IUSD at 40: Irvine High alum preserves images of the campus’ early years

Sometime during the 1978-79 school year, this happened at Irvine High School.

At first glance, taking a sledgehammer to the driver-side of a sedan might appear to be grounds for some disciplinary action, but this was actually a school-sanctioned event, and we can say with some confidence that no staff members’ cars were harmed.

This photo was shared by David Winterhalter, who captured scores of images as a member of Irvine High’s inaugural class. He also managed to preserve hundreds of other snapshots taken by his peers. These days Winterhalter is a professional photographer who shoots for the fashion and beauty industries. But he’s generously posted more than 1,000 images from his high school days – including many of his own – on a Facebook page called “Irvine High – The First Four Years,” which now has about 540 members.

The above shot, he said, was taken during a fundraiser for Irvine High’s nascent automotive class. For just a buck, a student could grab the sledgehammer and take three swings at the defenseless vehicle. It’s unclear how much money was raised for the program, but we imagine the activity also served as a decent stress-reliever and upper-body workout.

Thirty-plus years later, there’s a lot that we find interesting about this photo, but perhaps what’s most intriguing is what’s missing: safety goggles and some protection for the crowd of onlookers.

“Back then nobody gave consideration that the student might miss his or her swing and send a 15-pound hammer into the crowd,” Winterhalter joked, “or, for that matter, pieces of the vehicle becoming shrapnel. It was just a great time. No worries, just learn and make friends back then, and we were all a pretty tight group.”

Winterhalter recalls that the school’s auto shop was housed in the aluminum shell of a gas station that was purchased and relocated to the students’ parking lot. The course instructor was Bob Pestolesi, who retired from IUSD a few years ago.

Do you have an old photo of the Irvine Unified School District you’d like to share? Send it to ianhanigan@iusd.org, along with some basic caption information, including names, dates and locations. We may publish it on the NewsFlash as part of our IUSD at 40 project, featuring images from IUSD’s first four decades.