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Opinion: The Impeachment of Don Jones from Newport Grammar School

Sandy Asper writes about one of Newport's favorite characters...Don Jones.

It was a gorgeous day at Newport Grammar School on May 8, 1945, with students hanging out on the beach at lunch. World War II had gone on for a long time, and finally the school was told that the war was over in Europe.

Don Jones, the school's student body president, decided on his own that there was no reason to be in school that day. According to his friend Tuck Rabbit, "Don felt entitled to dismiss because the high school had been let off." So as student body president, Jones dismissed the entire school. 

The teachers were unaware of the sudden and unilateral dismissal and were in some kind of shock as the happy band of Newport Grammar students tripped out of school and enjoyed having the rest of the day. Tuck said Don and his merry band of five friends wandered down town and commandeered a "U-Drive Boat" and cruised the bay.

The next day Don was called into the principal's (Horace Ensign) office and told that he had been impeached by the faculty, and according to Andrea Jones (Don's wife), he took it well. As Don's friend, I think he took everything pretty well with the possible exception of losing in tennis.

Newport Elementary was K-8 at that time and was the only elementary (grammar school) in the Newport District. Ensign was brought in out of retirement to be the principal because all the men that could do the job were at war. It was pretty clear that in 1944 women could not possibly have been principal, so Horace was it.

According to both Mrs. Jones and Tuck, Principal Ensign was old, small of stature and had a habit of quietly wandering around the school, which earned him the name of "Mousey". Newport Grammar School had just been rebuilt after the March 10, 1933, 6.4  earthquake, and looks the same as it did then, and is probably one of the safest buildings in Newport. 

All everyone talked about at the time was "war, war, war," Mrs. Jones said and rightly so; there were stories of Japanese subs off the coast, and a false story that some missiles were launched somewhere around Long Beach. Everyone was pretty nervous. Don became a lifeguard and often the lifeguards had to swim out to save "American pilots" who occasionally crashed off the coast of Newport. Tuck said Don was probably one of those lifeguards. 

Don Jones grew up, graduated from Berkeley, served his country as a Captain in the army, married Andrea, had four kids, and became a part of the fabric of Newport. He loved fishing, especially on his boat, took kids out, played a very cool game of tennis at the Peninsula Point Tennis Club, belonged to a group of men, including Bob Robbins, called "Amigos Viejos". Robbins once asked this group "How many of you went to Newport Grammar School?" Tuck said that over half the men raised their hands.

Although Don never painted in school, probably just a little too busy causing some kind of trouble...(who did put sand in the tractor anyway?)...he became a very good artist later; showing his work at the Newport Nautical Museum, Newport City Hall and a co-op gallery in Laguna.

Don and Andrea's children attended Newport "Elementary" School,  Horace Ensign Middle School, and Newport Harbor High School where Don was also Student Body President. 

Like so many of the "Amigos Viejos"group , Don supported education in Newport Beach, and many students are the recipients of scholarship money provided by he and Andrea. They have housed kids in trouble, and Don was always available to take kids fishing, tell funny stories and play the Ukulele.

When Don passed away on February 29 2012, Newport lost a piece of it's history, a good friend, and one of Newport Grammar School's best student body presidents.

Freddie D. Merz May 04, 2012 at 06:54 PM
What a beautiful telling of a very interesting man. I so enjoyed reading about Mr. Jones and his escapades. It must have been fun to know him and to witness his accomplishments. Sandy's insight and wry humor is always a delight. Reading about some early history of Newport El and Ensign was an interesting read for me.

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