It's That Time of Year: Back-to-School

For most of the nation, the school year has just started back up after a summer off. As you get your kids to and from school, have you ever wondered the history of the school?

We have asked author Tony Wade to tell us a little more about the history of his high school, which he details in his new book Armijo High School.


Author Tony Wade

Local History Book

I graduated from high school in 1982 and in the Senior Superlatives section of my yearbook, you know, with “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Popular” and “Most Athletic” and all that--I was chosen as “Most Likely 41 Years From Now to Write A Local History Book About Our School.”

Okay, not really.

My books thus far for The History Press have been about Fairfield, California and you are forgiven if you've never heard of it. Of the 35 states that have a city named Fairfield, the Golden State’s is the largest. We are halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento and our main claim to fame is that we are home to the Jelly Belly factory.

My first book Growing Up in Fairfield, California was published in 2021 and coming hot on its heels in 2022 was my sophomore effort, Lost Restaurants of Fairfield, California. On August 7, 2023 my latest book, Armijo High School: Fairfield, California made its debut. 

Local History Book AuthorI’ve written 600 local history columns for the Fairfield newspaper (yes, that is still a thing here), but it’s not like I’m a trained historian with a degree or anything. I’m just some guy who has lived here a long time and knows how to do research and string some words together.

The History Press’ Acquisitions Editor Laurie Krill offered up the descriptor “accidental” when I was searching for an accurate and whimsical way to convey what kind of historian I think I am and I have ran with it.

At a recent book signing a woman asked me why I use “accidental historian” and I said “So if you find anything that’s wrong in my books I can just blow it off and say: Pfft! What do you want from me? Accuracy? I’m just an accidental historian! I ain’t Ken Burns!”

All joking aside, when it came to writing a history of Armijo (pronounced army-oh) High School, I was a little intimidated. The school has been around since 1891 and so we are talking about thousands and thousands of graduates and teachers and how can you possibly cover all of the various school functions and culture and changes over that period of time in a 200 page book?

I chose just to use representative samples of the students, staff, events and athletics and more and not worry about the people who would inevitably say “Why didn’t you include x or y?” I was not writing an almanac or encyclopedia.

It helps that some Armijo alumni are famous like Pat Morita (Class of 1949) who played Arnold on the TV show “Happy Days” and Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movies, Johnny Colla (Class of 1969) from pop group Huey Lewis and the News, Mothers Against Drunk Driving founder Candace Lightner (Class of 1964) and New York Giants Super Bowl-winning defensive end George Martin (Class of 1971) among others.

But the overwhelming majority are not famous, but some still have compelling stories that are humorous, compelling and poignant and I chose to highlight some of them as well.

A real challenge was that in 2019 the school’s symbol/mascot for 90 years, the Armijo Indian, was retired and replaced with the Armijo Royals for the same reasons the east coast NFL team became the Washington Commanders.

Many if not most alumni were against the change, but I looked at the issue from both sides and tried to find common ground as there is now a schism between the old guard and the current administration.

Besides my new book selling well, it is also helping to bridge that gap as the current principal of the school came to a book signing I had and I am planning to do one at the school in October.

Local History Book AuthorThe principal said my book is “a great rallying point to the significance of Armijo in this community.”

That 12-word mini-review already exceeded the expectations from this accidental historian.