We are happy to announce that the latest edition of the South Portland Historical Society’s Christmas ornament is available now. For 2021, in light of the current consolidated middle school being built on South Portland’s west end, we decided to “memorialize” the existing Memorial Middle School before it is razed.

The Memorial Junior High/Middle School ornament is available now. Ornament sales support the South Portland Historical Society. South Portland Historical Society photo

For many years, South Portland housed students through eighth grade in our neighborhood schools. It wasn’t until 1950 that construction began on our first junior high, known as South Portland Junior High School, on Highland Avenue. Built on the former site of the World War II housing complex known as Mountain View Apartments, the junior high school was completed in late 1951 and students first attended the school in January of 1952. This first centralized junior high school was home to all seventh- and eighth-grade students.

In the fall of 1960, South Portland High School (which had been on the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street) and the junior high traded school buildings.

When the school department decided to build a second junior high building, new names had to be decided upon. At the South Portland Junior High School on Ocean Street, it was decided to rename the school in honor of Daniel F. Mahoney, who had served as the principal of our high school from 1940 to 1965. For the new school, the decision was made to name it Memorial Junior High.

Construction of the new Memorial Junior High School on Wescott Road was underway in 1966, based on plans by architect Wilbur R. Ingalls, Jr. When the school was completed and opened in 1967, the ninth-grade classes in South Portland, which had previously been housed at the high school, moved to the two junior highs, making them home to grades 7 through 9 and easing congestion in the high school.

Memorial Junior High was built in an H-shape, with a gymnasium, a cafeteria/auditorium, library, music room, administrative offices and 40 classrooms, laboratories and shop rooms. The building was also designed with the superintendent’s offices attached in a separate wing.

The first principal at Memorial Junior High was Terry Christy. He was selected after having taught social studies/history at South Portland Junior High since 1961, and he also served as a coach and athletic director at the school. He became the principal at Memorial from its opening in 1967 until 1976.

He was elected to the South Portland City Council where he served from 1976 to 1980, including a year as mayor in 1979. Christy went on to become the superintendent of schools in Windham and then continued there as a teacher and coach at Windham High School for many years. Although Christy no longer lives in South Portland, he continues to be an active supporter of the South Portland Historical Society today.

In 1983, the ninth-grade classes in South Portland were moved to the high school and both junior high schools became middle schools, now teaching grades 6 through 8. In addition to Terry Christy, other long-time principals at Memorial include John Gailey, Alan Hawkins and Rebecca Stern. A much-loved vice principal at Memorial for many years was Mike Eastman, who also served on South Portland’s board of education and as president of the board of directors of the South Portland Historical Society.

The school department has begun construction of a new consolidated middle school on the athletic fields at Memorial. Once completed, all students in grades 5 through 8 in the city are scheduled to attend the new school and the existing Memorial Middle School will be torn down.

This is the eighth in a series of historically-themed ornaments. With the inspiration and efforts of board member Chuck Igo, the South Portland Historical Society began this fundraiser in 2014 with the release of its Bug Light ornament.

Subsequent ornaments have included Fishermen’s Point and Portland Head Light (2015), Liberty shipyards (2016), Red’s Dairy Freeze (2017), Portland Harbor – Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Fort Gorges (2018), Cape Elizabeth Depot train station (2019) and the Engine 6/Thornton Heights Volunteer Hose Company (2020).

All eight of the ornaments are available for sale through the historical society and its retail partners. Each ornament is cast in a durable metal with a beautiful brass finish, and comes in a protective cloth bag. It also includes a card with some historic details and which lets a gift recipient know that proceeds from the sale of each ornament go directly to the South Portland Historical Society and its museum. The ornaments are available for $20 each at the checkout counters of our three retail partners: Drillen Hardware, 460 Cottage Road; Broadway Variety, 771 Broadway; and Embers Stove Shop, 581 Main St. Ornaments are also available directly through the historical society, by appointment. We will ship ornaments in a sturdy ornament box for an additional $6 to cover postage and handling. Please call us at 207-767-7299 to place your order.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

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