This father and son graduated from Whittier Regional High 40 years apart and, in some ways, their experience could not have been more different.
Donny Maker, from Whittier’s Class of 1974, was part of a rough-and-tumble crowd that marched into the job market as tradesmen right after high school. A carpenter who runs his own remodeling company, he celebrated his son Jonathan’s graduation from Whittier last week.
Jonathan Maker plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in college in engineering, and he is the valedictorian of his class. He enjoyed the look on his father’s face when he delivered the news.
“He was amazed,” he said of his dad’s reaction. “He’s always talking to me about all of this potential and how I can do so much. But he could never have imagined this, the tough guy from trade school, seeing his son graduate from his old school as valedictorian.”
The father was not a straight-A student like his son. He and his wife, Katie, could not be more proud of Jonathan.
“He’s always been bright,” the elder Maker said. “We tried to give him good support at home and show him how to better himself. He really gets it.”
As Whittier celebrated its 40th graduating class, the Makers’ story shows how the school and the students coming out of it have evolved. Donny Maker’s class transferred from Haverhill Trade School to the newly-built Whittier Tech for its senior year in 1973 and become Whittier’s first graduating class. When he was a freshman, the school’s seniors sold “life insurance” for $5 to underclassmen.
“You paid the insurance if you didn’t want your butt kicked,” Donny Maker said.
Boxing was taught in gym class and it became a place where disputes were settled, where “kids would literally beat each other up,” he said. The boys in each vocational area would also wrestle one another until a winner was declared. The winners would then go on to wrestle the winners from other shop programs for the tile of schoolwide champion. Most shops also had an “initiation” process to test the mettle of the new recruits.