LIVERMORE -- In 1963, Livermore's David Martin and a couple hundred of his fellow students packed up their notebooks and pencils and headed off to a new school year -- not at Livermore High, but at the city's newly built Granada High School.

It was just more than five decades ago; the year the Beatles took Britain by storm, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

In the small but growing town of Livermore, rural life was fast giving way to suburbia as Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories (the latter previously known as Lawrence Radiation Laboratory) continued to draw families to the city.

Granada will mark 50 years of serving the community's students during a three-day celebration May 23-25. The weekend will include downtown gatherings for alumni, friends and family; a charity golf tournament; basketball and softball games; a fun run; tennis tournament; school tours, entertainment and discussion panels on the Granada campus; an anniversary dinner; and wine tasting at the city's wineries.

David Martin was among the first students to attend Granada, entering as a sophomore in 1963. He was part of the school's first graduating class of 1966.

"It was a pretty exciting time, kind of fun," he recalled. "We were able to choose the school colors, black and gold, a mascot -- the matador -- and the school song. It was like a legacy; we got to set everything up for the new school." Martin recalls a small school population of about 300 freshman and sophomores that first year.

"We had a real good mix of teachers and administrative people, and we got to see the school grow," he said. "They added a new freshman class every year, so by the time we graduated it was freshmen to seniors. There was a good mix of teachers, ranging from those who had taught for awhile to some fresh out of college."

The campus lacked many of its current amenities, he added.

"We did have a gym, but there was only one locker room that was partitioned off, with boys on one side and girls on another," he said. "They had the pool by the time I graduated, but no football or baseball fields. All the baseball games were played at May Nissen Park. Our football home games were played at Livermore High."

Martin's two sons, Jeremy and Corey, both graduated from Granada, as did Brad and Diana Morisoli and their children Kelly, Kevin and Kayla.

"Livermore had a very rural atmosphere then," said Brad Morisoli, who graduated in 1973 along with his future wife, Diana. "I can remember when I was young, riding my bike with my shotgun on the handlebars going to the arroyo to shoot. It was a small community."

The Morisolis recall a can-do attitude at the school, where parents assembled the school's bleachers and installed the original lighting system for night sports. By the early '70s, Livermore still retained its small-town feel, Diana Morisoli said.

"I remember the Livermore Rodeo being a big focus, and the agriculture," she said. "First Street was pretty basic; there was the old hardware store and some mom-and-pop stores. We all had to share cars and drive old clunkers that hardly moved. Back in those days, maybe half the kids rode their bikes to school."

The school's early days and the decades following will be celebrated by a wide range of returning students, said Granada alumnus and event spokeswoman Patti Smylie.

"There are a lot of people coming from great distances, and many, many who graduated in the '60s and '70s," she said. "This is very poignant for them. They won't even recognize Granada; the place has changed a lot."

The weekend will include tours of the school, memorabilia displays, question-and-answer sessions with former teachers and coaches, and, undoubtedly, a lot of fond reminiscing. The weekend is designed to honor alumni and the community at large, Smylie said.

"We want anybody who is part of the community to help us celebrate," she said. "We want people who may live in the neighborhood and came to the games to come. We're extending the invitation to everyone.

"For most of us, there's always been a special thing about Granada," she added. "It was built on volunteerism ... by parents working with kids and older kids working with younger kids. It was like the little engine that could."

IF YOU GO
Granada High School's 50th Anniversary celebration will include:
  • May 23: Charity Golf Tournament, Las Positas Golf Course, dinner to follow.
  • Downtown Decades: Special celebration venues in the downtown for alumni, friends and family beginning at 5 p.m.
  • May 24: Invitational Basketball tournament, tennis tournament, softball and Fun Run. Main program at Granada High School beginning at 11 a.m. with speakers, tours, music. Black and Gold Anniversary Dinner, 5-10 p.m., Shrine Event Center, Livermore.
  • May 25: Wine tasting and individual class gatherings.
  • Information and registration: Details on all events at http://www.granadahigh.com/50thbirthday.