Thursday, October 4, 2012

Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle

The Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle

by Ken Hecker, Saxon Shield Staff, Loara Class of 1966

In the middle of campus are a few bricks and some cement, surrounded by pavers. As of this writing there is still a bronze plaque mounted on a roughly-poured block of concrete near the center of that "circle". It was once a circle, but now, as of a month or so ago, appears more like a hexagon. Half the original bricks are gone, as walls have become a seating area. But let's look back at what this "circle" was, or was meant to be.

Larry Lawrence (Wayne Lowell Lawrence Jr.) was Loara's first Senior Class President. Class of 1965.

He was also an athlete (quarterback and pitcher for the baseball team). Larry was the main force in developing plans for a Senior Circle, an area where Seniors could go to socialize, eat lunch, and study. It would give them something to be proud of, and to look forward to, year after year. 

This overhead view was the original vision for the Senior Circle. Vertical surfaces would be red brick, and it would be raised approximately one and one-half feet above the surrounding pavement, have three ramps up to the center of the Circle, and have raised lawns, trees, and shrubs. In the center would be a fountain. 

It appears that by the end of the 1965 school year, the plans had changed. I suspect that money was the main concern, and so the brick walls were shortened to about one quarter their original length, and the height-above-grade of the Circle decreased to about six inches. Larry seems to have replaced the long brick walls with brick pillars and a chain around the Senior Circle. 

A computer-generated model shows how the original design might have appeared. 

During the summer of 1965, Larry Lawrence died while attempting to save two women, members of a tour group he was with, who were caught in heavy surf off the coast of Italy on June 30th. 

Medaglia D'Argento Al Valore Civile
Fort Rosecrans
At home, shocked Loara alumni and present students were brought together for a memorial service. At the time we were told that Larry's body was never found, but his niece, Erin Armstrong, has told me that he was found four days later. Larry was awarded the Medaglia D'Argento Al Valore Civile, which is Italy's second highest civilian award for bravery. Larry's family was invited to the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1966 to accept the award on behalf of Larry. 

Larry is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California. 

Construction began on the Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle in 1965, and was dedicated before Loara's first Homecoming Game. 

ASB President John Longtin presided over the dedication ceremonies. 

John Longtin dedication to Larry Lawrence

Leonard Rumery &
Principal O.G. Thomason

Construction, by L.B. Penhall, continued off and on for several years.

Penhall Trucks hit the campus
Plans were made to replace the fountain at the center of the Senior Circle with a statue of a Saxon.  The class of 1969 proclaimed that they would finish the Senior Circle. Included was a promise to future Seniors of a place of their own. 

It seemed those pesky corner bricks just wouldn't stay put.  (see a few photos down)

In an article from the Saxon Shield from November 6, 1970, we see another promise made to students about the Senior Circle in their future. 

Before the Sammy statue as the Circle was being built.
Late in the 1960s a statue, built under the leadership of Metalshop instructor Ronald Tracy, with help from Loara's Art Department head, Wilber Ahlvers, was finally added. 

Sammy being built
In the early 2000s this was the lovely scene of the Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle. Grass and large shade trees (which a satellite view from 2010 shows were still there). Picnic tables and benches for sitting. The statue, affectionately referred to as "Sammy" standing at the center, behind the bronze plaque that still proclaims the "LARRY LAWRENCE MEMORIAL SENIOR CIRCLE." 

Saxon Shield 11.6.70
Problem was, when the Anaheim Union High School District changed to four year high schools (originally all AUHSD high schools were three year institutions, and junior highs were three years, including Freshmen), there were only three "courts" for students. Where to put the new Freshmen? The school gave them the Circle. 

The Original Concept
What it became, although notice pesky corner bricks not staying (oddly enough a problem that continued.
After Sammy's dedication
Sammy early in the 2000's notice the grass and high walls
Sammy surrounded by pavers, the brick walls are the next to go

The Death of the Senior Circle?

