The History of The Payette High School/McCain Middle School Gymnasium

By Jessica McCarty

In the 1930's the United States was in a depressin. In order to help the country become prosperous again, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the congress passed a number of programs to help people. One of these was the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA provided jobs building highways, streets, bridges, parks, and other projects intended to have a long-range value. It also created work for artists, writers, actors, and musicians.

In 1935 in Idaho, 52 public buildings were funded including community halls, schools, gymnasuims, and recreation centers were underway. 126,000 dollars will come from federal funds. Other projects funded in Idaho were water conservation projects, utility improvements, highways, street and road. A total of $1,851,784 was spent in Idaho on these various projects.

One of the public building projects in Payette was the high school gymnasuim. This gymnasium is now the gym at McCain Middle School. In 1935, the school board proposed a school bond for a number of improvements at the high school. These include a new roof, seven new classrooms in the basement, removing the auditorium stage and balcony, and the gymnasium. The new gymnasuim can be used as an auditorium which will seat 1,500 people with a stage and dressing rooms. Also included in the gymnasium plan are new rooms for manual training, home economics, and vocal and instrumental music as well as physical education. The reasons for these improvements are: crowded conditions, the building was only able to hold 300, but was housing 425 students in 1935. The gym and these other rooms are too small. According to the school board, "Pupils are forced to work in cooped up space where heating and ventilation are very unsatisfactory because of this crowding." Another important reason was because the federal government was going to donate 45% of the cost and carry the balance for twenty years at 4% interest. The school district would handle the other 55%.

The election was held Friday, November 8, 1935. The total amount of the bond was $76,000. 196 people voted. The bonds carried 154 to 42. In February of 1936, Mr. J. Wood, a WPA engineer, notified the school district that the money for the construction of the gym and auditorium had been approved in Boise and at WPA headquarters in Washington D.C. The WPA Program was also improved. The WPA has now agreed to furnish 60% of the cost.

The plans for the gym were drawn up by C.W. Wayland of Wayland and Fennell architects in Boise. The firm of Wayland and Fennell was the architects for the Payette High School and the Eastside School. In March of 1936, John Griffin, who was a district engineer and field man for the WPA, came to Payette to meet with the building committee.

The work got off to a slow start. The school officials were discouraged because there had been many delays in construction. In April of 1936, construction began. The superintendent of contruction was Earl M. Van Deventer. Leo White was foreman of the WPA crew. There were 25 men on the crew. The Weidner Lumber Company was awarded the bid for flooring and plaster materials in the amount of $2,813.13. The Boise Payette Lumber Company supplied 2,250 feet of plasterboard for $465.00. The Van Petten Lumber Company was awarded the contract for 400 feet of metal corner bead. The heating system was contracted to Lessenger and Co. of Boise, electrical work to the Radio Shop and plumbing to R.G. Dye.

In August, only about 35% of the work was finished and the 30 WPA men on the crew began to work two shifts a day, 6 days a week. The city of Payette laid a new water line.

School opened on September 8th. Superintendent Stevenson reported that the enrollment in all the schools had increaded because so many families had moved from Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas because of the drought. All the high school classrooms were completed and the gymnasium was scheduled to be completed in November. Students were warned to stay away from the construction project.

There was a dedication ceremony held on Tuesday, November 23, 1937. There was a program to celebrate the opening. The Reverend A.H. Shuman gave the invocation. Selections by the high school band, conducted by J.H. Stoner. There were songs such as "Royal Purple," "Come Sweet Death," "Stars and Stripes Forever." Mixed chorus was directed by Miss Carol Jean Samm, "Grant Us Do With Zeal," "Meditation," and "Sea Forever." Freshman girl's trio, "Lift Thine Eyes" by Mary Lou Decker, Helen Woodward, and Ruth Hanson. Senator A.L. Freehafer and Albert M. Harland were speakers. Following the program, the building was open for inspection. High school teachers acted as room reception committee in each of the rooms and the public was requested to ask the teachers for any information desired.

The first play presented in the new auditorium was called "Tea Toper Tavern." Miss Howerton was the drama teacher at the high school. The auditorium had new scenery and curtains. Cast members included: Cathleen Harland, Max Lattig, Anne Rothering, Leonard Kiser, Bob White, Thelma Rich, Leonard Penrod, Helen Zimmerman, Geraldine Mickelson, James Holbrook, Jeannette Tomlin, Mary Ellen Rumley, Bob Farber, and Harriette Kellis.

"52 Public Buildings in Idaho's WPA Projects" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, December 12, 1935
"75,000 WPA Plan for High School" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, February 20, 1936
"Annual Payette High School Play" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, November 25, 1937
"Board Purchases New Material" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, June 25, 1936
"Dedication of New High School Gymnasium to be Held Tuesday Evening" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, November 18, 1937
"Ground Broken for New Gym" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, March 12, 1936
"Payette Schools to Open September 14" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, August 27, 1936
"Payette High School Building is Now Under Construction" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, April 16, 1936
Shannon, David A. "New Deal" World Book, 1900
"To Vote on School Bonds" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, November 7, 1935
"Work Lags on New Building" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, April 9, 1936
"Work Rushed on School Building" Independent Enterprise Newspaper, August 6, 1936

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