*This story was featured in the Hastings Tribune on June 2, 2016.
GLENVIL — For one school day per year, the seniors at Glenvil High School roamed the halls to let the freshmen know who was running the show.
They controlled the freshmen’s every move that day, including their school day attire, and put the high school newcomers through the proverbial ringer.
While that would land those seniors in all sorts of trouble today, more than 50 years ago it was part of a ritual that to this day provides lasting memories of attending school in the two-and-a-half-story brick building that still stands next to the town’s water tower.
“The freshman initiation started early in the morning and it was done by the seniors and we started at the flag pole downtown,” said Donna Meyer of Hastings, 68, a member of the class of 1965. “We dressed in ridiculous costumes and they assigned us a character to be. We had to do terrible things like wear a garlic string around our throat or eat gross things, but when we went down the (school) fire escape, that ended our initiation.”
At the bottom of the fire escape, which was a long, circular tube that sloped down the outside of the south side of the building, seniors were waiting to douse them with buckets of water and a handful flour. That pastings signified the end of the initiation.
This little caveat was just one of the memories that makes the story of Glenvil High School so special to Meyer and other graduates who over the Memorial Day weekend made the difficult decision to stop having alumni banquets. This May marked the 50th anniversary of the last class to graduate from the high school.
The high school closed in 1966 as a result of consolidation efforts between the rival towns of Deweese, Edgar, Fairfield and Glenvil and the creation of the Sandy Creek school district.
Since Sandy Creek didn’t open until the 1967-68 school year, high school students in Glenvil attended Fairfield High School for one year.
The 113-year-old Glenvil school building, which was used for elementary classrooms in the town as part of the Sandy Creek school district for another 30 years, has been renovated into apartment-style housing but many remnants from generations ago still remain.
A stone-etched sign hangs on the main entrance reads: GLENVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT – 49 – 1903, which reflects a time before the town changed its spelling to Glenvil.
After crossing the threshold, the interior still resembles that of a schoolhouse.
The hardwood, mahogany brown wood floors look worn, but remain sturdy. Tattered doors still hang and coat hooks still line the halls.
On each side of the first floor entrance a wooden staircase leads up to the second floor where about halfway up the two staircases merge into one central, wider set of stairs.
“I remember the segregated stairs and it was tradition,” Meyer said. “The girls went up the right hand-side and boys went up the left-hand side.”
The main floor was a beehive of activity with students in grades 1-12 buzzing through the hallways, despite that floor being reserved primarily for the younger grades.
That section of the building was equipped with elementary school classrooms and one classroom that could house all students, which was known as the assembly room.
“The one side where the fire escape was, we called that the assembly room and all of the students could assemble in that room,” said Elmer Murman, 86, of Hastings, a member of the class of 1947. “We would assemble in that room and we had five rooms off of that assembly room that we would go to class in.”
The high school classrooms were on the second floor along with offices for administration.
Not all school activities took place inside the school building, however. Many, including basketball and volleyball games, proms and even graduation, were also held at the Glenvil Auditorium, which is on the main street through town.
The auditorium was often the site for school and community events and celebrations, including a potluck dinner in 1950 after Glenvil won its only state championship. The Bulldogs, coached by Howard Zook, beat Uehling 43-33 to win the Class D boys state basketball title.
If something wasn’t going on either at the school or the auditorium, students often found something to do downtown usually in the vicinity of the town flag pole in the middle of the street.
Murman said students often played basketball or baseball on the playground area over their lunch break, but there were occasions when they journeyed downtown for something else to do.
“We played pool sometimes during the noon hour, if we had time,” Murman said.
Meyer said she is glad that she got to attend a small school in small town.
“My fondest memories were that I just knew almost everybody here,” she said.