College High School, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
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A History


College High was constructed in 1939. Its official name was Bartlesville Senior High School and Junior College, and it originally served 585 students in grades 11-14. On January 8, 1940 those students, who had been attending Bartlesville's Central High School, moved 3/4 mile south to the impressive new building with its Streamline Art Deco styling.

Students in 1953Paul C. Norvell was the first Col-Hi principal. Some old traditions were maintained, such as the Nautilus yearbook and the Peppers girls' pep club. New traditions were also started, such as the "Deliberative Committee" which would serve as the student government for the next four decades. By 1946 Maurice W. Taylor was principal, followed by G. M. Roberts and then Carl A. Ransbarger until 1954. Students in these and subsequent years participated in long-lasting clubs such as Hi-Y, Y-Teens, Service Club, Trade & Industrial Club, and the B Club for lettered athletes. The B club sold Wildcat stadium seats and ran the concession stands at games, using the proceeds for an annual scholarship. New clubs in the late forties and early fifties included the United Nation Youth, Future Homemakers of America, United World Federalists, and Junior Red Cross. Foreign language clubs thrived, including the Latin Club & Senate (which later became the Junior Classical League), and the Spanish and French Clubs (sometimes grouped as the Modern Languages Club). Driver's education was first offered as an elective in 1949. Students participated in such annual traditions as the homecoming parade and bonfire and Sadie Hawkins Day.


John Haley, 1961Sophomores began attending classes at Col-Hi in the fall of 1950, and the junior college closed. John C. Haley moved up to principal in 1954, a position he would hold until 1973. He had formerly served as teacher, counselor, and vice-principal. In 1956 black students were finally welcomed to Col-Hi from segregation's Douglass High School. Jane Morrison was the first black student to attend Col-Hi, with Principal Haley noting that Bartlesville was a leader in the state in integration, with what he termed a smooth transition. But Jane Morrison recalls racial taunts and how she was excluded from the prom, the YWCA, and some restaurants during band trips - it would take time for the most overt racism to be extinguished.

The baby boom was on and several additions were built to serve the 1,000+ students on campus. The fifties brought such clubs as the Future Teachers of America, Fashion Board, Future Nurses of America, Key Club, Boys and Girls State, and various Science Clubs. Bartlesville hosted the state Student Council convention in the early 1950s, an honor that would not be repeated for forty years.

The late fifties and early sixties brought the Canteen, a popular hang-out on Price Road for local youth. It was built and operated by the Service League, and members taught card games and hosted tournaments. The facility offered dances with live bands, and is still in active use today after a large expansion project in 2000.


In the sixties, Col-Hi organizations included the Indian Club, International Relations Club and American Field Service, Youth Court, Medical Careers Club, Art Club, Math Club, Drafting Club, and several business organizations such as Distributive Education Clubs of America, Future Business Leaders of America, and the replacement of the old T&I Club with Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. The baby boom made for cramped conditions, with 1,985 students on campus by 1964-65. Accommodating so many students required the use of four portable buildings, and there were three different day schedules starting at 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30 am. That led to the building of Sooner High across town, and began the long-time rivalry between the Col-Hi Wildcats and the Sooner Spartans. Each school would burn the other's mascot during pep rallies the night before their annual football game.


The seventies brought clubs focused on students' personal interests and issues, such as Contemporary Music, Photography, Rodeo, Interracial Relations, and Afro-Americans. Other additions were the Secretarial Club and the John Baird Society; Baird's 1974 Calculus course was the first Advanced Placement course at Col-Hi. The character of the school was changing to keep up with the times. The traditional pep club disbanded in 1971, and the "Wild Bunch", consisting of boys and girls, was formed. Mr. Haley retired in 1973 and Jim Morrel was principal for a year, followed by Col-Hi's final principal, Dennis Pannell. Reportedly no proms were held in 1975 or 1976 due to protests over a rule regarding who could attend and also supposedly after a raucous assembly over changing a prom date to match a band's schedule. The Alternative High School Program, which was located at various sites, began in 1977. In the late 1990s, it would share the former Col-Hi campus with the regular high school.

1982: Consolidation

Talk and controversy about consolidating College and Sooner Highs began as early as 1970 and a plan was discussed in 1973-74, but no action was taken. Decreasing enrollments led to consolidation proposals being revived in 1977 with formal committees on the issue in 1978. A September, 1980 bond issue for renovations and additions, which grew to include a swimming pool and gymnasium, was defeated by a large margin. Shortly thereafter, the board of education voted to consolidate the two high schools and re-establish Bartlesville High School. The rivalry between the Col-Hi Wildcats and Sooner Spartans ended with the establishment of the unified Bartlesville Bruins in the fall of 1982. Freshmen and sophomores began attending classes at the former Sooner site, which was renamed Bartlesville Mid-High. Juniors and seniors attended former College High, now back to being called Bartlesville High School.

