The Coast News Group
Jan Waite Biter (left, class of '49), sits with Ruth Pelko Umphres (class of '37), and Virginia Higgins (right, class of 1952), at a special ceremony for San Dieguito Academy's newly redesigned bell tower in Encinitas. Umphres, a cheerleader from the class of 1937, was invited along with other alumni to attend this special ceremony, bringing the tradition of "ringing the bell," back to the school. Photo by Patrick Canler

Forgotten school bell rings once again

ENCINITAS — Just like the school’s unique history, San Dieguito Academy’s very own bell tower has held a deep significance among the students that were able to ring it since it’s construction in 1960. However, the bell tower had been ignored in recent years, until a reconstruction project was completed in early October to give the bell tower a new look.

In a special event held at the school Oct. 19, alumni reunited to “ring the bell” and bring the tradition back to life.

The first bell was built in 1960 by some of the graduating students’ fathers in 1961. In order to build the bell, the class of ‘61 raised enough money to buy a used bell from a church in Vista.

Suzanne McCluskey (left) assists Ruth Pelko Umphres in ringing the bell of San Dieguito Academy's newly redesigned bell tower. Photo by Patrick Canler

Bonnie Wren, coordinator for the alumni association, explained how much the student body loved the new addition.

“The first day they got it, they put it in the back of a pickup truck and drove it around the track and every time that bell clang, the crowd cheered. They were so excited to get the bell.” Wren said.

After seeing its acceptance into the school as a symbol for pride and spirit, it became an honor to be able to “ring the bell” after winning a game or an award.

Doug Elmore, class of 1978, said that it was competitive to be able to ring the bell. “They used to fight to be able to ring the bell,” said Elmore.

Because they were protective of the bell and afraid rivaling high schools would steal it, they decided to cover it up with wood.

Over time people forgot there was a bell there and it began to crumble, so the district knocked it down.

“They were going to rebuild it, but there wasn’t enough money. Students, alumni and parents came up with donations and now we have this tower,” Wren said.

Although the district planned to rebuild it a year ago with the addition of the new Performing Arts Center, the cost was too high and they had to abort the plan.

Because the district was strapped on cash, Earl Flores, class of ‘95, figured out how they could keep it within code and cut the costs.

Bonnie Wren (at podium) talks to Academy alumni at a special ceremony of San Dieguito Academy's newly redesigned bell tower. Alumni were invited to attend this special ceremony, bringing the tradition of "ringing the bell," back to the school. Photo by Patrick Canler

This enabled the school to reconstruct the bell tower, bring its legacy back to life, and provide meaning to the symbol students have cherished for so many years.

“Hopefully we can ring it whenever a team wins something — robotics, field hockey, etc.” Wren said.

“Keep the tradition alive,” she said. “Whenever we have some kind of victory and we want to celebrate, that is what this is for and it’s a great bell, it is a classic bell that should last for centuries as long as the tower stays put.

“So we need to take advantage of that. This is our character.”