In an earlier History of Lake Co. book by Bowers, Taylor, Woods of 1929, it stated: Center School (all brick, 4 classrooms, full basement, modern) built in 1926 by F.E. Muzzal & Sons, at a cost of $ 40,000.00. Winifred Bryant was Trustee then.
Center School is located on Range Line Rd. (Clay St.) north of St. Rd. #2. It opened for school students in Sept. 1927. The first teachers were: Bertha Garriott -- 1st & 2nd grades; Mildred Sparling -- 3rd & 4th grades; Elizabeth Bradford -- 5th & 6th grades; Hubert Long (principal) -- 7th & 8th grades. Grace McPhearson was the music teacher (later becoming Mrs. Klein). The first bus drivers were: Martin Fisher, Clayton Bryant & Albert Schilling. (Later Eliz. Bradford became Mrs. Martin Fisher.) Ray Rinkenberger was a 1st grader in the new school and supplied the above information.
Thomas K. Fisher became Twp. Trustee in 1931 and held that position for 16 yrs. Ted Van Swearingen was custodian for many years. In the spring of 1934, the school grounds were landscaped by the community. All the labor was donated. (No funds were in the budget.) The Monon Rwy. Co., which owned the abandoned Gifford Rwy. property, donated the limestone which was used for the new retaining wall around the playground area.. The Pennsy. Rwy. that ran through LeRoy, donated a carload of cinders to cover the parking lot for the school. Purdue U. sent specialists to landscape. All native shrubbery was used, dug up from the woods, fields & roadsides in Eagle Creek Twp. A beautiful job. Dec. 23, 1938, some parents started serving hot lunches to the school children. They were indeed welcomed.
During the mid to late 30's, the following teachers were remembered: Dorothy Turner, (soon became Mrs. Oehmich), Helen Sparling, Helen A. Shew, Anna Weiland, Geneva McCammon, Clara Knarr, Charlotte Knarr, Prin. Byron McCammon, Prin. Merle Allyn, Prin. C.A. Anderson.
Other later ones incl. Prin. Kenneth Wright; Dorothy Hewitt -- who taught for 16 yrs., from 1942-1958; Ila Jean Heckel; Margaret Wright; Elizabeth Fisher; Carol Bryant; Mary Childress; Bonita Schrag*; Vernice Hough & Prin. Mr. Smead.
After re-organization took place, there are records of who taught at Center. Kindergarten teachers were: Virginia Jerzyk, Hemia Wilson, Karla Crewes, Janet Gray, Jean Schaffer, & Kathy Bryant. 1st grade teachers were: Bonita Schragg*, Wanda Frank, Judy Rieke, Linda Fox, Rose Huber, Marilyn Marr. 2nd grade teachers were: Margaret Coffman, Sally Blend, Shirley Angelidis. 3rd grade teachers were: Shirley Angelidis Mary Bush & Stephanie Werner. 4th grade teachers were: Stan Hurst, Denny Miller, Judy Keithley, Jane Gorbal, Russ Hodges, Duane Aiken, Joyce Milakovic. 5th grade was Joyce Milakovic. Principals were: Stan Hurst, Doug Wiseman, Jim Cooper & Jack Foss. The above list is not in perfect order, and perhaps some names have been omitted over the years. (The writer apologies to anyone missed.)
EAGLE CREEK residents will miss their elementary school when it closes; but memories will linger for those who were privileged to gain their early education within it is walls.
* NOTE -- In this article, the last name of one of the teachers has two different spellings: Schrag and Schragg.
In June of 1990 an era will come to an end in Eagle Creek Township. Center Elementary School will close its doors to students for the last time. Many residents will miss the small country school, but those nearest to Center Elementary School -- local residents, former staff members, and Center alumni -- will always have memories to hold and share.
