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Murray High celebrates centennial milestone

Jul 06, 2017 09:45AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Former students and faculty recall memories and look at yearbooks during an alumni and former teacher reception for the school’s centennial. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Gallery: Murray High Centennial [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

Back in the 1940s, Barbara and Vere McHenry were high school sweethearts.

“I got myself a real winner,” she said about the man who is still by her side and helped celebrate Murray High School’s centennial at a reception for former students, teachers and administrators.

Her husband, who was junior class president before becoming student body president in 1946, played basketball and football besides being the class valedictorian.

The McHenrys were attending one of several events planned this spring for Murray High’s centennial. A dance festival involving students from all the Murray School District schools as well as a centennial ball at the capitol rounded out the celebratory activities.

McHenry remembers the hard, but good times he had as a Murray High student.

“We had so awfully good teachers here during the war (World War II) in 1943-1945,” he said. “We had a shortage of male teachers as they went into the military, so many teachers came out of retirement to teach us.”

That included the school’s first principal, James E. Moss, who taught them memorization skills, which McHenry used to recite a poem, one he still knows.

He remembered a shortage of paper during the war years, which caused the 1943 yearbook not to be fully printed, but instead, a small version was issued.

“There was a shortage of everything, especially paper, but it was a time that brought us together. Many of my classmates went into the war after graduation. I served in Korea,” he said.

McHenry’s education proved fruitful as a few years after 1946 graduation, he returned to Murray High to teach math and social studies. He also opened Riverview Junior High School as the school’s first principal and taught at several Murray elementaries. He also became the district’s director of curriculum and worked at the Utah State Office of Education.

“Education has changed a lot since then. Students are working with harder material and teaching is more challenging,” he said May 25. “But the pride we have and the pride students have today in our school is still here.”

That pride was apparent at the “Murray is My Home” dance festival May 18, where inclement weather forced students from all Murray School District schools to retreat into two dance performances in the high school gym.

Murray City Cultural Arts Director Mary Ann Kirk, who was one of the production staff members, said the families are excited about the collaboration.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It showcased a lot of history with dances from many of the ethnic groups of students who attended Murray High through the years. The students have been practicing at their schools and so now, just seeing it all come together is memorable. It’s an experience many of them never have had — to perform in such a large group at the same time.”

The music for the opening and closing was written by composer and producer Clive Romney, who is the executive director of Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts. In addition to students from the elementary schools dancing, Murray High’s dance company and drill team performed and Murray High and Riverview Junior High percussion played.

Brenda Murdock’s eighth-grade son, Max, practiced for a few months before playing with the other percussion members.

“You can tell how hard the kids have been working for this,” she said. “I love Murray’s music programs in the District and you can tell programs like this are a priority.”

Horizon fourth-graders Melissa Cottam and Kinzlee Taylor made tambourines out of paper plates in art class to play with their Italian dance. Before performing, they saw a video of the dance they’d learn and were told to “shake the tambourines as if you’re shaking poison for tarantulas,” Kinzlee said.

“It’s fun to be creative with the tambourine and to dance with friends,” Melissa said.

Dancing with friends, classmates and alumni was the idea behind the centennial ball, held May 26 at the Utah State Capitol, which also is celebrating its 100-year birthday.

“Whole families came from grandparents to aunts and uncles to current students,” said Cherie Clawson, who coordinated the gala with Jodi Mismash. “One alumni couple got out in the middle of the dance floor and started dancing. Then, some kids, who were a little uncertain about being at the same dance as their parents, got going and were pleasantly surprised at how much fun they were having.”

With a deejay playing music of every era, Clawson said there were familiar songs for everyone. Many people also wrote songs that they remembered and requests were made for the deejay, she said.

Several couples spent the evening catching up — as well as eating some of the 1,500 cupcakes made by Murray High entrepreneur Katelyn Brewer’s shop, Kate’s Kupcakes.

“It was a blast to see all the families growing up in Murray and staying in Murray—and celebrating this historic event,” Clawson said.

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