Sunday, February 5, 2012

What happened to the West Bloomfield High School class of 1955?

The first high school building in West Bloomfield Township

Imagine for a moment that you are a member of the 1955 Senior Class of the West Bloomfield High School. You have just spent 12 ½ years of your student life in Keego Harbor’s Roosevelt School. The graduating classes before you graduated from the gymnasium of the small community school in downtown Keego Harbor. In the spring of 1955 you are told you will be graduating from a new West Bloomfield High School located at Commerce and Orchard Lake roads. Your class protests and demands the ceremony to be held in the gymnasium of Roosevelt School and not in the new building. The school district prevails. Your class of 1955, having spent their school life known as the Keego Kids or the Kids from Roosevelt, becomes the first to graduate from the new West Bloomfield High School—after spending only five months in the building.

The second high school in West Bloomfield Township

Roosevelt School in Keego Harbor was built in 1920 to serve elementary students in the Lakes Area. From 1928 – 1954 the school also served as a high school. The 1950 West Bloomfield school board was faced with a dilemma foreign to school boards today—not enough classrooms. Serving K-12 students, the overcrowded Roosevelt School could not possibly qualify for accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. An Interlake News article cited, “Adequate shops, gymnasium, teachers with proper training, homemaking courses, and an at least half time trained librarian” as musts for this important recognition. A project to build a new high school commenced. A $900,000 bond issue passed 482 to 425 by 1952 voters. A site at Orchard Lake Road and Commerce Road was chosen when city planner David C. Geer determined it was within walking distance of more than 50% of district students. Three Detroit firms were awarded contracts for the architectural, electrical, and mechanical trade work. Ground was broken in December of 1953 and the West Bloomfield High School was finished and ready for occupancy by the end of 1954. On a Monday morning in January of 1955, most of the district’s eighth-graders and all the 9-12 grade students started class in the new building.

The third high school building in West Bloomfield Township

Since the 1971 opening of the current West Bloomfield High School building further south, the school located at Orchard Lake Road and Commerce Road became a middle school. No longer serving as a high school, the building was renamed after Warren W. Abbott who served as the Roosevelt Superintendent for many years.

Roosevelt High School Class of 1938
While compiling information in 2005 for the Roosevelt School Wall of Remembrance, it was decided to collect, repair and mount all the graduating class photos. During the time that Roosevelt served as a high school, graduating classes were small enough that individual student portraits could be gathered on a large framed picture. All but five of the framed graduating classes were found and debuted at the 2005 Michigan Week Community Awards Breakfast hosted by Roosevelt School. Several members of the 1955 graduating class attended the breakfast and asked, “Where is ours?”

The missing class photo of 1955

To this day, many of the 1955 class consider themselves graduates of Roosevelt School. They are not included in invitations for annual Roosevelt reunions. Academic and sporting records for Roosevelt High School end with 1954. In an ironic twist of fate, the 1955 graduating photo montage was last seen, with many of its counterparts, prominently displayed in the Bloomfield Charley’s restaurant on Maple Road a few days before the building was destroyed by fire. Although the other class photos survived the fire and hang in the Roosevelt Wall of Remembrance, the 1955 picture has not been found. Three of the other missing class pictures have surfaced since the 2005 Michigan Week Breakfast; the 1955 class picture still remains lost.

About the GWBHS
The Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society (GWBHS) is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. It serves the Michigan communities of Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, Sylvan Lake and West Bloomfield. The Society's goal is to provide a vital museum to familiarize residents with our area's history. For more information, please visit www.gwbhs.com