Heber marks anniversary of historic institute

October 05, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

HEBER — On Thursday, the white-shirt, blue-shorts wearing students of Heber's middle school celebrated the 93rd anniversary of Heber's long-deserted old school building that could be moved to the Imperial area before its 94th anniversary.

Flash back to Oct. 4, 1908.

The Heber Collegiate Institute opened for classes with a red-ribbon cutting ceremony.

City and county officials from as far away as Brawley were there for the event. It was a big "to-do" for a bustling turn-of-the-century community near the railroad line and halfway between Imperial and Calexico, according to former Heber resident Karye House.

The pioneer women in fancy hats and the ruddy-faced men had designed and financed a classical collegiate building complete with marble pillars, a chandelier and intricately designed ceilings.

The only thing missing was the ivy.

The "college" would only last two years, but the building was used until 1952 as a middle school, educating generations.


Flash forward 93 years.

Modern-day Heber students stood in their new library in remembrance of the years ago ribbon-cutting ceremony at the behest of 13-year-old eighth-grader Juan Luis Perdomo.

He showed the kids a Power Point presentation detailing the history of the school and the kids then heard firsthand accounts from old school Heber school graduates Jesse Garcia and Bill Worthington.

Since 1999 Juan Luis has studied the history of the building and he is one of a group of Heberites who want to keep the building here to celebrate its 100th anniversary and beyond.

One problem with that plan — Heber doesn't own the land on which the building sits. The land on which the school sits was deeded to the Imperial County Historical Society four years ago.

The society has already started the prep work to move the building to the Pioneers' Museum site east of Imperial.

Once the building is moved, the land will be sold to International Fabricators & Engineers of Heber, which owns the land next to the old school site.

During Thursday's presentation for the kids, Juan Luis basically explained to the younger students the history of the school and its place in Heber lore.

He let Frank Miranda of the Imperial County Historical Society tell the kids the building would be moved.

"Well that's been the plan," he said.

Miranda told the kids that metal beams will be placed under the building to lift it whole and truck it to Imperial.

One child asked Miranda if the building could crash and break during the move.

He said it could but the society would take every precaution to move it safely and restore the building once it is in Imperial.

Miranda said the kids would be able to visit the school after it is refurbished.

After the ceremony, Juan Luis said he wished the school could stay in Heber. He has written to President George W. Bush telling him about the situation but hasn't heard back yet.

"I wrote him at the wrong time," he said somberly.

Minutes later, around the post-ceremony snack table, Juan Luis found out from Sergio Ramirez of International Fabricators & Engineers that cement has already been poured in the basement of the school and volunteer Historical Society workers were readying the beams for the move.

"Oh," he said and took a sip from his mini-orange juice carton.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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