Brigham Young High School
New Historical Display
Provo City Library
Project Initiated by the BYH Class of 1961
The Brigham Young High School Class of 1961 has spearheaded a project of benches and a display case at Academy Square, inside the Provo City Library. A beautiful display case now needs to be filled with BYH memorabilia from all classes, including families of BYH alumni and faculty.
Glen Miller received a letter from the new curator at the library asking for donations from all those who attended or graduated from BY High School. This will be a permanent display so donations will not be returned to the donor.
Some suggestions are class sweaters, trophies, newspapers, graduation programs, "Beloved B.Y.U. High School" song, yearbooks, pictures, etc.
Please donate whatever BY High items that you may have in your treasure stash that your kids are going to throw away when they clean out your house.
Glen Miller is the gatherer of information such as where to send items or any other questions you might have.
Provo City Library at Academy Square
Address: 550 N University Ave, Provo, UT 84601
Original proposal and ideas:
Nick Boshard, M.P.H., Ph.D.
7054 East North Shore – Hartsburg, Mo., 65039
September 12, 2021
Gene Nelson, Director
Provo City Library at Academy Square
550 North University Avenue
Provo, Utah 84601
Dear Mr. Nelson:
I was among the BY High Class of ’61 classmates that you spoke to at our 60th reunion in July of this year. Subsequent discussions with my old classmates Roy Taylor and Marion Bentley, informed me you are proceeding with plans to fill a large display case near Class of ’61 benches with lower campus memorabilia reflecting the rich history of that campus complex.
Marion and Roy disclosed you are also considering the possibility of using space in the same wing for kind of a historical time capsule of the Brigham Young University Laboratory School that evolved from the original Brigham Young Academy founded in 1876 to 1968 when the school was closed and then revived as the Academy/High School Education Building was restored to become the Provo City Library you now direct in this century.
I grew up in an old turn-of-the-20th-century home a block away from the lower campus and like Roy went from kindergarten at the lab school all the way through twelve grades to graduate from Brigham Young High. My grandfather William (Bill) Boshard owned clothing and barbershop establishments in downtown Provo that employed Jack Dempsey for a time early in this boxing career, and on my mother’s side I am a descendant of Erastus Snow who was kind of Brigham Young’s right hand man before Utah became a state.
As a boy, I used to climb the huge pine trees lining University Avenue in front of Academy square to watch parades that always passed along that avenue. On occasion, I found the courage to climb almost to the top of those trees where I could look down upon the magnificent structure that is now the Provo City Library.
When I was not attending classes as a boy, I would roam the catacombs and zoology exhibits in the old education building, as well as spend hours playing basketball in the old Men’s Gym located on the upper level of the BYU Training/Elementary Laboratory School. My childhood was intermingled with the lower campus in many ways and I have an enduring affection for the lower campus and its rich history.
Before offering any options to be considered in your efforts to preserve this rich history, I would introduce Mr. Larry Christensen into this conversation. As a graduate of Brigham Young High School in 1966, and webmaster of The Brigham Young High School Web Site, Larry is a treasure trove of information and data related to the history of the lower campus.
Working with others, he led the construction of a narrative concerning the historical anthology of lower campus development and evolution between 1876 and 1968 and well as the interim period between the closing of the school and the civic activism that saved Academy Square from being extinguished after other historic structures on the lower campus had been demolished.
Larry has worked tirelessly to preserve the history of the lower campus and I know he is concerned that much of the lower campus history he and others have uncovered in building this website will be lost unless hard copies of these materials can be turned into hard copy library reference materials.
In an age where libraries everywhere are because of cost considerations moving from hard bound books to digital electronic books via computer devices, I see a need for a hard-bound comprehensive history of the establishment of the Brigham Young Academy in the 19th century to the evolution of the Laboratory School complex in the early 20th century, the closing of lower campus educational operations in 1968, to the restoration of the Academy High/College Hall building to one of the most iconic public library structures and operations in the country today.
