Pocatello High School on fire, 1914

The original Pocatello High School building was destroyed by fire in December 1914. The new school was built on its foundation.

Pocatello High School has been a local focal point since before the turn of the last century. And with all those years under its belt, the school has accumulated quite a catalog of stories — stories that Arlen Walker, who works for Idaho State University’s College of Technology, is determined to uncover. In his 27+ years of teaching at Poky, he caught the history bug; here he shares 20 things you probably didn’t know about out area’s oldest standing school.

THE FIRE: On December 16, 1914, a chilly day even by Idaho standards, the school caught fire, likely from sparks escaping the furnace. Students were at lunch as the fire worked its way slowly through the building. Pete and Clarence Rainey helped the fire department save the south wing, and employees had time to remove all records and most fixtures.

During the fire, a girl carried out of the building said, “It was such a mournful sound” when the tower fell down — the old bell pealed three tones before crashing through to the basement.

2. LOCATION: In 1891, Pocatello citizens wanted a building for the newly reformed Pocatello District #1. So officials purchased a 90,000 square foot feed lot — an entire city block between Arthur and Garfield, and what was then B and C Northwest. The cost? $745.

3. FAMOUS LAST WORDS: In November 1892, what was then known as “the school” opened its doors. One writer for the Pocatello Reporter quipped, “It’s Pocatello’s folly” to open an eight-room school since it would never be filled with children. By 1885, the school was so crowded that an eastside school was opened and “the school” was named “the Westside school.”

4. POKY PRIDE: Pocatello was a major hub for the railroad, which brought lots of tourists through town. Locals capitalized on all the travelers and their pocket books, selling all kinds of souvenirs. Merchants in railroad towns typically sold postcards depicting distinguishing features, and “for Pocatello, it was the school building. IT was a very important place,” Walker said. It was prominent. It was downtown. Despite the way people vote to spend tax money, they are proud of their education.

5. GROWING CAMPUS: Local merchants also sold dishware decorated with images of the high school. One way to tell the age on such dishware is to analyze the tree height in the images. The earliest pictures have no trees, and later pieces show other features, such as a fence added in 1903 to keep wandering livestock and other animals at bay.

Read the complete list and view more old photos of Pocatello High School at http://yesteryear.idahostatejournal.com