170th Anniversary Celebration

Our 170 year journey is one of faith and transformation from the humble beginnings of the pioneering Daughters of Charity who established our first Catholic school in San Francisco in 1852, to their partnership with the Christian Brothers educating young men here since 1874. This fall, we will celebrate our past, our present and our future.

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In celebration of St. Vincent’s, Cathedral, Sacred Heart, and Sacred Heart Cathedral, our theme, DECADES, honors our graduates and families of yesterday and today, while reminding us that our history is rooted in the history of San Francisco. We will explore our 170 years of Lasallian Vincentian education in the heart of the City with a time capsule containing events beginning in the 1940s to the present in every email message we send to the community this summer.
Discover our story below.

40s students
Photo: Mr. Tyler's students take a field trip to the Bank of America building.

As the 1940s began, a world that struggled through the Great Depression quickly turned into a world at war. The 1940s saw Marvel’s introduction of its newest character, Captain America, timed appropriately with the start of US involvement in World War II. Thousands of Pacific Theater soldiers returned to the States with brightly colored, tropical-themed, short-sleeve shirts that exuded a carefree and casual image. The Aloha shirt became an icon of every-day wear and outfitted a new era of American life. GI benefits helped spark a housing boom and a baby boom, as a young, educated, middle class set their eyes on fulfilling their American Dreams. Big Band music served as a soundtrack for the decade, with musicians like Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra leading the game. Tupperware was available in department stores, and the price of a loaf of bread was 10 cents.


The end of the ’30s saw great change for Saint Vincent High and Commercial School. The high school had grown so much that it was necessary to move it to a separate building — a four-story Edwardian building, the former Saint Francis Technical School at Geary and Gough streets. Girls wore a uniform consisting of a navy blue jumper, beige blouse with puff sleeves and a Peter Pan collar, black tie, and nylon stockings. World War II necessitated a uniform change when the beige French fabric was no longer available and nylons were rationed. As a result, a green blazer was added to the uniform, and the girls were thrilled to be able to wear Bobby Socks. The new school offered three major programs of study: college preparatory (accredited by the University of California), academic-commercial, and a general course (vocational in orientation). The school continued its one-year post-graduate commercial, secretarial course until 1945 which included shorthand, typewriting, bookkeeping, business English, filing, salesmanship, and general business training.

40s St Vincent students
Photo: St. Vincent's girls don their new kelly green uniforms.


40s students relax
Photo: Students relaxing at the corner of Eddy and Gough streets.
Coming out of the Great Depression, Sacred Heart students had trouble raising money to attend Senior Formal. With the economy on an upswing at the start of the decade, the school was able to hire Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing,” and his band for the Senior Formal Dinner Dance at the Mark Hopkins in 1940. Throughout World War II, the government called upon students to support numerous war loans and defense stamps. The Brothers found it heartbreaking to keep records of the school’s war casualties, and honored them with a commemorative plaque in the main hall. The Class of 1945 would pay tribute to their classmates with a new tradition. In conjunction with Saint Ignatius, they agreed to award an annual trophy to the winner of the majority of major sporting competitions between the two schools. The trophy was named in honor of Jerry Mahoney and William Bruce, who represented all of the graduates of both schools who died during the Second World War. In 1944, Sacred Heart dropped the word “college” from its name and became Sacred Heart High School.


Check out this link to a curated mix-tape on Spotify and dance to the songs of the 1940s


Junior Prom
Photo: Junior Prom at the House of Lawton, 1955.

The 1950s gave rise to the expectation of universal high school education, and even a college degree. By the end of the decade, color television became a reality, Alaska and Hawai’i became the nation’s 49th and 50th states, and a 42-year old seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks helped spark the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat on the bus. A $17 million park of eight themed areas, with thrilling rides and exhibits opened, and was regularly filled with parents and children eager to visit “the happiest place on earth.” Rock ‘n’ roll blared on the radio. Sock hops kept teens out late. Diners and drive-ins catered to young people. A Memphis disc jockey introduced a new musician by the name of Elvis Presley to the airwaves, and James Dean’s T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing rebel became an icon.


In 1955, Saint Vincent had an enrollment of approximately 325 students with ten Daughters of Charity and eight lay teachers. The Daughters dropped "commercial" from the name of the school and became Sant Vincent High School to emphasize the college-preparatory curriculum. On prom night, every girl was required to visit the Sisters at school for an inspection of both dates and dresses. The Vincenta Yearbook made its first appearance in 1956, and with forest green uniforms, every day was Saint Patrick’s Day in the miniature Emerald Isle at Geary and Gough. The Junior Red Cross held a canned food drive, and St. Mary’s reverberated with the “Aves” of the Living Rosary. Due to illness, Sister Dolores, the newly arrived principal, had to resign. Sister Loretta, assistant of the community, flew from St. Louis to take care of SVHS until Sister Rosalie arrived. The student body welcomed a new Superior.

Saint Vincent
Photo: Students in front of Saint Vincent High School, 1958.


mitty 2
Photo: Archbishop Mitty formally dedicating the new Sacred Heart High School.
At Sacred Heart High School, the 1950s were ushered in with celebration. Archbishop Mitty proclaimed on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee, “Since that day in January 1874, when the first Brothers opened the doors of the College at Eddy and Larkin Streets, Sacred Heart has contributed tremendously to the growth of the Church in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.” In 1951, the Archdiocese ordered construction of a new residence for the Brothers, a new gymnasium and cafeteria and renovated the classroom building. On Saturday, October 10, 1953, His Excellency Archbishop Mitty formally dedicated the new Sacred Heart High School and once again placed it under the protection of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.


Check out this link to a curated mix-tape on Spotify and dance to the songs of the 1950s


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