Archive for Sunday, June 28, 1998


June 28, 1998


A rush of joy as someone sees a familiar 18-year-old face in a crowd gathered in 1972 outside Lawrence High School.

A twinge of embarrassment accompanied by giddy laughter as someone else sees a particularly silly grin forever immortalized in the ``Grease''-like fashions of the 1950s.

Dated phrases like ``the Hoosier Hop'' or ``rad.'' Funny hairstyles. Fondly remembered teachers. Bitter teen-age rivalries. Hard work. Slacking off. Red and black memories. One hundred forty-three years, 184 pages.

From knickers to bell bottoms to acid-wash Levis to sagging Calvins. From girls playing basketball in dresses to Chesty Lions posing for a gag tavern photograph in 1940 in Chicago.

From Volkswagen Beetles in the hallway to, well, the new Volkswagen Beetles in the parking lot.

It's all here, in the recently published ``The High Schools of Lawrence,'' a chronicle of the city's secondary education system from the mid-19th century to the present.

By mid-week, about 700 copies of the newly published book had been sold. A portion of the book's proceeds will go to the Liberty Memorial High School 75th anniversary fund, as well as to Lawrence High and Lawrence Free State High.

Dan Jaimes, a 1953 LMHS graduate and principal at Central Junior High from 1970 to 1994, said the book places in perspective how important public education has been to the community.

``It really highlights that,'' Jaimes said. ``I've learned a lot of things about the high school movement in Lawrence, especially the very beginnings. ... It really fills a need in the community.''

Jaimes, part of the Liberty Memorial anniversary committee, said a formal rededication ceremony was being planned for Sept. 27, 75 years to the day from when the building opened.

`A big hit'

Ginger Heere, X-ray technologist at Lawrence's Orthopedic Surgery Associates, 1112 W. Sixth, called the book ``a lot of fun.''

Heere, a Lawrence resident since 1976 who works with LHS graduates Ken and John Wertzberger, both of whom are mentioned in the book, said it was a big hit at her office.

``Everybody there had to look through it,'' she said. ``Of course everybody recognizes somebody -- some of our patients, people who come through the office.''

See History, page 5D

Continued from page 1D

One thing that stuck out: the fashions worn by homecoming queen candidates in 1976, the year she arrived in Lawrence.

``The dresses were really different,'' she said.

Heere added that her children ``got a big kick out of it, too.''

Following are just a few of the memories captured in the historical tome:

LHS' 1918 basketball coach ``Dutch'' Urlhaub, who taught the game to players like Paul ``Pinkie'' Endacott. Alvin McKinney, member of the 1927 State Stock and Grain Judging Team.

The women's liberation movement and its reverse effect on senior class elections in 1938. A curious and heartfelt letter from Liberty Memorial Principal Neal Wherry, who in 1943 was on active military duty, to his graduating seniors in that year's Red and Black yearbook.

Lawrence police officer Jim Messer, who directed traffic in front of Liberty Memorial for decades.

The 1948 march in favor of a bond issue for a new high school in downtown Lawrence. Harley Yoder and Frances Ireland, members of the 1945 Liberty Memorial student council.

The completion of Lawrence High in 1954. Popular LHS teacher Max Stalcup. Custodian Ross Moon. Marilyn Chamney, a 1960 Douglas County Diary Princess contestant.

Rod Taylor, Steve Kandybowicz and Ken Wertzberger, 1965 high school All Americans. The sodding of Division Principal Max Rife's office in the spring of 1976. Nuclear war protests. Football coach Bill Freeman's haircut rules, introduced in 1975.

The chronicling of Valley-speak -- ``Gag me with a spoon,'' etc. -- by the Budget newspaper in 1982. Extra security at Stull Cemetery during Halloween in the late 1980s. The infamous mailbox bombs of the early 1990s. Lawrence High's first state baseball title in 1996, and the opening of Free State High last year.

`Lawrence ranks high'

``It seemed to me there was a lot in there,'' said Dinah O'Connor, formerly Dinah Dicker, a 1960 graduate of LHS. ``I thought they did a pretty good write up on my class.''

O'Connor said she noticed in particular two pictures of girls from her graduating class on the cover, a picture of her sister-in-law, former swim team member Jan Jennings (now Jan Dicker), and the notation that her son, Lawrence police officer Matt Sarna, won the Lawrence High citizenship award in 1987.

``I saw a lot of different things,'' O'Connor said. ``It's kind of a nice keepsake. I really liked the book.''

Furthermore, she said, the volume was especially interesting for those who have lived in Lawrence their entire lives and hoped to look up old teachers or other familiar names.

``I thought it was well done,'' said R. Wayne Nelson, LHS choral director and fine arts coordinator between 1948 and 1976.

Nelson's two daughters, Kay Nelson-Davis and Judith Nelson-Grier, graduated from LMHS in 1953 and LHS in 1963, respectively. He gave them each a copy over Father's Day weekend.

One sat up all night and read it cover to cover.

``She thought it was just excellent,'' Nelson said.

During Nelson's tenure, he recalled, Principal Wherry was big on pride.

``He preached pride all of the time,'' Nelson said. ``He was always saying `Lawrence ranks high.'''

And, like former Central Principal Jaimes, Nelson said it was the history of the high schools he found most intriguing.

``The interesting thing to me was the fact that for years we had only one high school,'' Nelson said. ``Even though they tried many times, it always ended up, `No, we have to have one -- we don't want to divide the football team.'''

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is

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