Whitefish Bay High School: The Beginning

The closest public high school option for Whitefish Bay students prior to the mid 1920’s was Milwaukee Riverside, which could be attended on a tuition basis.  Shorewood High School opened in the fall of 1924 and replaced Riverside as the closest public option, also on a tuition basis.  By 1930, the new Shorewood building was already becoming overcrowded.  So in February, 1930 the Shorewood School Board notified the Whitefish Bay School Board that Shorewood would no longer accept new students from Whitefish Bay, but current Bay students would be allowed to finish their last years and graduate.  The Whitefish Bay School Board had anticipated the necessity of eventually building its own high school and in 1927 purchased 13 acres of land from the federal government that would become the site of the high school building and grounds.

Whitefish Bay high school students attended classes at Richards beginning in September, 1930, with the Class of 1934 as freshmen.  The new high school building, containing the lobby, tower and west wing, opened on October 3, 1932.  Construction of the football field, stands and state-of-the-art cinder track (six lane 220 yard front-stretch, four lanes on the turns and back stretch) was completed for the start of the 1936-1937 school year.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The first freshmen class voted in 1930 to have royal blue and gray as the school     colors.  14 year-olds tend not to have the best judgment, but they nailed this one.
  • Whitefish Bay became a member of the Suburban Conference and WIAA effective with the start of the 1933-1934 school year.  In those first three years before joining the Suburban, the Bay did have sports teams and awarded letters.  They played abbreviated schedules and often played larger schools’ JV teams.
  • The first head coaches were Walter Byers (football), Nick Kuehl (basketball) and Chet Wangerin (track and field).  Byers had been a math teacher and coach at Shorewood and slid over to Whitefish Bay in 1930.  Wangerin came to the Whitefish Bay school system in 1924 and was the district’s lone boys’ physical education teacher, covering Cumberland, Henry Clay and Richards.  Kuehl followed as an additional physical education teacher in 1931.  Some other teachers hired in the early years were Charles Roeder (1931 – Henry Clay 8th grade), Alvin Anderson (1931 – Mathematics), J. Harold Rose (1933 – Mathematics), Alice Haussman (1933 – English and Social Studies), Phillip Brewer (1934 – Social Studies) and Florin Caulkett (1936 – Physical Education and Assistant Track Coach).
  • The athletic teams were initially known as “the Bay” or “Bays”, with Blue Dukes not being coined until about 1940.  It took decades for Blue Dukes to be routinely used, as some form of Bay was usually used in newspaper articles through the late 1960’s.
  • The Bay track was considered to be one of the best in the Milwaukee area.  It hosted the Class B Sectional in 1937 and with the exception of four years (1945, 1946, 1947, 1965) hosted the Sectional through 1967.
  • Basketball games were played at the Henry Clay school gym.  It was by far the worst gym in the Suburban Conference.  Plans for a new gym at the high school were rounding into form by 1940, but were halted by World War II.  After the war ended, the plans were picked up and the Memorial Gymnasium wing with gym, pool, recreation center, locker rooms and music rooms opened in the fall of 1949.
  • The Memorial Gym was one of the best facilities in the Milwaukee area and hosted WIAA basketball tournament regionals or sectionals just about every year in the 1950’s.


Whitefish Bay’s population by decade:

1920:  882

1930:  5,362

1940:  9,651

1950:  14,665

1960:  18,390

1970:  17,402

1980:  14,930

This picture from 1937 shows the area around the high school, with Henry Clay school at the far north and Cumberland school at the far south.  At this time, what was to become Marlborough Dr. was not a major thoroughfare, but was simply a trolley line between Silver Spring Dr. and Henry Clay St.


This picture from 1954 shows Marlborough built only as far south as Henry Clay.


One thought on “Whitefish Bay High School: The Beginning

  1. Hi, Steve! Mike Doyle turned me on to the WFB Track and Field site and you’ve done a fantastic job with it. Growing up 1.5 blocks west meant I spent much of my childhood there from the time I was let (or thrown) out of the house. Also, my dad and 5 of his 7 siblings attended WFBHS. So, it’s lots of fun to recognize names and read about Blue Dukes of the past. Nice work and thanks!


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