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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Neighborhood Fixture: What do silk stockings, Catholic school and frogs have in common?

Theme Hosiery factory/Photo courtesy Ribet Academy

Theme Hosiery factory today

By Becky Koppenhaver

You’ve driven past it a thousand times. It’s hard to miss the multi-storied, white and green concrete building near the Glendale Freeway and San Fernando Road that stands tall among the modest homes and businesses of Glassell Park.

Since 1992, the building has been home to Ribet Academy, a pre kindergarten-12th grade college prep school that grooms its students for colleges like Stanford, Duke, and Cornell and boasts a debate team that ranks 10th in the nation.

But long before the sounds of students and teachers filled the halls and classrooms of the dignified building, the thunder of large machinery and the drone of a hundred sewing machines could be heard from the street curb outside. Built in 1923, the building was originally the home of the Theme Hosiery factory that manufactured silk panty hose until after World War II, when nylon stockings became popular and put the factory out of business.

Photo courtesy Ribet Academy

A person whose parents and grandparents worked at Theme Hosiery shared memories of the factory at American History & Genealogy Project:

Each [knitting] machine knit 24 stockings at one time and was tended by one worker. Men would work back to back so they could help each other when the foot was turned. Women sewed the stockings together, then they were sent to another room where they were checked for runs or mistakes. Each stocking was placed on warm metal legs where they were pressed and sent to be placed in boxes. The making of cheaper nylon stockings after the Second World War put the company out of business … My parents and grandparents worked there and I can remember visiting them when I was a little girl and the sound of those big machines would shake the floors and make talking impossible.

In 1960, the building was purchased by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and made into an all-boys Catholic school run by the Irish order of the St. Patrick called Pater Noster. At its top, the school had an enrollment of 325 boys, but by 1991 enrollment had dropped to 190 and the school was forced to close.

In 1994, Ribet Academy, home of the Fighting Frogs, moved into the building after outgrowing their original campus in La Canada. The school renovated the property to suit its needs and has since improved the 8.5-acre campus with a batting cage, an organic garden, theatre,  tennis court, weight room, an arts studio, a marine biology lab, a ceramics studio and a gymnasium.

Neighborhood Fixture provides a bit of history and background about buildings and sites that catch our attention, for better or worse.



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17 comments

  1. I love learning about teh history of our comunity. thank you for posting this

  2. Great piece!!! Nice to know that the building was not demolished.

  3. Btw, our D.A., Steve Cooley, went to the school when it was the all-boys Pater Noster.

  4. Wow, I thought Ribet had been there longer than that. My dad used to work at Southern Pacific Railroad and we’d pass by the building on the 2 fwy on our way to Taylor Yard in the 80s. But I was pretty young back then and my brain had obviously re-written history. Thank you for the article. I love knowing the history of my ‘hood.

  5. I am a proud ex-member of “Hosiery High”

  6. Not to be a downer, but which debate team of theirs ranks 10th in the nation. I’ve been trying to find them anywhere in the HS rankings and haven’t found anything. A long time ago I was a national circuit policy debater and they weren’t even on the map but then things do change. Now Damien on the other hand has had one of the top 5 debate teams in the country for decades. I’m from back east though so I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m just genuinely curious since I live nearby.

  7. To Skr,
    sorry for the misinformation. According to the vice principal, the high school debate team was ranked in the top ten for the state only, not nationally. Updates are made yearly, so you might not be able to find that info yet.
    thanks-

  8. Hey Robert what year did you graduate? Those who are Alumni know this story, thanks Becky for making a new generation aware. Sadly my high school was not saved unlike other schools around the same time. We did not have big time alumni contributions nor the Bishops blessings. I believe in our prime 85-90% of graduates were accepted to colleges and universities. Thank you the brothers of St. Patrick.

  9. Pater Noster High School graduated greater than 95% of its students. Most of them going on to colleges and universities throughout the country. Other alumni went on to serve in the military, fire and police forces or started businesses. Some of the students were inspired by the Brothers of Saint Patrick commitment to serve God and eventually joined the priesthood and other religious orders. The Brothers were all teachers and administrators of the school. Many of the boys families were so poor the Brothers charged them only what they could pay for tuition. Some families paid no tuition at all. The Brothers gave these boys tough discipline, a true liberal arts education and Catholic spiritual formation and ethics. From 1960 to 1991 these Brothers took boys from the roughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles and molded them into Catholic gentleman. Thus changeing their lives forever. All of which, are eternally grateful.

  10. Several of my aunts and uncles worked at Theme Hosiery from the late 30s until it closed….and then I attended, and graduated from, PN in the late 60s.

  11. John-Emmanuel Shirajian

    Dear Ms. B. Koppenhaver
    Thank you for the interesting article regarding Ribet Academy. However you failed to mention the accomplishments of this school in Science and Mathematics.
    -33% of the graduates major in science/ pre-med and engineering.
    -It is one of the few schools in Southern California that 10% of its graduates study pure or applied mathematics.
    – Ribet has more than 6000 square feet of labs including a Marine Biology Lab.
    – Ribet has won more than 100 awards in science fair competitions , these include -the County Annual Science Fair , The AESA Science Olympiad and The California State Science Fair- as well as 27 corporate awards in science , math, and engineering.
    This small school’s Science / Math Department offers a lot of AP courses including AP Physics (B&C), Calculus (AB & BC). AP Chemistry , AP Biology&
    AP Statistics. The results speak for themselves.
    Sincerely
    John-Emmanuel Shirajian
    Ribet Accademy
    Science/ Math Department Chair

  12. Ahh, that is a bit of a difference.

  13. I am a graduate of Pater Noster, class of 1973. I got a superb education and did very well in college because of it. I had great teachers some of whom are now deceased. The Brothers of St. Patrick ran the school at great expense and produced for all graduates a great education because of their efforts. Thanks! PN!

  14. I am a member of the first Pater Noster graduating class, 1964. Great education; lifelong friends.

  15. Great story about the Theme Hosiery Building. Would be 90 years old today. There is an active Pater Noster High School 1960-91 Alumni page on Facebook. I believe the highest PNHS enrollment was around 600. As an example, I graduated with a 3.5 GPA, 1200 SAT score out of 1600. Mostly focused on Ethics, Literature, and Football. Yes, PNHS believed in a well rounded student-athlete that participated in sports. I went on to study Music and Philosophy at USC. But, the intense learning and discipline provided by the Brothers of St. Patrick within an old hosiery factory has proven to be invaluable over the years.

  16. I graduated from PN in 1981, it was a tough school in the sense that the brothers were strict in education and morals. If your period started at 9:00 am you’d better be present at 9 not 9:01, and if you weren’t then it’s push up time for the entire class. If an adult walked in you stood up from your seat. All my exams at PN were written, no multiple choice, and it was common to have 2 or more exams a week. When I got to college it was a breeze, I keep saying multiple choice I can’t believe they are giving me the answers. I took an English class in the summer at a JC before heading off to college, the teacher took a look at my paper and ask if I went to PN, and told me this class would be too easy it was there highest English class, thank you brother Kevin.

  17. 1975 graduate. You can’t underestimate the value of a good, disciplined education and that’s what the brothers gave us. When I got to college it was relatively easy, especially English, thank you Brother Aquinas.

    You never arrived late, never left early and there were expectations when it came to dress grooming. I am a college teacher and the difference is clear when you see as private school and a public school. My oldest son went to Ribet and it was fun to go back on campus after 20 years.

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