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Hilmar High celebrates 100 years
Three veteran teachers look back
Hilmar pic1
The Hilmar-Irwin-Stevinson Historical Society created a mobile museum known as the Tumbleweed. The museum will be on full display at Fridays homecoming football game and it features historical items, clothing, yearbooks and photographs from Hilmar High 1911 to 2011. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

This week the Hilmar community will celebrate the 100th birthday of Hilmar High School with what is sure to be a historic series of events and celebrations.

Of course, the highlight of the week will be the homecoming parade on Friday — featuring “Glee” star and HHS’ most famous graduate Dot Jones as marshal, followed by Yellowjackets taking on Riverbank High. The parade will take place on Lander Avenue at 2 p.m.

“If you’ve never been to a Hilmar homecoming parade it is something you will never forget. The streets are packed with people — it is really a tremendous showing of community support,” said Jenifer Schaper, a 36-year HHS teacher.

Also on Friday, the Hilmar Post Office will be offering a once in a lifetime commemorative postmark to honor the HHS 100th graduating class.

On Saturday alumni will celebrate 100 years of history during the Green and Gold Formal Dinner and Dance at the Stevinson Pentecost Hall.

At the homecoming game the Hilmar-Irwin-Stevinson Historical Society will be on hand with an elaborate, informative and interesting display enclosed in a mobile museum known as the Tumbleweed. Inside the Tumbleweed visitors can expect to discover a world of HHS history. The Tumbleweed will show that HHS has always been a remarkable community.

Hilmar High School came from simple, small beginnings and in 100 years many in Hilmar are proud to know that while the times have changed the small town, close-knit community still exists.

Hilmar High School was established as Hilmar Colony Union High School in 1911, and the first campus was located in the second story rooms of Elim Union School, which would of course later become what it is now known as Elim Elementary. The school had 25 freshmen and one sophomore. Later that year Rosebell Lynd was the first ever HHS graduate. According to Hilmar-Irwin-Stevinson Historical Society’s Secretary Elaine Grant, she was believed to have moved to the East Coast where she became a teacher.

Current Hilmar teachers Schaper, Pam McFadden and Tom McFadden — with a combined 100 years of teaching experience at HHS — appreciate that throughout all the changes the one constant has always been the family atmosphere in Hilmar and at HHS.

 “The dynamics of the student population have changed so much. It was about 400 students when I started and now it is over 700. Back then it was a Portuguese and Swedish community and now it is largely Hispanic,” said Schaper. “But with all the changes there has always been wonderful parent support, this has been a safe campus and the kids now are judged on personality more so than color.”

Pam noted that former students of hers often move to other communities around Hilmar, such as Turlock or Delhi, and obtain inter-district transfers just so their children can experience the family atmosphere at HHS.

The family atmosphere at HHS can trace its roots back to 1922 when the first yearbook, known as the “The Waukeen” was made. It was much smaller than today’s colossal yearbooks but it was filled with text, as opposed to pages of pictures. The Waukeen from 1922 will be on display in the Tumbleweed. Also on display are photographs of HHS’ second-most famous graduate Rudolph Peterson, who was the president and CEO of Bank of America from 1963-1969, he passed in 2003. While at HHS Peterson played baseball.

Until the 1926-27 school year HHS didn’t have a team name or mascot. The football team adopted the Yellowjacket and by 1930 HHS was officially known by that name.

Also in 1930, one of Hilmar’s most important traditions was born. The Future Farmers of America was born at HHS for boys who were interested in agriculture as a vocation.

The modern picture of HHS began to take shape in 1937 when the Lander gymnasium was built and later renovated in 1988. The district office was completed in 1992 and Lander gym was renamed Sparks Gym.

The second story high school at Elim Elementary was moved into the old brick HHS building that was built with a $35,000 bond and completed in 1919. The building was used until about 1950.

The current HHS campus opened to students in 1957, and by 1981, the Strom Gym and music room was built with a 15-year, sixty cent tax. Hilmar residents passed the tax by 63 percent. If you are visiting HHS Strom Gym, it looks as if it was built in the last decade — a testament to the level of upkeep it receives from HHS faculty and the community. Also, from 1989 to 2005, HHS football stadium improvements included an announcer’s booth, a concession stand, a scoreboard and visitors’ bleachers.

The tax approval and upkeep of Strom are signs of Hilmar’s commitment to its only high school. This level of commitment is something familiar to HHS teachers like Schaper and the McFaddens. Schaper has served as home economics teacher for 35 years and Pam McFadden has served as a physical education teacher for 36 years.

“I’ve always been inspired to see how kids care about each other here. The most inspirational kids to me have been the severely handicapped kids who go out there and play even though they may have cerebral palsy, one leg or one hand. The other kids cheer them on and really care to see them finish when they are doing something like running the mile in PE,” said Pam McFadden.

Over the years the campus has changed, the faces of students have changed and methods of technology in and out of the classroom have changed.

“But a student is still a student and at this school being so small and with such a family environment- that never changes,” said Schaper.

For more information on the HHS centennial visit or search Facebook under “Hilmar High Celebrates 100 Years.”

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.