Members of the Facebook site “You know you’re from Monticello when …” recently started a discussion about the old Lincoln school that faced Harrison Street and is now the home of the Union Township Library on West Broadway.
Over the years, thousands attended this school. I thought a more detailed article about the old school might bring a few smiles and great memories of the school to our readers.
Let’s take a look at when the school was built and little early history of the structure.
The school was built to serve as Monticello’s high school for students from seventh grade to senior year. The Lincoln school, as it was built, had a lot to do with a local organization called the “Push Club.” This commercial club was composed of several dozen local Monticello visionary businessmen who would forever change the community.
While the trustee of the township wanted to build a new school to accommodate the anticipated growth of the town, he wanted to do it “on the cheap.”
At this time, Monticello did not have a basketball arena. The Push Club strongly encouraged the town fathers and a trustee that a basketball arena was a must have. As the planning was in progress, the town and the trustee for Union Township felt pressured to include a ball court that would accommodate the fans and be an asset to the community.
Indeed, a basketball arena was incorporated into the new school.
In 1922, the school board was composed of Joseph B. Dorsett, Daniel D. McCuaig and Mrs. Curtis D. Meeker. Benton F. Reed was the township trustee.
The plans for the new building were prepared by local Monticello architect Samuel Young, who also was appointed supervisor of the construction. Young was the premier architect in the area and it was said, “No school board ever got more for their money than was found in this new structure.”
C.P. Clager, of Wheatfield, was awarded the contract for the building at a figure considerably lower than the other bids being considered. Although Mr. Clager was one of the youngest contractors in the area, the school board and architect Young had nothing but praise for his work.
The footprint of the building was 128-by-5-by 85 feet. The new structure would be connected to the old building by a fireproof hallway connecting the building at the second floor level. The exterior brick was a mixed brown color with darker shades below the water table and was trimmed with Bedford stone. The roof was a composition roof of tar and gravel.
Overall, the building had a very pleasant look. The only negative comment voiced was that it should have had a greater setback from Harrison Street. People complained that it was too close to the street.
The basement was the location of a large auditorium measuring 51-by-86 feet. The ceilings in the gym were 23 feet high. A stage built on the south end measured 31-by-26 feet. This area would also be used as a community room for large meetings and banquets. This area would seat 1,400 people for a meeting and 500 for a banquet. The arena would seat 800 for a basketball game. The arena had a plaster paneled ceiling and was well-lighted by natural and artificial light.
Just off the new gymnasium and basketball court was a lunch room and domestic science rooms with a well-equipped kitchen that could be used for serving meals for banquets. On the east side of the gym were restrooms, showers and locker rooms.
The first floor housed a sewing room and laboratories for chemistry, physics, botany and agriculture. On the second floor was a large assembly hall that could accommodate 300 students. The desks were designed to seat one student. The picture shows two students at each desk, but this was for a photo op. There were 10 rows of 30 desks each.
To the east of this hall were four large classrooms that seated 40 students each. Located at the rear of the assembly hall was the superintendent’s office, principal’s office, school board room, a teachers’ break room and a girls’ restroom. To the rear far west wall was a small library.
From a mechanical standpoint, the building utilized the most current technology of the period. The heating plant was a low-pressure steam system that was fed by boilers located in a small building between the two schools. The ventilation was an indirect method which brought fresh air into each room and expelled the foul air through ventilation flues.
Lighting was provided through bank after bank of windows on the east and west sides which were augmented by electric lighting. The type of window glass was known as prism glass which would diffuse the light to all corners of the classrooms. The position of the building allowed the light to come over the left shoulders of the students.
All of the hallways and stairways in the building were fireproof. Electrical work and the installation of large ventilation fans were installed by Michael J. Hoffman, a local Monticello electrical contractor.
So, how did Union Township pay for this new school? Today we would call this a municipal bond solicitation. A total of $85,000 of bonds were issued to cover the cost of the building as well as all fixtures and equipment. By today’s standards this is pocket change, but keep in mind this was 1922.
The final curtain call for the Lincoln school would come with the 1974 tornado. While the school had been condemned and closed for a few years, the tornado dashed all hopes of re-purposing the building. Soon the school would be taken down; and, for a time, the property was totally vacant.
When the Union Township Library was proposed, the old school grounds became the ideal choice. The memories of the old school will fade over time for the living. Once the current generation passes, there will be few that will even recall the school.
