||Whittier Union High School
12417 Philadelphia St. · Whittier, CA
Following an intriguing call from Doc, Marty hops on his skateboard and catches a ride to school on the tailgates of a truck and a jeep. But, despite the assistance of his involuntary chauffeurs, Marty still arrives late to Hill Valley High once again.
Hill Valley High, in reality, happens to be Whittier Union High, home of the Whittier Cardinals. Whittier High was the perfect location for this film, because its architecture looked old enough to have dated back to 1955. In truth, Whittier High has been around much longer than that. It was established in 1900 and at the time of this writing, was celebrating its centennial. From afar, the school looks as nice as Marty says it does in 1955, but closer inspection reveals that the buildings are indeed showing their age.
Unfortunately, upon my first visit to Whittier High, I found it impossible to make my way onto the grounds. You see, like with most high schools in and around L.A., the entire campus was gated by iron bars. However, during a return visit, a considerable amount of renovation was taking place and I was able to roam the property. It did take me a while, though, to locate the spot where George clocked Biff later in the film. It seems pretty obvious now, but an elevator structure appended to the corner of one building the corner I was using as a reference point threw me off. Then there's the fact that the area where Marty parks with Lorraine is shot to look like a parking lot, although it's actually just a wide walkway.
If you desire a view of the area yourself, the courtyard where all of the action takes place is on the east side of the school and is viewable from Whittier Avenue, although your line of sight may be obstructed by some "temporary" trailers, which may be there for some time. But, if you can see well enough around them, you can view the spot where Biff went down on the curved walkway, right next to the Y-shaped tree. While you're there, you can also see the stairway to your right where Marty attempted to snatch the sports almanac from Biff's back pocket in Part II (now caged by a fence) and the building to your left in which Strickland's office was located.
The somewhat limited perspective the camera provides in both films may make it a little difficult to really grasp the layout at first, but once you pinpoint the major features, it starts to come together. Once you've got it, it's kind of fun to map out the whole sequence of events in your head. By the way, it's helpful to watch both the original and Part II to get a really good understanding of the courtyard.
It's also worth noting that the school's gymnasium, added in 1935, was destroyed by a fire on Valentines Day in 1999. Arson was suspected and an award of $5,000 was posted for information leading to the capture of the culprit(s). But, don't worry the Whittier gym was not used in the filming of the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.
Actually, the gym had not been used at all for many years according to news reports written at the time of the fire, even though no one could agree why; one stated that it had been condemned since it was damaged in the 1987 Whittier earthquake, while another claimed it had been shut down since the 1994 Northridge quake. J. Cruz, a visitor to this site who says he is a 1996 Whittier High graduate, reports that it was the Northridge quake, although the gym was still not shut down for another couple of years. But the important thing, again, is that the gym in which the dance took place is alive and well in Hollywood.
However, the exterior scenes that took place outside the "gym" were shot at Whittier High and you can see those quite easily around the north side of the auditorium, which faces Whittier Avenue. It's where Marty got locked in the band's car, resulting in Marvin Berry's hand being cut and forcing Marty to substitute as guitar player.
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