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Our Town: A graduate’s ode to the original O’Fallon High School building

For a short time, O’Fallon High School, before it became a township high school, was located in a single building that once stood at the southwest corner of Fifth and Cherry streets.

It was home to the high school from the time it was built in 1912 until 1925 when a newer building was constructed at Route 50 and Cherry.

Both buildings were torn down in 1992.

What was the building like in its high school days? For the 1918 yearbook, Senior Mary Irene Darrow wrote this ode to the building she was about to leave for the adult world beyond.

“The dear old O.H.S. is a beautiful red brick building situated on the corner of Cherry street and St. Louis road. It is surrounded by a terraced lawn, containing beautiful flower beds and lovely shade trees. In the front of the building are spotless white cement walks, in the rear and on the sides, cinder walks. To the south of the building is the playground with a complete playground apparatus, and along its edge runs a little babbling brooklet.

“The building itself is a huge red brick edifice consisting of thirty-five rooms, on the basement floor fifteen, first floor nine, second ten, and one on the third floor.

“The auditorium which is situated on the second floor is a spacious hall containing eighty-four desks. In the front of the room is the desk of the professor who daily drills the lessons into some poor mortal’s sleepy head. The walls on both sides are lined with picturesque and enlightening pictures, some of them being, ‘Wood Nymphs,’ ‘Sir Galahad,’ ‘The Gleaners,’ ‘Stag at Bay,’ ‘Shakespeare’s Birth Place,’ and ‘Aurora.’

“From the ceiling beautiful cut glass chandeliers and gold fixtures are suspended. A magnificent mahogany piano stands to the left front and near it a library table and chair of the same costly wood.

“Passing on to the back of the room we find a stand containing a set of encyclopedias, a dictionary and a Century Book of Facts. In this place many hours of diligent study are passed by the knowledge-seeking students. We now pass a row of six windows glistening like mirrors. In the corner opposite the encyclopedia stand is an enormous glass bookcase filled with historical reference books of every description.

“Another item worthy of note in this renowned hall of learning is the waste basket which will hold nearly a ton of waste paper and pencil shavings. Also along the ledge of the blackboard are shields, cups, medals and prizes of all kinds won by our athletes.

“Passing out into the hall we espy a white marble drinking fountain from which the water rushes; and playing around the base are silver and goldfish. A door opening to the right of this leads us into the spacious library. The walls are lined with book cases filled with the best of books and in the center of the room is a table covered with the latest magazines, papers and pamphlets. The telephone is also in this room and here many a pleasant little chat takes place with no one but the librarian to hear.

“A door opening to the left of the fountain leads us into the office, that sanctified spot. What tremors we feel as we enter! We tarry but a short time for we feel that we are trespassing. There are also many other places of interest, but the most important have been described.”

75 years ago, June 3, 1948

The thirty-third annual commencement exercises of the St. Clair County rural and village public schools will be held Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock in the auditorium of Belleville Township High School. The commencement program and list of graduates was announced by County Superintendent of Schools Clarence D. Blair. The program will open with music by the Caseyville grade school band under the direction of Carl Von Brock. Dr. Charles A. Lee, professor of education of Washington University, St. Louis, will be the commencement speaker. The presentation of diplomas will be made by Supt. Blair. (The schools represented were Shiloh Village, Central, Black Jack, Oak Hill, Richwood, Enterprise, Bethel, Pontiac, Grant, and Union Hill.)

50 years ago, May 31, 1973

An agreement between City of O’Fallon officials and the rural Fire District on the construction of a fire engine building on Highway 50 near the old Terminal railroad crossing was reached and is expected to be approved by the City Council. The fire engine building will provide two pieces of fire fighting equipment on the south side of the railroad tracks. Work on the new building should be started soon and completion within two months. The city acquired the ground from the State of Illinois. The land was part of a state highway right of way no longer needed. When the need for an additional fire engine building was determined the city agreed to lease the site to the rural district that has its own tax rate. The fire department is supported by local tax funds, rural district taxes and the efforts of the volunteer fire department. The same personnel serve both the city and rural areas. (The new fire station at Route 50 and West Third Street opened in the summer of 1974.)