EDUCATION AT WESTLAKE HIGH - SINCE 1891
In August of 1891, one acre of land was donated to the Calcasieu Parish school Board for the purpose of erecting a building to serve as the public school in Westlake, Louisiana. It is believed that the land was donated by Mr. Allen Perkins, but we are unable to confirm the report. This one-room school was completed in time to begin classes in September 1891, and thus, marked the beginning of one hundred and eight years of public education.
We would be lax, indeed, if we did not point out that prior to 1891, education was not completely lacking in this area. About 1875, Mr. William B. Pilley migrated to Sugertown from Alabama, and after a short stay, came on to Westlake. He was a preacher and a teacher and did both while he resided in the area. He taught in what was called the Sand Gully School, located between John Stine and Bagdad Road, near the old Hightower Store, on which is now Miller Avenue. It was a private school with the students having to pay for tuition, texts, and supplies.
The next three private, one-room schools were located near the old Liggio home site on Bagdad Road, at Myrtle Springs, and underneath where the Calcasieu River Bridge is now.
The new public school was large enough to take care of enrollment the first year, but by the time school began in the fall of 1892, a partition divided the building into two rooms. In 1902, another room was added, due to the increase.
In those days PTA in Calacsieu Parish, organized in 1908, was boasted by WHS. The organizational meetings were held in the old frame Baptist Church because it had a bigger area in which to meet.
Of all the names appearing in the list of principals, there is one which shines just a little brighter than the others. It is that of Mr. S. P. Arnett, who served from 1909-1922. He was credited with having founded the first high school in Westlake, since it only went to the seventh grade back then. High school students had to cross the ferry to attend Lake Charles High because the enrollment here was not large enough. So, in 1914, a new three story brick building that served the educational needs of the community, thanks to Mr. Arnett's efforts. Some of us today remember it as the "yellow brick building", although it was actually made of red bricks which were painted. Upon completion of his fine building the old wooden one was torn down and was used to build the school on Harrison Street across from the old Ram Stadium. The lumber must have been excellent, because the building in not only still standing but is in use today.
Transportation was needed to get the students to and from school, so a team of horses hitched to a covered wagon operated by Mr. and Mrs. Spearing, transported a full load from Bagdad, through Myrtle Springs, over to Emile Guillory's house on Houston River Road, and on over to Westlake High.
Great progress was made in 1936, when a new building was added to the WHS campus which boasted an auditorium with a stage and a narrow balcony around three sides of the auditorium so that it could double as a gym. The spectators at the basketball games stood around this balcony and cheered the rams to victory. This building was known as the "red brick building".
Westlake High saw it's first year book in 1946. It was called "The Big Horn." Dick Vines was editor, Christine Saloom was the sponsor, and the staff honored her by dedicating this first work to her. The title was changed to "The Ramler" in 1947.
Our first band director was Mr. John L. Babb, a 1943 graduate of Westlake. The uniforms were white sailor britches, white shirts, and black ties. Alice Adams Fanta, drum major, led the band through its paces in parades and football games.
The advent of football in 1946, brought a new activity to our school--Homecoming! The field was in the area of the present outdoor basketball courts at Arnett. Among the festivities brought the crowning of the first queen, Miss Jessie Howard, whose parents still reside in Westlake.
In January of 1949, we moved into the present building known today as S. P. Arnett Middle School. In 1952, the elementary wing as it was called, was added. Part of it was later used by the High School because of the rapid expansion. This building is no longer standing at S. P. Arnett.
January 9, 1967 - Westlake High School - 1000 Garden Drive--the end of a long and impatient wait for the students and faculty had finally arrived. This was the day the first classes were held in the completely air conditioned, 100,000 square foot complex which included sixteen general classrooms, six science/lecture rooms, a language/writing lab, buisiness lab, library, band and choral rooms, cafeteria, and an auditorium which seats over a thousand people. Also included are an administrative/guidance suite, two sickrooms, a spacious, faculty lounge, and a separate vocational workshop area.
Since then, additional classrooms have been added in which you will find two rooms for Art, three Special Education classes, a Visual Education room, another Science lab, and three regular classrooms. Completing the campus are full sized turf football field, baseball, softball, and band practice fields, all of which have underground watering systems. Many, many changes have taken place since its inception, and these changes are what we can look back on with fond memories and very loudly say,
"WE'RE FROM WESTLAKE, NOBODY PROUDER!!!"