Center School, an all brick four classroom schoolhouse, was built in Eagle Creek Township at a cost of $40,000 in 1926. In September of 1927 the doors were opened to its first group of students. The building housed grades one through eight with two grade levels in each classroom. The first teachers at Center were:
Many changes occurred during the years. In 1934 community volunteers landscaped the school grounds by using native shrubbery from local woods and fields. Parents organized the first hot lunch program in 1938 with soup and sandwiches being the main bill of fare. Fifty-five charter members formed the first Parents and Teachers Association of Eagle Creek Township in 1951. The group organized fund-raising activities to purchase basketball uniforms and kitchen equipment to expand the hot lunch program (25 cents a meal). The building was expanded in 1962 when two classrooms, a multi-purpose room, and cafeteria were added. Eagle Creek merged with Cedar Creek and West Creek Townships in 1963 to form the Tri-Creek School Corporation. In the fall of 1966 seventh and eighth graders were brought into Lowell, and Center became a kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school. More recently the school has housed students through fourth grade.
If the walls of Center Elementary School could talk, they would talk of favorite teachers, social gatherings, and special events -- or maybe that unwanted visit to the principal's office. The little country school will be missed.
(Special thanks to Stan Hurst and Dorothy Sorensen for the historical information cited in this article)
All alumni and others who are interested will be able to tour the building, meet with fellow alumni, and reminisce about past years at Center School.
Center School, an all-brick, four classroom schoolhouse, was built in Eagle Creek Twp. at a cost of $40,000 in 1926. The first group of students started attending classes in September 1927. In the spring of 1934, the school grounds were landscaped by community volunteers. All native shrubbery was used, dug from the fields, woods, and roadsides in Eagle Creek.
The Monon Railway Co., which owned the abandoned Gifford Co., donated the limestone which was used for the retaining wall around the play ground area.
The Pennsylvania Railway in Leroy donated the cinders for the parking lot.
In December of 1938, parents organized the first hot lunch program, serving soup and sandwiches.
The first PTA was formed in 1951. The group organized fund-raising activities to purchase basketball uniforms and kitchen equipment.
In 1962, the building was expanded, adding two new classrooms, a multi-purpose room and the cafeteria.
In 1963, Eagle Creek merged with Cedar Creek and West Creek to form Tri-Creek School Corp.
"We welcome you to come and reminisce with us and refreshments will be served by Center School's PTC," said one organizer. Center School sweatshirts will be on sale for the last time at the Open House.
At the end of the article, the following people were listed as being on the Center School Reunion Committee: Ray Rinkenberger, Verna Vandercar, Dorothy Sorenson, Peg Clark and Nancy Carter.
"Thanks for the Memories."
As a member of the first class to graduate, in 1928, from Center School, what a joy it was Sunday (May 6) to go there to reminisce and visit with neighbors and friends.
In September, 1927, we came from South Eagle Creek, Plum Grove, and South East Grove to go to our beautiful new school building. It had four rooms, real toilets inside, electricity and running water!!!
Standing in the gym downstairs (last week), I thought of the community meetings, box socials and other activities that had taken place there.
I went outside to west of building, looked at the rows of pine trees, playground swings and recalled going with my father, T.K. Fisher, then township trustee, to supervise the WPA men putting them in place.
The memories are many and cherished. Thanks again, Center.
Ruth 'Pinkie' Fisher Nelson
South Bend, Indiana
The brick four-classroom schoolhouse was built in 1926 and opened for business in September 1927, housing grades one through eight with two grades in a classroom.
Teachers then taught two grades. The first teachers were Bertha Gariott, first and second; Mildred Sparling, third and fourth; Elizabeth Bradford, fifth and sixth grades; Hubert Long, seventh and eighth; Grace McPhearson, music; and Long also served as principal.
Although many changes have occurred throughout the years, and the school has recently served only grades kindergarten through four, some things seem the same. Wiseman has not only served as principal but also as fourth grade teacher at Center.
Other notable changes include landscaping done by volunteers in 1934 using shrubbery from local woods and fields. The hot lunch program began in 1938 with soup and sandwiches. The first P-T-A began in 1951 and the group organized fund raisers for everything from sports uniforms to kitchen equipment.
In 1962 two classrooms and a multi-purpose room and cafeteria were added.
