Clayton High School boys basketball program had a great season in 1941-42. The boys of this year won a District title
and the right to play ball in the Regional with the "big boys". Unfortunately this is all we know of the Clayton
HS basketball program. Team records, coach's names, and great players of this and other great CHS teams are not currently
Payson Beat Mendon in title game.
1st Rd lost to Camp Point 28-27
Quincy beat Quincy Notre Dame in title game
1st Rd lost to Mt. Sterling 69-34
Rushville beat Mt. Sterling in title game
Coach Ralph Van Ormer
Coach Ralph Van Ormer
"Here is a little info to add for Clayton High School. The school nickname was Red Devils
and the school colors were red and black. Richard Rabbitt was the coach in the late 1940's and early
1950's when two of my brothers played. Ralph Van Ormer was coach after Coach Rabbitt
in 1954 and 1955 and then retired when Central HS was built and started in 1955 in Camp Point. I graduated
from Central in 1960.
My mother was a 1920 Clayton graduate as well as three brothers and a sister. The school
has been torn down but the community building/gym still stands, I attended the Clayton HS Alumni dinner two years ago and
it was held in the old gym."
MY MEMORIES OF THE CLAYTON SCHOOL by George H. Shank, Feb 18, 2021
"The above seems to focus on the high school which is valid. However it does not
tell the entire story of just how integral the whole school was to a small town. After consolidation took place
the building still stood and the grade school was still there. Your web site is titled ? Illinois High School "Glory
Days". It is a just and proper title for your site. Make no doubt about it, the "glory" of the small towns was
the high school - especially sports. Also, the smaller the town the more important basketball was.
Why is that you ask. A very valid question. First of all you have to understand
that we are three and four generations away from small rural farming communities. Yes, those small town still exist
but the social-economic structure of them has changed considerably. They are no longer as dependent upon the farmer
for their existence. Now then, farming is a labor intensive business. Therefore a goodly portion of your athletic pool
was down on the farm harvesting in the Fall. So, foot-ball would not be viable. In the Spring track & field
was hampered because of plowing, discing, and planting. Therefore track and field was doable, but a smaller talent pool.
Then came Winter. Rest assured that the farmer was still busy doing maintenance, repairs, and preparations for
Spring activities. Fortunately these activities were not as labor intensive as those of
the Fall and Spring. So, now their sons were available for sports...BASKETBALL!!! That is
why basketball was the glory sport of those
small town high schools.
I do feel quite sure that the high school did have a track and field team. This
statement might seem somewhat contradictory to the paragraph above until you consider that a track and field team would not
require as many athletes as a foot-ball team. Also, one could participate in several different events in a single
meet. My belief in a track and field team is based on the shot put balls. When the
high schools consolidated the grade schoolers became the athlete of the individual grade school. There
was two shot put balls at the Clayton Grade School. One was considerably heavier that the other. Junior High/Middle
School balls weigh 4 kg ( 8.18 lbs). High school balls weigh 12 lbs.
You have two pictures of the school at Clayton. All grades, 1 through 12 attended. Even
the grade school students from the school of at the Lutheran Church attended high school there. Naturally the 1911 building
is the one I started to school in. That would be in 1952. Grades 1 thru 4 were on the first floor. Each had their
own class room. And each had a cloak room for you coat, cap or scarf, and galoshes. Grades 5 thru 8 were
in the basement. 5 & 6 in one room and 7 & 8 in another room. Two grades in one room was not unusual at
the time, after all the baby boom did not start until after WWII. The high school was on the second
floor and consisted of 3 rooms. Facing the building two of the rooms were on your right and the larger one was on your
left. Also, in the basement were the bathrooms, the furnace, and the custodian. He was Andy Ennen
and later Charlie Kindhart. The last high school class was graduated in 1955. Although they finished high school at
Clayton their diplomas read: Central
I think, but not sure, each of the local high schools maintained their own basketball
team until the consolidated school opened for the 1955-56 school year. I do remember of attending basketball games at
the Community Building in town.
Both Bill Knight and I have mentioned about the Community Hall located at 110 N. Jefferson
St. The following will be about both the High School?s usage and usage by the community in general. It is important
for people that did not experience it to understand just how important both aspects, school and community, that these buildings
were to a small town, at that point in time. I believe, but am not positive, that Clayton?s Community Building was built
in 1926. So, that leads to the question of where did the High School play basketball before that. The answer is
the Benson building ? more on that later.
To continue this portion I need to describe the building. The ball court was between
the stage and the spectators area, where the projectionist booth was located. As for the High School they would have
both practiced and played ball there. That would be important to the school, but what about the community. Well,
people that did not have a car could still walk there and cheer for the team.
Another benefit was that of graduation. The larger schools of today will limit
the amount of tickets that you can get for graduation ceremonies. In Clayton, the building offered plenty of seating
therefore grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and friends could attend.
