At this time of the year I find myself reminiscing about my old school days. This week I would like to take my readers down Memory Lane and recall my freshman year at DeForest Union High School back in 1954.
I looked forward to being a student at the big red brick school house that sat on the top of the terraces on Holum Street. It was built back in the 1920s but it was still a very impressive looking building in the mid-50s. Two stories of big windows looked south towards Holum Street, but there was actually three stories inside the building. A basketball court/dining hall was on the lower level, the main floor consisted of classrooms, the second floor was the large study hall with an adjacent library, more classrooms, and the school office.
One entered through the big double front doors of the building after climbing the steps that started at the corner of Washington and Holum Streets. The entryway was a stair landing between the first and second floors. The marble-like flooring in the halls was similar to those of the State Capital corridors. The halls were lined with metal student lockers. The ceiling was plaster. Between classes it was very noisy with many students dashing in different directions and the sounds bouncing off the hard surfaces. The custodians were Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Jensen and they kept all the floors, walls and windows sparkling clean.
The lower level was packed with students during the lunch period. The kitchen was on the east end of the gym. There was a big stage on the west end of the gym. The hardwood floor was the home court for the DeForest basketball team. Spectators would watch from the stage and from bleachers set up in the mezzanine hallways on two sides of the court. It would get extremely loud during most games and DeForest always had a good season record in basketball as the “Little Norskies” were used to the loud crowd and the short open floor behind the baskets.
The stage was used every year for the senior play and two nights of performances for a series of freshman plays, directed by upperclassmen. Miss Schneider was in charge of both presentations and she made sure every freshman had a speaking part in a freshman play.
The music concerts for the DeForest band and choral groups played to packed houses. Commencement exercises were also held in the gym. Our Class of ’58 was the last class to have the graduation program in the old gym.
On the second floor, the north side of the hallway was class rooms and south the study hall ran nearly the full length of the building. The library adjoined with glass window panes between them. The study hall monitor sat behind a desk which was on a low stage at the head of the hall.
Nearly every Friday a general assembly would be held in the study hall at the end of the last period. It was only about 10 minutes long. A pep band would play a march at the start. The cheerleaders would lead a cheer. Mr Stalder, who was both the principal and the football coach, would announce who DeForest’s opponent would be that night and urged all students to come to the game. All home games were played at DeForest Fireman’s Park. The assembly would end with another cheer and singing the school song.
The Principal’s Office was tucked into a corner at the top of the front steps on second floor. Woodro Stalder wore many hats — he was high school principal, Latin teacher and head football coach. He joined the faculty in 1939. He was a big man and you could tell that he once played football. He usually had a big smile on his face, but you wanted to stay clear of him when he was upset or displeased. He was a great teacher and story teller and a great football coach. He worked his way up from teacher and coach to high school principal and then superintendent of the school district for many years.
That concludes your tour of the old DeForest Union High School on the top of the terraces on Holum Street.
An longer version of this column is available on our website.