Ending the Century

Dennis Pannell's successor as principal was Ben West. The eighties brought a short-lived Greenway environmental club; another Environmental Club would begin in the 1990s. The Sadie Hawkins tradition was revived in 1983 with the first Snowball dance. The shift to Bruins led the Wild Bunch to become the Bru/Brew Crew, with many loud years of packed basketball games in the old field house. Advanced Placement course offerings expanded throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but there was also a decrease in elective offerings as core course requirements increased. In 1994, Bartlesville hosted the Oklahoma Student Council state convention for the first time in forty years. In the 1990s Ben West was succeeded as principal in turn by Bill Denton, then Jim Sisney, and finally Dr. Debi Boyles in 1998.

2001: Building on Excellence

The twenty-first century opened with the most significant changes to this facility since it was constructed. The community supported a ten-year bond issue that would spend over $23 million to build a new fine arts center, field house, library, and science wing.

The first new principal for the twenty-first century was Jane Sears in 2002, and Chuck McCauley assumed the post in 2005. The school continued to rack up numerous awards of academic exellence, but the number of clubs was diminishing as the new generations of students were preoccupied with opportunities outside of school.


Willie Wildcat, 1961The Col-Hi Wildcats were named after the oil industry's "wildcatters" and wore black and gold for the "black gold" coming out of the ground to build Bartlesville into what it is today. The high school mascot had been the Yellow Jacket until 1924-25. Incidentally, that was the same year Cecil "Lefty" Custer (as in Custer Field) became the junior high football coach. He would later coach the high school team for many years. The school's mascot, Willie Wildcat, was a prominent part of school spirit. The College/Bartlesville High School swim team is the undisputed leader in the state. As of spring 2000, the boys and girls teams had earned 34 swimming titles since the first boys title in 1948; the boys alone have earned 20 crowns, more than twice the number of the closest rival, Norman. The sixties and seventies also saw powerhouse golf teams, with five golf state championships between 1972 and 1979. The Wildcats were state boys basketball champions in 1967, state baseball champs in 1969 and 1980, and took state in tennis in 1978, 1979, and 1982. A boys' basketball game between Sooner and Col-Hi at the Adams Gym tied a national record of seven overtimes in 1979. The Bru Crew "pep club" began in 1985. The Bartlesville High School Bruins have racked up numerous state championships, including girls gymnastics in 1987, 1988, and 1989; boys basketball in 1989, 1991, and 1992; girls cross-country in 1991 and 1993; boys golf in 1984 and 1988; boys gymnastics in 1988; girls softball in 1982; and boys baseball in 1985.

The Original Campus

In 1939 the 20+ acre campus at 17th and Hillcrest Drive was valued at $25,000. It was purchased from John H. Kane and C.E. Burlingame for $10,000, which was the most allowed by the federal Public Works Administration's regulations. Another depression-era federal agency, the Works Progress Administration, built a sandstone rock amphitheater along with four tennis courts and other athletic fields to the east in the area occupied today by Custer Field. The amphitheater had a built-up stage in the center surrounded by three rows of seats in an oval shape, and was reportedly located at the site of the new field house. A small brook meandered through the area and through the present-day Fine Arts Center, which at that time was a grove of trees.

The original buildings were completed in December 1939 and dedicated on March 10, 1940. There is a 1939 photo of the building facades. Col-Hi's original design capacity was 800 students. The architect, John Duncan Forsyth, designed the building in the Streamline Moderne style, a late variant of Art Deco which peaked around this time. Forsyth had used the same style in his 1937 residence at 29th and Birmingham in Tulsa. Forsyth also was one of the architects for the 1937 Art Deco style Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa, which has many of the same interior PWA architectural elements as BHS. Forsyth was also the lead architect for the magnificent Marland Mansion built in Ponca City from 1925-1928. The general contractor for the construction of College High was the Ray Construction Company of Coffeyville, Kansas.

Col-High's main building housed the auditorium and academic classes, and the field house or manual training building housed the band, orchestra, physical education, and industrial arts classes. The latter building was paid for by the Frank Phillips Foundation, and provided for some time the home court for the Phillips 66ers basketball team. The exterior of the buildings could have been brick, but a petition from 273 employees of the Dewey Portland Cement Company convinced the school board to build it of white-painted reinforced monolithic concrete. The white was offset by windows with cherokee red spandrels; that color is visible in a 1961 photograph.