Note: Originally the Lincoln school was a high school; but when the Roosevelt High School building was constructed in 1940, Lincoln School became the junior high.
The 1922 Lincoln school was in service for about 50 years. Over the course of this time, there was one iconic man who served as principal of the school from 1939 until it was going to close. This man was James Dyer.
Mr. Dyer was educated at Indiana University and began his teaching career in Monon in 1934, where he was the athletic coach, science and social studies teacher. Mr. Dyer came to serve with the Monticello educational team in 1937 and was rapidly made the principal. Mr. Dyer was born and raised in Wolcott and died in 1988 in Bloomington.
For several days I asked for comments from former students — and boy did I get them — several hundred of them. While I can’t list all of them, I thought I would share a few comments about the old Lincoln School from former students.
Comments from former students of the Lincoln Junior High School:
- The school memories were mentioned numerous times for the squeaky wood flooring, students were allowed to leave the building for lunch and a race to downtown Monticello to get a stool at Walter’s Drug Store, Rexall Drug Store or a seat at Young’s Cafeteria was a daily event. Climbing up the fire escape tube and sliding down was also mentioned along with pick-up basketball games on the outdoor court year around.
- Sally Lewis, Class of ‘68 — “The band room under the stage. I always rather liked that little room.”
- Joe Luse, Class of ‘69 — I remember going in late at night to play basketball and riding bikes up and down the halls with Kenny Houston. (That was a no-no!) We use to skip study hall and go to Houston’s house across the street on Harrison.” (Kenny Houston is the current mayor of Monticello!)
- Marilyn Clerget Kretzmeier, Class of ‘55 — “I remember the big rooms and the noisy floors. My mom and dad, Earl and Elsie Clerget, retired from farming and for a time were the custodians at Lincoln.”
- Paul Kraack, Class of ‘68 — “Wrestling practice was in the Lincoln gym. We would run laps up the front stairs and across the wooden-floored balcony between the rows of seats and down the back stairs. The better athletes would take pleasure in reaching down and flipping the seats down as they passed them so that those of us who were slower runners behind them would bust our shins! That gym was a powerful force in matches because of the noise our fans made stomping their feet on those wooden floors!”
- Judy Ruemler Runk, Class of ‘65 — “I remember that our biology class had to stay after school to determine who let out a snake in class! Poor Mr. Larry Crab’s first year teaching biology!
- Sandy Felz Royer, Class of ‘66 — “I remember I was in Belle Luce’s English class when we heard JFK had been shot. It shattered my idea of being safe. I remember everyone got very quiet. We did not know he died until we got home from school. It certainly ended the age of innocence for many of us.”
- Debbie Elmore Vandervort, Class of ‘69 — “I was in Mr. Wolford’s science class when Mr. Dyer made the announcement over the loudspeaker that JFK was shot. Like Sandy said, the announcement was only that he had been shot.”
- Jerry Ware, Class of ‘66 — “I remember playing basketball for Coach Larry Ebel who had everyone on the team coat their hands with red mercurochrome before each game. It was supposed to distract the opponent by waving our hands in their face. Really didn’t know if it worked but it sure was cool ... stained our hands for weeks.”
- Al Hintzman, Class of ‘68 — “I remember there was an assembly program where the person brought in some snakes and other reptiles! He was on the small stage at the front and there were two students in each seat. He said that if he dropped anything, sit still, he would catch it. He dropped a small snake and I think the first four rows were cleared instantly!”
- Allen N Debbie Bruce — “My favorite memory was Ms. Toohy. She was a real loon. She would come skipping into class and swipe her fingernails across the chalk board as she skipped by. In 1972, Miss Toohy ran for Indiana’s lieutenant governor on the Indiana Peace and Freedom ticket. She received six votes.”
- Al Hintzman, Class of ‘68 — “I remember how it would get quiet when the sound of a paddle connecting with someone’s bottom resounded through both buildings! One of those was mine, from Mr. Harkness, for not having a chapter outlined in health class! Believe me, the next day I had the next two done because I did not want another! Kids complain today if they are told to put their phone away!
- Kean MacOwan, Class of ‘68 — “The deal on the paddle was a teacher could give you 1, 2 or 3 hours for misbehaving. This meant you had to stay after school and “put in the time” OR … an alternative was one whack from the paddle for each hour! Without question Storm and Harkness were artists with a paddle. A hit from their paddle swats would literally lift you off the floor! I know a little bit too much about that! I consider myself a survivor!”