GHS – 100 years of graduations

by marlys good

Sunday, May 15, 2016, marks a memorable day in the history of Greybull High School. When the 47 seniors are presented with their diplomas, they will represent the 100th class to graduate from GHS. The story of that first graduation appeared on the front page of the May 25, 1916 “Wyoming Standard,” all 10-12 inches of it.

“The first annual commencement of the Greybull High School has passed into history. The exercises were held last Friday evening at the Greybull Amusement Hall. Owing to the heavy rain that fell during the exercises, the attendance was not so large as it would have been otherwise. The Philomen Club, composed of young ladies, sang two selections, which called for much applause from the audience.

“The commencement address was delivered by Prof. Lewis T. Eaton of the Billings Polytechnic Institute. His subject was ‘Development of Our Greatest Resources.’ His address was entertaining and instructive. Following the address he presented the diplomas to the three graduates of the high school and of the eighth grade. The high school graduates were the Misses Carrie E. Clements, Gladys M. Engle and Clesta Poulson. The eighth grade graduates were the Misses Grace Larson and Mable Shotwell.

”The term of the Greybull school that has just closed has been a very successful one, not withstanding the fact that the teachers labored under the difficulty of having overcrowded rooms and many more pupils than they should have had. It is to be hoped that this can be remedied before the school reopens in the fall, that they may be given better facilities the coming term.”

According to Tom Davis, in “Glimpses of Greybull’s Past,” in the spring of 1916, there were 170 students enrolled in the four-room “stone school,” so that fall, the school opened a classroom on the upper floor of the Mead Building, in what was then the Masonic Hall; Mrs. E.T. Foe was hired to teach the students in the new classroom.

In two years (1918-1920), school enrollment had increased to “about 270,” the staff more than doubled, from 10 teachers to 21, and the seven young people receiving diplomas comprised ”the largest class in Greybull history.”

The 1920 edition of the Greybull Standard in our office has seen much better days; parts of the front page are shredded. While all seven names were listed, the only ones legible are: Burton Jones, Grace Larson, Mable Shotwell, Helen Draper and Hilma Hooker.

Graduation was held May 14, and once again the Standard said it was the “largest class in Greybull history.” The rest of the story was missing so two of the graduates will remain unnamed.

In 1922, the following short article appeared on the front page of the Standard: “The commencement exercises were held at the high school auditorium last evening. There was a well arranged but brief program, and the address on ”The Duty of Citizenship” was delivered by H.C. Brome of Basin, which was of a high order.

“Thirteen seniors, Marie Mayer, Martha Preis, Marian Spencer, Lorene Hanes, Martha Louise Austin, Tyler Straley, Lucille Davis, Willis Smith, Olga Anne Kirk, Francis LaNoue, Anna Moselle Austin, Cecil D. Jain and Frank Emery were presented with diplomas.”

Five days after the May 19 graduation, the school board adopted a new dress code for Greybull High School and junior high school. “All girls are required to wear the regulation uniform prescribed by the board: A navy blue skirt, pleated or plain, plain white middies, to be worn with black ties. Navy blue flannel or navy blue serge cold weather middies of some pattern, three stripes of white braid on the collar, to be worn with black ties; middy pattern to be type of McCall pattern, No. 2379. Pictorial pattern No. 9300 plain button or Butterick pattern No. 2481 with set in pocket preferred. No silk hose or rolled down hose to be worn to school.”

In reference to the new dress code enacted for girls, the Sept. 8, issue of the Standard, in a story on the first day of school, noted: “The uniform dress for the girls of the high school is being observed, and since the opening of school the appearance of the young women in costume has caused much favorable comment and the students themselves feel at ease and happy in the nice white middies with black ties, the plain skirts and cotton hose.”

Fast forward to May 20, 1936: “Greybull High School commencement exercises will be held the evening of May 15 at the high school” auditorium. A list of 29 seniors will graduate this year, it was announced today by E.T. Ferry, superintendent. Baccalaureate services will be held Sunday evening, May 10, at 8 o’clock. The Rev. Walter Sutton of the Baptist Church will deliver the sermon. Dr. George B. Sloan, pastor of the Billings Congregational Church, will deliver the commencement address. He has chosen as the title of his talk, “The Cake and the Car.” Miss Idell Michael is valedictorian; Miss Ellen Weir is salutatorian.”

Greybull grew by leaps and bounds for several decades with a tandem increase in school enrollment. A new modern school building that accommodated both junior high and high school students had been built and the small elementary schools in the north and south ends of Greybull were defunct. and a brand new, high school was constructed on North Sixth Street.

When a new high school building was constructed on North Sixth Street, the old school was designated for grades one through eight. Junior high classes were held on the second floor; elementary classrooms were on the ground floor.

School enrollments fluctuated with circumstances of the town. On May 15, 1952, 64 years after that first graduation, 62 seniors were granted diplomas. The young women wore floor-length formals underneath their gray gowns; the young men wore dress pants – and dress shirts.

The fame of the class of ‘52, “as the largest senior class in the history of the school,” was short-lived. The class of 1957 included 67 seniors but the Class of 1968 topped that; 68 strong still holds the record as the largest class ever.

The Greybull Amusement Hall was the location for the first graduation. Since then graduations, and the now defunct baccalaureate services, have been held in the small gymnasium in the towns ”brand new” high school, now torn-down, the auditorium in the gymnasium in the school that replaced it; in Greybull City Park, and for the past 29 years in the Buff gym.

The traditional gray graduation caps and gowns have been replaced by brightly, colored caps and gowns, different nearly every year; speakers are more often than not favorite teachers, administrators and/or GHS alumni who have distinguished themselves in some way.

We wonder what those three 1916 graduates, Clesta Poulson, Gladys Engle and Carrie Clements, would think if they were sitting in the stands May 15? A gymnasium filled to overflowing, seniors, clad in blue or gold gowns, some wearing sneakers, some flip-flops, some 3- to 4-inch stilettos. Listening to the short speeches offered by valedictorian Jessica Dowling and salutatorian Treston Tracy and featured speaker Ty Flock, GHS principal, each graduate receiving his/her diploma, picking up flowers to present to their parents in the bleachers, then the final collective moving of graduation tassels from right to left, and tossing said caps high in the air to signal the successful conclusion of their high school education.

The pride of accomplishment felt by today’s 47 graduates will probably be much the same as the pride felt by those young ladies 100 years ago.