1894 - 1961
With the closure of the Academy, the need for a high school seemed urgent. On September 24, 1894, the twelve trustees of the four elementary schools located in Brigham City met and selected a committee of three to act as high school trustees. They secured rooms in the same building where the Academy had been located and installed John S. Bingham as principal. After one year, the school was moved to the Whittier School, located adjacent to the second ward chapel, with Milo Rigby as principal.
The next step in the development of the high school came in 1896-97 when the County Commissioners were induced through petition to consolidate the four city districts. On September 11, 1897, a public meeting was held in the Opera House, located on First West and Forest Street, and the following motion was carried: “Moved that it be the sense of the property taxpayers at this meeting that we establish and maintain a high School in which pupils may be in higher branches of education than those usually taught in the district schools.” The adoption of this motion may be regarded as the initiation of the high school movement and the Brigham City High School was established.
During the following ten years, the principals were L. D. MacDonald, Jessie W. Hoopes, G. N. Sorenson, Thomas H. Glenn, and A. L. Neff. The high school convened at the Whittier School until 1901 when it was moved to the top floor of the Central School, constructed in 1900, and remained there until 1905. At that time it was moved back to Whittier, occupying the entire building, until late in May, 1909.
1907 to 1919
On June 20, 1907, all Box Elder County schools were consolidated into one school district. “Box Elder High School” became the official name of the high school replacing “Brigham City High School” at 12 a.m. on July 8, 1907, the time and date fixed by the commissioners for consolidation to take effect.”
School work commenced on September 24, 1907, at the Whittier School, with an enrollment of fifty-four, including eight students from outside settlements. “B.C.H.S. Notes” in the Box Elder News for September 26, 1907, carried the following school yell: “Clickety, clickety, sis, boom, bah! Alive, Alive, ha, ha, ha! Clickety, clickety, sis, boom, bah! B.C.H.S. rah, rah, rah!”
A later issue of the newspaper reported: “Boys were talking football, and the girls had organized a basketball team. The zoology class was studying grasshoppers, and a dance was held at the Academy of Music, a dance hall on North Main Street. The high school literary and debating society was organized, and students were wearing caps of purple and white.”
Alf Freeman was elected student body president (1907-08), with Violet Madsen (West), vice president and Amy Lee (Phillips) as secretary. Four full years of school work were now offered with the course of study prescribed for high schools by the University of Utah.
The old Opera House was utilized for many school functions. May 13, 1909, marked the date of the first graduation exercise held in the Opera House to honor the school’s five pioneer graduates: Carlos Sederholm, Vera Humble, Rose Smith, Alice Forsgren, and Andrew Anderson. After the graduation, the Alumni Association, which included all students who had attended the high school prior to 1905, continued the entertainment with a banquet and dance held in the upstairs hall. “The Mikado,” the first operetta produced by Box Elder High School, was staged there in 1912, directed by Lottie Owens and Lydia Orcutt. A school play, “One of Eight,” appeared there in 1911 under the direction of Miss Lucille Thurman.
The Alta Theater, built in 1913, and later named the Liberty, was primarily a silent movie theater, but its 35' by 50' stage was the setting for the school play, “The Romancers,” in 1914 and for the school opera, “Erminie,” in 1915.
In June of 1908, the Board of Education acquired the land which was to be the home of Box Elder High School. This site, commonly known as Academy Square, included major portions of two blocks located between 4th and 5th East Streets and between 1st North and 1st South. The school buildings were located on the block south of Forest and the athletic field and future gymnasium building on the block north of Forest Street.
The first building on the campus was constructed of red pressed brick in Gothic style and was completed in 1909. It consisted of the central entrance to the stately building with inside steps leading to the second and third floors consisting of ten classrooms. It was erected for a cost of $27,099. “The three-story building with the nearby mountains as a background was described as ‘magnificent’ and when completed will be one of the best structures of its kind in the West.”
The new school opened its doors on September 20, 1909, with eighty-six students attending on the first day, increasing to 105 by October 5. After the fall crops were harvested it reached a final total of 136 for the year. When the high school moved to its new facilities, the junior high students continued to attend Whittier School.
The Superintendent’s Annual Report for 1911-12 states: “The County High School had ten teachers and 250 students. Of these, 125 came from Brigham City and 125 from various other parts of the county.” The Board resolved to transport all pupils living beyond a radius of three miles by paying the actual transportation costs up to $2.00 per week or $2.00 per week for room and board within the city during the school year.
