As I prepared to go to my 45th class reunion, I wondered, does anyone enjoy high school while they are experiencing it? Maybe those few gals and guys at the top of the heap. And we had a big heap – 661 in my 1970 graduating class. Lincoln High School in Manitowoc was a mega-school, about 2000, and that was only three grades; freshmen went to the junior high schools in town. When I compare my class with my daughters’ classes near 100, it’s no wonder I had quite a different experience.
The memories came flooding back on a tour of the school offered by the current principal, the opening event for the reunion. I hadn’t been to one since Year Five, and after so much time away, I was looking forward to reconnecting with a few special people: my old circle of girlfriends (√) and my first two boyfriends (√). Seeing the school again with new eyes for the first time in 45 years, sharpened some long-time regrets. Maybe I should call them wishes.
I wish I had been braver and tried out for the school plays, club offices, even class offices. But there were only so many roles split among 2000 kids and I was certainly not popular. The odds did not seem favorable. So I stuck to Biology Club where I ran an after-school experiment on The Effect of Music on the Growth of Plants. I exposed one group of plants to classical music and cooed at them, while playing raucous rock music for the other and yelling at them. The control group got silence. Sad to say, I found no effect on the growth – too much noise in my experiment. However, the experience did help guide me into my career as a scientist.
I wish I had taken music classes and joined the chorus or an ensemble. But at the time, I was still singing the guitar masses at St. Boniface with Sister Cecelia and a small cadre of friends. Who needed music lessons at school when I was continuing to be coached by the best? She taught us beautiful a cappella Madrigals for our tours of the senior homes in the area and they so appreciated us – recognition enough.
I wish I had been less of a couch potato. Of course this was long before Title IX; girls weren’t expected to have an extra-curricular sport. And I couldn’t imagine myself, then or now, being on a team sport. I knew I found my calling when I started yoga, but that was 20 years after high school.
How I loathed gym class, one huge embarrassment for the uncoordinated. The regulation gym suits alone were enough to make me hate this class. How some of the girls managed to look good even in these one-piece jumpers is still beyond me. And the attire for the swimming module was even worse – shapeless cotton tank suits, usually too big, often with holes in all the wrong places. But it was better than the boys. They swam nude. I remember being shocked when I learned this; oh, the shame I imagined for them.
I wish I hadn’t been such an Egghead, today’s nerds. Being in Latin class back then didn’t earn me any Cool Points, even when we had our toga parties, a school sanctioned event with our teacher, Miss Gallez. I used my Home Economics sewing skills to turn my boyfriend into a Roman Senator and me into his slave. (Give me a break; it was a few years before Women’s Lib. I was not yet awakened.)
It’s not the Egghead part I regret; that served me well throughout my life. It’s the not breaking out of that self-imposed box to be more than an Egghead. That took a long time to learn.
But I did excel at writing and wrote often for the school paper, the High Tower Flashes. I was so proud when Miss Crain invited me to join the paper staff as copy editor. The Editor called me The Axe. This was my niche. We were a team of 13 stuffed into a tiny room on the first floor of the Tower. It was a special place, our place. I was there every day after school editing the articles that came in, and still writing a few. Luckily I walked to school (“several miles, trudging through the snow uphill both ways”) and did not have the constraint of having to catch the bus home. I could stay until they kicked us out. This was my high school “home.”
Yes, the tour brought up old embarrassments, imagined slights, and wishes for a high school experience. But any of those wishes, had they come true, might have changed my outcome. And the most significant truth after a lifetime of events, after years of corporate life, is that I am back “home.” I found my passion again. I am writing daily and published my book.
Even more important, I now experience life fully, living out of the box. No longer creating regrets, when I have a wish, I go for it, an important lesson learned from those high school years. Life doesn’t get better than this.
A big Thank You goes to Ann Holly Haensgen and Chris Chermak Honzik for leading the plans for the 45th Anniversary Reunion of the Lincoln High School Class of 1970.
For those not able to join the Lincoln High School tour, I offer this photo tour as well as links to pertinent sites and articles/better photos posted elsewhere about the renovations we saw.
Our tour guide was the Principal, Mr. Luke Valitchka. He reported that the school now has about 1200 students, a considerable reduction from my time there.
We started our tour in the remodeled auditorium. When they removed the flat ceiling from the 1955 renovation, they exposed the original barrel vaulted ceiling. After restoring the ceiling to pristine condition, they also recreated a mural by Merlin Pollock from old photos. It had also been lost in the 1955 work. Called “Union of Hearts and Hands,” it features Lincoln and the reconciliation of the North and South after the Civil War. The 2001 renovation also included new seats, carpeting and an improved sound system.
Then we went north to a new area housing Family and Consumer Science (what used to be Home Economics). Unlike most schools that have eliminated this program, Lincoln has expanded, including a partnership with the local Technical College Culinary Program.
