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HISTORY OF CATALINA HIGH SCHOOL BEFORE JANUARY 17, 1957

Contributed by Margie Wagner Fangmeier '58

Catalina High School Class of '58, Tucson ArizonaIt became apparent in 1953 that Tucson's population had grown significantly after WWII and the city was in need of more than one high school. So the Tucson Public School's governing board voted to build two new high schools. One was to be named Pueblo High School with Elbert Brooks as its principal, and the other to be named Catalina High School with Rollin T. Gridley as its principal.

In the fall of 1954, a total of 6.800 high school students attended Tucson High School. It was the largest high school in the nation. All students were Tucson High Badgers. Most students living north of 6th Avenue attended classes in the morning session while most students living south of 6th Avenue attended classes in the afternoon. The following year, the sessions were reversed.

Beginning the fall of 1955, the north students became officially Catalina High School students. The south students became Pueblo High students. Those students living within the boundaries of Tucson High remained Tucson High students. In April 1956, Pueblo High School students moved to their new facility near Sentinel Peak (A Mountain).

After another semester at Tucson High, the doors of the newly constructed, but not totally completed, campus opened to its first student body on January 17, 1957. Catalina High School finally had a home of its own. The very first senior class graduated May 31, 1957.

Other facts:

In the spring of 1955, elections were held to determine who the students would be to comprise the Organizational Committee of Eleven. Their responsibilities were to write the constitution, establish traditions and practices, and to set elections for class officers. During the elections, the mascot (Trojans) and the newspaper (Trumpeteer) names were selected. The Torch was named the following year.

Catalina sports teams were organized for the 1955-56 school year with a full schedule of opponents. Despite being on the Tucson High campus, Catalina became a fully functional high school with administrators, teachers, staff, students, and sports teams.

 

BUILDING "DISNEYLAND" ON PIMA STREET

Catalina High School was built from 1954 to 1957 for $2,933,314.88 at a cost of $11 per square foot. Many Tucsonans denounced the school as "frilly." The round hanging globes at the school's entrance cost $800 less than recessed lighting. Prior to Catalina's opening day on January 17, 1957, the Arizona Daily Star observed, "The architecture of Catalina has been the subject of controversy and it has been called everything from 'functional' to 'Disneyland.'" Principal Gridley remarked, "We are confident that Catalina is a wonderful school—the building, the student body, the faculty, and the entire personnel."

There were many innovations included for the 2000 students. The new school contained a library, 79 classrooms, two gyms, three conference rooms, a reference room, cafeteria, band room, auto body shop, a bookstore, and an auditorium. In some locations, ramps were installed instead of stairs. All the lockers in the school and gym were ventilated. The gymnasium could accommodate 4,000 spectators and it was the largest gymnasium in Arizona.

The home economics department boasted 12 new Singer sewing machines, one zig-zag machine, asbestos shelving for irons, all new kitchen appliances, an electric fry pan, an electric roaster, single and double sinks, a garbage disposal, roll out cabinets, and a corner revolving storage cabinet.

The science department had new equipment: a greenhouse for plant experiments, two incubators, an oven for drying materials, and equipment for handling radioactive materials.

The library was given its own wing to insure quiet surroundings. Windows on the north and south sides of the room admitted natural light. An exterior book chute allowed students to return books without entering the library.

Instead of piercing buzzers to signify the change of classes, gentle chimes announced the passing period. A state-of-the-art public address system was installed in each room as well as outside. Student announcers read the news over the PA system instead of the individual teachers reading them aloud to homeroom classes as was the custom.

The cafeteria accommodated seating for 500. The south wall was entirely made of glass with sliding doors, a new innovation, which opened onto a patio.

Students liked the "Disneyland" moniker so well that the Disneyland musical theme, "Mickey Mouse," became the unofficial school song.

(Excerpts from Trojan Trumpeteer, March 10, 1978)

 

Page last updated: 05/22/2018

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