East Bakersfield High School Class of 1969
Tell Us Your Stories
The Legend of the EBHS Water Tower

Some say it did not happen this way.  It's my recollection, or maybe I just heard it somewhere, or maybe it was a dream.  Whatever the truth, it makes a good story.

In 1967, the High School District decided to tear down the EBHS water tower and sell it for scrap.  Standing at the highest point on the campus and inside a cyclone fence enclosure with four strands of barbed wire on top, it had stood since EB began.  The district erected it because EB did not have access to the city's water system in its early days so the tower provided a "gravity feed" source of water for the school's needs.  I can still see the large capital letters "EB" painted on its side.  An icon of the school's strength, it could be seen for many blocks in any direction.  Its role as an EBHS "icon" prompts this fable.

It seems two friends in the Class of 1969 recognized the water tower’s significance and decided that, as part of the EB's, at least a part of it deserved rescue.  More than that, it deserved to repose in Senior Park in perpetuity.  Obviously, they could not save the entire tower so they pondered what piece could best represent the whole structure in spirit. 

They considered this conundrum very late one Saturday night as they cruised home after making several loops of the Chester Street strip and a fast stop at Andre's Drive-in.  As they drove by what remained of it that the demolition team had not dismantled and hauled away, the answer came to them - the "ball."  By the "ball”, they meant the ball that had sat majestically atop the water tower all those years. 

As the highest piece of the water tower, a gigantic crane had long since removed it from its perch.  Now it sat forlornly on the ground among a jumble of beams, metal plates, and bolts.  This heroic symbol of EB required saving.  It clearly belonged in Senior Park compliments of the Class of 1969.  The friends needed a rescue plan before it landed in a scrap heap.  And sure enough, a plan emerged.

It was very late the next Saturday night (or very early on Sunday morning, depending on the way you look at it) when a car mysteriously parked on the corner of the side-street across from the water tower.  It did not belong there, but no one noticed.  Everyone on that block had long since gone to bed.  The quarter moon provided barely enough light to see. 

Two shadowy figures emerged from the car with an extendable ladder in-hand.  In a rush, they soon had it propped against the cyclone fence and the first of them reached the top and jumped over the barbed wire.  He was immediately followed by the second assailant who, being somewhat clumsier, managed to snag his pants on the barbed wire going "over the top."  "Rippp!" 

It sounded so loud that the Sheriff's Department must have heard it all the way downtown.  He fell heavily on the inside of enclosure with a long, jagged rip in the seat of his jeans.  They stayed very still as they looked around to see if anyone had heard or if any lights came on in the homes across the street.  No, the coast was clear. 

They pulled on a rope attached to the top of the ladder and succeeded in tipping it toward the inside of the enclosure.  Then they hastily pulled the ladder through the barbed wire where it joined them.  They had made it.  Now to get the ball out.

Funny thing, the ball had looked much smaller on top of the water tower.  Now facing it in the darkness, it seemed much larger.  It seemed to be heavier than expected, about fifty or sixty pounds, too.  Pushing, shoving, and grunting, they made several attempts to role the ball up the fence and heave it over.  Clearly could not throw or push the ball over the fence as planned.  The second part of their plan unraveled.

A car's headlights approached and they quickly flattened themselves against the ground as it drove by.  These things never happened to the people on "Mission Impossible," they thought.  With the cars headlights fading as it passed the baseball field, they stood-up and talked the situation over in whispers.  So far, they had managed to trap themselves and their ladder inside the water tower’s 8-foot high cyclone fence, with the barbed wire on top, in the middle of the night.  The water tower's ball was too heavy to throw, lift, or push over the fence to salvation.  What to do?

They decided that if they could get over the fence using the ladder, so could the ball.  They carried it to the vicinity of the fence.  The ladder went back up.  This time it extended higher than the barbed wire.  The guy with the ripped pants went over the fence, making sure not to snag himself this time.  The second guy put the ball on the ladder and carefully raised the ladder until it and the ball were over his head.  The guy outside the fence slowly and carefully tipped the ladder by pulling on the rope.  Sure enough, the ball rose as the ladder rose.  Eventually it began rolling down the ladder as the center of gravity cha

Mark Morrison