More than 100 people affiliated with the Desert Sun School (later the Elliott-Pope Preparatory School) in Idyllwild from the year 1942 to the school’s closure in 1990 held a reunion last Saturday. The reunion was on the school campus, now the site of Astrocamp.
Some Idyllwild notables who attended were Marshall Hawkins, who taught sports at Elliott-Pope in 1986. Although Hawkins is primarily known for his music abilities, he also taught and coached many different sports. He recalls he didn’t really know much about girl’s volleyball. He said, “The girls taught me volleyball, and I taught them how to be together as a team.” The team went on to win the CIF state championship.
Another local who attended the school in 1963 was David Salk. He remembers being in the cafeteria, where the reunion luncheon was held, and hearing the news that President Kennedy had been shot.
Garner Valley resident Margaret Wellman Jaenke was hired by Edith Elliott, founder of the Desert Sun School in 1942, when the school was in Mecca. Jaenke recalls she had just graduated from high school when she became a housemother, cook and bookkeeper. She left in 1943 to study education.
When the school moved from Mecca to Idyllwild in 1946, Jaenke’s family provided the horses for the students and staff from their cattle ranch in Anza. Jaenke led many trail rides for the school. Never one to slow down, Jaenke founded and operates the Anza Historical Museum.
Math teacher Gordon Wilson and his wife Evelyn, the French teacher, were greeted by former students. The Wilsons met on the Saunders Meadow campus in 1969, fell in love and were married three months later.
Michael Melas, class of 1979, enjoyed reminiscing with other students. His mother, Herta Melas, taught at the school from 1969 until it closed.
Ian Livingston from Northern California and his sister Ellie Livingston Row enjoyed coming back to Idyllwild. While looking over Jaenke’s album, they discovered some pictures of their mother, Jesse Whitman, who had been a teacher at the Mecca location in the early days.
After lunch, Bob Smith, Idyllwild historian, spoke on the history of Saunders Meadow before it became a school. In 1925 it was the Idyllwild Golf Club. The grandsons of Edith and Richard Elliot were in attendance and gave anecdotes about their grandparents.
Kaththe Fenters, Carol Creveling and Bruce Epstein organized the 2014 reunion. Lynnda Hart put together the school’s history — on display at the Idyllwild Area Historical Society Museum — as well as a timeline Smith produced on the development of the property. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at 54470 North Circle Dr. Admission is free.