A History of West High School
A School of Scholars and Champions:
On July 19, 1890, Salt Lake City Mayor George W. Scott organized the first Board of Education. In that same year, Salt Lake High School was held in the old Fourteenth Ward building (which later became the Fremont School Building). E.M. Collins was principal and 21 students attended the first year in 1891. Salt Lake High School was officially organized with William R. Malone as principal and 91 students enrolled. The first graduation was held June 9, 1893 at the Salt Lake Theater; six girls and four boys received their diplomas.
In 1893, football was introduced into Salt Lake High School. They won the state title in football that year, losing only one game in their first year of competition. Since that time, West has won so many more state and regional championships that we have lost count! West has won more state titles than any other high school in Utah. West High’s first football coach, J. Fred O’Dell, would proudly wear his red and black sweater to games and practices. Because of Coach O’Dell, we wave and wear these cherished colors.
Salt Lake High School rapidly grew out of its first home. To accommodate the increasing number of students, Salt Lake High moved to the Clayton Building on South Temple, then to the Utah National Armory on Pierpont Street in 1898. A.O. Clark was principal at this time. By 1900, enrollment had grown to approximately 675 students with George A. Eaton as principal.
The day before school opened in 1900 the Pierpont Street building was destroyed by a fire that began in the building next door. Governor Wells and the Utah State Land Board offered the use of the old University of Utah building on the block now occupied by West High School. The city later bought the property; first the Union Building, then the George Eaton Gymnasium and finally in 1912, the Technical Arts Building was constructed.
By 1912, there was a need for a second high school. Salt Lake High became West High School, and East High students attended Bryant Junior High until their building was completed in 1914. West High students needed a new building as well. Much credit must be given to the West High Class of 1919, as it was through their efforts that a new building became a reality. The citizens of Salt Lake City caught their enthusiasm, and construction was funded through a sale of bonds. The building was completed in July 1922 at a cost of $185,010.
West’s mascot was first presented to West in 1914; we continue to stand as the “Mighty Panthers”. The first school publication was known as the Olio in 1910. The first yearbook was printed, small and in black and white for the class of 1922.
In 1901, a Cadet Company, under the direction of Lt. W.C. Webb, was organized with 50 members. By 1919, the Cadet Company, now the ROTC, had received federal recognition at national exhibitions in Seattle and San Francisco. During wartime, ROTC was the heartbeat of West as members stood ready to support the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
In 1906, Hugh B. Lewis designed the school seal. The West High seal was placed in mosaic tiles in the main foyer as a gift from the first graduating class of the new West High, the class of 1923. The inscription on the seal, “ Non Nobis Solum- Not For Ourselves Alone”, represented the beginning of a new era; the school spirit and traditions have continued to grow since that time.
West Associated Girls (WAG) is the oldest club at West. It began after a masquerade party held in 1909. Entering the era of political correctness, they became WOW, Women of West. West High Associated Men (WHAM), the second oldest club at West, was started in 1939.
As pictured in the 1911 yearbook, West High was again the first high school in the state of Utah to include basketball for both men and women to play. Over the years, our basketball teams, as well as many of our other sports teams, have taken championships, continuing our heritage as the “School of Scholars and Champions!”
In 1951 a new West High Gym was built; a new field house was completed in 1974. A major refurbish was done to West High School during 1997-98. That school year, nomad students had to attend some of their classes in the old Horace Mann Junior High. In 1998, the Tech Building was torn down. The eight Mahonri Jones statues of working men that graced the Tech Building had to be moved. Four of the statues remain at West High and the other four are now honored at the Labor Union Hall on Redwood Road.
The West High Alumni Association (WHAA) was formed in 1986. Its main purpose is to provide scholarships for West High graduates. The WHAA, through the assistance of generous and giving alumni, is able to award $75,000 to $80,000 to West High Students through scholarships each year. Since 1986 the WHAA have awarded over 1 million dollars in scholarship money in over 1000 scholarships to deserving West High School students.
The WHAA replaced the Freedom Foundation Wall, which includes copies of America’s most acclaimed documents and speeches. West was actually the first High School in Utah to have a Freedom Wall, but it was taken down in later years. In September 1997, the Freedom Foundation Wall became a part of West High School once again.
As Part of the West High Centennial Celebration in 1990, the WHAA presented West High with an official West High School Centennial Flag. Each graduation class provided a class flag for that celebration. All class flags are now displayed each year at homecoming and graduation.
In 1989 West High School received the national Secondary School of Excellence Award and the National Drug-Free School Award. It is the only high school in the country to have received both in the same year. These awards were presented to Principal Harold J. Trussel by President George H.W. Bush.
