Mr. Phil Poullette, local historian, is credited with compiling much of the history presented in this article.
The sounds of hammer and saw were heard as classes began in Wautoma High School in the year 1902. The first classes of the first high school in Wautoma were being carried on amid these noises as the building was not entirely completed.
Principal R.E. Jack supervised the work of this school for three years and had the honor of graduating the first class at the end of three years. One member of that class, Bertha Belter Anklam, recalls that “Professor Jack was stricter than the dickens. He had a moustache that curled at the ends. When he got mad, he’d twirl his moustache.” She remembered that they had a girls’ basketball team and that they played Plainfield and won. “I don’t remember if we played any other games, but I remember Plainfield because I had a boyfriend over there,” she said.
Mr. G.E. Dafoe became principal in the fall of 1905, and the courses were extended and broadened to make a four-year course for the school. The late Herman W. Belter became the first male student to graduate. Ermagard Jones and Lucille Youngman Redford were the other two members of this class of 1906.
Mr. T.M. Risk became the principal of WHS about 1912 when Mr. Dafoe resigned to become the principal of the Waushara County Normal, later named the Waushara County Teachers College. Risk resigned to become editor of The Waushara Argus in 1918. J.N. Timball, J.A. Chapman, and H.A. Cook in turn held the position of principal until G.E. Dafoe again accepted the position and served for twenty years, or until about the beginning of World War II.
In the meantime, the quarry village of Redgranite became the metropolis of the county and established a high school there in 1909. Principals serving there were Anna Peterson, J.A. Pitts, A.G. Brown, W.P. Morgan, Simon Lovaas, and F.C. Martin. Their first graduating class in 1913 was also composed of only three people: Marjorie Horne, Verna Horne, and Frank Sorenson. Redgranite and Wautoma were the greatest of rivals for many years, especially in basketball and baseball, until the schools were combined into one district in 1948.
Various activities have held the interest of the students, teachers, and public alike throughout the years. As early as 1905, Wautoma was represented in oratorical, declamatory, and basketball contests. Football was started in 1910, then discontinued for years until revived in the 1940s. Not only did the boys have a basketball team, but a girls’ team also played other communities such as Berlin, Hancock, and Wild Rose before 1920. High school bands had their beginning about 1930. Before this time, bands were a village project, with adults teaching younger would-be musicians. The high school yearbook, known for over 40 years as the LITTLE BADGER, is now called the HORNET.
A gymnasium building was erected in 1915-16, without any aid from the taxpayers of the district, on a separate lot next to what is now the Dafoe school. This building was moved to the fairgrounds, where it is still serving as an exhibition facility.
In 1921, remodeling was done, which added a wing on each end of the 1902 building, and the roof was lowered. One wing contained a gym and an assembly room while the other had a number of new classrooms. Later additions were made at this site, but eventually it became outmoded and too small. A new high school was erected in 1967 at its present site in the southwest part of the city. It is bounded by Cambridge Street on the east and Division Street on the south. The former high school building was then renamed Dafoe Elementary School in memory of the late G.E. Dafoe.
Principals and superintendents since 1940 include H.K. Geyer, G.L. Schultz, Rolf Cramer, K.F. Bartels, Mabel Baumann, Howard Chase, G. Burnkrandt, Fred Hauer, and Dr. William Kelly.