Let?s not forget ?fund raising?. I am not sure what other event this might have
been associated with but I do remember this part of fund raising was out front of the community center. You paid a small
fee for the opportunity to put a hole in an old car. It was a win-win situation for the the students. They handed
you a sledge hammer and you whacked away. Now then, a sledge hammer will not put a hole in a car body. A dent
- yes, but not a hole. There you go folks, no
payout, just 100% profit.
What about the school play. Every year the high schoolers would put on a play.
With plenty of seating area on the ball court it was no problem to serve all that wanted to attend.
Well, that?s about it for the school?s usage of the of the building, but not necessarily
that of the students as individuals. The following will be about other uses of the center, some of which will include students
but not as a school function. They two most important functions to both the town in general and to
the graduates of the Clayton School would be that of the Lions Club's Annual ?Pancake and Sausage Day? and
of Alumni. Before I explain about these two events you have to understand that the Lion?s Club membership would almost
exclusively be that of graduates of the Clayton School. Also, Alumni was geared for those that graduated from the school.
The school part needs to be tempered by the fact it included those that graduated from Central that were from the Clayton
The "Pancake and Sausage Day" was the main fund raiser of the year for the Lions Club.
It was a day long affair covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The students figure into this by the comradery
of the event. Most of the patrons would have been graduates of the High School. So, they would get to see and
talk with some of their friends that they hadn't seen for awhile.
Alumni, a gathering of the graduates, was the social event of the year for Graduates
of the schools, both Clayton and Central. Dinner was catered in the basement followed with various comments by the attendees.
That would be followed by an evening of music and dancing upstairs. The band occupied the stage and the revelers
used the ball court. So, again the building served the students in a manner of speaking.
The structure was used in various other ways many of which benefited students on an non-school
basis. One of these would be a recital. Every once-in-a-while a dance teacher would get up a class with preteens
as her students. After all the lessons and practices were done she would have a recital at the hall. That is how
I learned to tap dance.
Another usage was that of dances for the teenagers. Camp Point, Clayton and Golden
seem to take turns doing this. Of course these dances were at their own community structure. It wasn?t like the
other two school were ?invading? the host?s territory. The Rock?N?Roll era was in full swing at that time. So,
we all pretty much knew each other because we attended the consolidated high school.
Then there was the roller rink. Yes, a roller rink using the gym floor. By
now our structure no was no longer used for basketball games. So, the operator had plenty of room in the spectator area
to store his skates. And the kids had a place to skate. People of all ages used the rink. It was mostly
teenagers and preteens but sometimes a few adults would be there and also some children.
There is one last usage of the site that will seem a bit odd until explained. It
served as a warehouse for Shank Canning and Fruit. The canning part of it was that of tomatoes. They used a #303
can and the only thing in the can was tomatoes, water, and a salt tablet. Compare that to the ingredients on a can of
tomatoes today. Anyway, it was run by Henry Shank, my grandfather and his nephew Herb Shank. He was the husband
of Helen Shank. She was a teacher listed below. Of course, like most produce tomatoes were a seasonal thing and
had to be processed immediately. Therefore storage of the canned product required a warehouse. The Community building
served quite well for this. By the time the basement was needed for other usage the tomatoes would have been shipped
to various grocery stores. Since tomatoes are a seasonal thing most of the workers in the cannery would have been
women. Back in those days most women did not have a full time job after getting married. They were house wives
and mothers picking up a few extra dollars for the household. Also, most of them would have been graduates of the Clayton
The school did not have a cafeteria when I first started. You either went home for lunch
or had a lunch pail. Shortly though a cafeteria was added to the back of the building. Most of the time I went
back to the restaurant that my mom owned for lunch. However I did eat at the school on certain occasions. One
would be when the home economics class made chili. The other would be when mom knew she would have a large crowd in
for lunch. This would be on the order of the bank directors meeting or when the politicians came to town. They
would be the ones running for county offices.
When the new high school opened the basement crew took over the upper floor. I
was in 5th grade that year so I never had a class, other than music, in the basement. Back then I think everybody had
music class. I did experience both 5th and 6th grade in the same classroom. In time the larger room used by the
high schoolers was divided into two class rooms and that is where the 5th grade went. It was on the front side of the
building and was ready for the 1958-59 school year.
I have mentioned about the school and the class rooms so lets get a little more specific.
This will mostly be about the grade school. All I remember about the high school was the basic lay out as stated
above. I only remember of one teacher, Carl Clapper. He had a skeleton in a box in the cloak room. Surely
Ralph Van Omer, the principle, would have been another teacher. Other than that I do not know. There is one other
teacher that I am aware of as both my father (W.W. ?Bill? Shank) and my Uncle Bruce, who graduated in 1938, mentioned him.
That would be Professor Brewster.
