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Sandy Journal

Eastmont Middle School turns 50: Students discover its history

Oct 12, 2023 01:49PM ● By Julie Slama

Eastmont Middle’s patriot mascot joins Principal Stacy Kurtzhals and some student government leaders in welcoming students, alumni and the community to the school’s 50th anniversary. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

1973. It was an eventful time in American history: President Richard Nixon shared with the nation, “I’m not a crook;” the vice president resigned then pled no contest to income tax evasion; the Supreme Court legalized abortion with the Roe v. Wade decision and Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes.”

It was also the year when Eastmont Junior High opened to serve the growing population of students. 

Fifty years later, Eastmont Middle School welcomed back about 400 alumni and current students to celebrate with the opening of the school time capsule. 

The wooden five-foot pencil-shaped time capsule was made by shop students, painted school colors of red, white and blue, and filled in the fall of 1977, with instructions to be opened in the year 2000. After being filled with memorabilia in 2000, it was sealed again, to be opened in when the school turned 50.

First-year Eastmont sixth-grade math teacher Nicole Lund Chatelain was a student when the time capsule was opened in 2000.

“We opened it to see what was there, then put those back and filled it with new things from our time,” she said. “Each teacher tried to help students come up with something to put in it.”

Chatelain, along with former classmates Wes Stapley and Jeff Olson, was among a crowd in the cafeteria, waiting for current student government leaders to open the time capsule.

“Eastmont is important to me. This is where I became friends with people that I’m still friends with today,” she said, adding that her son now attends Eastmont and her daughter recently finished at the school. 

It’s also where teachers impacted Chatelain’s life.

“Mr. Thomas was a fun math teacher. He taught the concept, but he also joked around and showed he cared about students. He’s one of the reasons I became a teacher,” Chatelain said. “I also loved theater with Mrs. McDougal. We did a show called, ‘The Paper Bag Bandit.’ I played the lead female role, Clementine, and I still remember some of my lines. I kept the dress my mom made that I wore for it.”

One of the first items pulled out from the time capsule was a silver duct-taped helmet.

“I remember this helmet; it from a ninth-grade teacher named Mrs. Hitchcock,” Stapley said. “She put together an entire iron giant in her classroom because her classes were reading the book, ‘The Iron Giant’ that year. She felt it helped them engage with the reading material and get excited about it.” 

Students and alumni poured over the capsule contents, which included a VHS recording of the time capsule presentation; two quarters that were minted in 2000; 1977 scrapbooks; a 2000 Deseret News newspaper with the top headline, “End of line for Hatch?;” letters written by students in May 1976; a cloth tape measure; a bicentennial edition of “The Freedom Collection;” the 1970s collectable toy Pet Rock; “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” novel; a 2000 Eastmont Middle School planner with teachers’ autographs; hit music from 2000 created by Mr. Hatch’s history class; a script from “Here comes the Judge” and more.

“I was the lead prosecutor in that play in ninth grade,” Stapley said, who now is a prosecutor. “I feel my theater background helped get me into law with learning presentation skills. Mrs. McDougal helped a lot of us come out on our shell. I struggled to make friends until I was in her class.”

A Smashmouth CD was pulled out of the time capsule.

“Jeff and I are not sure which of us put this in, but one of us did,” Stapley said about the rock band CD. 

Olson also remembered the CD as well as “all the stairs; as a kid, it seemed there were thousands of them.”

Now as a graphic artist for the school district, he created the Patriot-themed artwork on the school walls.

Principal Stacy Kurtzhals said it was while she was principal the school colors and branding was added.

“Our school didn’t have markings that identified what our mascot was or used our colors, so we added those patriotic features throughout the school,” she said. 

First-year Eastmont seventh-grade math teacher and former student Victoria Scott remembered in 1988-91, when the enrollment grew to about 1,400, students were “jammed in the halls, trying to open their school lockers, which were yellow, orange and tan, just hideous colors.” 

“Much of the building is the same except walls were put up because then it was just dividers so you could hear what was going on in other classes,” she said. “My favorite teacher was Mr. (Jim) Marsh, the band teacher. He taught us ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ In ninth grade, an elementary school put on ‘The Music Man,’ and asked us to play “76 trombones” at the end of the musical, so we got to march at the end with these uniforms.”

Ann White, who taught reading, English and social studies from 1978 to 1986 then returned to be the school’s principal from 2001 to 2005, was looking at some oversized scrapbooks and posters in the school library. It was her first time back to the school since 2005.

One of her fond memories was when the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic torch ran by the school. 

“I remember standing on 1300 East with a flag from the Olympics that we hung in the school as the torch came by,” she said. “Everyone cheered; it was an exciting time. We took groups of students to some of the hockey games in Provo.”

She also remembered the Patriot of the Month awards, “stellar faculty that worked hard and laughed a lot,” and assemblies with U.S. Sen. Frank Moss and Marlin Fairbourn, Eastmont’s first principal.

“I remember when Eastmont was opened. Marlin was my science teacher when I was a junior high student and he was in the Air Force and in the Air Force National Guard. He left for a year to fly, then he came back to teach my class. It was the year President Kennedy got shot and Marlin was very patriotic. That’s why he helped choose Patriots as the mascot,” she said.

Kurtzhals said that students have a lot of Patriot pride for the school and for themselves.

“Our big thing is ‘Patriot pride. It’s inside,’” she said. “That really was proven this past year. The students learned it wasn’t what’s inside the building, but what was inside their heart. When we moved, our PTSA students and student government took it upon themselves to decorate the school to make everyone feel welcomed. I’m proud of our students because they still had Eastmont pride, and they were able to carry on.”

The move of the 550 students to the former Crescent View Middle School happened half-way during last school year when asbestos was discovered in the basement floor. In 2014, an outside water main broke so mud “flowed directly into our bottom floor and we had about 12 inches of water,” Kurtzhals said; the gym floor and the stage were replaced, as was the flooring, but when it was discovered that it was installed wrong, crews discovered the asbestos.

“Almost everything in Eastmont is original; I wish there was updated plumbing, air conditioning, flooring, an elevator that functions all the time, but this building has a lot of character with a lot of nooks and crannies. There are big glass walls, office spaces in classrooms, science labs, a woodshop, full cooking and sewing labs, a full-size auditorium—things you don’t necessarily see in schools today. There was an upgrade to the school in 1997, when they closed in the open classrooms and remodeled the bathrooms on the bottom floor to make them ADA compliant,” she said, adding the school also has a secure entrance.

Much is the same with scrapbooks and time capsule that have been kept in the library for decades. Now the time capsule’s contents are in a display case, allowing students to get ideas of what they’d like to put in from the year 2023.

“The kids have donated some cool stuff to go in there. We’ve got masks and COVID 19 tests, we’ve got a cell phone, we’ve got pictures, students put in popular toys, some students are writing letters, they’re putting together fashion pages, and more is going to be added before it gets sealed in December,” Kurtzhals said, adding that she plans to put a Chromebook in the time capsule. “Our student government decided to have it reopened in another 25 years, so we’ll be back here in 2048.” λ