The Life & Times of Jane Trussell
If you introduce yourself to Jane Trussell today, she probably will not recognize you. When she knew you, you were an adolescent, not the middle-aged to older person with gray hair that you are presently. But tell her your name and the year she was your teacher and she will recollect the face of that era. That’s just the kind of person she was and still is today.
Trussell has known a lot of students in her 70+ years at San Pasqual Union School. She has seen the tiny, rural elementary school grow from a two-room schoolhouse with 45 students to a $15 million campus with a gym, stage, science lab and library serving more than 500 students. As a part-time teacher and full-time volunteer, Trussell stayed connected to the school that has been a major part of her life since she arrived at San Pasqual in 1942 as a recent graduate of San Diego State College. A native San Diegan and Point Loma High School graduate, Trussell was hired to teach the older students and fill the role of principal.
"This was during World War II and there was a shortage of people," she said, "So, I was principal, taught the upper grades, drove the bus and did the custodial work. “She eventually married, but she and her husband never had children. "I felt my children were at school," said Trussell. "I could send them home to mother at the end of the day and that worked out fine for me.”
Throughout all these years at San Pasqual, Trussell only missed one day of work -- the day her husband died in the late 1980s. Although she misses the old-fashioned tight knit family atmosphere of the early days, and she's not overly fond of schools' reliance on technology, she said there's still no place she'd rather be than the little school in the valley, helping out in any way she can.
Even at the new school on Rockwood Road, Jane would haul out her old record player and teach eighth-graders how to do the Virginia reel. With the record player providing the music, Trussell did the calling for the dancers. "Do-si-do and reel your partner . . . form a bridge and come on under."
Cece Bostrom, watched the rehearsals, and commented: "When I was a student here (in the '70s), we used to do this all the time. We used to do square dancing in PE, and at recess we'd play piggy wants a signal (a variation of hide and seek) and Mrs. Trussell would always be `it.' "
Bostrom worked as office manager to Superintendent/Principal Jeff Felix. Both recall how Jane would argue with program coordinators over her role during the actual performance. While she preferred hiding in the wings, they wanted her on stage with the students. Finally, there was a compromise. She called the dance from the edge of the stage, near the side curtain.
Felix spoke of his time with Mrs. Trussell with affection and admiration, noting her history and her commitment to children. "When Jane started working, they had to start their own fires. As a volunteer, she still puts in a full day opening and closing the school gates, teaching an algebra class, taking care of the marquee out front . . . she's always been there for us."
Trussell always started her day before 7 a.m. to unlock restroom doors and open the school gates. In the 2000’s her day included sorting mail, teaching, answering phones, emptying wastebaskets for recycling and any other odd jobs that needed to be done. Those days were a little different from when she taught English, history and everything else to fifth- through eighth-graders.
She said one of the biggest changes she's seen over the years is that the school is no longer the center of the community. “It used to be that everybody lived, worked and went to school in San Pasqual," said Trussell. "Now we have many new people who come from the city and have different attitudes. It's not the little, family-oriented area it used to be. We used to have big potlucks but we can't do that anymore."
She knows technology is supposed to be a good thing, but said there can be too much reliance on computers and computerized telephone systems. "We're getting away from people," said Trussell. "But you have to learn to deal with people."
While the school has been an integral part of Trussell's life, education hasn't been her only passion. "She was a premier female athlete in her era," said Felix of Trussell's years playing softball. She even has a ball field named for her at Escondido's Kit Carson Park. Trussell played in San Diego's women's softball league in 1937 and played on traveling teams through the late 1950s and early 1960s. "I was glad to see women's softball become an Olympic event," she said. "That's the caliber of ball I used to play.”
Among the teams she played on were the Slick Chicks of San Diego and the Tamale Queens, sponsored by the San Diego Tamale Factory. Trussell played third base and, when asked if she was a good hitter, she modestly replied, "Well, I have lots of trophies and plaques saying I had the best batting average.”
Trussell said her favorite part of her career in education has always been teaching children. "There's a satisfaction in knowing you're helping and teaching.” She said she chose to retire from the top job years ago because she didn't like dealing with adults. "You know what they say: Adults are a lost cause, but there's hope for the children."