Come June 15, after the last bell at Huntington Beach High School signals the end of the academic year, Bill Morehouse will leave his darkroom inside classroom I-8 and step into retirement.
"I actually built this darkroom almost all by myself," said the veteran instructor at the school, who chairs its Industrial Arts Department, while walking through the film processing lab.
For the past 35 of his 37 instruction years, Morehouse has taught hordes of Oilers to take, as well as make, black-and-white photographs using rolls of film — a fading craft in a digital world. And although the program he built soon will switch over to largely incorporating digital technology, his darkroom will stay intact, as will his legacy.
After Morehouse retires, students will continue to learn the essential skills of black-and-white film photography as a foundation.
"I train your eyes to see," he said.
"It is a beautiful art and a beautiful medium," he added. "With digital stuff you can't get the black-and-white quality that you can get on black-and-white film."
At 62, Morehouse projects an infectious enthusiasm and energy for teaching. His words boom out in short and quick bursts, coming at the listener like a pitcher uncorking a fastball.
"When you work with it digitally, there's a difference between creation and manipulation," Morehouse said in a volley of words, explaining that a traditional photographer cannot see the image captured until the negative has been developed.
While Morehouse has seen bedrock courses in industrial arts — such as wood shop and metal shop — disappear through school district budget cuts, he said he managed to persuade officials to keep his popular photography program alive. His department's number of instructional sections, nonetheless, has dwindled to 10 from 50 a decade ago.
The three photography classes that Morehouse teaches have been popular over the years. Some 1,200 students sign up for his classes, but only about 200 get in.
"He tells us the truth about things, and he makes us feel comfortable," said senior Nick Barsow, with a checked-out 30-year-old Minolta film camera strapped around his neck. "[He] lets us express ourselves in our words, so it's just a very workable environment for everyone to be in the class with him.
One of Morehouse's former students, Nick Schwab, who now teaches government classes at the school, will take over as the photo instructor.
Morehouse expressed the hope that his current and former students would join him Friday night at Don the Beachcomber on Pacific Coast Highway to celebrate his imminent retirement. Anyone who is interested in attending the party is asked to contact him via email at email@example.com.
"This has been my life for 37 years," Morehouse said. "Am I going to stay away from this school? No, not at all. I'll be around."