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Severance Bell

A piece of Gilroy's history will be on display while a new chapter in the city's book is written on the gridiron.


Stashed away in storage for the past decade or so, CHS athletic director Darren Yafai said he came across the bell prior to the start of last season and tossed around the idea of playing for the piece with CHS head coach Tim Pierleoni and principal John Perales.


"We were sitting there looking at this thing in the warehouse and thought it's a great Gilroy icon, why not pull it out of the rafters and make use of it," Yafai said. "We asked our superintendent (Deborah Flores), she went for it. Then we went to (GHS athletic director) Jack Daley, (GHS head coach) Greg Garcia and (GHS principal) Dr. Marco Sanchez and they thought it was a good idea."


With the help of CHS defensive coordinator Tim Lemos and Ignacio Magana, owner of Mission Powder Coating, the bell went through a face lift over the past two months, receiving two coats of a polyester powder paint.


"It had about 100 years of rust on it," said Magana, who has owned his shop for 10 years and is also a former GHS coach. "We baked it at about 500 degrees to get some of the impurities out first then spent probably four or five hours sand blasting it."


After each coat, because the bell is so thick, it spent about three hours in the oven at 400 degrees, Magana said. He also added that paint wasn't applied to the inside of the bell so the tone it makes wasn't disturbed.


The bell, named after Sarah Severance, presents an interesting look into the history of the Gilroy school system and is the symbol that represents the Gilroy Unified School District, used on the district's website homepage.

Severance was a diligent supporter of the women's suffrage movement and founded a private institution called Gilroy Seminary in 1869, according to information provided by Claudia Salewski gathered from the Gilroy Museum archives.

"The idea that we learn something about Sarah Severance and the history of the school district is all super positive," Daley said.

The Gilroy Seminary, a school for both boys and girls, was located on Railroad St. between Martin and Lewis Streets and closed in 1886. Severance moved back to San Jose in 1888.

According to the information provided by Salewski, in 1869 another school was erected on Church Street between Third and Fourth Streets and aptly named Church Street School, which became Old Church Street School in 1898 when more room was essential and a larger, two-story building was razed.

The bell was first purchased in 1875 by the Gilroy School Board and hung in a bell tower of the new two-story school.

In 1927, a report in the Gilroy Dispatch (gathered by Salewski) stated that the Trustees of the Gilroy School District formulated a plan to rename the city's schools after exceptional people deeply involved in education, citing examples such as Jordan School named for Davis Starr Jordan, President Emeritus of Stanford University at the time, and Old Church Street School was changed to Eliot in remembrance of Charles W. Eliot, the president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909.

In coordination with this new idea, the newer, two-story school on Church Street was changed to Severance Elementary School and later Gilroy Public School. Severance died at the age of 93, one year after the name change.

"We thought it was kind of fitting," Yafai said.

"It's eerily fitting that the definition means the separation of something. And also, it's a way to honor someone like Sarah Severance who may have been long forgotten."

The bell will be on display behind the  end zone tonight and the winning team will assume possession after the game until next year.