There were many people who have been a part of MVCS over the years. Here is a very brief summary of more than 80 years of history.
In September 1926, Monte Vista Christian School opened its doors.
The story starts with R.O. Price, born in 1886. He grew up on a prune and apricot ranch in California. At age 15, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, and felt a call to ministry.
He graduated from San Jose State in 1910, and became a teacher in the Central Valley. While there, he married his wife, Nell, whom he had known since high school.
R.O. taught in the Fresno city and county schools for about 12 years, and served on the Board of Education. He believed that our heritage was rich in faith, and began to dream of a private school that would meet the needs of the soul.
“My parents wanted a school where young men and women, regardless of whether they lived near or far, irrespective of race, creed, or position in life, whether they be children of ministers or from a broken home, all alike could receive a good education and at the same time learn to live together and worship together, as one happy fulsome family,” said their son, Don Price, many years later.
Finding a site
R.O. loved farming, and knew that the income from a farm would help meet the expenses of the school. They could also raise vegetables and meat for use in the dining room.
Locations were considered from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In 1925, the Murphy family, distant relatives of the Prices, told them that they had always wanted their ranch in Watsonville to be used for Christian ministry, and offered it as a site for the school. Its 66 acres were planted in apples, apricots, and grapes, and it was known as the Monte Vista Ranch.
In the summer of 1926, the Murphys cheerfully moved out of their beautiful farmhouse and into a tent on the front lawn, giving the Prices access to the buildings.
When school opened in the fall of 1926, there were 45 students, grades 3 to 10. Fourteen of these were day students who paid $10 per month tuition, and thirty-one of them were boarding students who paid $30 per month for tuition, room, and board.
A trip to the beach, a trip to town, and a trip to the privy.
The 1930s and the Depression years
Work on the Administration Building began in 1928, and finished in 1931. It was located next to the present-day cafeteria.
Before... ...and After
With an indebtedness of $12,000, the Depression came with a sudden and devastating impact.
During the early 1930s, enrollment went as low as 15 students. However, there was always food on the table, and the payroll was always met.
The Lord preserved Monte Vista Christian School from the fate of many other enterprises through the generosity of Henry Brooks, a Fresno farmer, who liquidated all indebtedness of the school.
God's plan for purchasing the property
Henry Brooks, Leo Westwater, VP of Granite Construction, plus Ernest Frasher, a member of the Fresno County Board of Education, formed a non-profit corporation. The corporation took title to the small piece of land on which the Administration Building was located, plus the right of way to the main road.
The elder Murphys were no longer able to handle the property, and it passed to their heirs, who were not favorable toward Christian schools. They wanted to sell the ranch.
When potential buyers came to the ranch to see it, they did not want it with a fenced-in school building in the middle of it, so it did not sell.
The 1940s and the War Years
Mr. and Mrs. M. Arganbright, friends of the school, purchased the land when it was at its lowest value in October 1941, for $5,250 for all 66 acres, instead of for $40,000 like it was in the 1920s. The school then purchased it from the Arganbrights over a ten year period, and in 1964, the small piece of land held in trust was deeded over to the school.
Martha Sailer came to Monte Vista Christian School in 1940 as a freshman. During her senior year, she became good friends with Don Price, the son of R.O. and Nell Price. They were married in December 1944.
After finishing his degree, Don Price taught at Monte Vista, and later served as principal. Martha Price graduated from San Jose State and also taught at the school. Jim Price stayed at MV for several years, and he and his wife Anita became missionaries in Peru.
The early 1940s were war years, and times were sometimes difficult. However, enrollment stayed at about 70 students, and a larger cafeteria was needed. It was built in 1948, and is still in service today, with two additions in the 1960s and 1970s, and a complete redecoration in 2006.
In the late 1940s, an airstrip was developed near the row of eucalyptus trees at the present stadium, and a hangar was built. Friends, parents, and staff flew into this small strip.
The 1950s bring changes
The 1950s were a time of trusting the Lord, as it became clear that the administration would soon undergo a time of change due to the failing health of R.O. Price. After much prayer, Don and Martha Price were encouraged by this verse from the Lord: “God will provide.” Faithful teachers and staff pulled together to sustain the school.
Martha's brother John Sailer, and his wife Lorna, came to Monte Vista Christian School in 1950, after both finished at San Jose State, and greatly strengthened the school. They built the home known as the Sailer House, which has since been renovated and is being used as the Admissions Office.
