Bingham High Celebrates 40 Years in South Jordan
By Julie Slama
A tradition was broken after more than 40 years at the recent Bingham High celebration of the school being in South Jordan.
For years, classmates and alumni stand reverently after the performance of the school hymn, “We’ll Always Remember,” with their arms crossed, representing their miner mascot, with their hand feigning to have a pick over the heart and the other, having a shovel crossing over.
However, on Sept. 12, the crowd of about 300 Miners and community members broke into applause with a standing ovation after 102-year-old former music teacher Lowell Hicks played the school hymn on the marimbas. He composed the tune in 1953.
Hicks thanked the crowd, then joked that he had to break off a previous engagement to play that night.
“I cancelled my date with America’s Got Talent where I was going to play ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee,’” he said.
The night was filled of other talent including a solo from “Camelot” by Neal Bergstrom, student body president in 1982; father-son graduates Shane and Kolten Martin strumming guitars and performing “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Johnny B. Goode;” the school dance company and alumni performing to “Yesterday;” and highlights of the 13 most recent years of musical theatre performed by alumni from the classes of 2002 to 2015.
The Bingham High Marching Band played the fight song and pep song, and performing alongside were the color guard and cheerleaders.
The night was full of reminiscing. Diane Shaw Saltas, who was looking at old yearbooks and spotted a photo of herself as a Minerette, was a member of the first graduating class of the building, in 1976. She has only returned to the school a handful of times.
“We were so upset to come here,” she said. “We loved Copperton campus. It was quaint, little, we knew everyone there. In fact, two days before our graduation in the auditorium, there was an electrical fire. We were hoping we could hold our graduation back at Copperton, but they fixed up the auditorium and we had it here.”
The transition may have been more difficult as workers were still working on the school carpeting, painting, putting in the gym floor and still finishing it, Saltas said.
“They weren’t ready for us and we weren’t ready to come,” she said.
Bingham High Principal Tom Owen, who served as principal from 1973 through the transition period and until 1977, said school started late because of construction.
“Our opening assembly was held in the cafeteria since the auditorium was only a slab on concrete,” he said. “There were no chairs, no lights, no carpet. Students had to bring their own lunch as the cafeteria wasn’t done. The school was far from being completed and we simply weren’t ready for the students. During the assembly, students sat on rolls of carpet while I welcomed them. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw a ceiling tile contractor moving his ladder, working on the tiles in the cafeteria. Next thing I knew, he set his ladder right down in front of me while I was talking to the students.”
Owen also remembers that while he was supporting the faculty in introducing a new curriculum for students, he was handling other issues such as not having enough boards to place in front of the stage.
“I asked if we separated the boards ½-inch to 3/4-inch, would there be enough to cover the front of the stage and the contractors said there would be. So if you look right now, it doesn’t look too bad,” he told the audience.
Still, Owen said that the students made the move tolerable and overcame obstacles.
“We didn’t move from our traditions and who we were. They showed their character when we moved and had problems, but we held on to our traditions as Bingham Miners,” he said. “It’s still evident today.”
Senior Class President 1976 Gary Arnold agreed the students overcame their beloved Copperton campus by the excitement of being the first graduating class in South Jordan. However, he said his favorite photo is of Principal Owen helping install carpeting in the auditorium and a treasured memory was that of a motorcycle being driven through the school before there was carpet.
“Even though it was a new school, it was still our Bingham,” he said. “So when someone spit tobacco chew on the new carpet in the library, someone popped him in the jaw saying not to mess up the carpet. We had a lot of pride at Bingham.”
Bob Day, who served as principal from 1980 to 1986, said that the building may have looked great conceptually, but there were headaches. The school started with about 1,200 students, but grew to 3,000, and even with the changing enrollment as new high schools in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley were built and alleviated the population, the design didn’t fit the need of the students.
Day said the design was a 1970s approach where the library had an open balcony and classrooms had moveable partitions that allowed room sizes to be altered with the changing enrollment and encouraged teacher collaboration.
“Kids were throwing things down from the open balcony onto the library and you could hear someone yelling in all the rooms,” he said. “The basketball floor was made of synthetic material instead of wood and the kids couldn’t stop or start and were getting injured.”
Owen recalled that there were problems at the start.
“We’d hold four English classes divided by partitions and the students in the back of the English classes could hear what was happening in all four classes,” he said.
However, Day said that the faculty and staff held strong.
“Throughout it all, the staff hung on as Bingham went through a lot of upgrades that were needed since its first design,” he said.
Bingham High Alumni Association President Scott Crump said the five principals that evening who gathered — Owen, Day, Ray Jenson, Jolene Jolley and Chris Richards-Khong — shared stories with one another before they were pinned at the assembly, each reciting the traditional words, “It’s a great day to be a Miner.”
The pinning began under Day’s era, when students performed service to the school through academics, service, clubs, sports and other ways. The 40th celebration had special pins commemorating the occasion.
The day’s events also included looking at 40-year memorabilia, opportunities to purchase a brick for the legacy plaza, a chance to reminisce in the alumni room, the opportunities to view theater props and posters through the years; a chance to learn about current school clubs and see 500 trophies lining the halls while touring the campus. There also were selections shown of Bingham High’s history in South Jordan from a DVD, “Then, Now, Always” created by Crump and information about the five campuses of Bingham High School since it opened its doors in 1908.
Senior Class Secretary Nikki Blandford said that through the two-hour evening assembly, she felt connected to her fellow Miners.
“I wish I could share the enthusiasm here tonight with all my classmates who aren’t here,” she said. “We’re just a part of something that is much bigger and they may never know the feeling we got here tonight.”
Before the current and former Madrigals gathered on stage to sing the school hymn, emcee Bruce Dunford, who served as student body president in 1987, thanked those who brought the traditions and legacy from Copperton, adding, “Students and teachers may leave Bingham High School, but Bingham will never leave the students and teachers.”
After the school hymn, the tradition resumed as students and alumni stood reverently, with their arms crossed.