Burbank High Celebrates 115 Years Of Excellence, Service

Thousands of people regale in the festivities on the campus and at Kemp-Kallem Field.

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State Senator Anthony Portantino, Burbank High principal Julie Markussen and BUSD member Charlene Tabet join in the 115th birthday celebration of Burbank High. (Photo courtesy Doug Brown)

By Rick Assad

Age hasn’t taken anything away from Burbank High which celebrated its 115th birthday on Friday.

Beginning in the late afternoon and running through a three-hour football game versus Castaic at Kemp-Kallem Field, people ate, reminisced and had a grand time.

For two hours, people could visit graduation year booths, themed raffle baskets and campus tours in the quad.

Across another hour, the Top Dogs Award, Hall of Heroes Inductees and a Walk Down Memory Lane was available.

A classic car show was on display in the parking lot adjacent to the track and field.

There were dignitaries present like Burbank Unified School Board member Charlene Tabet, State Senator Anthony J. Portantino, Burbank principal Julie Markussen and Ally McKain, the athletic director.

Just before kickoff of the Burbank versus Castaic game, they all spoke, and each addressed how the school has been an integral part of the city’s fabric.

Also noted was the passing this year of longtime athletic director, teacher and coach Frank Kallem, whose family was present as he was recognized with a memorial plaque.

Frank Kallem, an athletic director, teacher and coach at Burbank High, passed away this year. Kallem’s family was presented a memorial plaque bearing his name and accomplishments. (Photo courtesy Doug Brown)

Patrick McMenamin has worn many hats while on staff at the school including teacher since 2008, football, soccer and volleyball coach and athletic director from 2015 through 2023.

“Burbank has a very rich and long history dating back to 1908. So many of our alumni have moved on to achieve success in various careers throughout the decades,” he said. “Our alumni include famous actors and actresses, musicians and producers, engineers and architects, professional athletes and Olympic gold medalists.”

McMenamin, a mathematics teacher, tried to explain why the school is special.

“At its core, Burbank High has always benefited from the committed faculty and staff who have served this community for 115 years,” he noted. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to work here with the students and the staff, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our school and our kids.”

Adam Colman attended Burbank High and is the current head football coach.

“Burbank High is a special place to me. It is the first school I attended where I really felt like I was home and it had everything to do with the people,” he said. “From my coaches to the teachers, the administration, they made me feel like I belonged here, and they made me feel valued and appreciated.”

Colman had a feeling his time as a Bulldog was going to be rewarding and it turned out he was right.

“When my group of friends and I decided to attend BHS, we wanted to leave an impact,” he said. “Winning the school’s first [Pacific] League title in thirty-plus years as a player was really special and then being able to do it again as a head coach was something I never even dreamed of.”

Colman thought about the school’s meaning in a larger sense.

Buster the Bulldog and the cheerleaders were there to show support for their school which celebrated its 115th birthday. (Photo courtesy Doug Brown)

“But as I’ve gotten older and been able to reflect on things, it has really settled on me how much more important the people have been than any wins and losses,” he said. “I have coaches that work with me and colleagues in the faculty that were my coaches and teachers and helped shape me into who I am today.”

Colman added: “I am forever grateful to them for all the things they did, big and small. So being here as a teacher and coach, I am constantly reminded of the impact we can have on young people every day,” he said. “It helps me stay focused on being a positive role model and influence on the young people I coach and teach.”

Knowing people are not islands but need interaction and guidance, Colman is only happy to lend a hand. 

“It goes back to the old saying of “pay it forward.” A lot of people helped me when I needed it, even if they didn’t realize how impactful they were at the time,” he said. “So, I try to do the same for this next generation and hope that they will continue to put good out into the world for those that come after them.”  

Colman tried to assess what the school stands for and what it means for the city of Burbank.

“One hundred and fifteen years is a long time and it’s a great opportunity to reflect on all those that got us to this place. It also gives us a chance to consider what the next 115 will look like and focus on being the change we want to see in the world going forward,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but when you consider the value of time and the ripple effects even small actions can have over 115 years, it helps you stay motivated and focused on what is important and, to me, that is caring for each other and helping each other become the best versions of ourselves. I’m grateful that Burbank High and the people here have helped me reach this perspective.”

Bob Hart is entering his twentieth season at the school and has been the longtime head baseball coach.

“I’ve been blessed with some great leadership at Burbank High and amazing people,” he pointed out.

One of the coolest cars ever built was the Ford Mustang, a tried-and-true American classic. (Photo by Rick Assad)

George Robinson has a close connection to the school and is proud of the association.

“I’m excited to be part of the celebration, as it is an opportunity to reflect and enjoy the memories of my family who spent time here throughout the years,” he said. “Although my wife Michelle [who played volleyball, basketball and softball] and I attended Burroughs, historically, there is a large tie to the school. Dating back, my grandfather, Paul Merlo played baseball (1931 and was there as a sophomore and junior) while his brother, John Merlo (graduated in 1928) played basketball under the legendary principal and coach Gerald Ogborn.”

Robinson continued: “Both my sons and their cousins attended Burbank. My mother, Joan Merlo Robinson (1959 graduate) has always come to see all of her grandchildren play on different sports teams over the years,” he added. “My son, Justin Robinson (2020 graduate) played baseball and enjoyed the arts mediums. My younger son, Dylan Robinson (graduated in 2023) played both football and baseball.”

Robinson tied everything together in a neat and pretty little bow.

“Watching Dylan receive Burbank High School’s Gerald Ogborn Award has really come full circle, tying him to the past memories of his great grandfather and great uncle who were at BHS with coach and principal Ogborn,” he said.

Dylan Robinson is a freshman at California Lutheran University and is a running back on the football team.

“Burbank High has meant a great deal to me. Walking the hallways, I often thought of the many family members who attended before me,” he said. “It was a cornerstone in my journey to moving on to higher education. Burbank High will always be special to me as it has a supportive staff who cares for their students, and I will always have fond memories.”

There was a great deal going on in the quad at Burbank High which included hours of festivities. (Photo by Rick Assad)

Jimmy Cafferty was a standout pitcher and first baseman on the Bulldogs baseball team, a 2023 graduate, and was always proud to wear the uniform.

“My overall experience at Burbank was a great one,” he confirmed. “I made some lifelong friendships and got propelled forward into my baseball career.”

McKain is McMenamin’s successor and is thrilled to be associated with the school.

“The people of Burbank make our school so special and beloved,” she said. “Our school is filled with school spirit and support, not only with coaches, athletes, students and teachers, but also with community business owners, families and friends.”

McKain described what the school means to the city.

“Even though Burbank High is in the big city of Los Angeles, it has a beloved hometown feeling,” she explained.

Yes, that’s the high school in a nutshell.

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