The floors of the main building were marbleized asphalt tile, while the corridors had glazed tile wainscoting and terrazo stairwells. No two classrooms were alike, each arranged for a particular purpose with beautiful birch cabinets and built-ins. The building once had two fireplaces. One was in a recreation room lounge in the office area with several couches and chairs; that area is now home to the principal's and his secretary's offices. The other fireplace was across the corridor in an extensive "home-making" department, which was broken up into administrative offices after a new home-making department was built in the ground floor of the 1958 annex.

Original Costs:

$402,475.52 Construction, Classroom and Manual Training Buildings
26, 278.63 Architectural and Engineering Costs
1,755.01 Legal, Administrative, Preliminary Costs
21,390.33 Equipment
10,050.00 Original 21.56 acre Site
14,782.80 Landscaping Grounds and Site Development
$476,732.29 TOTAL


$214,855.00 Grant from Federal Government (PWA)
134,100.00 Bond Issue
72,777.29 Cash from Building Fund Levies
55,000.00 Donation from The Frank Phillips Foundation, Inc.
$476,732.29 TOTAL

Campus Additions

By March, 1949 the campus was packed with 1,042 students and bonds were voted to build a stadium and classroom addition. The amphitheater and tennis courts, which had often flooded, were covered with dirt hauled in from the downtown Phillips complex (Adams Building site).

The building and campus have seen many changes over the years, as summarized below:

BHS Additions

1952 A track and field were constructed for $66,000. There is a 1953 photo of the band out on the field. In that photo you can see how the east side of the school looked before the stadium, annex, and counseling suite were built.
1954 The stadium was constructed for $476,000, and built by the Wickersham Construction Company of Tulsa. The project started in May, 1953 with most funds coming from private sources. The completion date slipped three months from May to August, 1954 and the three-floor 10-classroom stadium was dedicated on September 17, 1954. There is a 1955 photo of the stadium. The stadium also contained a metal shop (now rooms S-1 and S-2), band room, and locker rooms. Before the stadium band room was built, the old field house had a stage that doubled as a band room - that area is now the concession stand. Tiny rooms on various levels around that area were once music practice rooms and are now coaches' offices, lounges, and storage areas.

