High school in Paulsboro began at Buck Street School when, in 1905, the Board of Education approved a four-year high school course of study. The high school curriculum itself was approved during November 1907. The first four-year high school class graduated in the spring of 1909. The class was comprised of two young ladies but they had the honor of selecting the school colors: Red and White.
The first curriculum included fewer than 35 courses. Currently, there are more than 80 courses offered. They range from special programs for students with disabilities through advanced placement offerings.
The high school population grew, in part, because Paulsboro served children from neighboring districts. At its January 1907 meeting, the Board of Education appointed a committee to research and select a site for a high school to be built. Paulsboro High School had seventeen rooms when dedicated on May 8, 1917. It cost $60,000 to build. The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917.
Two months after Paulsboro High School opened its doors to students, Socony Vacuum Oil Company purchased the land just behind the new school. The refinery began producing lubricating oil as well as the by-products of gasoline and kerosene. Eventually, the company would become Mobil Oil with a Pegasus as its corporate symbol. It must be noted that Paulsboro High School had, years earlier, adopted a Pegasus as the school symbol.
Memoirs 1920 states, “In February (1917) we moved to our beautiful new school building...our new surroundings were an incentive to better work.” The Class of 1917 moved to Paulsboro High School during its senior year thus becoming the first group of students to graduate from the new building. There were seven students in the Class of 1917 (four girls and three boys.) Commencement had taken place at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church prior to 1917. Interestingly, the same church now hosts the annual Baccalaureate Ceremony for the graduating class.
The Class of 1920 Farewell reflects the thoughts of a nation with the words, “Much to our sorrow, there is only one boy among us and so we have but one to offer to the political world at present, but we hope that before long the eleven capable females of Class ’20 will have the right to cast their ballot and do their bit in establishing a government which shall be truly American.” On August 18, 1920 the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote.
The Class of 1921 was the first group of students to complete all four years of their high school education at the new building.
By the late 1920s, the building was too small to serve the needs of the growing student population and expanding curriculum. In response, the building was enlarged to include an auditorium, cafeteria, and gymnasium in addition to more classrooms. This first expansion of PHS was dedicated in 1931. Amazingly, Paulsboro found a way to improve education in the midst of the stock market crash, the largest bank failure in the country’s history, and food riots in New York – The Great Depression.
The first edition of the Pegasus yearbook was published in 1938. This edition of the book begins by stating that the Paulsboro High School “building is one of the best equipped in South Jersey. The building serves 950 students with 450 of the pupils being residents of Greenwich, East Greenwich, Logan and West Deptford Townships.” The modern cafeteria served only 300 meals per day because many students went home for lunch. The Class of 1938 included 171 students.
For most of the history of Paulsboro High School, students “tracked” themselves into a course of study tailored to their post-graduation plans. Courses of study included General, College Preparatory, and Commercial (later to become Secretarial Commercial and Clerical Commercial). These “tracks” highlighted the diverse mission that has always been at the heart of PHS. The school prepared students for jobs in local businesses and industries which provided the blue collar workers that allowed South Jersey to prosper. At the same time, the school educated students to attend some of the most prestigious universities in the world. These PHS alumni became professionals in many fields of study. PHS is also very proud of the large number of its graduates who attended service academies at Annapolis and West Point.
On November 6, 1937, the “new” athletic field was dedicated which included a baseball diamond, quarter-mile cinder track, hockey field, football field, and grand stands. There is much folklore and oral tradition about who owns these fields and the agreement that allows the school to use them. Most certainly, the Bennett Fields Athletic Complex represents one of the most remarkable relationships between a local industry and the school district that can be imagined. In 1995, the athletic complex was completely reconfigured, expanded and modernized to include sprinkler systems and an all-weather track. The rededication ceremony was held on October 5, 1996. During the previous two years (near the beginning of “The Streak”) home football games were played at Gateway Regional High School. Ironically, the first game at the new field was the Paulsboro Red Raiders vs. the Gateway Gators. Paulsboro won, 34-16!
The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941. The 1943 Pegasus yearbook begins, “You can depend on Paulsboro, Uncle Sam...on its Schools, its Teachers…its Townspeople…its Students...TO DEFEND THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.” The book is dedicated to “Those in Service.” Twenty-five students and faculty members on active duty are pictured in the yearbook.
