Student Life

Crystal in the Late 80s: An Interview with Alumni

By Maya W. ’24

GG = Gryphon Gazette (Maya Wohl)

MW =  Michelle Wohl ‘90

PW = Phil Wohl ‘90

The following interview was conducted by Maya Wohl, class of 2024, with her aunt Michelle Wohl and father Phil Wohl, both class of 1990, to share the Crystal Springs experience 30 years ago. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

GG: Could you please share some of the traditions at Crystal when you were a student?

MW: Some of the traditions that I remember were Junior-Senior Kidnap, which was a big deal, and I remember we went to the beach. We went to Poplar Beach when we kidnapped the Seniors, and when we were kidnapped, we went to Angel Island. It was just a really fun day. Unofficial traditions? We used to go to Windy Hill and then Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay.  There were also a ton of unofficial trips. We went to Tahoe a few times, once during a blizzard.

GG: Was this for the grade? Or just you and your friends?

MW: The grade. It was nice, it was everybody. It wasn’t very cliquey. Everyone would just go and meet up. 

GG: How many people were in your grade?

MW: 56. Sixth grade actually only had 9 girls and 9 boys. And unfortunately, one of them was Phil, so I had even fewer new people. And then for seventh grade, it doubled, so 18 became 36. We were actually supposed to be the last sixth grade class. 

PW: I don’t remember that – they outlawed sixth grade? So we were the youngest grade twice?

MW: Yeah, when we were in seventh grade there was no sixth grade. I don’t remember what year they brought back sixth grade, but we were supposed to be the last sixth grade class. 

MW: Oh! Another tradition was the Senior Lounge. Ours was in this very dingy, dark room in the basement of the Mansion. It was gross. But it was a fun place; we would all go to hang out there. We also spent the night at school to watch Halley’s Comet. We just got soaking wet with dew, but it was fun.

MW: One tradition that I know is gone is that they would announce college acceptances.

GG: Oh god.

MW: Yup, Mrs. Harper, the College Admissions Counselor would just list off people and where they got accepted. They would never do that today.

GG: How were the campus and facilities?

PW: Once I had a basketball game in the gym, and parts of the ceiling were just falling off. 

MW: Yeah, the gym was not fancy. Really bare bones. It was a really big deal when we got a Pepsi machine in the cafeteria. But by the time we were Seniors, they outlawed the Pepsi machine because they didn’t want soda on campus.

PW: The theater was being built while we were there – the theater and the art studio. You know what we also didn’t have? The Seniors would never have a theme to dress up as on the first day of school and they wouldn’t greet the younger students.

GG: How was the food?

MW: Food was terrible. Everything was frozen and heated up. But chicken patty day was a big day; everyone would look forward to that. And if you didn’t like the lunch, your only choice was to default to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

PW: Wasn’t the snack just graham crackers and that’s it?

MW: Yeah, but there was a hot chocolate machine. It would be so cold, and you would just go inside and get hot chocolate in a styrofoam cup. We wasted a lotttt of styrofoam cups. 

GG: What about the social aspect and friend groups?

MW: It was very not cliquey. You would have your groups of friends and at lunch you’d come in and just sit with whomever from your grade. Phil, did you think that too, that it wasn’t cliquey?

PW: I mean, I don’t think the boys were really that cliquey and I don’t think I talked to a girl my entire time at Crystal Springs, so I wouldn’t know.

GG: Any scandals?

MW: This isn’t a scandal, but I won a year of free tuition. It was a lottery thing. Tuition was $9,500 a year, but it was still a big deal back then. 

MW: Oh, I know a scandal. When we were Seniors, we got a new Headmaster. He found out that we were all going to go to Windy Hill (unofficial tradition) and he basically said, “It’s off. Do not go.” So everyone was super upset because everyone thought he was trying to kill this tradition. 

GG: Why would he cancel it?

MW: Because he knew there was going to be drinking.

GG: What was the school newspaper like?

MW: Gryphon’s Tale? Pretty low budget.

PW: The big exposé that we did with the newspaper was the cheating scandal. People would cheat on tests a lot. I remember the title. So in the movie Fletch, he’s a newspaper reporter and his big story is “Drugs on our beaches, shame of the city.” So the article was “Cheating in our classrooms, shame of our school.” No one got it. And the newspaper wasn’t on real newsprint – it was just 8 ½ by 11 pieces of paper stapled together. 

PW: There was a rivalry with Crystal Visions. The Gryphon’s Tale decided that Crystal Visions was our rival. The editor of Gryphon’s Tale wanted to prove that Visions would accept any low quality work, so he submitted a poem to Visions. Only after the article was published did everyone discover that the first letter of every sentence spelled out “Gryphon’s Tale Rocks.”

MW: I was on yearbook staff, and this was before there was desktop publishing. And the way we would do our Senior pages is that we would all get a piece of graph paper and we would staple or tape physical photographs to the paper, and you would either hand-write the captions or type them out and then print it to the graph paper.

GG: What was the dress code like?

MW: So when I started, we had to wear the uniform summer skirt or winter skirt. And it had to be at your knee – you weren’t supposed to roll it up, but everyone did. And you had to wear the uniform white collared shirt. But every year, the school relaxed more and more. So you could wear whatever shirt you wanted as long as it was white or blue. And then you could wear navy blue pants. And then you could wear whatever you wanted, as long as it was navy blue or white. 

GG: What were the sports teams like?

PW: We didn’t have football, lacrosse, or swimming, and baseball was added when I was there. There were a lot fewer sports. There weren’t a lot of outside coaches, it was mostly teachers and PE instructors who did the coaching. Cross country was always good. I think soccer was good too. 

GG: Anything else to add about student life in the late 80s?

PW: There was Friday detention, and it was called a Friday. You would have to stay after school on Friday for a few hours and do manual labor, like moving desks and tables, and cleaning up or setting up if there was an event. It was the big thing that everyone feared and kept people in line. If you were disruptive in class, or if you threw food during lunch, swore, broke the dress code, those things would get you a Friday. And if you accumulated enough, you would get suspended. 

GG: Did you ever get a Friday?

PW: No, but my brother did. He was in a study hall in the cafeteria, and people were talking, but he wasn’t. And the teacher was upset because he kept having to tell everyone to be quiet over and over again. And then my brother dropped a pencil, and the teacher went, “That’s it. You have a Friday.” 

GG: Thank you so much for sharing!

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