Saturday, July 04, 2009

Goodbye Granite High School

Granite High School in South Salt Lake, Utah, is like a person who has attained great age. You respect them for living so long, but know they probably won't make it much longer. So when the Granite School District Board of Education finally voted to close the 103-year-old school, there were a lot of tears, but everyone knew there'd be a helluva wake.

Sally and I went to the school on Friday, July 3, 2009, for an open house to allow us all to say goodbye. I never attended the school, but Sally was there when it included a junior high school, and my son graduated from Granite in 1995. I went into the school every day as part of my job and learned, like many who cross that threshold, that Granite was more than just a school; it was a place in peoples' hearts. I've only been retired for six months but already felt pangs of nostalgia.

Click on the pictures for full-size images.

I was surprised, considering it was the day before a federal holiday and a three (or four) day weekend for many, that I saw as many people there as I did. But then, there is a very strong bond between the school and its alumni.

Granite H.S. students were called Granite Farmers. At the time the school was built in 1906 it was at the end of Salt Lake City's limits, and the area was mostly agricultural. Salt Lake has expanded so much Granite is now practically in the middle of town, but for a long time it represented the south end of Salt Lake. The students who went there over its century-long history were working class kids, not just agricultural, but kids whose dads worked in machine shops, were carpenters and meatcutters, all very blue collar. I worked with many Granite H.S. grads over the years and they all described a similar upbringing.

When the school was finally closed it had just under 300 students, most of them immigrants. A few years ago the sports program was closed because it cost too much money. If kids were jocks they went to other schools, so it left the kids who were there for reasons other than sports.

The teachers and administrators I worked with who had been at Granite High and then moved to other schools all had wonderful things to say about their Granite High experience.

There was a saying, "Granite High School is the District's best kept secret."

My son, David, who was in line to go to another high school, was introduced to Granite and opted to go there instead. He thrived and I believe his high school years were good ones for him. I will always have Granite High School to thank for that.

While we were in the school several people talked to us, complete strangers, who heard me talking to staff members about my 32 years working around the place. One man asked me what the District would do with the school after it was closed. I assumed it would be torn down. It would cost millions to retrofit for earthquake proofing, for instance.

This picture shows the foot of the stairs to the gym bleachers. You just don't see that sort of thing in a modern building. It's classic and classy.

There was a tradition I always observed. The seal, laid into the floor in the main building, was donated by the Class of 1925, and dedicated in 1926. It was protected from being walked on, although you can barely see the theater ropes in my photo.

No one was allowed to walk on the seal, and on those days I walked into the school and the ropes weren't there, even if I was the only person in the hallway, even if no one was looking, I would not have dared put a foot on that insignia. If the rest of the building goes the way of the wrecking ball, I'm pretty sure someone will save this 84-year-old seal.

There was a lot of tradition in that school; thousands of students had walked the halls, sat in the classrooms, gotten their diplomas, and moved on into the world. The graduating classes will still be planning reunions (the Class of '89 has theirs coming up soon), and whether or not there is an actual building on the corner of 3300 South and 500 East in South Salt Lake, Utah, there will always be something of Granite High School in each and every one of those people who were lucky enough to go there.


D. Sandoval said...

I went to Granite High from 1979 to1981 and loved every minute of it. We had a studentbody class that was very proud of the history and what it represented. Some great memmories were made there and I they will always mean a lot to me.

D. Sandoval

El Postino said...

Thanks for your comment. I still get misty-eyed thinking about that school, since it was part of my life for over 30 years. I have a Forever Farmers t-shirt hanging in my closet and every time I see it I'm reminded of what a remarkable place GHS was.