In 1956, Provo said hello to a brand-new high school on University Avenue. With its shiny new gym, spacious library and bright classrooms, it was exactly what Provo needed for its students, who had been attending school in a structure built in the early 1900s.
Fifty-nine graduating classes and dozens of building modifications later, Provo prepares to welcome an even newer high school, following construction that will begin late 2015 and continue for a year, all while keeping the school open.
Before the city bids farewell to the Provo High building, Utah Valley Magazine editors sat down with five members of the class of 1957 — the first class to graduate from the “new” high school. The class of ’57 held a reunion every five years until their 50th graduation anniversary, when they began meeting every year. They’ve seen Provo change, they’ve seen the high school building itself change and they’ve seen each other change.
But through the decades, the Bulldog Fight Song they introduced during their senior year reminds them where their loyalties lie: “Hail, Provo High! To you our hearts will e’er be true.”
Current city Orem
Career Military intelligence
First car My brother is two years older than I am, and when he turned 16 we got a green 1946 Mercury Coupe.
High school job For my first job, I worked for the Carpenter Seed Company. I packaged seeds, and planted and sold all kinds of plants. One day the owner asked me to plant a few rose bushes by his field. One of the cows in his field had its horns stuck in the fence. I went down to it, trying to help, but it just mooed and stayed stuck. After a while the owner came out and said, “My goodness, don’t you know anything?” He grabbed a shovel, whacked it on the head and the cow was freed. I was paid $1 an hour.
What is your favorite high school memory? I loved learning about chemistry and history at Provo High. I’ve always enjoyed telling people that I remember moving boxes out of the old building and into the new high school. It felt clean!
What activities were you involved in? I was on the football and track teams. Before we moved to the new high school, we’d hop in the back of a truck we called the Green Beatle and head to practice. One time we started jumping in the back, and coach fired his starter gun to get us to stop. We never did that again.
Who was your favorite teacher? Mr. Bench, my chemistry teacher. When we missed classes for football games, he wouldn’t excuse us. We would have to make up the class at 8 a.m. the next Monday. He was tough, but I think he liked me.
Current city Lehi
Career Assistant to the vice president, Geneva Steel
High school job I worked at B&H Pharmacy. That was back when we used Coke syrup as cough medicine. I would go to the Coke machine and refill cough medicine bottles with the syrup for customers.
What is your favorite high school memory? I married my high school sweetheart! We dated the entire time I went to Provo High, and we married the May that I graduated. It was either get married then or during the fall — and since he loved to hunt, I was worried he wouldn’t show up then!
What activities were you involved in? I was a cheerleader. There were eight of us my senior year, four of them boys. Since the new high school didn’t have stairs and the football field wasn’t finished, we tried having a pep rally on a little piece of cement with 15 kids yelling with us. It was a rough start. But we got to introduce the new Bulldog Fight Song that they still sing today.
What did you like to do outside of class? I loved to “drag Center,” or cruise down Center Street. We’d drop a quarter or a nickel in our friend’s ashtray and drive down Center, over to 200 East and up 400 West.
How do you feel about Provo High today? When our daughter was a cheerleader for Orem High School, we went to one of their football games against Provo. We sat on the Orem side of the stadium, but when Provo High made an exciting play, my husband stood up in the middle of the Orem crowd and yelled, “Go Provo!” We will always love our high school.
Current city Orem
Career Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles; coach
High school job My first job was working on the cherry docks on 500 South. We loaded the railroad cars with cherries and put ice in the bunkers. I’d work from 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. for less than a dollar an hour.
What activities were you involved in? I was student body vice president during my senior year. And I was really into baseball and basketball. We were just rinky-dink Provo, but we won the basketball state championship my junior year. In each game in the tournament, we won by one point. Our last game was against East High School, and if the game went on another minute we probably would have lost. But I shot the winning basket to win by one point.
What pranks did you like to pull? My English teacher, Mrs. Hayward, was long-winded, which sometimes made us late for lunch. So my friends and I figured out how to mimic the bell tone that let us out for lunch. Five to ten minutes early, we’d make the sound, she’d dismiss us, and we’d be first in the lunch line. Aside from that — Mr. Slack’s wastepaper basket tended to catch on fire.
What did you like to do outside of class? On Saturday mornings I would wake up and call around town to see who wanted to play ball. We grabbed our basketballs, got on our bikes, and hopped around to different gyms. We’d go to the old Brigham Young High, a couple church buildings and end up at the Smith Fieldhouse at BYU. We’d play at each gym until they kicked us out.
Jessie R. Nuttall
Current city South Jordan
Career Questar, Macy’s employee
Favorite ‘50s song “Misty” by Johnny Mathis
First car My parents let me drive their 1947 green two-tone Oldsmobile.
High school job I worked at City Drug for 60 cents an hour. I worked the fountain and loved calling myself a soda jerk.
What activities were you involved in? My identity had everything to do with a group of girls. We started a club in junior high school called the White Elephants. It had something to do with us being the leftovers, and for some reason we clicked. Even today, we still get together for lunch. We were going to learn how to play bridge, but that didn’t happen because we couldn’t concentrate long enough!
What is your favorite high school memory? I’m always proud to say I was in the first class to graduate from the new school — at least we still call it the new school. I remember moving in, seeing the classrooms and thinking it was so open and light. My granddaughter is going into high school, and I tell her it’s going to be one of the best times of her life.
What was Provo like in the ‘50s? You could walk downtown and know just about everybody. We never locked our doors at night. The girls in school could only wear dresses, no pants, and we couldn’t chew gum. We were expected to have excellent manners. Looking back, it was a good time to grow up. We were raised in an age of candy and ice cream; an age of innocence.
Current city Springville
Career English and history teacher, author
First car I bought a black 1940 Ford from a fellow classmate.
High school job I was a night custodian at Franklin School across the street from my house. There were three of us, plus the main custodian, and he loved to smoke in the boiler room. That’s where I learned to smoke. We found his Kools above a crack in the door frame and tried it for ourselves. We were paid $1 a night no matter how long it took us to clean everything, so we worked fast.
What activities were you involved in? I was a non-entity. I didn’t play sports, didn’t do drama, and I liked history and English. I liked talking to older people in the neighborhood to learn about Provo history.
What did you like to do outside of class? We would go to a double feature at a theater on Center Street for 25 cents. Occasionally we’d hear a wine bottle roll under the seats. If they played a horror movie, we’d walk home on Center until we reached the end of the light posts and then run like crazy back home. It was also fun to go downtown and watch people go by. Now around here we do our people-watching in Costco and see people wearing pajamas!
What pranks did you like to pull? I don’t remember any pranks in class, but I do remember being obnoxious dragging Center. We welded an exhaust pipe in front of the muffler and jacked it up for a ride downtown. We looked in the rear view mirror and saw a plume of smoke coming out the back, which was just what we wanted.