Eagle Creek merged with Cedar and West Creek townships in 1963 to form the Tri-Creek School Corporation. In 1966, the seventh and eighth graders were taken to Lowell with Center then having kindergarten through sixth grades only. Later the fifth and sixth graders were transported and the little country school housed only students through fourth grades.
Other principals at Center included Stan Hurst, Jim Cooper, Jack Foss, Gaylord Corten, Bernard Bland, Kenneth Wright, W, Smead, C.A. Anderson, Merle Allyn, Byron McCammon, Sydney Carlson and Hubert Long.
At the recent open house attended by more than 300, folks came from as far away as Florida and Washington State to see their old school. One visitor attended the school in 1926. It was like a family reunion, principal Wiseman reported.
Ending up his second year as principal and ninth year with the Tri-Creek School Corporation, Wiseman will teach fourth grade next year at the new elementary school. The new school building, nearing completion, will serve kindergarten through fifth grade and will have as principal Linda Hopper, who has been elementary coordinator for Tri-Creek.
Historical information was gathered about the school through Stan Hurst, Dorothy Sorensen and Wiseman. Hurst, who had served as a principal at both the former Shelby and Center schools, is presently the principal at Lake Prairie Elementary School.
The Tri-Creek School Corp. decided last year to close the school and build a new elementary school. The 106 students who attended Center this year will be transferred to Three Creeks Elementary in Lowell this fall. The small country school holds fond memories for many teachers, students and alumni. When Center opened its door in 1927, first-through-eighth-grades pupils attended the four-classroom school, two grades in each room. In 1952, the school expanded to six classrooms and a multipurpose cafeteria.
However, the school is still small enough that an intercom system was never installed. According to Principal Douglas Wiseman, also a fourth-grade teacher at Center, a bull horn was still used for drills, and in-house messages were carried by word of mouth.
Raymond Rinkenberger of Hebron started his school days as a first-grader at Center in 1927. He remembers playing baseball in the schoolyard on Friday afternoons.
"It's a country school, Everyone knew everyone, and they all got along," Rinkenberger said.
With its hardwood floors and high ceilings, Center Elementary has also touched the hearts of today's pupils. Christina Barath, a fourth-grader at Center, said she'll miss the school when she transfers to Three Creeks in the fall.
"I like it because it isn't in town; its small and everyone knows each other," Barath, 10, said. "It'll be hard to go to a new school, because it will feel like you're being separated from your friend."
Leaving the small country school atmosphere of Center seems to be the hardest part of closing the school for pupils and faculty alike.
While no celebrations or long goodbyes marked the school closing, the empty corridors will echo with the laughter of small children for as long as the outer walls stand.
All but one board member, John Bryant, agreed Thursday to demolish the school in rural Eagle Creek Township, Bryant is a graduate of Center and Eagle Creek's representative to the board.
Last month it appeared the building might be saved, when Bryant suggested appraisals be done based on land alone and with the building.
But the appraisal came in Thursday with a $1,000 value with the building and a $29,970 value without it.
The high cost for heating and the remote location were cited by the appraiser, William Langen.
The board accepted bids for demolition last month. GVK Corp. of DeMotte came in with the low bid of $29,900. Additional costs for the removal of two fuel storage tanks puts the demolition cost at about $35,000.
Board member Lynn Bochart said she had concerns that, should the building and land be bought and late abandoned, the community would be left with an unsafe eyesore.
Board President Edward Anderson agreed. "We don't want an unsightly ghost for the people of Eagle Creek. Let them remember it as it was."
The board also agreed to allot an additional $15,000 from the cumulative building fund to handle the higher-than-anticipated demolition costs. Earlier this year, the board approved $45,000 to cover asbestos removal at the school, as well as the demolition.
Eagle Creek residents at the meeting made little comment, as they accepted a decision that had been long expected.
Go to Schools--Center School, "Pioneer History Index," for further information.
Go to 8th Grade Graduation, 1938 -- Center School for further information.
Return to Lowell Biographies.