As freshman, the Class of 1943 numbered 329 students. By Commencement 1943, only 158 seniors were pictured in the Pegasus. The same is true for the Class of 1944 and 1945. These classes began with nearly 300 freshmen but graduated only about 140 students each year. Many classmates were listed as “Our Servicemen.”
During the Commencement for the Class of 2000, a special ceremony was conducted where Honorary Diplomas were awarded to many of the men who served their country during World War II and the Korean Conflict. These patriots left PHS before graduation to serve in the armed forces. They returned home after serving their country but never graduated from their beloved PHS. During June 2000, this long overdue honor was bestowed on these “steadfast loyal sons and daughters.”
The 1945 Pegasus also highlights another hallmark of Paulsboro High School. It has always been a “regional” school that served many other communities in Gloucester and Camden Counties. In addition to Paulsboro, members of the Class of 1945 resided in Bridgeport, Clarksboro, Colonial Manor, Gibbstown, Red Bank, Repaupo, Thorofare, Verga, and Woodbury.
PHS has a strong tradition of supporting a wide variety of student activities and clubs. The 1950 Pegasus included photos of more than 40 student clubs and activities. Some remain today: Pegasus, Paulsentenial, and National Honor Society as well as theater productions, musical performances, and art displays. Other activities are now part of a proud history: Boys Cooking Club, Ball Room Dancing, Etiquette Club, and Usherettes.
The first annual Community All-Sports Awards Banquet was held in 1952. This community and school committee provided awards as well as a venue to honor all of the individual athletes and teams. Annual banquets continue, uninterrupted, to this day. The first banquet was conducted at Paulsboro High School. When asked, 1952 attendee remembered that the turtle soup was outstanding.
Pegasus 1952 includes the recurring theme, “Some of our classmates left us during the course of the year to serve their country. Throughout the book you will find reminders of the freedoms for which they serve.” The yearbook includes a letter to the Class President from a classmate who was serving overseas. The letter begins, “I have heard people say that democracy is not appreciated until it is lost. Out here, so far from our democratic land, I am beginning to realize how true that saying is.” The letter was sent from “Somewhere in Korea – Winter 1951.”
The 1953 Pegasus begins, “Eyes of the World are on Paulsboro High School.” The Foreword focuses the reader on one of the pillars of PHS – It is a regional school that welcomes students from other towns and even other countries. It continues: “Our school, located in an industrial town to which people from many parts of the world have come to work, has certainly done its part in making from many, one. In preparing this book we have tried to see our school through the eyes of students who have come to us from other towns, other states, and other lands. We believe these students have found joy in joining our high school…” Clearly, this class recognized that an industrial town located “by a mighty river” welcoming “all different creeds and races” would be a magnet for families seeking good jobs and an outstanding school system. In addition to the communities already mentioned in this history, students in the Class of 1953 resided in Mantua Terrace, Mt. Royal, and Swedesboro.
During the spring of 1957, the Mayor’s Civil Rights Commission and Paulsboro High School instituted what would become the signature award for a graduating senior – The Brotherhood Award. For the past 60 years, honoring the students who best exemplify the qualities of brotherhood, respect, personal regard for fellow students, and participation in student affairs remains the most respected award presented at PHS.
The Class of 1958 had the honor of being the 50th class of students to earn high school diplomas in Paulsboro. The yearbook pictured 219 seniors. The regional impact of Paulsboro High School continued to expand with graduates of the Class of 1958 hailing from Blackwood, Blenheim, Center Square, Chews Landing, Erial, Glendora, Greenfields Village, Harker Village, Hilltop, Laurel Springs Gardens, Mantua, Nortonville, Oakview, Red Bank, Sicklerville, and Woodbury in addition to the communities mentioned earlier in this history.
The New Jersey Department of Education recently designated PHS as a “School of Choice.” This designation allows students throughout South Jersey to opt to attend Paulsboro High School. It continues to be a matter of pride that these “Choice School” seats are always oversubscribed. In addition, Greenwich Township continues its historic sending-receiving relationship with PHS.
Groundbreaking took place for the “New Wing” at PHS on September 9, 1964. When completed, in March 1966, the New Wing (as it is called to this day) included rooms for art, music, band, culinary arts, mechanical drawing, woodshop, and metal shop as well as a cafeteria and expanded gymnasium. Paulsboro High School is proud to say that it is one of the few schools that continues to maintain both woodshop and culinary arts programs.
