MENTONE — Consolidation had a major impact on schools in the 1960s and 1970s. Prior to consolidation, even the smaller communities had their own high schools.
As the years go by and graduates of those schools have passed away, memories of the schools tend to fade away unless documented in some way. Later this year, a book simply known as the “Mentone High School History Book” will be released.
Harmony Marketing Group, based in Bourbon, is publishing the 160-page book, set to be released in time for the May 19 banquet of the Mentone High School Alumni Association. The book will contain class histories from 1892-1975, along with many photos and an extensive history of Mentone schools.
Alice Keirn, a member of the alumni committee, also volunteers at the Old Jail Museum in Warsaw and noticed other county schools already had books. “I thought, we need to do it for Mentone too,” she noted.
A presentation was made at the 2018 alumni banquet and later alumni board president LeRoy Markley, who has since passed away, commissioned a committee to work on the history book project. Sue Creighton, who has a background in marketing and design, did much of the design and content work.
History of Mentone schools dates to the one-room township schoolhouses scattered throughout the countryside near Mentone. About 15 years before the town of Mentone was founded, Morgan School was built at what is now the intersection of state roads 19 and 25. In 1883, due to an increase in the population of Mentone, a large frame building replaced the old wooden schoolhouse on the same site.
That building burned down and in 1893 a brick building was erected at Broadway and Harrison streets. It became a four-year high school in 1908. Then in 1930, contracts were signed and work was started on the Mentone and Harrison Township High School at the corner of Jackson and Yale streets.
The new school was to be fireproof, built of brick, two stories high with a large basement and a modern kitchen well-equipped for serving noon lunches. It was also made available for community gatherings. A ceremony was held in November 1930 to lay the cornerstone and the new building opened in 1932.
Another major development occurred when a new gym with a stage, band room and classrooms were added to the east end of the school in 1953. Prior to 1953, the Mentone Community Building was used.
Until the 1970s the building at Jackson and Yale served as the school for all grades in Mentone. The last class to graduate from the high school was in 1974. Consolidation had already occurred years earlier in other nearby school districts and the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation had formed.
Students still attended classes in the Mentone building for part of the 1974-75 school year, but finished the year and graduated in the new Tippecanoe Valley High School near Akron in the spring of 1975. The old Mentone High School building was torn down in 1999, but part of the entrance and the gym were preserved and are part of what is now Mentone Elementary School.
Creighton noted one of the main purposes for publishing the book is “to preserve the class photos,” which are now also hanging on a wall in Mentone Elementary. Keirn said she started with the class of 1942 and contacted graduates to get their memories documented.
“If not now, it would probably never get done,” Keirn said regarding the book, noting the youngest members of the alumni association are 62 or 63 years old now.
Among the many memories contained in the book is recalling students were sent home right away upon the news breaking President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated Nov. 22, 1963. “They didn’t know what was going to happen, so they just sent all the kids home,” Keirn said.
If interested in purchasing a book, which must be ordered no later than Jan. 31, call (574) 269-1170, visit the Facebook page “Mentone High School Class of 1962” to download an order form or email [email protected]