Above the Colorado River, a structure sits,
the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison, a
constant reminder of the wild, wild, west.
When you looked at the site, no guard was there,
No prisoners in striped uniforms all about the place
And it would surprise some in the morning of 1910,
came high school students when the first school bell rang.
The year before, their school was in a Courthouse, but
the courthouse burned to the ground, a new home for
the high school had to be found.
Too much to deal with, there was just no space, they couldn’t ask the government, Arizona wasn’t even a state. The city fathers thought it over and though they hesitated to use it, it was the only structure that could house all the students.
So from 1910 to 1914, they made do with what they had. Though a prison was strange for a school, the students kept their spirit and said it wasn’t all that bad.
In 1913, they had a losing football team, they played
against the Phoenix Coyotes, and miraculously won. The Coyotes screamed and shouted, you don’t play fair, you’re a bunch of Criminals!
There was anger everywhere, people calling each other names,but as time wore on the awful name was soon forgotten, anger put aside, and soon the name Yuma High Criminals was worn with pride.
Yuma High School's first graduating class, how many were there, you might ask. In a picture you can see, the number of graduatees was all of fourteen!
In 1914, a brand new high school was built, the prison became a museum. With pictures of notorious outlaws living in the West. The outlaws called it "The Yuma Hell hole" because of the searing heat, a term now historic, and now extinct.
When you go through the museum, it contains mostly pictures and facts of inmates. It makes you want to cringe at some of thier awful fate.
But over in the corner, sits a picture of some students, having their picture taken, an important part of the museum. The first class of Yuma High standing there, though the picture is badly faded.
One hundred years later, Yuma High takes up three city blocks. It has many departments and is called state of the art.
But when you look at the new school you have to wonder about that very first class, what it was like back than, and how unfortunate there is no one left to ask.
This is dedicated to Yuma Union High School, and all
100 years worth of students and teachers.
Mary E. Lacey