Ten people crowd around one little table on the back patio of Megan Swezey Fogarty’s quaint home on Bryant Street. They laugh, eat corn chips, and remember their time at Palo Alto High School, reminiscing about the “good old days.”
“My favorite memory at Paly was the pranks,” Megan, Class of 1982, says, “Our class stole a fiberglass statue and put it on the quad. People would climb up on the roof of the tower building and paint their class years every year.”
Paly has grown and changed throughout the generations, and so have many of the traditions and values that shape the school. Although much has remained the same, Paly legacy families notice the stark differences between the generations. As Paly grows and adjusts to the present, some of the families who have stayed in Palo Alto share the reasons why they love Paly and what has changed.
The Goddard-Tayeri Family
Nancy Goddard, Class of 1963, grew up just two blocks from her mother’s childhood home on Guinda Street. She raised her daughter, Lisa Tayeri, Class of 1984, a mere six blocks north in a two-story house on Hamilton Street.
But a little more than a love for Palo Alto’s Crescent Park neighborhood has kept these women in their hometown. In part, a desire to send their children to Palo Alto High School drove Goddard and Lisa to settle their own families among the same tree-lined streets they grew up on.
”It’s just such a good school,” Goddard says. “I think that Paly showed me how many different opportunities there were in life.”
Goddard was an avid participant in many activities involving school spirit. She says Paly spirit activities have changed a lot since she attended Paly many years back — back before the tradition of spirit week was even born.
“Our big thing was the homecoming game with Sequoia,” Goddard says. “[They were] our nemesis and that was always on Thanksgiving and we had a few things leading up to that but nothing like I’ve seen the kids [my grandkids] do.”
By the time Lisa attended Paly, spirit week was a well-established tradition. Judging by the experiences her three children have had during spirit weeks of the past, Lisa believes Paly spirit week has remained largely unchanged.
“Spirit week in the ‘80s was almost identical to what it is now,” Lisa says. “We didn’t have salad dressing day but all the other things we did: generations, colors…”
Lisa’s second child, David is a senior at Paly. Palo Alto schools have treated him well for 12 years so far, but he has his sights set on living somewhere else in the future.
“[Palo Alto is] too expensive,” David says. “I have always seen myself living in a big city after college.”
The Swezey Family
For the past 69 years, the Swezey family has been living in Palo Alto. When Lawrence Swezey came to Palo Alto for law school in 1947, Paly wasn’t even 50 years old. As Paly’s campus and culture grew, so did Lawrence’s family. He raised all nine of his children in Palo Alto, and three of them still live here, raising their children in many of the same ways their father did.
His granddaughter, Sophie Swezey, Class of 2016, jokes about the family’s roots in Palo Alto. “We have a 33 percent retention rate,” Sophie says.
Lawrence’s daughter, Megan Swezey Fogarty, says she loved growing up in Palo Alto as much as she loves raising her children here now. Megan wanted her kids to experience the high quality education she experienced at Paly years before. “High school today is completely different… and far better, but I loved my time at Paly,” Megan says.
Student government was an essential part of Megan’s time at Paly.
“When I was in student government we had 80 people in it,” Megan says. “There was a real sense of owning your class.”
Even though Paly has changed over time, some things have remained constant for decades. Most of the youngest Swezey generation agrees that there was a part of Paly’s culture that allowed them take charge of their interests and grow in the way they wanted to. Extracurriculars made Paly special for the Swezeys.
“For me, the most remarkable part about Paly was the theater program… it was definitely the place where I spent the most time,” Sophie says. “What’s special about that program to me is that students are allowed to take the lead on projects.”
Megan Swezey echoes this sentiment. “It [Paly] was [about] finding that niche… finding something where you could take the lead.”