Increasing enrollment and enriched curriculum necessitated more space; therefore, on May, 1912, the contract was let for a new addition costing $38,540. This addition doubled the capacity of the school and provided the classrooms in the northwest section, the auditorium, a 50 by 90 foot gymnasium, principal’s office, and a small dressing room with cold showers.
Box Elder High School, October 6, 1920. Note the slight difference in the shading of the brick on sections built at different points.
In 1917, a new school law was enacted in Utah making school attendance compulsory for every minor until the age of sixteen unless legally excused for ill health, attendance at a private school, or upon completion of high school work. Under this law, every boy and girl was supposed to be given the privilege of at least a high school education.
During the 1916-17 school year, the district offered ninth grade in the Garland School which was the beginning of Bear River High School, which added tenth grade the following year. Superintendent Skidmore noted in 1921, that the twelfth grade would be added as the school was completed in 1922-23.Approximately 200 students from the northern part of the county left the high school to attend the new Bear River High School.
The Brigham City schools remained congested and additional classrooms were needed. A new addition was added to the east side of the high school at a cost of $33,353.19 This congestion was much relieved in 1918-19 when the seventh and eighth grade students were moved from Whittier School to the new addition, so overflow from Central School could be accommodated at Whittier.
When World War I erupted in 1917, some local organizations favored closing the schools or shortening the term for war purposes. But the schools wisely continued open, and were rightly called the “second great line of defense.” Our young men eagerly joined the armed forces to fight in “the war to end all wars.” The Box Elder High School “Roll of Honor” in 1918 listed the names of 119 boys, former Box Elderites, doing their bit to crush imperialism.
Then came the really bad days -- the flu epidemic of 1918-19 which closed schools for several months. Death reaped a heavy harvest at home and among the soldier boys.
On August 5, 1921, bids were accepted for the construction of a new Farm Mechanics Building at a cost of $12,827. This structure was located on the southeast side of the original building. The building which was used as a band room was originally the seminary building but was purchased by the Board of Education in 1929.
The high school did flourish and expand. During the “Roaring Twenties,” many school clubs were formed; teacher, E. D. Mann, wrote the school song, two school plays were presented in the historic Salt Lake Theater, and broadcast a program over the new KSL radio station. The Girl’s and Boy’s League were organized, offering membership to every boy and girl in the school. To be elected president to one of the Leagues rated next to being a student body officer. The “B” club was composed of all boys who had made their letter in one of the three major sports of the year, such as football, basketball, or track.
Beginning in 1929, Outstanding Boy and Outstanding Girl recognitions were awarded. The first recipients were Calvin Beecher and Gayle Bunderson. These awards have continued since that time. The Outstanding Boy Award was given by the American Legion and the Outstanding Girl by the American Legion Auxiliary. Recipients were selected by the school administration and teachers based on leadership, academics, and participation in student body activities.
Years of financial distress and major social changes characterized the decade of the 1930's. In spite of the greatest economic depression our country has ever experienced, Box Elder School District was able to continue school during the full term, a condition not financially possible in many districts in the state.
The big gymnasium, one of the largest and finest buildings of its kind in the inter-mountain west, with its sprung floor, was built in 1934 at a cost of $114,537, the labor being paid for through the Federal Civil Works Administration (CWA), one of the emergency administration agencies set up for coping with the depression.The inclusion of a swimming pool and small gym in addition to the large gymnasium were great benefits to the students and public. Two steel school buses were purchased in 1936 by the Board of Education. Up to this time, privately owned buses had been used for transportation.
In May, 1938, the school district applied to the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works for a grant of 45% of the cost to construct a science building. In order to obtain this grant it was necessary to raise $68,000 to cover the school district’s share of the grant. $30,000 was made available from a one mill building tax levy and the remaining $38,000 transferred from the school district building fund. It was added onto the south side of the main building. This included several classrooms and a large cafeteria which was completed in 1939 at a total cost of $118, 182, plus an additional $5,000 for furnishings, shared on a similar percentage.
Bigger and better things were going on in student activities. The Boomerang (yearbook) for 1938 listed sixteen new clubs based on students’ interests. Some old club names disappeared - Boosters and Aonians merged to form the B’Ettes (pep club for girls). The B’Ivers began in 1932 (pep club for boys). The Ag Club retained its status as one of the oldest student organizations. The Girls’ League vaudeville and Boys’ League minstrel shows were popular entertainment.
Each class thought their Junior Prom excelled all other proms - the one for ‘38 was truly fabulous - the gym was transformed into an Under Seas Fantasy through the use if miles of colored cellophane and glamorous lighting.
