It's a song no one sings much any more: Hail, South High. . . . We stand behind you forever. On, South High . . . "
There are no young voices singing those words at football games or graduation ceremonies any more. Not since 1988 when South High closed for good. At the time, there were many unhappy alumni. They thought the Salt Lake City School District should have closed East, or West, or Highland - any school but theirs.Those alumni were loyal and are loyal, still. Members of the South High Alumni Association are determined to keep the school's spirit alive. They sell videos, blankets and ties. A 1949 graduate volunteers his computer talents to keep a database of addresses of all graduates. Other volunteers put out a newsletter twice a year.
The association's major project, started last year, is a college scholarship fund for alumni - and children and grandchildren of South High grads.
At a ceremony last Saturday, 22 Salt Lake Community College students received $780 scholarships for the next school year. Mostly they were children of South High Cubs. One was herself an alumna. Several had grandparents who'd gone to South.
The ceremony was held in conjunction with the high school reunion of the first South High graduating class: the Class of 1932. Fifty 83-year-olds came back for a luncheon and a program including the scholarship awards.
In addition to this year's scholarships, 11 of last year's recipients will have their scholarships renewed. That's a total of 33 scholarships.
Someday they'll be able to give larger amounts of money to even more students, predicts Betty Wilde, Class of '42. They only started collecting money three years ago, already have $300,000 and spend only half of each year's interest on new scholarships.
Wilde says the fact that they still have a building and that the historic building has been taken over by Salt Lake Community College makes all the difference. It gives alumni a place to visit and a cause to support.
Today, 10 years after the last high school students left, the building is painted, polished and collegiate. The football field is now a parking lot. The choir room is the new east entrance. The auditorium is now the Grand Theater.
In fact, it was the Grand Theater that first brought the alumni and the college development office together.
Development director Mike Williams says Wilde and another alumna, Margaret James, came to him several years ago when the college was refurbishing the Grand. They wanted to buy a seat in the name of the Class of '42.
Other classes wanted to do the same. Soon the alumni formed themselves into an association, with a president and board of trustees. Wilde says one alumnus donated "umpteen thousand" to turn what was the old South High board of control room into a memory room with trophy cases, mahogany chairs and conference tables. The alumni room belongs to Salt Lake Community College, but the alumni association often reserves it.
The alliance between the alumni and the college continues to grow. The college provides a part-time employee and a small office for alumni functions. Each year a special performance at the Grand is set aside for South High alumni. They go to the play and split the receipts with the college. Profits go to support the scholarship fund and the South High alumni office.
Several years ago, Susan Hansen (Class of '77) and her husband, Dave (Class of '76) volunteered to be reunion coordinators. She put together a packet to let other alumni know what was available, at little or no cost, through the college: meeting rooms, cafeteria, swimming pool and secretarial support - just about everything any class could need to hold a reunion.
Soon Williams hired Hansen part time in the development office. Now she visits her old high school almost as often as she did when she was a student. She's almost over her sadness about the school's closing.
Hansen says in some ways, nothing has changed - the place even smells the way it did when she was a kid. In some ways, having it be a college now is an improvement."I knew we had a beautiful school. Now it's kept up better."
Encouraged by the support of the alumni association, five high school classes will hold reunions at the college this summer. So the song will rise again, in those same old halls, "On, South High . . . ."