In spring 2022, Mike Sonksen took two of his Interdisciplinary Studies 102 Natures classes to the Theodore Payne Foundation, just north of the Woodbury campus in Sun Valley. While walking with his students, they met Judith Plummer, a long-time Sun Valley and Burbank resident. Ms. Plummer ended up walking up Wildflower Hill with the Woodbury group, talking about her memories of riding horses in the Verdugo foothills in the 1950s. A few weeks after their hike together, she visited Woodbury at Sonksen’s invitation. Plummer attended Villa Cabrini School for Girls for five years back when the school occupied today’s Woodbury campus. Professor Sonksen shares Plummer’s short oral history of her experience.
“I attended Villa Cabrini from 1955–1960 — 8th grade through high school graduation. It was a day and boarding school for girls from kindergarten to 12th grade. Students came from all different parts of California and other countries, mostly Central and South America. While it was a Catholic school, we had many students from other faiths, as well.
“The campus was set in the midst of olive groves. There was a serenity present on campus. The grammar school classrooms were perpendicular to the Church (now your library). The corridors were open colonnades with tile roofs. There were lunchrooms in both open and enclosed areas, an auditorium, the same swimming pool location, tennis courts, and the last building to be built was the gym.
“In 1955, a fire broke out in La Tuna Canyon and came perilously close to the hills behind the school.
“I lived in the Shadow Hills part of Sunland, and we went to shop in Burbank which was merely two sides of the street filled with small shops; there was Valley Plaza in North Hollywood for Sears and other stores. I went to a campaign rally for John F. Kennedy at Valley Plaza in 1960. We were somewhat amused because he was wearing a coat and tie and it was very warm California weather. Burbank and Sun Valley were very suburban areas full of houses and apartments. Glenoaks and San Fernando Road were the main streets.
“The Golden State Freeway was opened sometime around 1962. During the previous years, we would have to take Sepulveda Blvd to the Los Angeles Airport. The area around Burbank Airport was filled with large buildings and hangars belonging to Lockheed and other smaller electronic and manufacturing companies.
“I moved away from the area a very long time ago, and it was quite by accident that I met you, Michael, and your students at The Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley and joined you on a little hike up the hills of La Tuna Canyon.
“You graciously invited me to the school, and while there is truth in the saying, “You can never go home again,” I was delighted to see some remnants of the old buildings, the Church, and that the beautiful location still remains.
“My visit a few weeks ago to the Payne and also the Woodbury Campus made me think about the past. When I was young — and I think many young people are the same — I thought about the future a great deal and wanted to move on quickly, thus we don’t always enjoy the present. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘It is pointless to try to know where the road leads. Think about your first step, the rest will come,’ by Shams Tabrizi.”
Last Updated October 7, 2022.