The History of Hillside High School

History of the School:

In 1917, the Township of Hillside established its first high school program at Central Grammar School, prior to which Hillside students in grades 9-12 attended Battin High School in Elizabeth. The high school then moved to the Coe Avenue School, today known as A.P. Morris. The current high school facility was constructed in 1940, allowing students in grades 10-12 to be served at the new building, and allowing the Coe Avenue (A.P. Morris) School to become a grammar school. Once Hillside High School itself opened the students and community voted the Comet to serve as the school mascot. As the high school expanded, the third floor of the building was completed, with the gym being added in 1949. During the post WW2 boom, the Bristol-Myers factory and Lionel Train company grew the town, requiring add-ons to the elementary schools and high school. The population of the town continued to grow throughout the decade and after a series of referendums throughout the 1950s, an addition to the building was constructed, the additional wing being added in two parts (1954 and 1957). Despite many districts noticing a decrease in enrollment in the post baby-boom era of the 1970s, Hillside continued to grow with 1181 students at the high school by 1975.

Hillside students have a long history of being active within their community. The high school was awarded the Freedoms Foundation Distinguished Service award every year between 1953 and 1974. In 1971, the Black Parents and Homeowners Association was formed to recognize and prevent social problems in the rapidly changing community. These social problem existed mainly due to changes within the community in the mid-1970s when Lionel Trains and later Bristol-Myers Squibb, employers of most of the town, closed their facilities. The closures turned Hillside into a much more transient community with its population having to look elsewhere for employment. During the closing decades of the 20th century, this transient community continued to grow creating a town with a wide range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

Some other notable facts about Hillside and Hillside High School:

  • School colors went from Green and Yellow on white (hillers), to Blue and Yellow on White (Highlanders), to Maroon and Grey (Comets) in 1953.

  • Woodfield Stadium was originally “Student Activities Field” until the retirement of Dr. Woodfield, students voted to name the stadium after him in 1954, with Zapulla Field being named after coach Zap’s passing.

  • In the 1970 school year, the high school had over 1650 students.

  • Population of permanent residents took a dive after Lionel moved in 1974 and Bristol Myers closed in the early 2000's.

  • Athletics won its first title in 1936-1937 State champions in Track and Field.

  • Baseball dominated in the 1940s and 1950s and through the 1980s.

  • Football in the 1943 and 1944 seasons won back to back state titles

  • Basketball went to the state finals twice in the 1950's, returning to the championships in the late 1980's and early 1990's.