THE EARLY DAYS ON WAYNE AVE.
The new high school was begun on a tract of land “miles from anywhere”, and opened in March of 1935. Since the new school consisted of only one building (the future “C” Building of the completed school) and was still in the process of being completed, some of the students and teachers continued to commute between the old (TSS) and new schools. During this transition period, students, faculty and administrators started creating some of the new traditions that would be the foundation for the new school. One of those traditions was already underway several years before the move – the annual school yearbook, Silverlogue. One thing they didn’t have was a name.
While the students were allowed to select three final choices for the school name, the Board of Education made the final selection. They chose Montgomery Blair, because the Blair family had been prominent in the area for nearly 100 years. Montgomery Blair was a lawyer who was appointed as the first solicitor for the U.S. Court of Claims in the 1850’s. He lost his post because of his anti-slavery views, but was later appointed Postmaster General by Abraham Lincoln. His father, Francis Preston Blair, was an intimate of President Andrew Jackson, and is the person credited with discovering the “silver spring” for which the area is named.
The first students at Blair attended classes in what would later become “C” Building in the expanded school. The first cafeteria was in the attic of the building (as one early graduate said, “if you weren’t hungry before climbing the stairs, you were by the time you got there”). B Building was added in 1940, followed by D Building in 1942. The first football team was fielded in 1944, and the War Memorial Stadium opened in 1947. When the Boys Gym/Fieldhouse opened in 1954, Blair possessed the finest football and basketball facilities in the county.
The first class to graduate was the Class of 1935, while the first class to spend all three years at Blair, the Class of 1937, gave Blair its school song.
THE WAR YEARS
World War II brought some real challenges to the school. In addition to the students who left early to join the war effort, there were hundreds who went through Blair knowing that the armed services awaited them after graduation. Many didn’t come
I back, and a memorial to these students was established in the “Senior Corner” of the library. Perhaps the biggest impact of the war was on the teachers. With so many of them off to war, the entire school had to make adjustments. Several classes were taught by students from the University of Maryland, and there were even instances of Blair seniors teaching sophomore classes. Blair’s patriotism was on display for the entire country, too, as Life magazine featured the school’s Victory Corps close order drill team. Other students added to the war effort by assisting farmers in Montgomery County after school and on weekends.
THE BOOM YEARS
‘The post-war era saw Blair go through enormous growth and expansion. The Silver Spring-Takoma Park neighborhoods were bursting with new housing and newly returned veterans. As the Federal government geared up the post-war economy, the area began attracting more and more government workers, diplomats, and government contractors. Blair attracted some of the best young teachers, and really became the center of activity in the community. When people talked about going to the “game”, there was no question that they meant the basketball or football game at Blair. Blair’s reputation as the premier academic high school was enhanced as its students constantly led the region in merit scholars, college scholarship recipients, and test scores. Blair’s Science Fair was a much-anticipated event, attended by not only Blair parents and students but also by students and parents from area junior high schools, community colleges, and universities. Some of the Blair Science Fair winners went on to careers as leaders in their respective areas of expertise.
During the same era, Blair’s athletic program and performing arts departments hit their peak. Team after team won county and state championships, and dozens of Blair athletes went on to play college and professional athletics. Blair’s Music and Drama Departments produced shows, plays, choruses, and orchestras that gained a reputation throughout the area. These areas also produced students who went on to be successful in the fields of journalism, radio and television, the movies, art, and music. Indeed, Blair graduates have won such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, the Academy Award for acting, and several Emmy Awards for television.
In the 70’s and 80’s, the changing demographics of the Blair neighborhoods brought obvious changes to the school. A declining population caused the School Board to consider closing the school and sending the remaining students to other area high schools. Instead, Blair gained a “second life” when it was designated as a “magnet school,” and regained its national reputation as one of the leading high schools in the country. Eventually, however, the county decided to build a new Blair, and after 63 years the Wayne Ave. location was closed. It reopened a year later as a combination middle school/elementary school.