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56 Years and Counting: A History of SLP HS

In honor of Saturday's All-Year Reunion, we look at seven decades at Park High.

The  is Saturday (don't have tickets yet? Get them online), so it seems appropriate to look at the school that made it all possible, with help from the St. Louis Park Historical Society.

The current high school opened in 1956. The land had previously been used as a skating rink, although several houses on the west side of the property had to be removed to make room.

Before the high school moved into this new building, it was housed in what is now the . At the time, the Central building housed both junior high and senior high students, so naturally things got a bit crowded. As the historical society notes:

Conditions were so crowded that in the 1954-55 and 1955-56 school years, students attended school in double shifts. The 1,331 junior high students attended class in the morning and the 881 high school students attended class in the afternoon. 

So the new senior high was a welcome addition, but a fashion issue made the first year quite interesting:

Things got off to a rough start, as the Minneapolis Star reported on a crisis at the new high school: “It all started…when an early-morning disk jockey plugging ‘Oscar Socks’ urged students to don knee-highs of one design left leg, contrasting design right leg. Girls responded in droves…But Principal Edward Foltmer…suppressed the fad promptly. ‘We’d be opposed to any distracting influence at school,’ he explained with a cautious smile. ‘We can’t allow bizarre clothing.’ A bag lunch protest last Friday, with many girls wearing black and spurning the school’s hot lunch, followed. Boys at St. Louis Park High came to the girls’ rescue. ‘The boys wore their shirt tails out in protest after we weren’t allowed to wear Oscar Socks,’ student Elaine Smedberg said. ‘But the administration made ‘em pull the shirt tails in. So the boys hiked up their pants, wore them around their ribs. Then a week ago, about 15 boys peroxided their hair.’ Next morning, ‘the kids hissed the principal and started singing “Chain Gang” in school,’ other girls reported.” The School’s student council came to the rescue and calmed the situation down. The PTA put a teenage dress code on its next agenda.

Since original construction, a few changes and additions have been made to the building:

Construction of the "Circle" began in July 1961, starting Park students on a dizzying odyssey around the hallways ... The addition cost $1,350,000 and was designed to accommodate 800 students. In place, the school could handle 2,400 students – there were 1,500 in 1960. The Echowan claimed that this circular addition “was the first of its kind to be used in the State of Minnesota.”

The so-called "McDonald's wing" was added in 1967, at a cost of $10 million. The new space was generally used for vocational training such as advertising, secretarial skills, machine shop, printing, drafting, nursing, etc. Also new was an expanded art room, an orchestra room, and a room set aside for the school’s blind students. A new track was also completed. Enrollment was 2,468 students.

In 1993, major remodeling was done to the Media/Technology Center (library) and the second floor circle. Design flaws had the outside wall pulling away from the floors, leaving gaps at the outside edge of some of the third floor classrooms. A new, accessible front entrance was built as well.

In 2001, the third floor of the 33rd Street side was remodeled to provide updated science classroom. Also, additional gym space was added along the railroad tracks.

Over the years, the school has racked up a number of awards and recognitions. It is regularly ranked among the top public high schools in the state (this year, Newsweek had Park in ; U.S. News and World Report had it ).

The school has won 40 state athletic titles, including 22 in synchronized swimming.

And, of course, a number of notables have walked through the halls, including:

Want more All-Year Reunion stories? We've got you covered:


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