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Harrisburg alumni, friends plan reunion

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The 1966 seniors of Fayette Central High School gather on the lawnin front of the 1930 building. That was the last yearthe school in Harrisburg operated as a high school.
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Darell Robinson, Kenny Pflum and Bob Barbour, from left, are helping plan the Harrisburg and Fayette Central High School reunion Saturday. Robinson is wearing a Harrisburg Hornets softball jersey and the FFA banner is from Fayette Central High School.
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The names of the first graduating class at Harrisburg High School in 1933 are engraved on a stone bench they donated to the school

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Students walking into Fayette Central Elementary School likely do not know the hidden history under the flagpole, surrounded by shrubs.

The names of the seniors from the first graduating class of Harrisburg High School in 1933 are engraved on the bench, many now almost unreadable.

That history and the rest of the story from Harrisburg School, now Fayette Central Elementary, will be celebrated when alumni, their spouses and others gather at noon Saturday, June 16, at the Kenny Pflum farm, 7832 N. County Road 350-W., a little more than a mile north of Manlove Park.

Darell Robinson, class of 1955, Pflum, class of 1958, and Bob Barbour, class of 1961, are among those helping to plan the reunion. The 1955 class had 14 graduates, 17 in 1958 and 26 in 1961.

The last school-wide gathering came in 1991 before the demolition of the original classroom building.

The 1818 log cabin Tyner School served as the first school in Harrison Township. It was on the property of John Tyner near the present-day Lick Creek Cemetery, according to “The History of Harrisburg/Fayette Central School,” covering 1931-91.

Trustee Stephen Kerr in 1899 built the first Harrisburg School, a two-room building with an assembly hall. In 1910, Trustee Elijah Brookbank added onto that school. In the 1920s, a portable building, referred to as the “Chicken House,” brought the school more space.

That school sat north of the present gym.

Trustee Absalom Simpkins and the advisory board planned a new school after that building was condemned. Construction began in 1930 with the cornerstone set May 16, 1931. The doors opened in the fall of 1931.

The school included the gymnasium that still stands and is used by Fayette Central, and a three-story classroom building. All grades went to that building.

The class of 1933 became not only the first graduating class of the new school, they became the first high school graduates from any Harrison Township school. Prior to the new school, juniors and seniors attended Connersville High School. When the new school opened, juniors were the highest grade level.

Nina Caldwell Clanin, Helen Cox Kenworthy (secretary), C. Burdette Dailey (president), Howard E. Kenworthy, Alice Belle Leffler Lambert, C. Francis Martin (vice president), John L. Parker, Lucy Parker Ailes, Viola Rowland Halstead and Estella Welch Best have their names on the bench.

Nelson E. Best served as class treasurer. He had attended CHS but transferred to Harrisburg for his junior and senior years. Due to an oversight with his transfer, he fell one credit short and had to graduate in 1934.

“The new building was nice and it was good to have a gym, inside restrooms and showers,” according to the book.

The seniors staged the play “Cyclone Salley” to earn funds to place the stone bench at the school.

By 1932, 248 students attended the school.

Joe Caldwell coached the basketball team in 1931 but the team had no mascot. Just before the first sectional for the school, students submitted suggestions for a mascot. The Hornets came out on top of a vote.

Caldwell’s son, David S. Caldwell, said while the contractors laid the tile for the gym floor, people would come in and complain the gym had too much space for spectators. The coach locked the doors to keep them out.

Spectators sat in the balcony and on the floor as well as students sat on the stage. Visitors and Harrisburg students split the seating, he said.

Among the coaches to roam the sidelines for the Hornets, one later gained fame at New Castle and is now in the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cecil Tague coached Harrisburg for the 1952-53 season. The Brookville native coached at several locations before finding a spot with New Castle’s Trojans and coaching future All-American and NBA star Kent Benson. He made two trips to the one-class Final Four.

The year he coached at Harrisburg, the Hornets won the Whitewater Valley Conference championship, one of two titles for the school, Robinson said. They lost just two games during the season but he did not get a second year.

Pflum, who served as class president, said after his class graduated, the school became known as Fayette Central High School with the addition of students from the former Orange and Fairview high schools.

The students voted on the name of the school and on a new mascot for Fayette Central. They chose the Chiefs, Barbour said.

At some point the school added an elementary addition to the south which is still in use. That addition likely came in the mid-1950s.

Following demolition in 1991, a new one-story addition connected the gym and elementary school.

“I remember when the tornado hit and me and John Harris stood in the gym door and watched it tear down Howard Frost’s barn,” Barbour said. “In ‘61, It came right to the school, went south and then hit a house, came back behind the school and went right down the Harrisburg Road. It jumped over the Ford factory and then hit the Risch’s, where I lived at the time.”

Pflum recalled the time the teacher let him and another boy go cut a live Christmas tree for the room. They found the tree but also took advantage of the pass out of school to go to town, watch a movie and get something to eat. They returned to school in time for basketball practice.

Robinson had several copies of The Hornets Buzz school newspaper, printed on a duplicating machine. The Oct. 18, 1946 issue, the oldest he had, reported the seniors donated the new machine which printed that edition. The machine cost $201.50. Tickets to the Kurkowskis Band concert Oct. 22 cost 40 cents for adults and 30 cents for students.

The Things We Hear page had who might be dating, such as “Wonder why Phyllis J. wanted to go to the Orange vs. Harrisburg game. It couldn’t be Lancaster or could it??????”

For the reunion, pulled pork from Rihm’s will be supplied. Those attending should bring drinks and a covered dish. Plates and plasticware will be provided. People are also encouraged to bring memorabilia to the reunion.

Graduates of Orange and Fairview are also invited to attend.

For more information, call Barbour at 765-265-0655 or Pflum at 765-265-3253.