Mr. Ray Vaughan, director of the Sunny Hills High School vocal music department from 1962-1978, died March 4th, 1987 at his mountain home in Crestline, CA.
During his tenure at Sunny Hills, Mr. Vaughan’s choirs were honored with many awards and commendations throughout
southern California, providing rich musical experience for hundreds of students and community members
Mr. Vaughan had one of the greatest smiles of anyone, anywhere. He was the supervisor of a Study Hall class I took as a freshman in 1963-1964, with only juniors and seniors. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who knew Mr. Vaughan and didn’t like him. Our late friend Chuck Estes, ’64 was especially close to “Ray”, and like every great high school teacher or coach, Ray loved teenagers.
He had an “angry” role he played in Study Hall, if a group of students just wouldn’t be quiet and stop talking. He’d yell, “PEOPLE!” and give them a dirty look, which slowly dissolved into a grin. There were always a few fun-lovers in Ray’s classes — let’s put it that way — and getting them to pay attention and sing with the rest was a major task he faced as a teacher.
We were supposed to study or read in that class, or at least keep our heads down and not gossip or flirt too loud. Ray would work in front at his desk, and sometimes look up at all of us, or stand up and look. Many was the time we could see the affection on his face, and he might wink at a student, make a mock-frown, or point a someone and chuckle, or just cast his eyes from one kid to another, enjoying the moment. He’d known a dozen or two of us from three or four years of singing, and sometimes he knew who girlfriends and boyfriends were, who the athletes were, the best students, the best-looking kids, and more.
A least he knew my name, probably because I went up to each new teacher the first day and explained that I was very hard of hard hearing. In his class, I always had a feeling of warm companionship, safety and security, especially as an anxious freshman from West Fullerton without many friends yet. He made us feel important, and worthwhile individuals.
We were with him the terrible day President Kennedy was assassinated. I’ve told the story before on the SPOON: we approached the double classroom and saw a couple of groups of guys speaking solemnly, without smiling. I think Bill Monkman was in one. We asked what was going on, and they said “Kennedy was shot.” That’s all we knew so far, but we were close to panic. Some people, not necessarily Lancers, thought the Russians had shot Kennedy, and that a nuclear attack on the USA would follow.
I went inside, sat down, and waited quietly. Mr. Vaughan arrived, sadder and more worried than I‘d ever seen him, but he kept his composure and started answering questions we asked him. He was completely candid, and to many questions, he said, “I don’t know, Joan.” “I don’t know, Mary.” Having him with us calmed us down. He was a parent, we were still kids, and somehow he would take care of us. I felt a little better. There may have been a few tears in Mr. Vaughn’s eyes, too.
Suddenly, Principal Bert Hathaway came over the school intercom with an announcement. I think most of us felt certain about what it would be. “The President has died in Dallas.”
You know, a Greyhound bus could have crashed through the room and bowled us all over, and none of us would be any less shocked, emotionally deflated or numb than we were. The news was unheard of. Two presidents had been assassinated in the 19th Century, if anyone remembered on that day, but this was 1963. In Fullerton, on the top of the hill at Sunny Hills High School.
There was a short silence, a few seconds only, and then a few of the more confident kids spoke up. I’ll never remember what they said. Don Martin was there, and Aaron McGuire, Joan Gibbs, and Jeff Chin, Tom Stiel ..
Mr. Vaughan remained strong. A few more kids joined the general conversation in the room. Would Vice President Johnson become President? When? Where were Caroline and John-John? Is Jackie OK? Where would President Kennedy be buried? Would we be sent home? How could this happen? Who fired the shots? Our questions didn’t go anywhere, but they occupied us, and by his presence, Mr. Vaughn encouraged us. Life would go on.
There was something spiritual about Mr. Vaughan, too. The man taught teenagers to sing from the 1950s to almost 1980. What could be more heavenly?