The football field was dedicated in memory of Coach Cecil "Lefty" Custer, who came to Bartlesville in 1924 and was the head football coach for many years. Custer had previously coached for a few years in Augusta, Kansas and had pitched for the University of Kansas baseball team for three years, and was also active in football, track, and basketball; he passed away in 1953. Prior to 1954, football games were held crosswise on the baseball field at the Bartlesville Municipal Stadium (now Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium).
1956 A new basement cafeteria was constructed for $94,583.
The cafeteria was originally across the hall from the library, and served as an auxiliary reading room. It was moved to the basement and the upper room became a study hall. That area was the library reference room for many years and is now classrooms, offices, and storage.
1958 The annex was constructed for $214,188.
This brought the confusing "3rd, 4th, and 5th floors", with the "3rd" floor below-ground! The home economics classes, which were on the first floor across from the office, moved to a customized 3rd floor. The 4th floor included a skybridge connecting the main building to the stadium. The 5th floor had a rooftop greenhouse which was used by environmental science and business classes (which grew homecoming mums) until the late 1970s. The annex originally had 11 classrooms and several hundred lockers.
1961 There is a 1961 photograph of College High. Note the Cherokee Red spandrels, which are now Bruin Blue. Also note that the flagpole appears to have shifted off the tower onto the ground in the foreground of the photograph. It would later return to the tower.
1962 Concession stands for the track and field were constructed for $27,245.
1963 An auxiliary cafeteria was added for $20,000.
This is a white metal building between the main building and the stadium. It now houses classrooms. Four temporary classroom buildings were placed on campus to handle student enrollment, which peaked in 1964-65 at 1,985 students.
1966 There is a 1966 aerial photograph of College High. There are four temporary buildings between the main building and field house.
1968 General renovations were performed, the counseling area was added, and the small and auxiliary gyms were constructed for $899,877.
The auxiliary gym was the wrestling room until the field house machine and auto shops were closed, when it became the weight room. A two-story addition to the back of the main building provided room for air conditioning equipment as well as the counseling suite (and what was once an audiovisual room). The home economics area was moved from the first floor of the main building to a remodeled "3rd floor" of the annex, and the physics and chemistry labs in the main building were renovated. All building exteriors were repainted.
1973 16 acres of land were added for $11,690.
This floodplain land included a pond and became the John C. Haley Environmental Laboratory, used as an outdoor classroom for environmental studies. Sometime in the early 1970s a Wildcat tile mosaic was added to the floor of the main lobby.
1982 College High becomes Bartlesville High School, prompting a variety of renovations:
  • Parking was expanded by removing aisle rails in the south parking lot and restriping the lot for right-angle instead of slanted spaces; a new parking lot was built on the north end of the campus and spaces were added along the alleyway near the tennis courts. A metal bar along the Hillcrest parking was removed and replaced by a large curb. All lots were resurfaced by the K.C. Asphalt Company of Bartlesville.
  • A ramp was added to the main entrance of the school.
  • The exteriors of all of the buildings were repainted.
  • The main gym floor was resurfaced and the field house hall floors were retiled.
  • A Bruin tile mosaic was added to the floor of the main lobby.
  • Large raised lettering reading COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL on the exterior of the auditorium was removed.
1986 Flood damage of $52,033.
Three to four feet of water damaged rooms in the stadium and field house due to a hundred-year flood of the Caney River.
1988 The cinder track around Custer Field was replaced with the modernized Chuck Doornbos Track, via a $150,000 donation from the Doornbos family (Chuck's son Foster Doornbos & daughter Ami Preston). Chuck was a track star in high school and at the University of Kansas.
1995 General renovations costing $1,169,317.
North, south, and west exterior repainted and given new windows. The 1968 gymnasium addition's exterior walls given a new sheathing. An aerial photograph shows how the addition used to look - can you spot the two dark vertical bands on the front of the weight room? The roof was repaired, and many classrooms were repainted and received lighting and climate control upgrades.
1996 Handicapped access was added to top floor of the annex by constructing a hallway ramp atop the east side of the auditorium balcony.
1997 The library annex was partitioned to form a classroom and other areas. Sinks were added to one of the chemistry labs.
1998 Bond issue passed to renovate the stadium exterior and boiler and repaint its interior as well as repaint the east side of the main building.
1999 East exterior of building repainted. Fume hood and gas outlet additions to one annex science lab. Football field recrowned, practice field resodded.
2000 Middle-floor windows in the stadium replaced. New hallway created in field house to improve girls' basketball locker area. Asbestos removed from field house hallway ceilings, and those hallways given new ceiling, wall, and floor surfaces. New fume hood in one of the main building's science labs. New data network wiring and ports were installed in every classroom and office, and a telephone system upgrade.
2001 Large ventilation fans installed in field house with $2,000 donation from Phillips Petroleum and $16,800 in district funds. Additional electrical outlets and electrical panels added throughout the campus.
2001-2010 Building on Excellence Project
Over $23 million in improvements funded by a 2001 bond issue. A new science wing, library, auditorium and fine arts classrooms, field house, practice fields, and parking lots to be constructed, and a multimillion dollar renovation of the existing structures.
2001 The district acquired the CrestView Apartments south of campus (using funds outside of the bond issue) and razed the buildings. The site was left undeveloped, intended for future parking as funds become available.
2002 The new west & east parking lots, practice fields, and the renovated Haley Environmental Laboratory opened as Phase One of the Building on Excellence project. The district paid the city about $3,000 for a 5.15 acre parcel east of the old Haley Lab to expand what remained of the original 16-acre lab after much of it was used for the development of parking and practice fields. The package also included a small plot of land just east of the intersection of Shawnee Avenue and 18th Street, the former site of a sewage lift station.

The district allocated $120,520 from a 2000 bond issue to pay for asbestos removal from the crawl spaces beneath the 1939 buildings.
2003 The new 16,800 square foot Science Wing opened in August, as part of Phase Two of the Building on Excellence project. The facility cost over $2 million and contains six labs with adjoining offices, a student projects room, chemistry stockroom, as well as student and faculty restrooms.
2004 The Chuck Doornbos Track (the original blue track surface is visible in this photo from August 2002 and in this aerial photo from March 2002) will be renovated using $233,000 in interest from the 2000 bond issue and a $33,000 donation from the Doornbos family (Chuck's daughter Ami Preston & his granddaughters, including Darian Kedy & Dana Keirsey). The track re-dedication took place at the 2004 Homecoming.

The old south gate of Custer Stadium was closed due to construction, and a new gate was constructed at the southeast corner of the football field.
2005 The Bruin is unveiled in the lobby shared by the new Fine Arts Center and new Field House.
2006 The new Field House opened with the completion of Phase Three of the Building on Excellence project.

Bartlesville Senior High School Website

This page created by Granger Meador
Last modified January 25, 2011