In the fall of 2004 West received a new football stadium. As with many buildings and structures around Salt Lake City, there comes a time when their needs have exceeded their capabilities. This was the case with the West High Football Stadium, a structure built in the 1950s. The stadium is a new aluminum structure seating around 3000 with a new press box. The supporting structure accommodates a locker room for the home team, complete with showers, training room, and storage for football equipment. The visitor’s side has a meeting room with restroom facilities. There is also a public restroom, a concession stand, ticket booth and dressing room for referees. With the help of the West High Alumni Association and generous donations from our alumni, the new stadium was named after Coach Gean Plaga, one of our past great football coaches.
In the summer of 2009, The West High School Community Council, School Improvement Council, PTSA, Student Government, and athletic department approached the Salt Lake City Board of Education about naming the Field House the “G. Ray Hale Field House” As a graduate of West High in 1948, Ray’s High School Athletic record is one of success for both himself and his team. More importantly, his record as a supporter of West High and all of its programs is the real reason for their decision to name the field house in his honor. Much of what Ray does is not seen by others, nor does he seek recognition for his efforts. His contributions, in all forms, result from his complete dedication to all West High students. If there is a need at West High, Ray either fills that need or finds others to fill it. On September 11, 2009 during our homecoming assembly, the field house was given its new name. The announcement was followed by a standing ovation from the student body. There was no one in the West High community more deserving of this honor. On March 2, 2010 there was a plaque dedication and revealing completing the naming of the G. Ray Hale Field House. In 2012, A much needed remodel was completed in the G. Ray Hale Field House. Which included new floors in the gymnasiums, new classrooms, and many other wonderful improvements.
In 2012 an addition was made to the technical wing on the 1st and 2nd floors of West High School. The addition houses many more classrooms and labs for technical and science studies. The new addition was made to be eco-friendly featuring solar power panels on the roof.
In 2014 a large “W” from the old Walker Bank sign was installed to the roof of West high. This “W” is lit on special occasions like graduation and homecoming and is visible from all over the Salt Lake Valley (including East High School). (Thank you to FOX 13 news. They did a report on the installation which can be viewed above.)
In 2015, improvements were made to the West High Spring Sports complex across the street from West High School. These improvements included a new building complete with storage areas for Tennis, Softball, Baseball, and Track and Field equipment. Male and female changing rooms and restrooms and a ticket/concessions area . The new building also has an “eagle’s nest” which is the window area that is used to better judge track and field events.
In 2015 improvements were also made to Gene Plaga Stadium. A brand new state-of-the-art AstroTurf field was installed. the filed includes both soccer and football markings. The field was unveiled in August 2015 to kick off the 125th anniversary celebration.
The 2015-2016 school year marks our 125th Anniversary. We are the oldest high school in the state of Utah. As part of our celebration, WHAA presented the school with a brand new school flag. A two-day long celebration was held on October 9-10, 2015. The celebration included homecoming festivities, a car show, and much more. Everyone who was at the festivities got together to spell out “125” on our new football field. October 9, 2015 was declared “West High Day” by the government of Salt Lake City. Utah Governor Gary Herbert presented us with a video message and a declaration from the State of Utah congratulating West High on it’s 125th Anniversary and it’s many achievements over the years. West High is proud of the lasting legacy it has made over the last 125 years and looks forward to the next 125 years.
The dedication in the 1922 yearbook reads: “We are entering upon a new era. We have seen the passing of old West High, in which there has been developed an indomitable spirit, a dream of higher things and traditions that we shall always love and cherish. May the students of this new West High preserve the old traditions, realize all their dreams, and keep stainless the name of dear West High”. As West High School has entered into a new century and a new millennium, these words still ring true.
West High Victory Song
(To the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”)
School song until 1954
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the rising of the West!
We are trampling out the records that the other teams have left!
We spell defeat to all we meet, our teams are always best!
West High is marching on!
Victory, Victory to the Panthers!
Victory, Victory to the Panthers!
Victory, Victory to the Panthers!
West High is marching on!
West, Our Alma Mater
School Song 1954-Present
Words: Barbara Humphries ‘54
Music: Janiel Ashton ‘56
Edited: William Billeter, choir teacher
Within these walls which surround us all
There dwells a hallowed spirit.
And every year that passes here
Serves merely to endear it.
We can’t forget the hours we spent,
The games, victories and defeats
And all the rest of Dear Old West
Which made our days complete.
Though the years may take us far away,
Our memories follow after.
We’ll sing our praise and voices raise
To West, Our Alma Mater!