A Box Elder High dance in March 1938, possibly the Junior Prom.
The Boomerang of 1941 carried the following pledge made by Box Elder High School students: “In this year of uncertain world affairs, we pledge our undying loyalty and support to whatever cause our country upholds.” By year’s end Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the country plunged into World War II. Everybody worked to support the war effort. Groups of girls and teachers went to the canneries on evening shifts. Every Friday afternoon, a bus crowded with high school boys (and supervised by teachers) left for the Ogden General Supply Depot, where the boys worked a ten-hour shift. Another loaded bus left on Saturday morning. Boy and girls unaccustomed to manual labor helped farmers to plant and harvest crops. Salvage drives sponsored by civic organizations were supported by high school students.
Alf Freeman became principal of Box Elder High School on February 14, 1943. Mr. Freeman had played a prominent role in public education throughout the Brigham City schools and served as the first student body president of Box Elder High School in 1908. World War II hampered some student activities but Mr. Freeman fondly recalls with justifiable pride the construction of the lighted “B” on the hill during his tenure as principal.
What kind of prom decorations can be made if there are no available materials, no pins, staples, wire or nails, no paper, and no fabrics? The prom committee of ‘43 were unwilling to settle for an unspectacular prom; consequently, the prom for that year became a less decorated “Spring Formal,” the only deviation from the promenade tradition in the history of the school.
At the football game with South Cache on September 20, 1946, the new flood lights (the Boys’ League gift to the school) were turned on. An electric score board and a loud speaking system later appeared, the delayed gifts of the senior classes of ‘45 and ‘46. The class of 1944 presented the flagpole and memorial plaque that stood immediately north of the gymnasium building on the south end of the football field. Engraved on the plaque were the names of all Box Elder High School boys who were killed in World War II and the names of all boys who served in that war were recorded and sealed in the base of the memorial.
One of the most popular and profitable activities of this era was the school circus, which got its start through a merging of the Girls’ League vaudeville and The Boys’ League minstrel. This was a two-day affair staged in the big gym involving every department in the school and featuring a floor show with some semi-professional acts, clowns, dance acts, games of skill and prizes, side shows, and food. The circus proved popular entertainment for young and old, particularly before television had come to this area. People had money in their pockets and they spent it freely.
Rapidly changing times came to B.E.H.S. during the Fifties as a result of changes in world and community affairs. Bushnell Hospital closed its doors on June 3, 1946, and was unoccupied until 1950 when after major and costly renovations, it became the Intermountain Indian School. Students of employees at the Indian School were welcomed in the various Brigham City Schools. Those of high school age found a pleasant home at Box Elder High.
After the death of their son, Thomas, on a Korean battlefield, Brigadier General Robert G. Hardaway, commander of Bushnell General Hospital and his wife, set up an award to perpetuate the memory of their son. He had been the valedictorian of the 1944 graduating class of Box Elder High School. This prestigious recognition, the “Tom Hardaway Award” was first granted in 1953 to recipient Elwynn Olsen, and has continued to the present. Students are chosen for the award by faculty and administrators who believe them to have outstanding qualities.
In 1954, Edward W. Payne became principal of Box Elder High and the school experienced extensive growth during the Fifties. The Wasatch Division of Thiokol Chemical Corporation began operation in October, 1957. Brigham City was engaged in a frenzy of home building to accommodate the new residents who found employment at Thiokol. Up to this time, the high school building accommodated both the junior and senior high school students, consisting of approximately 1200 students. Outside of Brigham City, in the 1957-1958 school year, seventh and eighth grade students were moved from elementary schools to junior high schools. With this addition of junior high school students and the increasing population during the late 1950's, the enrollment soon exceeded 1400 students and taxed the capacity of the existing building.
With the firing of the Russian Sputnik and the coming of the space age, it became a must to improve American education. More emphasis was placed on mathematics and sciences. The problem was a national one and led to more and better equipment for modern intensive training in the sciences. It soon became apparent that the time had come to consider the construction of a new high school in Brigham City. The original high school buildings had served the public well, however, with the advanced technology and education advances, the school board started to look for a location for the new facilities. The senior students of the class of 1960-61 were honored to be the final graduating class to occupy the stately high school buildings and they went out with honor as they upheld the traditions of the past fifty years. The football team, under Coach Les Dunn, was the state football champion that year and the class production of “Pajama Game” was a fitting tribute to the final high school play produced in the stately auditorium. And yes, the graduation ceremonies of May, 1961, were the last to be held in the Box Elder Tabernacle.