From left, South Medford High School Assistant Principal Beth Hauser, Kayla Doney and McKinsey Patterson prepare to bury a time capsule in front of the school Friday on its last day of classes. Unfortunately, the vault was full of water and they’ll have to try again on Monday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Goodbye to old South Medford

After nearly 80 years, old South Medford's identity as a high school will end today after the class of 2010 walks at Spiegelberg Stadium to receive diplomas and crews arrive Sunday to begin moving furniture to a newly constructed campus at the intersection of Columbus and Cunningham avenues.

Friday was students' last day of classes at the 1931 campus.

"I know a bunch of other students are kind of jealous they're not the first graduating class at the new school, but I think it's even cooler to be the last graduating class at this school," said senior McKinsey Patterson, who graduates today.

Next fall, the old South building will become Medford School District's central office and home to its alternative high school, Medford Opportunity.

Designed by famed architect Frank Clark, the building opened in 1931 as Medford High School with a capacity of 1,000 students. Nearly 800 pupils in grades nine through 12 attended on opening day, and the first class graduated from the campus in 1932. The school opened just five years after another high school had been built, which is now McLoughlin Middle School on West Second Street, because the McLoughlin building wasn't large enough to accommodate the growing student population, according to a 1959 school district publication, "A Short History of Medford Public Schools."

Despite the economic woes of the Great Depression, district officials were able to persuade the public to build the school at South Oakdale on the argument that it would help put people to work, according to the 1959 publication.

The campus cost $205,000 to build; the total cost of the new South campus is $81 million.

A name change came in 1967 when the district built a new high school on North Keene Way Drive, now known as North Medford High School. District officials decided to send juniors and seniors to the new campus on North Keene Way, which would be called Medford Senior High. Meanwhile, freshmen and sophomores remained at the South Oakdale campus, with the name Medford Mid High School.

In 1982, students buried a time capsule in the school's front lawn to commemorate the building's 50th birthday.

South seniors dug up the time capsule last Monday.

Inside, they found copies of the school magazine from 1932 and 1936, articles from the student newspaper from 1943, 1950 and 1953, a graduation program from 1964, a 1981 yearbook, a photo of students, a 1981 student handbook and curriculum guide and "A Short History of Medford Public Schools."

Teacher Kelly Burton said the seniors were disappointed there weren't any personal mementos to show the popular culture at the time.

"The bummer was that a lot of the stuff inside were things the yearbook class had seen before," Burton said.

The time capsule was buried before the change that gave the school its current name, South Medford.

In 1986, the Medford district decided it was time to join the national trend of four-year high schools, spawning a community outcry, said Floyd Pawlowski, principal of the South Oakdale campus from 1978 to 1998.

"Medford was a football, baseball, basketball powerhouse at that time," Pawlowski said. "Some people leveled the charge that they didn't want to lose that status" by diluting Medford's athletic talent between two high schools.

To accommodate four grade levels, Medford Mid High underwent $10.5 million in renovations, Pawlowski said.

The school's name was changed to South Medford High School, while the North Keene Way campus took on the name North Medford High School. Thus, the rivalry between North and South was born, said Brent Barry, who was a sophomore at the South Oakdale campus when the school converted to four grade levels.

Barry said he remembers his excitement about going to school with his older brother, Jeff, who was in South's first graduating class, and the other older pupils.

"Some of our best friends were going to school across town at North," Barry said. "It was fun competing with them. It was a great experience being part of a new high school and being a part of the city's history."

Seniors and junior Kayla Doney, who plans to use some of the school's history for her senior project next year, on Monday planned to mark their momentous departure from the old South by burying their own time capsule. They filled the capsule with personal items to show future generations what was popular at the time, including an old iPod, USB devices, a ring made out of the energy drink Rock Star, tags and a senior picture on matting covered with seniors' thumbprints and signatures.

There was a glitch, however, when custodian Andy Altmann opened the vault where the 1982 capsule had been buried: It was full of water.

Students will try again on Monday.

"I like ending my senior year with so much ceremony," McKinsey said. "It's not just the senior class but the whole school saying goodbye."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

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