In the spring of 2012 many of the trees on campus were marked for removal. We of the new Loara Saxons Alumni Association were led to believe by the school district that this was simply landscaping. When faculty and students returned from the summer to prepare for the new school year (2013), they found the Circle had lost half its brick, as the walls were turned into support for seating areas. What we'd been told was upgrading of the Circle had turned into the destruction of any personality it had. Areas where trees had been planted were squared off with cinder block to create raised planters, losing any semblance of a "circle." 

Senior Circle September 2012
Brick walls are lowered to create more seating 

What I believe is that the Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle, or as Larry would have expected it to be called, "The Senior Circle" was doomed from the start. It lost its meaning over the years - from our not being able to come up with enough money to build it as large as envisioned (maybe if there had been alumni to help out, it could have happened, but we were the first), to its being placed in the middle of the open area... 

Ariel view after modernization prior to trees being removed in the summer of 2012
(see the tiny circle in the satellite view) of campus, where, after another building was added, it could never be expanded, to the Students of Loara finally coming to a point of not having a clue what it meant to them, or anyone else. 

Now, forty-six years later, all that is left are some bricks, and a bronze plaque with the name of someone no one apparently cares about - except we, the earliest Loara Saxon alumni. 

When Pam Krey attended her first Fall Athletic banquet as Loara's Principal, she found the coaches awarding a trophy named after Mike Carr. Now Mike (class of '65 and a great member of the football team) did die in 1966, but not, as the coaches believed, trying to save two women caught in heavy surf in Italy. They had confused one Loara Saxon with another. Again, no one had a clue. Pam, who had lived it, corrected that immediately, but I have no idea how long it had been going on. Now I'm told that journalism students have never heard of the Saxon Shield, which hopefully will be revived this year. 

How would Larry Lawrence feel about all this? He'd probably say "It's their school, let them decide." And he'd be right. This is a school district which shows more pride in a high percentage of its students qualifying for the Assisted Lunch Program than in traditions that keep a school strong. 

I've coined an expression. It goes like this: "Tradition is something to add to, not replace." Sadly, the Senior Circle has been replaced with a seating area. Next! 

(note: this was written by a graduate of Loara High School, I did not edit the document in opinion, feeling or tone)


  1. I can't believe they got rid of the senior circle. Breaks my heart. When I was there I wish we were able to raise the money to do something about The Circle it was in terrible repair. I sometimes think traditions should be explained to students, so they can respect it more. I didn't know who Larry Lawrence was, and what he had done, until AFTER I graduated. I've worked a lot of high school reunions at my work lately, and I truly hope that Loara can outshine what other schools in the area do. It's a better place than that. Larry Lawrence should also always be remembered as a hero, especially one that sacrificed so much.

    I'd like to seriously thank Mr. C for putting in all this work to try to keep Loara what it is. I think we've all seen other school in the area fall apart, and Mr. C's commitment to the school and alumni should be respected and appreciated more than it seems to be, especially my the current students at the school. If people like Mr. C weren't putting in the extreme effort, Loara would be a place I wouldn't want to send my children.

    As for now, I plan to send them there.

    Thank you Alumni for getting back involved, and Mr. C for your countless-unthanked hours of work.

    Is there anything on campus that needs our immediate attention so the school does not lose the character it's been given over the years?

    Saxon Pride,
    - A somewhat recent graduate

  2. I'd like to encourage all Loara Alumni to join the Loara Saxons Alumni Association, Inc. This group has just been formed (and after 47 years, it's about time), and we have plans to help Loara, despite some glitches along the way, to become an even greater school. Tradition is very important, and we've seen, over the years, much of that tradition lost, or replaced. My slogan is "Tradition is something to add to, not replace." This near destruction of the Larry Lawrence Memorial Senior Circle is an example of people with no investment in Loara's past, trying to shape its future from a textbook, and not from the heart. "Saxon goals, there are three: SPIRIT - PRIDE - HUMILITY"

    Please go to:

    1. Not being on any of the mailing lists, this is the first I have heard of all of the goings on. If anyone reads this, my e-mail is


