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As the old Granite High School campus in South Salt Lake continues to fall into disrepair, the first verse of the school's "Song of the G" might best sum up the remembrances of 103 years of alumni.

"When sights and sounds of the campus fade in the long, busy years, yet will return in our memories, echoes of old songs and cheers."

As more than 300 Granite alumni including Class of 1940 member Bruce Ridd gathered Saturday night at the Infinity Event Center in Salt Lake City to celebrate their old school at the Forever-A-Farmer All-Alumni Reunion, school ghosts came alive for the night.

The event celebrated the school's past and marked the kickoff of a last-ditch effort called the Granite High Encore Project by the Utah Arts Alliance to preserve at least part of the campus from demolition.

Derek Dyer, executive director of the Alliance, said that all good farmers know that the most important thing is to plant a seed. He said he was planting a seed in an effort to save the buildings.

Dyer has begun a fundraising project with an initial goal of raising $258,000 that will save part of the campus.

The campus of the school that opened in 1906 and closed in 2009 is the last remaining open space in South Salt Lake. The total purchase price is $10.6 million with another $4 million to $5 million likely required to restore the buildings.

Garbett Homes, which saw one planned development on the property dashed by a veto from South Salt Lake Mayor Cheri Wood, has extended its contract with Granite School District. A spokesman said the developer is working on a new plan it hopes will appease city leaders and community members.

Dyer would like to see the old auditorium and gym building, constructed in 1938 and 1939 respectively, restored as a regional performing arts facility. The gym would be turned into a community black box theater with the cafeteria addition used for the culinary arts.

He envisions the main building to be used for Utah creative industries such as film and traditional arts to produce revenue. Area artists could rent the Industrial Arts Building. And, ideally, Dyer would like to save the newer gym and swimming pool for community recreation use.

Information on the project can be found at

Reunion night, though, was as much about celebration of friendships and school memories as it was about preservation.

And people came from all over the world to participate.

Diana Zermeno, who graduated from Granite in 1987, traveled from Mexico City, where she works as the fashion editor for the Reforma daily newspaper.

"I love my friends from that time," she said. "There are great memories. When we planned our summer vacation, I wanted to come up here to celebrate my birthday and anniversary."

Mike Gudmundsen, a Delta Air Lines pilot who graduated from Granite in 1971, arrived from his home in Minneapolis, Minn., moments before the event began.

Merili Carter, who headed the organizing committee and spent two years at Granite, said her mom, sister, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents all graduated from the school.

She and organizing committee member Kenny Watanabe, Judy Watanabe, Nannette Oviatt, Diane Oldham and Jerry Silver encouraged alumni to bring memorabilia.

Old letter sweaters and yearbooks were on display. Perhaps the oldest was a 1918 yearbook that alumna Janice Blackhurst Ruegner inherited from her grandmother. It told of the Granitian newspaper that was published every Wednesday and contained information on the Little Sister Susie Society that volunteered to help the Red Cross and with other patriotic activities.

Ruegner said her grandmother told her that students once tethered their horses across the street at what is now the Pioneer Craft House.

Bruce Parsons talked about wearing his white corduroy pants to school every day and writing messages on them. He said legendary Farmer basketball coach Cec Baker taught him how to shoot a bow and arrow.

Merrill Ridd of the Class of 1950 remembered Baker's last game in 1950, when Granite lost by one point on a half-court shot at the buzzer.

Ridd, who said his English teacher Mary Mason helped him receive three graduate degrees, met his wife CoDell at their 50th reunion in 2000 after both alumni had lost their first spouses.

"We might lose the building, but the thing that made Granite great was the people," said Shawn Christiansen, the student body president in 1986.

Matt Brown, who graduated in 2000 and is known for playing the chain saw actor at the Fear Factory, said he enjoyed every minute he spent at the old school.

Alumni posted the names of deceased friends on a memory wall near video screens that displayed photos of the school and football games from the past.

And, as the night ended with music played by volunteer DJs Sam and Drew Armstrong and James Davis, echoes of old songs and cheers were revived, at least for one evening.

Twitter @tribtomwharton

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