Much of this comprehensive history already exists, but there are still a few chapters of this story that need to be written. From the cursory research I have conducted for this communication, it seems that very little is known concerning why and how Brigham Young Academy was established by the Mormon Church in 1876.
Why was Provo selected as a site for the academy instead of Salt Lake City where LDS Church headquarters was located? After the Lewis Building fire, how was the University Avenue site for the academy selected instead of another site in Provo? Was the original purpose of the academy just to serve the educational needs of church members in central Utah, or was a wider role envisioned to expand the influence of the LDS Church nationally and internationally?
Do architectural plans for the original building still exist in some archive? How were the initial grade levels of the academy determined and as the academy evolved, what was the demarcation between high school education and graduation and college level classes that eventually evolved into the upper campus? The biggest mystery and gap in the history of the lower campus is why was the Brigham Young Laboratory School abruptly closed in 1968? On the BY High website, there was very little that could be reported about the decision to close BY High on December 8, 1967:
“Everything seemed to be proceeding normally, and then one Friday morning, December 8, 1967, all of the High School faculty were called to a special meeting with the Elementary School faculty. At this meeting, BYU administrators announced that BYU High School and indeed the entire BYU Laboratory School System would be closed permanently at the end of the present school year, 1967-1968. Many of the faculty were in tears.”
As George Harrison would say, “All Things Must Pass,” but this precipitous decision by BYU administration (and presumably the Church) stunned the Provo community and the student and faculty alumni of the Brigham Young schools.
In December of 1967, I was a Peace Corps volunteer on a tropical island (Yap) in the Pacific. As 1968 unfolded, I was swept up in the counter culture of the 60’s and with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the tumultuous democratic convention and the election of Richard Nixon, 1968 like 1929 (stock market crash) and 1941 (Pearl Harbor) was one of the most monumental years in American history.
I was someone who demonstrated against the VietNam War and campaigned for Robert F. Kennedy. I never thought looking back 50 years, that my most indelible memory would be the day on Yap Island when I learned that my beloved school had been shut down with no explanation.
The mystery of the factors and organizational dynamics that led to the abrupt closing of the lab school may never be revealed and may have to be represented in this project by nothing more than the front page headline in the December 7, 1967 issue of the Provo Daily Herald.
Recognizing that there are still a few gaps in the historical knowledge of the Brigham Young High School, I think that referencing the work of Larry and others on the BY High website, allows for the construction of a historical timeline within which to frame exhibits and the photos and memorabilia that will be gathered for the display case and possibly other spaces in a wing of Academy Square:
BYA – BYH – ACADEMY SQUARE ANTHOLOGY
History 1876 -1903
History 1904 – 1920
History 1921 – 1930
History 1931 – 1940
History 1941 – 1950
History 1951 – 1960
History 1961 – 1968
History 1969 - 1974 (Neglect)
History 1975 – 1993 (Demolition of Elementary School & Arts Buildings)
History 1994 (Provo City Supports Georgetown Development Bid to Demolish Academy High School and Build Condominiums)
History 1995 – 1997 (Civic Reprieve)
History 1997 – 2001 (Restoration)
History 2002 – Present (Academy Square Provo City Library)
So in using this timeline as a guide in planning for memorabilia to be placed in the display case and other possible historical exhibits in the same wing of the library, these are some options I would ask you to consider:
--Option (component) One: In the display case I would consider placing trophies for any track events won by the great Alma Richards (Olympic Gold Medalist 1912); BY High state basketball championship trophies for 1948, 1949, and 1963 and any other individual state championship trophies such as the state singles tennis championship won by Gary Rose in 1959. The first championship won in any sport by the women’s basketball team in 1900 should also be recognized if possible. Any dedication stones, bricks, public pronouncements, newspaper headlines, etc., for the Academy High School/Education Building (1892), Arts Building & Elementary Lab School Buildings (1900-1903) and the restored Academy Square Library (2001) should be part of the display case.