      Bob Whitmore

  3. I remember in the era I graduated that they did everything to "break tradition" as they described it. We didn't have a planned grad nite; my friends and I had to go on a bus with Kennedy High School to Disneyland, but if anyone asked us, we had to say we were from Kennedy. One yearbook in particular was filled with negativity in order to promote their agenda, it didn't even use school colors. The senior ring was suddenly given to Sophomores (a 3 yr school then) because they didn't want to make them feel inferior. There was talk of giving the senior cirle to the sophomores as well; tho' I don't rememember the outcome. I was a sophomore at the time, I believe in working up to the top. What's wrong with a few senior privileges? I believe working your way to the top; or in this case, as a senior, you earned it. I guess the motive worked because no one knows what the traditions are anymore.

    Change is inevitable. It will happen, it does happen, but it doesn't have to be either/or; you can progress and change and still respect the tradition. I wonder how much more the kids of today would love and respect their school and their teams and their band if they knew some of the rich traditions and history steeped there? How would it affect their lives? Many times the traditions in our past and the reasons for them affect the changes of tomorrow and the descisions we make toward our future. I believe in preserving the past, enriching the present, and inspiring hope for the future.

    Thank you Mr. C for all you do, you truly are appreciated. I feel confident our kids will leave Loara with a respect for the traditions and pride you get from being a Saxon.

  4. Excellent blog article; very educational and the photos and graphics are a very nice touch. Thanks so much for providing this historical information because when I attended Loara in the 1970s, I literally had no clue about anything regarding Larry Lawrence. Now I have a true appreciate for his memory AND for the Senior Circle.

  5. If we can get just one thing straight. The hexagon out in the middle of campus was to be called the "Senior Circle," and in Saxon Shield articles, more than once, it was explained to the student body that when they became Seniors, this would be a privilege for them - to be able to relax there, study there, and eat their lunch there. Then that was taken away. When Larry Lawrence died the summer after he graduated, it was decided to name the Senior Circle, which project he spearheaded, after him. The bronze plaque proclaiming that still sits, sometimes covered in bird doo, in the "Circle." I'm sure Larry would have preferred that the circumstances had been different, and it could have remained the "Senior Circle."

  6. I have been at Loara since 1979 - 82 and teaching since 1987 til the present, and for the record it is called the Senior Circle. I'm not certain to who or why people think it's not. I know many don't know the story of Larry Lawrence and what not, I never heard the story myself until I started teaching there and felt that we need to teach Loara History. It wasn't until John Dahlem came back as the Principal was it something campus wide as a lesson. But I can emphatically say it is and always will be the "Senior Circle" whether seniors hang out there or not.

    Furthermore, you no namers out there, thanks for the nice shout outs, it's sweet of you

  7. Looking at the drawing that is labeled "The Original Concept" I'd have to say that that is what Larry settled for after the realities of what money would be available became known. Originally the walls on each side of the ramps would have come all the way out to where the pilars for the chains are shown, and the lawns would have been raised up to the height of the center of the Senior Circle.

  8. I'm a graduate of the Savanna High School Class of 1965. I knew Larry Lawrence. He was a fine young man. I remember the report of his death in the Anaheim Bulletin. The coastline where he heroically gave his life was posted with a warning sign not to swim, because of dangerous currents. Two females ignored the signs and went into the water. They got into trouble. Larry saved them and then drowned. He died a hero's death. All of us who knew him were shaken by the news.

    I'm not at all surprised that he's been pretty much forgotten and his memorial changed to whatever it's called now. I, however, still remember him. They don't come any better than Larry Lawrence.

  9. For the record, it's still the Larry Lawrence Memorial, that still stands ... the circles nickname is what goes through name changes as students take ownership of the school each generation.

  10. I, too, remember Larry Lawrence. I was his girlfriend throughout most of high school. He was my first love. I was devastated by his tragic death. I hope the Loara Memorial Circle will go on, in his name. He always had a vision beyond his time. I treasure me sweet memories still. Cindy Huff Rasmussen