In 1954, Monte Vista Christian School was made into an irrevocable non-profit corporation, which meant the school could never be sold to benefit anyone.
Nell Price suddenly passed away 1957. R.O. Price was sick. There were financial struggles. The school hung on to that scripture, “God will provide.”
In February, R.O. Price resigned as president, and Don Price was chosen in his place.
In 1958, R.O. Price married Ruth ________, a 1930 Monte Vista graduate whose husband had passed away. Ruth loved R.O., and took good care of him during his last 18 months. After his death in 1959, she spent the next 30 years developing and maintaining the school library.
In 1956, John Sailer was diagnosed with polio, leaving him completely paralyzed except for the partial use of one hand and arm. Through Lorna's loving care, he came back into the classroom, although in a wheelchair after being hospitalized for a year. He was able to continue teaching math and science for 20 more years.
In 1951, the school newspaper The Messenger was begun. A print shop was built to accommodate the printing press and other equipment necessary. That building was later used for the music department, then history classrooms, and in 2007 it started a new life as a blackbox theatre for our drama department.
The student population was more than 100 at the end of the 1950s. The first phase of the boys dorm was begun in 1959, and it was first occupied in 1960. A second story was added in the 1970s.
The 1960s and new growth
In 1963, Monte Vista Christian School received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Afterwards, one of the professors on the accreditation team said that if he had a daughter, she would attend Monte Vista, because he had seen such loyalty and commitment among the staff and the students.
In the 1960s, the Athletics Department became organized under the leadership of Dale Lebeck and C.C. Richardson. The first gym, now called the Middle School gym, was built by Harry York by moving a Quonset hut piece by piece from San Jose, at a total cost of under $5,000.
In 1960, a new Grade-A dairy was built on campus by Mrs. Jackson and her son, Roy. Students enjoyed the fresh milk for many years.
The student body grew to 150 boarding students and a few day students. The athletic teams were doing well in competition.
The 1970s bring new staff and new buildings
The girls dorm was begun in 1970 and completed in 1971. Mr. Robert Stotts, a Monte Vista alumnus, and Mrs. Robert Hellman of the Hellman mayonnaise company, were largely responsible for paying for the building.
Among the key staff members to serve in the 1970s were Lyle and Julie Olson. Lyle beautified the campus, put utilities underground, oversaw the building of the swimming pool and the Library/Science complex, and he installed several acres of lawn between the buildings.
Another was Dale Lebeck, who worked first as Registrar, then as high school principal. He later married Leah Price, the daughter of Don and Martha Price.
Paul Lyons became Athletic Director, and steadily started improving and expanding the program.
Ed Coddingham worked in the financial area.
Much of this growth was made possible by friends of the school who donated property in the Oakland area. They were Rod Busk, Oliver Fox, and Jack Wade. The property was sold, and the money used for the campus improvements.
The baseball field was built in the 1970s, and was improved in the 1980s with dugouts and a beautiful view of the campus.
Clark Wetzel came in 1974, starting as the boys dorm dean and science teacher, and later becoming principal of the high school. He had a vision for more day students, and a daily busing program was started in 1978 with a single bus to bring students to campus. Additional routes were added as they were needed, and today we have eight bus routes to four counties.
Monte Vista has always had at least a few horses. R.O. Price rode his horse around campus to oversee various projects. In the late 1970s the MV Horse Program took over the old dairy building and began to expand until, in the 1990s, there were over 30 horses. In 2006, the equestrian facility was leased to an independent operator, who still offers horsemanship as a Monte Vista PE class and holds summer equestrian camps.
The 1970s finished with about 400 students.
In the 1980s, Dale Lebeck saw the need for a lounge in the girls dorm. He, along with Mary Jackson’s input, designed it, and Harry York built it in 1982.
Dale supervised the building of the high school gym, which began in July 1984. The main part of the gym was dedicated in November 1984, and the rest was completed over the next several years. When it was finished, it was completely paid for.
In 1989, the October earthquake made the old administration building unusable, so classes were held all over campus, including hallways, lobbies, the staff dining room, and the outdoor picnic tables.
The student body was now up to 700. The middle school was also growing, under Jim Hyman who served as principal during much of the 80s.
Because of the earthquake, a permit was obtained in record time to build a new administration and classroom building. The permit was issued in April 1990, and the building was approved for occupancy on the second day of school in September 1990. The first day of school was held outdoors, and it was a thrill for everyone to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened the doors to the building the next day.
More to come, and photos, too!