A number of yearbooks state that the students found the cafeteria to be their favorite room at PHS. Today, the cafeteria prepares both breakfast and lunch for all of the district’s 1,100 students.
The Class of 1966 had the honor of being the 50th group of students to actually graduate from the Paulsboro High School building. The yearbook pictures 211 members of this class. The Class of 1966 will soon celebrate its 50th reunion with its induction into the Paulsboro High School Golden Anniversary Club.
The PHS Golden Anniversary Club was founded in 1976. This remarkable organization hosts an annual banquet for all alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago. More than 500 alumni attend this annual affair. To date, the Golden Anniversary Club has donated more than $50,000 for scholarships.
The 1968 Pegasus once again reminds the reader of the long line of patriots who call PHS Alma Mater. The book memorializes a member of the Class of 1966 who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country in Vietnam. The yearbook states that his death “brought the cruel realities of war closer to us all...”
The high school and athletic complex underwent major renovations and modernization projects during the mid-1990s. As part of this renovation every room in Paulsboro High School had computers installed with Internet connections. At that time, there was one computer for every two students attending PHS.
Speaking of the Internet, a Google search for Paulsboro High School highlights yet another area of pride and tradition – Athletics. Online information includes a “Wrestling Dynasty” with more than 1,000 wins. Only two other schools in the country can boast of this accomplishment. Information about the 1992-1998 PHS football team’s “Streak” of 63 consecutive wins is also featured on the World Wide Web. Many state champions, All-Americans, and professional athletes call PHS their Alma Mater. In 1994, the Paulsboro High School Sports Hall of Fame was founded to honor the student-athletes, coaches, contributors, and teams who exemplify an extraordinary athletic tradition. The fall 2016 ceremony will bring the number of inductees to 163 individuals and 6 teams.
A quick computer search also highlights the leaders who graduated from PHS. By illustration, a 1972 graduate is the current Deputy Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly and a 1938 graduate retired from the United States Marine Corps at the rank of Brigadier General. Plans are currently underway to create a Hall of Distinguished Alumni to recognize those who used PHS as a springboard to achieve great things.
During the early 1990s, the campus was expanded when the Board of Education purchased two houses located along Delaware Street in front of the “New Wing.” The first house (The Ireland House) was enlarged and now serves as the district Administration Building. The second house was in very poor repair having been abandoned for a number of years. This house was demolished. Thanks to funds provided by an anonymous donor, this lot became Alumni Park. Park walkways include pavers that recognize PHS families, classes, alumni, and teams.
The latest expansion of Paulsboro High School took place in 2001 when a new library was added. The building and athletic complex are currently undergoing modernization which includes masonry repairs, resurfacing the track and tennis courts, heating system upgrades, and the addition of security systems.
Pegasus 2002 included a two-page photo-essay of the destruction of the World Trade Center, Pentagon and crash of Flight 93 that took place on September 11, 2001. The 116 members of the Class of 2002 would once again graduate into a world at war.
The 2003 edition of Pegasus reminds the reader that no history of PHS could be complete without mentioning that it was the location for the filming of Jersey Girl. Thanks to its close relationship with the Hill Theatre Studio, many television commercials and music videos have been produced at PHS.
This yearbook also reminds the reader of the multi-generational nature of Paulsboro as well as the incredible loyalty to the community. Family names reappear again and again as a century of the school’s history is studied. It is the norm to see that three, four or five generations of a family have graduated from PHS. It is also a matter of great pride that some of the alumni continue to serve the community as members of the staff, faculty, and administration of their Alma Mater. The tremendous loyalty to this school is also apparent from the longevity of those who work at PHS. In at least one case, a student graduated from PHS on a Friday and began work for the school the following Monday. She retired more than 40 years later.
Four years ago, the members of the Class of 2016 entered Paulsboro High School through the same doorway as did the Class of 1917. In 1917 the front entrance hall was unadorned. The Class of 2016 entered the same doors but into a much different place – The Hall of Heroes. On their left they saw two Civil War soldiers from Paulsboro who died at Petersburg (1864) and Fredericksburg (1862) to preserve the Union. To their right was the portrait of PHS graduate who died in defense of his nation in 1987 during the Persian Gulf War. The Hall of Heroes, dedicated on November 15, 2014, includes the portraits of 55 former students who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.