Any trophies or certificates for speech (debate) teams that won state championships for BY High should be included as part of this display. Historical memorabilia such as letterman sweaters from different periods, class officer sweaters, and laboratory school emblems and insignias that may have existed over the history of the lower campus might be worked into this display.
There are also iconic photographs that might be considered for inclusion in the display case such as the photo of David O McKay (LDS Church President) in 1956 with BY High Students and another photo of David O McKay with President Harry Truman and Ernest Wilkinson (BYU President) taken in 1952 near or on the lower campus after a parade down University Avenue.
The Brigham Young High School crest might be a central part of the display case or might appear over the top of case.
--Option (component) Two: On a wall in the same wing as the display case, I would consider erecting a chronological exhibit of enlarged photographs of the original academy building (1891), the elementary school building (around 1901) and the fine arts building (around 1903), the restored Academy building (library 2001) with mounted narratives for each structure that talk about the architects for each building, the purpose of each building, the longevity of each building and if possible any original site and/or architectural plans for these structures.
One forgotten but historic structure on the lower campus is the old Women’s Gym. This bank-like looking building was across University Avenue by the old Calder’s café/malt shop and architecturally seemed out of place. However, it served as the field house for the BYU Cougars basketball team during their run up to an NIT championship in 1951 and then became the “Women’s Gym” for the laboratory school after that.
--Option (component) Three: In another area of this wing, create a wall of luminaries or those persons that had a significant positive impact on the BYU Laboratory School or who had a positive impact upon the larger society through their personal achievements after leaving the lab school. In presenting this preliminary list of persons who might be considered for inclusion in such a display, I recognize that no two people connected with the history of the lower campus would agree on the persons who should be included but present this list as a starting point for discussion:
Karl G. Maeser
David O. McKay
Edwin S. Hinckley
William H. Boyle Jr.
Michael K. Young
Joseph Carlos Young
L. Donald Smoot
Abraham O. Smoot
Philo T. Farnsworth
This list includes personalities that played key roles in building the lower campus during the early history of the BY Academy and those persons who led the local crusade to save the education building from demolition and pave the way for restoration to the Academy Square Provo City Library.
As the namesake of the first academy, Brigham Young appears on this list although it appears that Karl G. Maiser was the real driving force in the early planning of Brigham Young Academy.
Other historical personalities of importance were not included on my initial list of luminaries. Reed Smoot, was the first student to formally enroll in the Academy, became an apostle of the LDS Church and was a five-term republican in the United States Senate.
As far as I know, no other graduate of Brigham Young Academy (High School) has ever been elected to the Senate. However, Reed Smoot was the co-sponsor of the infamous Smoot-Hawley bill passed in the early thirties that imposed wide ranging tariffs, started a trade war and is viewed by most historians as accelerating the depression and is one of the worst pieces of legislation to ever come out of the U.S. Congress. As a result, Smoot was turned out of office in his next senatorial election and faded from history.
George Brimhall was the principal of the BY Academy from 1895 to 1900. As a principal, he was an excellent administrator and beloved by his students. He led the expansion of facilities on the lower campus as he transitioned to become president of the overall Brigham Young University system. He hired many prominent young faculty members to enhance the reputation of BYU, but ended up siding with LDS Church officials in 1911 by firing many of the “modernists” he earlier hired. Many other BYU faculty members departed in protest and the academic reputation of BYU took years to rebuild.
--Option (component) Four: Students lucky enough to receive their educations on the lower campus, enjoyed taking their courses in a historic setting, benefited from small personal classes and a phenomenal elementary and secondary (junior high and high school) teaching faculty.
I think the dedicated and talented teachers that showed us the path to successful lives should be recognized in their own exhibit. Obviously, one wall would not be enough space to recognize the hundreds of teachers that served the students of the lower campus.
