The following newspaper article originally appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Sunday, Apr. 3, 1983 (Sec. 1, Page 3).
Gifford Cole May Hold Record
By Linda Lee
Gifford Cole, pioneer rancher of Lancaster and current trustee of the Eastside Union School District, may well hold the state record and quite possibly the national record, for 39 years of service on the same school board.
According to the State School Board Association and the State Department of Education, there appears to be no official record for such service, although there are several close contenders.
Mark Sullivan of Courtland has served as a school board trustee in Sacramento for 49 years in three districts, leaving Cole the apparent record holder for consecutive service in the same district.
A true cornerstone in the history of Eastside School, Cole has served as president for three years and participated in the construction of the present Eastside School site. In 1944 Cole was asked to fill out an unexpired term and has been re-elected ever since. Why? "Well, usually there are no opponents running as a rule," he admits.
But according to Dr. Jack Killian, district superintendent, Cole "provides stability and wisdom to the school governance process. He is a board member that serves because of his interest in performing a community service and has provided stewardship through both favorable and unfavorable situations. He believes that the school district's purpose is service to our educational charges and is a true advocate of public education.
"He has been involved with many of the historical changes have occurred in the Eastside Union School District and because of his long-tenure of service is able to provide information that would otherwise be unavailable.
Eastside School began in 1908 under the name of Roosevelt. At that time the district included other districts, encompassing a total of 192,940 acres. Roosevelt School first consisted of a small homestead house at 90th Street, south of Avenue E. Two trustees governed the school and its 14 students. Today the school at 6742 East Ave. H has an enrollment of more than 600 and is still growing.
Cole recalls that the district had to borrow money from the state to build the school because it couldn't get enough bond money. The school was designed and was the last plan approved by the state to have an inside corridor. "The reason we wanted an inside corridor was so the students wouldn't have to go outside in the bad weather," he said. </font></p>
Eastside was built in four increments with the last phase completed in 1967. Starting salaries for teachers in Cole's earlier days on the board were $3,000 per year. "Teachers have received a raise in salary every year since I've been here, " he says.
Changes and improvements Cole has seen through the years include the improvement of studies and curriculum. "We have better methods of teaching, more equipment to teach with and better facilities and school buildings," he said. "When I first came to the school board we had a code book that was about one inch thick; now it is about six or seven inches thick.
In 1946 the school unionized taking in Terra [sic] Bonita, La Solana, Redman and Roosevelt. Cole said the district unionized to have a teacher for each grade and to have a better school.
Cole first came to the Eastside in 1930. "Nothing has changed much since those days except there is less hay and alfalfa farming than there used to be," he said. He recalls the days of only one local store and one church, both after the name of Roosevelt. "You knew almost everyone you saw," said Cole, noting the population in Lancaster was about 3,400. There weren't any activities in those days except the Grange but Cole kept busy playing on the Lancaster Basketball Team coached by Whit Carter. The team played surrounding towns such as Bishop and once went up against the Globetrotters in Los Angeles. How did they do? "Now what do you think?" asked Cole.
His talents also took him to the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1933 through 1935 when he played the French horn with a 30-piece band. Directed by former Ledger-Gazette owner Paul Hubbard, the band entertained at parades and other community events.
Cole was born in Hastings, Neb. and came to California in 1927. His father, John Cole, went to work for Blue Seal Laundries in Pomona where he met his farming partner, R.E. Pickering. John Cole and Pickering bought a quarter section in the Antelope Valley at 100th Street East and Avenue G-8.
Gifford graduated from San Bernardino High School in 1929 and attended the local junior college. He later joined the staff at Blue Seal Laundries as an engineer. In 1929 he married Thelma Canfield in Los Angeles and moved to the Antelope Valley in 1943 when he and his brother, Clinton, bought out Pickering's share of the property.
The original 160 acres was desert when they first purchased the property, said Cole. There was no alfalfa on it and the first year the planted 80 acres and added more each year. Eventually the original acreage was expanded to 280 acres and on an average produced about eight tons per acre of alfalfa per year. The Cole brothers had their own farm shop which they used for all their repair work including gas and electric welding. "If we needed a special piece of equipment, we would build it," he said.
About three years ago the Cole brothers began to phase out their operation and Gifford and Thelma continue to live on the ranch. Some of the acreage has been sold and is now back to the original 160 acres. Cole also recalls the first beginnings of the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival where the Coles won "Alfalfa is King" in 1963.
Back in the 1930s farmers were contacted to donate a ton of hay with the proceeds to go toward purchase of Fair property. In the early days the fair was held at Sierra Highway and Beech, he said. Cole served on the first committee which established the first Fair in 1938. Since then he has been an active participant in popular Rural Olympics.
Cole and his wife Thelma have four children, Robert Cole of Anaheim, Ronald Cole of Lancaster, Sandra Jones, Quartz Hill and Linda McIntosh, Texas. They also have eight grandchildren. All four attended Eastside school where their father has governed for so many years. According to Dr. Killian "Cole is conservative in his fiscal approach, yet is always willing to favorably consider expenditures if it can be shown that they will result in an improved education process for children."
Although Cole said he doesn't have a definite philosophy of education, he believes in "the basics", with elementary school serving as preparation school. "Music and art are fine as long as there are funds and enough
interest,: he said.
The current trend for schools to emphasize science and math grams and introduce students to the use of computers is a good one, said Cole, as long as computers remain in the upper grade levels. Of new State Superintendent Bill Honig, Cole says, "He is going to do us a good job;he has good ideas."
Currently Eastside is facing and increase in enrollment and is seeking approval of a city ordinance which would require developers to pay fees to the district to pay for additional classroom facilities. The city and district have been discussing the matter for about two years and if such a fee is approved, it would lessen the district's financial burden. Cole noted at least one developer has expressed a willingness to pay such fees voluntarily and he is hopeful that developer fees will be approved.
In addition to his years of service on the Eastside Union School District Board, he has been active in the community in many other capacities.Cole has served on an advisory committee to the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, the Rotary, Joshua Tree Grange, Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, and the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency where he participated in solving water problems in the Valley.
Currently Cole is a member of the Lancaster Elks Lodge No. 165, the Los Angeles County Farm Bureau, the Antelope Valley Soil Conservation District, and is a charter member of the Eastside Farmers Organization. He is also an honorary
member of the Lancaster chapter of the Future Farmers of America.
In his earlier days Cole was an avid hunter and fisherman, traveling as far as Utah and Colorado to hunt deer. Locally, near Tehachapi, he hunted deer and fished in the Mojave River and Lake Mead.
An expert bowler, Cole took many trophies at local tournaments. He is also a rock collector and cuts and finishes rocks as a hobby.
Source: Lee, Linda. "Gifford Cole May Hold Record." Antelope Valley Press, 3 Apr. 1983, sec. 1, p. 3.