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Taylorsville Journal

Eisenhower Junior High will celebrate 50 years with open house, party next spring

Nov 30, 2023 01:22PM ● By Carl Fauver

Members of the EJHS Morale Committee organizing their school’s 50th anniversary celebration include: Bryan Stevenson, Jenny Jackson, April Stevenson, Emily Wilson, Laura Mauer, Kevin Winn and David Head (back row), along with Principal Wes Cutler, Wendy Cochran, Mike Roach, Debbie Kesner Steinberg, Aitanna Low, Amy Burton and Melodie Garcia (front row). (Courtesy Wendy Cochran)

Fifty years ago, the Granite School District threw the doors open on a brand new, then state-of-the-art junior high school on the Salt Lake Valley’s west side. The school was in a largely rural part of Salt Lake County. It would be more than 20 years before Taylorsville City would be formed around it.

Just four years after his death, former World War II hero – and 34th President of the United States (1953-61) – Dwight D. Eisenhower was honored with his name on Utah’s newest school. Surrounded by “lions and tigers and bears,” the school selected an unusual, but fitting mascot: Eisenhower Generals. Oh, and the school newspaper way back then was called “Generally Speaking.”

(Full disclosure: the writer you’re reading now got his start on that paper in 1976. The writing hasn’t improved much… but it’s still fun).

“I’ve been thinking about the school’s 50th anniversary – and planning a celebration in my head – for a couple of years now,”  Eisenhower Finance Secretary Wendy Cochran said. “The school needs to be celebrated. So many kids leave and never return.”

But Wendy did (return).

Cochran was an Eisenhower General in 1978-81 and graduated from Taylorsville High School in 1984. She returned to EJHS (4351 S. Redwood Road) in 1998. 

“This is my silver anniversary at the school,” she continued. “I started in the counselling center and have been financial secretary for 15 years. I began warning the other teachers a couple of years ago we were going to put together something special for the 50th.”

The Eisenhower Junior High 50th anniversary celebration will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. But so far, that’s the only hard-and-fast detail Cochran and her school Morale Committee have pinned down.

“Our committee is meeting regularly now, working out details for the celebration,” Cochran added. “I’m sure it will include an open house – a chance for former students and teachers to walk around. We may have some carnival activities outside the school. We’re still discussing plans. Right now, my focus is mostly on trying to track down former teachers and staff members who were here when the school opened.”

Cochran’s first success on that front came last month when she located Chris Moore.

“I was busy in 1973, finishing up my degree at BYU and getting married,” Moore said. “That fall, I was student teaching at Kennedy Junior High (4495 S. 4800 West) when my advising teacher there told me about a job opening for a home economics teacher at the new Eisenhower Junior High. I interviewed for the job and started teaching there in January 1974. Eisenhower is the only public school I ever taught at. I retired from there in 2003 to take a teaching position at BYU.”

Moore remembers EJHS being in a much more rural setting a half-century ago.

“The school was built on what had been farmland and there were farms all around it,” she added. “There were no markets nearby. If you needed something from the store, it was a drive. We entered the school grounds directly off Redwood Road. But Redwood wasn’t nearly as busy back then either. The students even had a Cowboy Club in the 1970s. But that faded away over the years as everything around the school became more urbanized.” 

Back in the mid-1970s – long before cell phones and other electronic devices – Moore says things were also much more formal. And the relationship between parents, students and teachers was not what it is now.

“Students and teachers used to dress up more for school,” Moore said. “Teachers were not allowed to wear Levis. Students were also more respectful of teachers; and parents were more supportive of what teachers told them about their students.”

Moore adds there was almost no ethnic diversity during Eisenhower’s earliest years. But, by the time she left in 2003, she says students were speaking about 40 different languages at the school.

“I think it’s wonderful the school is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and I will definitely be there,” Moore concluded. “It’s important people understand what a key part of the community Eisenhower Junior High is. It’s also great to show education in a positive light. I’m looking forward to (April 23). Right now, I am trying to help Wendy’s committee by working to help track down other colleagues I worked with back then to make sure they know about it.”

Moore was in her final few years at Eisenhower when she was joined on the faculty by Mike Roach. He’s now in his 27th year at the school teaching Utah Studies. He’s also active on the school Morale Committee.

“Our committee has always taken care of smaller things like sending flowers to faculty members when they have a death in the family,” Roach explained. “When Wendy (Cochran) began to explain what she was thinking for the 50th anniversary, we knew we’d have to recruit a lot more volunteers. But I’m a history guy – so I am all in.”

Roach actually attended one of Eisenhower’s “sports rival” schools – Valley Junior High (4195 S. 3200 West) – before moving on to Taylorsville High, where he graduated in 1989. He recently discovered just how big these milestone parties can be when he attended Valley’s 75th anniversary celebration.

“What I really like about what we’re discussing so far is that we plan to tie in other parts of the community,” he continued. “For example, we’ll include lots of information from the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center. I think it will show how our school has played a central role in the community for many years. We are a big part of the identity of the area.”

To help get the word out about the upcoming celebration, the Morale Committee is inviting everyone to find them on facebook at “Eisenhower Junior High 50 years.” Once you arrive at the page, the committee hopes you will “like” the page. And if you have any photos to add, please hashtag them with #ejhs50. λ

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