I'll never forget graduating from eighth grade at Central in 1969 and knowing that my next four years would be spent in that big building called Effingham High School.
That summer before my freshman year, I worked Sundays at the beach in the concession stand or mini-golf, and I also detasseled corn. I just turned 14 that summer, but I wanted to start high school with some new clothes and money to go to football games. I also wanted to help my parents out by earning my own money.
Going to high school was a given to me. It was what you did. Both my parents went and so did all of my aunts and uncles. However, none of my grandparents went to high school. It wasn't the norm back then. Rural schools provided grades one through eight, but unless you lived near one, attending high school wasn't always possible.
My grandma, Joan (Peters) Loy completed eighth grade. She then rode the train to Mattoon and the interurban to Charleston to the Normal School (now EIU), where she took classes to get her teaching certificate.
My grandpa, Ted Loy, went to McKendree College for a year even though he had never been to high school. He passed their entrance exams easily.
My grandpa, John W. Cooley, took the county examination for teachers and taught several terms until he became a telegrapher for the Vandalia Railroad which later became the Pennsylvania Railroad.
My grandma, Marie (Claar) Cooley, after completing eighth grade, would work as a milliner in Dieterich until her marriage.
Four people in my life who never attended high school. However, they all knew the value of an education and saw to it that all of their children went to high school, because they recognized that times were changing.
High schools used to be found all over Effingham County prior to consolidation, starting in the late 1940s. Altamont, Effingham and Teutopolis had four-year high schools. Beecher City, Dieterich, Edgewood, Mason, Montrose, St. Anthony and Watson had three-year high schools. Moccasin and Shumway had two-year high schools although I sometimes see Shumway listed as a three-year high school. (Let me know if you have more information on Shumway.)
That was 12 high schools in Effingham County! Over the years, the high schools in Edgewood, Mason, Moccasin, Montrose, Shumway and Watson closed. If students wanted a four-year diploma, they usually attended the high school closest to them and often provided their own transportation. School buses were few and far between. Ivan Bounds drove the first one in the county, transporting the students in the Eberle/Elliottstown area to EHS from 1935 to 1950. Some students stayed in town with relatives or rented rooms. It was not easy to get a four-year diploma if you didn't live near a four-year high school. You had to really want it. The roads weren't that great and kids didn't have easy access to cars as they do now.
It wasn't until after World War II, high school attendance started to become more common. Before that many attended up to sixth or eighth grades because they often had to go to work to help out their families.
In the 1935 EHS Signet, a message from the Senior Class of 1935 reads, "Many students from the neighboring towns joined our class, boosting our enrollment to 81." Here are a some of those who came from neighboring towns: Dave Coslet-Beecher City HS three years; John Leonard Buchholz-Watson HS three years; Alice Schottman-Montrose HS three years; Lora Followell-Edgewood HS three years; Edward Miller-Beecher City HS three years; Evelyn Sporleder-Shumway HS three years; June Loy-Watson HS three years; Maurice Rickelman-St. Anthony HS two years; Doy Hogge-Beecher City HS three years, and many more. Many students also came from Sigel and Bible Grove.
In looking at the senior pictures for the 1942 EHS Signet, I saw my father listed as "Dick Loy: Watson HS three yrs., EHS one yr." Dad was a starter on the basketball team at Watson, but had to give it up when he went to EHS his senior year because of a lack of transportation home after basketball practice. He had to get home and milk cows and help with other chores on the farm. That was the life of a farm kid back then.
My mother, Rhea (Cooley) Loy, attended one year at Altamont HS and three years at EHS after her parents moved and built a home in Effingham. Two of her siblings graduated from Altamont High School before the move back to Effingham. Her older sister, Daphne Cooley, graduated from Altamont in 1936 and her brother, Walter Quentin Cooley, graduated from Altamont in 1938.
Here are a few people in the EHS 1942 Signet that were from around the county and finished at EHS. Medford Leturno-Dieterich HS three years; James Niebrugge-St. Anthony HS three years; George Ruffner-Mason three years; Eileen Taylor-Shumway three years; Donald Myers-Edgewood HS three years; Delite Miller-Montrose 3 years; Oliver Westendorf-Dieterich HS 3 years; Loretta Vaughn-Montrose HS three years; Melba Rice-Watson HS three years; Loren Smith-Edgewood HS three years; Melba Mae Knop-Shumway HS three years; Avanelle Krabbe-Dieterich HS three years; Doris Leturno-Dieterich HS three years; Earl Bushue-Mason HS three years, and many more. There were also students from Bible Grove that came to EHS for their senior year.
At the museum in my binders on schools, I am trying to collect pictures of all of these different high schools that were in Effingham County. I'd appreciate any pictures that you could send me. You also might consider adopting a model of one of these high schools for our train room. Watson School is in the train room, and soon the 1939 Effingham HS might be added.
I must confess that when I started working on the school binders for the museum, I had no idea what a huge job it would be. I'm so very thankful for all of the people who have helped me out with pictures and memories. It's nice to know that these schools will be preserved for future generations to learn about. I'm still wanting more pictures of people from our county who served in the military. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 217-821-2427. I can also be messaged on our Facebook page "Effingham County Courthouse Museum Effingham IL". Follow that FB page to see daily pictures and information about Effingham County and our veterans. I hope to hear from lots of you and add many more pictures.
Save the date
Old Settlers Reunion will be Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Come up for the Farmers Market and then stay and explore the displays and tour the museum. Be sure and register for a chance for a gift certificate. There will be free pictures at the cannon, free face-painting, free mule wagon rides, sidewalk chalk, tractors from Mill Road Thresherman's Association, the Caledonia fire truck, and much more.
Take some time to make memories with your family. It's an important thing to do.