He was the school’s historian, football stats master, friend to all students alike, No. 1 Pirates’ fan, and a man with nerves of steel who taught three generations of teen-age students how to drive.
George Frederick Paap, Jr., “Mr. Pop” passed away Aug. 18. While different high school students experienced different classes and teachers, played different sports, one thing that connected every Morro Bay High School kid was Mr. Paap, for Driver’s Training.
Simply put, Mr. Paap was a teacher. He started teaching in 1956, as a sub in Long Beach Unified District. He taught 17 months (3/57-7/58) for BAMC at Ft. Sam Huston, Texas. Next he taught one year at Palm Springs Unified 1958-59. He was a sub for Los Angeles Unified from 1960-62.
He started working locally at SLO Jr. High from 1962-71, teaching social science and English, according to the school district office. In 1971-72, moved to Morro Bay Jr. High School teaching driver’s training. In 1980-81 he started at Morro Bay High School teaching math and driver’s training. He started teaching Social Science during the 1983-84 school year and stayed at Morro Bay High School until his retirement in June of 2000. Even then he was a substitute teacher for the district from 2003-10.
His story is the kind of thing that bonds a community, a shared experience that, judging from the hundreds of postings on a Facebook Page specially set up after his passing by Albert Estiamba, Jr., a former student, people have not forgotten Mr. Paap. (see: www.facebook.com/groups/112892886043745).
“He taught me how to drive in the summer prior to my junior year ,” said Cary Nerelli, retired MBHS teacher and current head women’s basketball coach at Hancock College. “He looked exactly the same except he was thin as a rail and his hair was coal black!”
Driving with Mr. Paap was apparently an experience, no matter the year or the vehicle. “We learned on a ‘three on a tree’ stick shift,” Nerelli said, “and he was a stickler for fundamental driving. Part of our final exam [and believe me, we all dreaded this intensely] was to parallel park that car on California Boulevard on the hill just up from what is now Frank’s Hot Dog restaurant.
“It would have been hard enough with an automatic shift, but with that stick shift it was scary as hell. But he made us do it. I remember thinking I could do anything after having gotten over that hurdle! Fred also taught my two daughters how to drive and he loved to tell them stories about having me as a student in his drivers ed car.
“Really going to miss Fred. He was truly one of a kind.”
Rick Behrmann another former colleague and MBHS retiree now living in Utah, said, “He lived his life giving love and respect to any and all who needed it. As a human being he was an example to us all. He touched the lives of thousands of his students over the years and will long be remembered for his sense of humor and his positive outlook.”
Mr. Paap was a constant figure at the school, literally. “The school day never ended for Fred,” Behrmann said. “He was first there in the morning and as far as I know, never left. Teaching was not his job; it was his life. Fred was an institution at MBHS.”
This reporter first met Mr. Paap in 1992 at the first high school football game I ever covered. On the sidelines following the line of scrimmage on literally every play was a round fellow with thick glasses and a crew cut, clipboard in hand keeping the stats on every play.
It was exhausting just watching him hurry up and down, calculating the yardage gained. And he was there every game, keeping the official stats for the team, the league and the newspapers too, calling in the stats to the Telegram-Tribune (I’d then use the stats for my story).
“He drove the cheerleaders to all the away football games for years,” Nerelli said, “and was a fixture on the sidelines keeping stats for decades — can’t tell you how many years though.” Nerelli was the team’s announcer for much of that time, calling the game.
He compiled the history of Morro Bay football, game for game, year by year.
He also documented the school’s history — from who was the FFA President, and Homecoming King and Queen, to which soldiers went to Vietnam and didn’t come home — and left it at the school when he retired.
Those records came in really handy when the City celebrated its 50th Anniversary of Incorporation, in 2014. I did an entire story from this history in The Bay News’ special 50th Anniversary Edition.
A memorial service for Mr. Paap is set for 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 at the high school cafeteria. It’s a dessert potluck so bring something yummy to eat or drink. The gathering will have an open mic and everyone who knew Mr. Paap is encouraged to share a story and say a few words.
-By Neil Farrell