John Steinbeck graduated in the class of 1919, the last class from the Salinas High School when it was located on the corner of West Alisal and Church Streets. The two story red brick building was quickly dubbed "The Brick Pile." The present Salinas High School building was dedicated August 19, l920 and in the 1940's was known as "The Mission."
John Steinbeck's father was on the committee to prepare the dedication ceremony when the Grand Lodge of California (Masonic Lodge) convened in Salinas to lay the cornerstone on the dedication day.
John Ernst Steinbeck asked his son John and George Mors, a Stanford classmate visiting Steinbeck for the summer to gather a collection of local products in token amounts to be placed in the cornerstone so that in a hundred years people would know how they lived.
Steinbeck and Mors included in their collection a handful of dried beans, corn, sugar, and a gallon of red wine. Since a gallon of anything wouldn't go in the cornerstone, they poured a small amount out into a medicine bottle and the rest vanished in a closet at the Steinbeck family home on Central Avenue.
The Stamp Of the Cornerstone 1920
Mr. Steinbeck balked at the wine protesting that wine hardly seemed appropriate for a school cornerstone, especially during prohibition times - John argued that if ever there was a local product, this was it - Salinas was really a wide open town as portrayed in East of Eden. His argument must have been convincing because Mr. Steinbeck managed to maneuver the vial of known at that time as "Dago Red" stoppered air tight, into the sacred depository. It is there today mellowing in the cozy darkness as it awaits the archaeological pick.
Steinbeck around 1920. Taken from the wall of Salinas High School