Okay, this is the lay out after the high school moved out for school year 1955-56. You are now facing
Left Front 1st Grade Mrs Padgett
Right Front 3rd Grade Mrs Flanigan
Left Rear 4th Grade Mrs Clevenger
Right Rear 2nd Grade Mrs Brillhart
Left Front 5th Grade Mrs Stevens (Starting in school year 1958-59).
Right Front 6th Grade Mr. Hamilton (Previous to ?58-59 he had
& 6th Grades in the same room.)
Left Rear 8th Grade Mr. Sickles (He was the Principle).
Right Rear 7th Grade Mrs Shank (A cousin to me. Later she taught Latin
the District high school).
Left Front Music, movie room, indoor recess.
Center Heating plant and janitor?s quarters.
Right Front Girls bathroom.
Left Rear Indoor recess ? unknown if any other uses.
Right Rear Boys bathroom
I am not sure of exactly how large the campus was but 2 or 3 acres would not be out of
the question. The school fronted the west side of N. Adams Street with Washington Street (now known as Maine St) being
the cross street. However, it was not at the corner where a house fronted Washington. The north side was
bound by Green Street and the back side by a farm field. Out in front of the school Adams Street started sloping downwards
to a natural drainage of the geography of Clayton. This meant that Green Street had cut a bank along the north edge
of the school property. In the winter kids would bring their sleds to school and use them on the bank whenever it snowed.
Again, facing the school, the left front yard had a set of bars good for doing chin ups.
Also, that is where the teeter-totters and the merry-go-round were located. I believe that 1st and 2nd Grades
took recess there. The north front yard didn?t have much, possibly the parking lot for the teachers. I think,
beyond that, is where 3rd Grade took outside recess. Along the south side of the building was the swing sets. And
just past them was the recess area for 4th Grade. The other four grades used the ball field behind the building.
Home plate to first base ran parallel to the back of he school building. Right
field ran out towards Green Street and left field went as far as the farm field. There was not a fence around it, just
the back stop. I do not believe that there was ever a high school game played there - too many home runs because the
ball would be lost in the farm field. If the high school had a ball team they might have had practiced there.
Any games would have to had been played at the town softball located at the Old Settler?s grounds. But, it had
a flat pitcher?s mound. If the high school did have a ball team they might have used their opponents fields even if
they were the home team for that particular game. One other comment about high school baseball at Clayton. I do
not recall of anyone ever talking about it.
This is not to say that the field did not get used. At recess and especially after
lunch we would get up a game. This would be after the High School moved out to Central. Also a bunch of us kids
around town would use it during the summer. Of course there was no bases set out so a piece of paper, or a leaf, or
what ever was available was used. The game would continue until we either got tired or it degenerated to that other
childhood game: "Who Can Shout The Loudest" Hmmm!!!
In the fall it was our ?football field?. No grid iron stripes or any thing like
that, just a bunch of kids playing a pick up game. It too would last until we got tired or the shouting match started. We
did not tackle, it was either ?touch? or, if everybody had a handkerchief it would be flag football with the ?flag? hanging
out of your back pocket.
In the following comment the field is only used as a reference point. A few years
after the high move out a basketball hoop was erected paralleling the Home plate/3rd base line. Not much dribbling was
done there because just plain ol' ground is not a good surface on which to dribble a ball. So, we mostly played HORSE.
A few years after that, on the north side (Green Street) of the cafeteria, some black top was laid and a hoop install.
That worked quite well for our pick up games. I would have been in high school by this time.
Back to the high school for this one. Upstairs was where the pop machine and the
candy machine was located. Not much in the way of refreshments by today?s standards of a concession stand. Also,
a soda and a candy bar was not the healthier type of snacks that schools have today.
A couple more comments and then I will be done. First is the 'landing pit' for
high jump and pole vault. It was on the north side of the building and in an area that would not be considered part
of the ball field. The padding in the pit was sawdust. This would mean that the jumper or pole vaulter would have to
land on his feet at least enough to break his fall should that occur. Fortunately the Fosbury Flop was not in vogue
at the time.
Okay, where did the high schoolers play basketball? Both Bill Knight and I have
referenced the Community Hall. So then the question indicates that there was more than one place that they played. That
would be at what I knew as the Benson building. That is the name I knew it by in the 1950?s. The two story building
was located across the street from the south east corner of the Public Square (South St & East St). Being a kid
I never noticed that for a two story building it was rather tall. The extra height of the second floor was where the
basketball court was. My father, W.W. ?Bill? Shank took me up there one time. There was not much extra room for
more that the ball court. That leads me to believe that there could not have been very many spectators if any at all.
Dad was born in 1906 so, he probably started high school around 1920. This is important because dad played basket
ball when he was in school. The time frame is important because, if memory serves me correct, the Community Building
was not built until 1926. I could be wrong on that date, but dad did play
ball in the Benson building.
I hope this contributes to your efforts to find and preserve the history of schools that
are no longer there."