Columbus Tustin established a
grammar school almost as soon as his wife and
five children joined him in Tustin City from
Petaluma Calif., in 1870, but 50 years passed
before Tustin had a high school.
When the state of California in 1891 offered
counties the option of establishing one or more
high schools or forming union high school
districts, Orange County chose to form unified
districts, but by 1920 only six areas had
accomplished this. Anaheim, Capistrano,
Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana all
had high schools.
Graduates from Tustin Grammar School with a
yen for further education had to attend Santa
Ana High School at 10th and Main or, after 1911,
Santa Ana Polytechnic High School on West
An article in the Tustin News on May 3, 1929,
explained that the sponsors of this law had
expected Tustin and the Irvine Ranch to be
annexed to Santa Ana. However, E. C. Utt helped
form a citizens group to fight for the
organization of a Tustin Union High School
District. This move combined Tustin, Laguna
Beach, El Toro, Trabuco Canyon and San Joaquin
elementary school districts into one unified
district, Tustin Union High School, in the
spring of 1921.
Although Tustin was far from being the
geographical center of this large area, the
board of trustees formed with representatives
from each district selected it as the site of
the new school.
In short order the voters approved a bond
issue of $250,000 and the board purchased 15
acres on Laguna Road between Newport Avenue and
Red Hill. The board paid Clarence Bowman and
Jacob Fink $41,000 for the property, which
included a house that could be used by the
superintendent of schools, and hired Mott M.
Marston, a Los Angeles architect, to design the
building, which would be constructed by local
contractors William Bowman and George Preble.
That fall about 75 students attended classes in
temporary quarters at the Tustin Primary and
Grammar School location.
The beautiful $35,000 neoclassic building
with a 1,000-seat auditorium, an outdoor Greek
theater, domestic science department, mechanical
and manual training departments, athletic field
and gymnasium opened the following year with the
first class graduating in 1924. Three years
later a new wing was added, then a larger
gymnasium and a swimming pool.
Although a family sedan was sufficient to
bring students to and from Laguna the first
year, a complex transportation schedule which
allowed students to stay after school for sports
and other activities quickly developed. Tustin
Union High School was in the business of busing
as well as educating.
J.W. Means came from Banning, Calif., to open
the school as its first superintendent and
remained at the helm until his death in 1940.
Many of the early teachers , including Emma B.
Hield, Stella Yocum, Madge Stephens and Clara
Macomber, stayed at Tustin until they retired.
In 1966, the original building was judged to
be unsafe in case of an earthquake. It took
wreckers 10 days to demolish the structure
during July of that year. The old building was
replaced with the current facility which,
without the charm of the original Tustin Union
High School, continues to carry on its excellent
traditions, excelling in both sports and
Tustin Union High School District merged with
Tustin Elementary School District on July 1,
1972, becoming part of Tustin Unified School
District. A California Distinguished School,
Tustin High has been recognized by Newsweek
Magazine as one of the top 600 High Schools.