Berthoud High School once stood at corner of Ninth and Massachusetts

Tales of the Little Thompson

Berthoud-High-School-web

photo courtesy Berger Collection, Berthoud Historical Society In 1920-21 Berthoud Jr./ Sr. High School was built at the corner of Ninth Street and Massachusetts Avenue. John Bell, a local contractor, built the school at a cost of $89,000.

By Mark French

The Berthoud High School classes of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s will be holding reunion activities on Berthoud Day weekend. Members of these classes remember Berthoud High School as a two-story, blonde-brick building at the northwest corner of Ninth Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Turner Middle School occupies that location today, but for over a half-century the site was home to a building that housed the town’s junior and senior school students.

In 1919 Berthoud residents began discussing the construction of a new school. Prior to that time, the entire town’s elementary, junior and senior high students assembled in a schoolhouse that stood in the center of present-day Fickel Park. The building was so crowded that manual training classes met on the second floor of the Chamber of Commerce Building, and eighth grade classes met in the Masonic Hall. Classes were also held in the school’s basement, where the coal furnace was located.

In a bond election held in January 1920, Berthoud’s voters approved the construction of a new school by the margin of 133 to 22. In April John Bell, a Berthoud contractor, won the contract to construct the school with a bid of $89,287.92. Wallace Plumbing & Heating Co. of Denver was awarded the contract for heating and ventilation at a cost of $4,159. The building was finished in time to begin the 1921-22 school year.

Berthoud’s new junior-senior high school consisted of two floors built over a concrete “semi-basement.” A gymnasium that measured 50 x 65 feet shared the semi-basement with manual training and domestic science rooms, a furnace room, lockers and toilets. The gym’s ceiling was a mere 17 feet in height and was partially obstructed by heating and ventilation ducts. Spectators sat in a balcony above the gym floor.

Prior to the construction of the new school and its state-of-the-art gymnasium, basketball games were played in a large, second-floor room in the lumberyard building on East Mountain Avenue.

The school’s first floor boasted four classrooms, the superintendent’s office and the entrance to an auditorium that was described as “…the largest room in town.” The side wings of the auditorium’s stage doubled as the school library. On the second floor there were five classrooms and the entrance to a balcony in the auditorium.

The gymnasium and auditorium represented major upgrades over the old school building that contained neither amenity. When the town’s seventh through 12th grade students moved into the new school, the old school building in Fickel Park became the home of first through sixth grade students. At that time the town’s elementary and high school teachers were paid minimum salaries of $1,200 and $1,400 per year respectively. Berthoud’s school superintendent earned $3,000 per anum for overseeing the educations of the town’s nearly 400 elementary, junior and senior high school students.

Few changes were made to Berthoud High School (BHS) from the time it was built in the early 1920s to the days when the classes of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s attended school in the building. Overcrowding spelled an end to the gymnasium and auditorium in the early 1960s when those facilities were replaced with classrooms. A new gymnasium was built west of the old school, but Berthoud languished without a high school auditorium until the current high school was built on Spartan Avenue.

The BHS classes of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s will assemble this coming weekend to recall their school days when 20, 30 and sometimes 40 students made up the graduating class. Today that number is closer to 150, but that same small town feel continues to prevail.