Louise Jorgensen ’16

Louise Jorgensen

Louise Jorgensen moved from San Francisco to Oakland with her parents in 1906 after the earthquake. She attended Tech from 1913-1916, making her part of the cohort who moved form the old school on 12th and Market to the new building on 45th and Broadway. Very involved in high school life, Louise was Commissioner of Girls Activities in 1915 and active in dance productions and student government.

After graduation in 1916, Jorgensen set out on the path that was to define her life, studying dance in New York and back in the Bay Area with such notables as Ernest Belcher, Anita Stewart, and Mme. Mahr Mieczkowski (ballet), Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn (modern), Irene Weed (ballroom), and Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw (square dance).

A professional dancer and choreographer, Jorgensen is perhaps best known as the force behind the Oakland Christmas Pageant, performed annually at the Oakland Civic Auditorium (now the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center) to crowds of up to 8,000 from 1919 to 1987. Beginning in 1925, Louise directed and choreographed the pageant and from 1919 until the last production in 1987, she herself danced in the pageant’s finale as “The Spirit of Christmas.” Technically an employee of Oakland Parks and Recreation, her devotion to the pageant was a labor of love and her life’s work.

She made the rounds of every public school in Oakland the fall of each year recruiting children to perform, annually turning more than 1,500 kindergartners to teenagers into fairies, elves, reindeer, holly berries, polar bears and toys. Jorgensen called the pageant “a gift to the city of Oakland from its children” (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/A-Beloved-Pageant-Oakland-event-still-stirs-2971311.php#page-1). Her history with the pageant is memorialized in a book Oakland’s Christmas Pageant 1919-1987.

Louise Jorgensen died in 1995. One of her former dancers and closest friends let us borrow Louise’s scrapbook for material for this book. Thank you, Aileen Moffitt, Class of 1968!

Louise Jorgensen surrounded by the some of the 300 fairies of the 1954 Christmas Pageant including two future “Technites”– Aileen Moffitt ’68 (front row, 2nd from left) and her sister Peg ’65 (back row, 7th from left)