On June 28, 1907, a pert brown-eyed baby girl was born on a farm near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was the first child of John Blaine and Lyda Beck Barton... and they named her Evelyn. Later, the family was completed with the arrival of brothers Loren and George.
It was apparent early on that Evelyn had unusual talent. She first learned to play the piano, but her love of music really blossomed when her father gave her a trumpet. At age eleven, she won the Iowa State Musical Memories Competition. She continued her musical studies, and eventually learned to play all of the band instruments including the French horn which was her favorite. She would also later learn to play the violin, organ, accordian and guitar.
When Evelyn was 12 years old, her family moved to Hawthorne, California where they purchased four hundred acres of land in the area where Hawthorne Boulevard and 120th Street now stand. They lived in a tent across from what is now a Northrop Corporation facility. Evelyn's father had been a farmer and teacher in Iowa, but became a plumber in California because there were many new people coming to the area, and plumbing paid more than teaching.
In 1925, she graduated from Inglewood High School, and went on to UCLA for three years of teacher training. She would later earn her Bachelor's and Master's degrees at USC.
All her teaching and educational services were accomplished in the Centinela Valley, except for one year, during which she served as principal of the Elwood School near Santa Barbara. Evelyn taught for thirty-seven years plus five post retirement years as a substitute.
She began her teaching career during the Great Depression with a class of 55-second graders in the Hawthorne Elementary School district's Washington School. By the time she retired, she had taught every grade through the twelfth grade. While with the Hawthorne School district, she organized an Orchestra and a Marching Band. This band teamed with the Hawthorne City Band to march and play in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
During her busy tenure in Hawthorne, a group of students, eventually known as 'The Barton Ranch Gang', became in important part of her life. It all began when some of these students expressed an interest in learning the guitar. Evelyn had not yet tackled that instrument. She taught herself to play, and then taught the students to play.
Two of her elementary school students became well known. A little girl in one of her third grade classes grew up to be Norma Jean Baker who would later be known as Marilyn Monroe. Another child, Zoot Sims, grew up to be an accomplished alto saxophonist and eventually a great jazz musician.
In 1936, Evelyn and Charles Gawthrop were married in Santa Barbara. They had grown up together in the same Hawthorne neighborhood. Charles worked on 'Project Manhattan' at the Los Alamos, New Mexico laboratory. Following that assignment, he attended U.C. Santa Barbara to obtain a teaching degree. He eventually became Assistant Superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District.
Charles and Evelyn adopted their daughter Carolyn when she was two years old. They also found room in their hearts and home for many other children who needed them.
During World War II, when all the male teachers were scarce, Evelyn was offered the position of Director of Music at Leuzinger High School. Once again Evelyn was the leader of a proud marching band of 85 young musicians at the Tournament of Roses Parade on a New Year's Day. While at Leuzinger High School, she taught physics, math and science, in addition to music. Her final assignment at Leuzinger was as a very effective counselor.
The Gawthrops were very active in community affairs and professional activities. Charles was a mason and served as Master of the Inglewood Lodge, and Evelyn was a member of Eastern Star. They belonged to the First United Methodist Church until Charles's death. Evelyn transferred to First Presbyterian Church of Inglewood in 1972. She was active in the PTA, which presented her with a special service award. She was also very active in the Girl Scouts when daughter Carolyn was a participant.
Evelyn is a member of Inglewood chapter HN of P.E.O. and the Historical Society of Centinela Valley. Evelyn continues to maintain her membership over the years. She always found time for hobbies and to participate in fascinating activities outside of school. For several years, she played heraldic trumpet at the Annual Easter Sunrise Service at Hollywood Bowl. She also played her beloved French Horn with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She has conducted the Disneyland Marching Band on two occassions.
One of her most satisfying activies was traveling abroad which resulted in her extended collection of lovely porcelain and other interesting artifacts. Her time spent fishing at Mammoth Lake was also a special time in life.
Perhaps Evelyn's greatest gift was her empathy and her skill in working with children and young people. They responded to her because she was a powerfully positive motivating force in their young lives. And, she was fun!
Many of her former students continue to keep in touch. Her Leuzinger High School Class of 1944 still gets together to celebrate her birthdays. A Swiss AFS student, who lived with the Gawthrops, is now a Pediatrician in Switzerland. They have enjoyed weekly telephone calls and reciprocal visits ever since the young woman spent her year at Leuzinger. The granddaughter of a young girl that Evelyn 'salvaged' keeps in touch by telephone from across the country. These are just a few examples of the impact of the caring touch of Evelyn Gawthrop.
Evelyn's family today consists of two granddaughters, one great granddaughter, three neices, one nephew, two great neices, seven great nephews, and her brother George.
Evelyn remains active. Her wonderful sense of humor belies her 102 years. She keeps up with current events and enjoys her life. If you sit next to her in church, you realize her fine clear singing voice is still strong and has remarkable range.
We have been blessed to have this wonderful lady with us. She is a valuable treasure to everyone. We love and wish her happiness.
Happy Birthday Evelyn!!!
Signed Sandra Castillo Suarez '72
Vice-President Centinela Valley Union High School District