Postcards: Old Richmond High School, Echo volumes kindle warm memories

By Linda Emley

Next Monday, I’m going to say goodbye to a lady that was a important part of my high school days. Rebecca Crouch was my high school counselor and I still remember her telling me I needed to take a typing class.
I dropped out of that class because I hated taking typing tests, but every time I sit down to type something on my computer, I think of Rebecca and know that she was right on target.
I’m dedicating this story about our beloved old RHS to Rebecca, a lady I will always remember.
The building was used by the Richmond Public School system from Sept. 4, 1916 through May 2005. Like many others, my family had four generations that went to school in this building.
The RHS ECHO staff of 1931 saved the day for this story. This group of high school students created a special Journalism Issue of the ECHO that is full of pictures and history. The book provided many details that I was not able to find anywhere else.
If you would like to see the whole story, a copy can be found at the Ray Country Museum library.
I am proud to present to you the ECHO staff of 1931. There are more than a few names that many will remember: Editor-in-Chief Helen Gill, Margaret Blair, Garner Settle, Margaret Lake, Robert Lyon, Edward Shirley, Elizabeth Denton, Paul Crowley, Mildred Hamann, Virginia Bates, Blanche Clarke and Carl Gaines.
This was in the Aug. 24, 1916 Missourian: “New Furniture Arrived.  The beauty and convenience of the Richmond High School building, which has just been completed, will cause it to be a joy forever. The new furniture has arrived and is being placed where it belongs. There are 22 cubic feet of fresh air per hour for each pupil pumped into the building by an automatic ventilation system. There are ten class rooms, with a cloak closet in each one, where fresh air keeps things dry and in a sanitary condition. The building has a lecture room, a gymnasium and auditorium combined, two laboratories, one study hall, with a library room in connection, one ladies restroom, superintendent’s office and reception room, boys and girls toilets, lockers and shower baths, automatic heating system, large clock in the office of the superintendent that is regulated to automatically ring electric bells in three buildings – the central ward, manual training shop and the high school building. There are drinking fountains on all three floors. It is the finest and most up-to-date school building in Northwest Missouri.”
After reading this, I had a few questions. Is there a difference between a ”cloak” closet and a “coat” closet? Well, I found out there is. A cloak closet was a ventilated closet used for the storage of wet winter clothing. There were no school buses in 1916, so most kids walked to school. There would be a lot of wet coats to dry out if it was a rainy or snowy day.
My next questions were about the restrooms. There is mention of a ladies restroom and toilets for the boys and girls; what about the men’s restroom? Is there a difference between a restroom and a toilet? I was told by one student that there were teacher lounges on all floors. Maybe the ladies restroom was the place teachers went to rest and hide from all the students.
In the same paper, but not on the front page: “To The Patrons of Richmond Schools: The fall term of school will begin Sept. 4. We shall occupy our new building for the first time and room will not be at a premium so that we shall labor under more favorable circumstances than formerly. We are expecting a great school year and we ask for your co-operation. It is very important that your children start in at the first and attend regularly. Nothing is so harmful as irregular attendance. In order to expedite matters, we shall enroll the high school as follows: Freshmen on Thursday morning, Aug .31; Sophomores on Friday morning, Sept. 1; Juniors and Seniors on Saturday morning, Sept. 2; Teachers meeting, Saturday, Sept. 2 at 2:30. Very Respectfully, W.S.Drace.”
I thought it was interesting to see the teachers were meeting on Saturday. I found a similar reference in the 1908 catalog of Richmond Schools. Monthly teachers meetings were held at the high school on Saturday mornings at 9:30.
The 1916 paper was full of ads for school supplies and school shoes. At William Marshall and Sons store, you could buy a pair of shoes for $1.50 to $3, but F.G. Weary’s Variety Store had shoes for $1.39 to $2.50 a pair. At Weary’s store you could even use a Village School Shoe coupon.
When this building opened in 1916, Miss Ethel Kirkpatrick moved into room 20 at the southwest corner of the 3rd floor. It was her math room for the next 40 years. Miss Ethel liked math, but she loved sports. It was a known fact that the athletic boys of RHS were know as “Miss Ethel’s Boys.” When it came time to name the new gym in the 1950s, if had to be “Kirkpatrick Auditorium.”
Since Miss Ethel did not pass on until 1976, I am sure she got to enjoy events in the auditorium that shared her name. The 1973 Ray County History Book has a wonderful story about Miss Ethel. It tells the story about her and the teachers of RHS giving up one month’s salary to help pay for the paving of Summit Street in front of the high school.
Wayne Vanbebber remembers playing basketball in the original RHS gym. The basketball goals were attached directly to the walls. He said it was not a pretty sight when you smacked up against one of the metal heat registers on the wall next to the basketball goals.
Postcards High SchoolWhen Kirkpatrick Auditorium was built, the old gym became a study hall and the school library.
When I went to school here in the 1970s, Miss Ethel’s room was still a math room, but we had Mary Julia Merrifield as our math teacher. Her father, Roy Groce, taught here before her. One day in 1947, my father did not want to take a test in Mr. Groce’s class so he informed him that he would not be in class the following day.
Mr. Groce told him that he would get a big fat zero if he did not show up. To make matters worse, my dad joked that he would do a fly-by in his Piper Cub airplane. The next day, he flew by the classroom at eye level and waved. Everyone knew who it was.
He got a zero on the test, but he still got to graduate with his class later that year.
Richmond has always been a supporter of its Spartan teams, but I have to say the 1960s were some of the best years. On Thursday nights, everyone would meet at school and form a line. The band would play and the cheerleaders would lead while everyone joined in the “snake dance.” They went uptown and then back to the high school.
The police would stop traffic and no one would get in the way. One night they made a detour and took the “snake” in the front door of the Farris Theater while a movie was playing. They went down one aisle and back up the other side while the band played on.
It always ended with a bonfire in the parking lot when the procession got back to school.
The fall of 1971 was a very exciting time at RHS. With Tom Adams as coach, our football team won the Missouri AAA State Football championship. Over 1,200 Spartans made the 300-mile round-trip journey to Fulton. Many others listened to the game on the radio. It was a long ride down, but the ride home was much easier because we came home with the championship trophy. This trophy is now on display in the current RHS building.
If you had to walk home, you walked down College Street to get most places. And there was nothing more fun that stopping at Central Drug to get a cherry Coke or a cherry phosphate. We thought we were cool in the “hippy” days of the 1970s, but we were not half as cool as our parents were when they did the same thing in the 1940s and 1950s.
In September 2005, the old RHS building was used to train emergency personnel during a simulated terror attack. Some of the building was demolished in advance and cars were set on fire to make the drill seem realistic. Emergency personal arrived to save volunteer “patients” and the rest is history. Some people gathered to watch the excitement, but I made plans to be out of town that day. Since I was working for an airline Sept. 11, 2001, a terrorist attack at RHS hit a little too close to home for me.
I prefer to think our school went out in a blaze of glory and then went on to the big bonfire in the sky. RIP – RHS, 1916-2005.

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