I can only say that my favorite teachers were Lillian Christensen (second grade), Garth Seastrand (fifth grade), Julia Caine (History), Anna B. Hart (English), Ross Hilton (Industrial Arts) Wallace Allred (Mathematics) and Don Snow (High School Basketball Coach).
There were great teachers during every decade the laboratory school was in operation and trying to winnow down the number of teachers to receive recognition in any exhibit at Academy Square will be a challenging task.
--Option (component) Five: Reading Judy Garvin’s narrative (Restoring a Dream) of the community groups, historical foundations, BYA-BYH alumni, LDS representatives and even certain arms of Provo, City government to prevent demolition and secure financial support to restore Academy Square to its former glory is an epic chapter in the historical saga of the lower campus.
I think this fairly recent history should be depicted in its own exhibit. Starting with the Daily Herald headline “BYU Laboratory School To Be Closed in 1968.” I think selected articles, letters for and against restoring Academy Square should be chronologically presented as part of this exhibit along with photos of construction to restore the education building, place the re-built “Beehive Fountain,” reconstruct historic gates, and landscape the recreated campus. This would be capped off by a large blown up wall photo of the Academy Square Library possibly taken at the dedication ceremony of the new library.
--Option (component) Six: Larry Christensen suggested that “skillfully built scale models of the old Academy Square before historic structures were torn down would be of high interest to visitors.” This exhibit could be in its own room or might be in a room where the walls are chronological photos of these structures. (Option One).
I would observe that starting with the display case there is going to need to be a central point for communications and coordination. Perhaps you have a historical archivist on your staff. The historical background material that will need to be gathered would be a great topic for a doctoral dissertation by a BYU student pursuing his (her) Ph.D. in History or Library Science. Such a person might become a staff person to work with any steering committee (perhaps the Library Board) you constitute to move these exhibits forward.
Somewhere in this process, I see a call for historical memorabilia to be used to construct these exhibits. In addition to the BY High website, the archives of The Provo Daily Herald will be a key source for photos and stories needed for some exhibits.
I know newspapers across the country are on life support and hope there is enough critical historical mass left at the Herald to support such exhibits. Obviously, archival material from BYU and Provo City will also be crucial to the success of such projects. Perhaps the historical archives of Provo City now reside at Academy Square.
The only caution I would ask you to consider is how the materials needed for the exhibits will be acquired and be authenticated? There continues to be a cottage industry around old historical documents related to the spiritual and historical evolution of the LDS Church. While there are many good people that will come forward to donate historically significant items for Academy Square exhibits, there are unfortunately other individuals that may have acquired and hoarded such items over the years with the expectation of financial gain.
If for example such things as trophies for state BYH championships cannot be acquired freely from those committed to preservation of lower campus history, then newspaper headlines or some other benchmarks of history may have to be substituted. In short, I do not believe any money raised for this project should be used to pay for historical objects that should be given freely.
Mr. Nelson, I think you will find Roy, Marion and others from the Class of ’61 a driving force in working with you and the library board to preserve and present the history of the lower campus. (BY Laboratory School). I would see our class possibly presenting a small financial gift to kick off a fundraising process for such historical exhibits.
This would be done as an example for other BY High classes to follow. As the plans for these exhibits come into clearer focus and costs for such things as frames for photos, signage, historical models, etc, become better known, then perhaps a fundraising goal can be established.
In closing, I would again echo Larry Christensen’s concern that the BYA/BYH website “needs to be saved to run independently from the Internet, including the alumni and faculty directory.” Larry related that the website has disappeared several times and was restored only with great effort, and he is worried it will one day crash and be gone forever.
To detail that urgency, I am simply attaching an index of BYA-BYH History Articles that now appears on the BY High Web-Site as I believe someone needs to as soon as possible make hard copies of all these materials as a starting point to plan for the proposed exhibits.
Class of ‘61
Attachment: Index BYA-BYH Articles
Cc: Roy Taylor