’s lives. It was like that for me as a student. I had more than a few teachers who really encouraged me to become more than I had ever imagined was possible for me.
Canyon is truly part of my DNA, as not only did I graduate from Canyon, but so did my siblings. I taught both my son and my brother-in-law Spanish, and I’ve had both my brother and my mother as subs. Green and gold run through our veins.
Canyon High School custodian Donnie Kite knows everybody. He’s lived in Santa Clarita since 1950 and used to own a Chevron Station at the corner of Whites Canyon and Soledad until it closed 16 years ago, employing Canyon High students in its 33 years there. To this day, kids will tell him their parents or grandparents knew him from the station.
Although Donnie’s been working at CHS for just under 15 years, he’s made his presence known – which is why some people call him the “Ambassador of Canyon High.”
He gets invited to CHS sporting events by team members, always faithful to root for them. His wife’s name, Kelly Morey, is on the wall on campus for her days as catcher for the softball team (1974). Kelly, Donnie’s sister and brother-in-law all graduated from Canyon, and he feels connected to the Home of the Cowboys. As an employee of the school, he prides himself on “providing customer service by taking care of everybody.”
What he does for the Cowboys
Donnie: I help the kids out, I help the teachers out. My favorite thing is just being there, being helpful to everybody. I enjoy my job, and if you’re not happy in your job you ought not be doing it.
I’m proud to be there – it’s an honor to me. Everybody’s so helpful and the kids are so happy. It’s hard to want to retire when you enjoy being there. If it wasn’t for the people around – students and teachers and staff – I’d probably say goodbye.
All the kids have been well-mannered over the years. The school seems a little more peppy, happy. They’re doing a good job. And they all jump in and help.
What he gets in return
Seven or eight years ago I had a heart attack, and Canyon High School was there for me when I was down. The principal, Bob Messina, and staff came to visit me, and the teachers. The choir all sent me cards, the band sent me cards. It was important to me … you know when you’re really loved.
Before retiring last year, Mary Purdy had taught music for more than 35 years, the last 27 at Canyon High School. Looking back, she said that when she took the job at the helm of the choir department in 1990, football was strong and the morale was low. At the time, the Canyon High School mixed choir totaled only about 35 students, so Mary decided they needed to raise their visibility on campus.
Performing arts center
“I wanted us to be recognized as much as the football team,” Mary said. “We did really well that first year and with that success the kids got excited, so it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
In the early days, she worked closely with the drama teacher, Marilyn Pilkey, whose creativity impressed Mary, especially watching her deal with their extremely limited resources.
“‘Minimal’ isn’t a strong enough word for it,” Mary explained. “Our first concert with Marilyn was a winter concert and the kids did an abridged ‘Christmas Carol.’ Girls with really long hair would bend over and that would be a scene change. The place where we performed was four flat classrooms with dividers and what she did to make that come alive for the drama department was amazing.”
In Mary’s first few years, Canyon performed the musicals “Brigadoon” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“The really ambitious part was that Marilyn did ‘Fiddler’ outside in the amphitheater,” Mary said. “It was really, really good. ‘Making do’ with things was her nature.”
Then vs. Now
“When canyon first opened it was a modular campus,” Mary remembered. “That’s why every building has a core. Canyon was kind of a model of this new kind of education in 1968, more like a college campus. … They did away with that, but we still have the core, which is interesting, because it’s hard to not hear the class right next door to you.”
One campus feature surprised Mary when she took the job. “There was a smoking section for the kids out by the football field,” she said. “It was not a secret and it was patrolled; they did it to keep the vandalism in the bathrooms down.”
In the beginning, Mary joined every committee possible so they wouldn’t try to cut her program. She’s witnessed a number of changes in education, but said she’s learned that the pendulum swings in both directions.
Mary Purdy has nice things to say about, virtually, every Canyon principal, but one in particular. “Bob Messina was a fabulous, fabulous principal,” she said. “He had been ASB director, so he knew the whole school. He’d be asked, ‘Does the football program raise the most money?’ And he’d say, ‘No – the choir and the band.’”
The Performing Arts Center
Some say it’s the jewel in Mary’s crown, a project she even stalled her retirement to see. Canyon High School finally built and opened a Performing Arts Center in 2016, and Mary had been in on the planning of it for years. “It was everything we asked for, everything we planned, it was all there,” she said. “It was wonderful – the architects were great.”
Not only did Mary Purdy get to lead her choirs onstage at the new Performing Arts Center, she took a piece of it with her. During construction, Mary took pictures every Friday from the ground up and made a Shutterfly album to always remember how it came to life. Two of the photos are pictured above.