Cole School, Oakland, California (from Oakland and Surroundings) 2

Cole Grammar School (1878-1923) was a school in West Oakland on 10th Street between Union and Poplar Streets. It was named for Rector E. Cole an early Oakland dentist and member of the city council, and member and then president of the Oakland Board of Education. The school was built of wood and burned down the morning of December 31, 1923. Arson was suspected. 8

Jack London attended Cole starting in 1887. He graduated 8th grade in 1891, but being ashamed of his shabby suit, skipped the ceremony.

A classmate, Frank Atherton, later wrote that Jack was ”occupied with books. Not only did he apply himself diligently to his studies during class, but also during recess and the noon hour, he would sit on one of the benches in the school yard, reading some strange tale of romance and adventure, while other boys and girls were at play … he read many books, some seeming far beyond the comprehension of a ten-year-old boy. And it was remarkable how well he remembered the details of so many stories.” 1

In 1887 Joshua P. Garlick was principal (reportedly, Jack London was no stranger to his office), and there were 15 teachers: Mrs. Fanny M. Pugh, Miss Alice A. McCord, Miss Agnes G. Madden, Mrs. Harriet J. Lee, Miss Mary F. Buckelew, Miss Martha R. McClure, Miss Carrie A. Vinzent, Miss Eleanor Pullman, Miss Florence A. Pereau, Miss Susie H. Snook, Miss Hattie B. Sproul, Miss Josie N. Standeford, Mrs. Jennie N. Brower, Miss Maggie Conners (sister of Mollie Conners) and Miss Fanny G. Smith, with John S. Fox working as the school janitor.

1896 attendance was recorded as 695 students. 3

Cole School Report Card, 1899 Student: Bessie (Bessye) Pettis, 8th grade, Principal: George W. Frick, Teacher: Louise Grove 7 Duties of Pupils at Cole School, 1899. Printed on the back of student report card. 7

A 1901 “bring a pet to school” day ended badly in Miss Robina Ferguson’s class. A white pet rat escaped its cage, which was then pursued by a brindle cat, which was then pursued by a Newfoundland dog, which was then pursued by all the boys in the class. The chase didn’t end until the cat caught the rat. 4

Jack London, with bow tie, in the second row on the right, student at Cole School, Oakland, California (1887) 6Ribbon signed by 1916 class members of Cole Grammar School
Collection of the Oakland Museum of California
class of 1922. Harry Ernest Cahn holding tip of 'Oakland 1922' banner.
Courtesy his grandson, Darrell Lavin

photo by Philip Amborn, Cole graduate

Cole Grammar School alums

Cole Grammar School staff

Links and References

  1. Boyhood Days with Jack London, Frank Irving Atherton (via Journal of the Emeryville Historical Society)
  2. Oakland and Surroundings Illustrated and Described
  3. Schools Largely Attended, San Francisco Call July 29, 1896
  4. Pet Rat Spoils A Nature Study, San Francisco Call November 24, 1901
  5. Alameda County: The Eden of the Pacific Tribune Publishing Co: 1898
  6. Image(s) used by permission of the UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
  7. Image(s) used by permission of family of Bessye Pettis
  8. Arson Plot In Eastbay Discovered Oakland Tribune December 31, 1923