This area also houses the three shop programs. Again, most high schools have dropped these programs while Lincoln has expanded. Manitowoc is one of the top counties in the country for skilled technical workers, and area businesses are losing experienced workers fast, as we, the baby boomers, retire. So they have partnered with Lincoln High School to prepare students to effectively and seamlessly enter the workforce. Later he proudly showed off the LHS team entry that won the Manitowoc County High School Project Mini Chopper competition last year. It stands in the main entryway to the school.
As we walked, we reminisced about teachers, going to the Principal’s office (not me of course), lockers, stairwells where we could only go one direction, and other rules. The Principal took us to the cafeteria, and told us how startled he was to see a picture in the Flambeau, the school yearbook, of students during my era drinking beer at one of the nearby bars at lunch. And while that might have been legal for some of these guys (the drinking age was 18 back then; the thinking was if boys could die in Vietnam they could drink beer), I don’t recall that we were allowed to leave campus. These days the campus is open at lunch, though not to go to bars.
The library looked the same, though now it sports a row of computers against the bank of windows overlooking Lake Michigan. But given the prevalence of smart phones, it is likely that computers will be unnecessary for research in the future. The library was set up for a class the following week, sporting red, white and blue decorations. Lincoln is hosting Chinese Nationals for a summer session. Lincoln also accommodates multiple Chinese students during the school year.
We were all anxious to see the JFK Fieldhouse, home of so many memories. In our sophomore year the Men’s Basketball Team went to State and won first place. While we did have some PhyEd modules there, many were held in the Old Gym, which no longer exists. In one of the school remodels, they added a ceiling to make a second floor and transformed the whole space into much needed classrooms. The JFK Fieldhouse was also renovated with a new entrance that showcases Lincoln athletic history, new bleachers, and additional basketball hoops.
We examined all of it, laughing about not stepping on the basketball court floors, conditioning from years of scoldings when we stepped over the line in high school. Our much beloved old wooden bleachers are now found only on the balcony. And the new weight room is full of training equipment.
Finally we went up to the tower which is no longer used. Fire codes require two forms of egress and there is only one staircase to the tower. So it remains locked. The Principal said that there are only three official keys, though he suspects about a dozen float around.
This was the domain of Miss Crain and the journalism students. Each of the school publications, the High Tower Flashes newspaper, the Manitou magazine, and the Flambeau yearbook used a section of the tower. It’s unfortunate that vandals have signed their names on the walls. But Principal Valitchka would like to start a campaign to raise money to clean it up again.
Lincoln High School Class of 1970 website
Lincoln High School
Lincoln High School Auditorium completed in September 2001.
- From the website SchoolDesigns.com. Firm: Bray Architects.
JFK Fieldhouse Renovation. 2010
- Manitowoc school showcases a rich tradition
- By MATT WELLENS Herald Times Reporter, Manitowoc
- Posted: 02/01/2010 12:02:17 AM CST
Project Mini Chopper
- A county-wide effort to promote careers in manufacturing.
What Wikipedia says about Lincoln High School
- Lincoln High School (Manitowoc, Wisconsin) is a public high school that serves the city of Manitowoc and its immediate suburbs. The school serves students in grades 10 through 12, with an enrollment of roughly 1,200. Constructed in 1923, Lincoln High School was designed by the Chicago-based firm of Perkins, Fellows, & Hamilton and its campus plan was designed by Jens Jensen. It is located on Roeff’s Hill, along scenic Lake Michigan. The gothic-style building occupies 19 acres (77,000 m2) on the south side of the city. School colors are red and white. The school’s official team name is the “Shipbuilders”, however, “Ships” is most often used.
- The original building was finished in 1923, making Lincoln High School the oldest standing public high school in the state of Wisconsin. Since its completion, there have been eight renovations or additions to the school. The first was in 1930, with the addition of a pool. The west wing and third floor were added in 1942, followed by a first-floor library wing, a music wing, and a cafeteria wing in 1955. In 1956 the auditorium underwent its first major renovation. Built in 1961 was the John F. Kennedy Physical Education Center with a new girls’ locker room. The original technology education wing was added in 1983. From 1996 to 2000, construction of a $16.5 million renovation and addition took place. These improvements included the addition of a new gymnasium and a new swimming pool to the J.F.K. Center, a new science lab wing, and an overhaul of the auditorium. This expansion added nearly 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) to the school. In 2010, the floors, walls and bleachers in the J.F.K. Fieldhouse were renovated.
- Instead of the traditional cap and gown, female graduates wear formal dresses, and males wear tuxedos. Flower girls, being the top forty female members of the junior class, and ushers, being the top eight male members of the junior class, lead the procession.
- Plans are in place to include 9th graders in the student body.
- Since the fall of 2007, the school has begun offering courses in the International Baccalaureate