’61 Springfield graduates reflect on North-South split

They started at one high school, graduated from two.

Staff Writer

The most significant thing the South and North high school classes of 1961 have to say about the first year the separated high schools had graduating classes will be said the first weekend in August when they celebrate their 50th class reunions — together.

The separate commencement exercises half a century ago prevented the classes that started their high school careers together on South Limestone Street from setting a record for the largest class to graduate from Springfield High.

Those same numbers in a growing city had required more classroom space and led to the construction of a new North High.

Here are their recollections.

Jerry Armstrong

The expansion in 1960 to a second public high school ... showed that Springfield was growing.

To the students, the end result was that 62 percent of the Springfield High School 11th-grade class stayed to graduate from Springfield South.

I still prefer to celebrate as one entity. We were all students of Springfield High School.

This is the school that had turned 100 the year when we started.

It was the Springfield High School that celebrated 50 years the year we graduated. It was the high school where our mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles had attended and taught. It was the school where even our grandparents and great-grandparents had attended.

Ed Wynn

There are two things that come to mind (about the old Springfield High).

The most vivid is Charley Fox running SHS with complete control. His presence was enough to control 99 percent of your demeanor. If he stared at you, you shaped up. If he called you out, you were in trouble. If he had to “lay hands” on you, God help you.

The other was the mysterious swimming pool under the cafeteria floor.

North High was my senior year and is kind of a blur. All I wanted was to be graduating and be done!

Phil and Sandee Christopher Westfall were both high achievers at South High School. Both were Top 10 outstanding students and in the National Honor Society.

Sandee was part of the homecoming court, was a majorette in the band and in drama and choir.

He won eight varsity letters, was first team All Ohio as a quarterback in football. He also was first team All Ohio in baseball and won the Clark County Outstanding Athletic & Scholastic Achievement Award and won a scholarship to play football at Indiana University.

Sandee: My parents graduated from Springfield High School, where my father was the drum major of the band. My older brother (Steve Christopher) also graduated from SHS, as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins.

I could not imagine attending a “new” high school and leave the rich heritage and family tradition behind. So, every morning my cousin, Roger Stephens came by to give me a ride. We then went to the North side to get Dave Rush and Gorman Gilbert before heading across town.

Phil: I did not have a choice as to which high school to attend. However, if I had had a choice, I am sure that I would have chosen South.

Academics were very important to me as I was certain that I would attend a college. Sports were also very important to me, and the opportunity to participate in football under coach Lowell Storm would not have been an option for me (at North).

Cindy Fox Carter

Our class was unique.

The stature, spirit, program, people and traditions of SHS got us off to a good start. To be students at SHS was a pleasure and honor — we were part of a great tradition.

After the split, the seniors at both North and South had many more opportunities for leadership. Two high schools meant two of everything.

So we gave up class size and seeing some of our friends daily but gained in having more chances to lead our schools.

Rod Riggle

Myself and a handful of others had the opportunity to attend both schools in our senior year.

The old Springfield High School had a couple of vocational courses that were only taught at one or two other schools in the state. Each of us in that situation had to attend South in the morning and North in the afternoon.

The board of education supplied us with a taxi that was to transport us to North, but I do not recall it ever being used. Each of us in that situation was given the choice of which school we wanted to graduate from. I chose to graduate from South, as I couldn’t bring myself to accept a new alma mater, fight song, principal etc.

I, for one, am glad we are back to one city high school.

Carole Werber Murdoch

There was a mystique about Springfield High School. I walked the same halls as my father had so many years before.

There always seemed a bit of romance and mystery within its walls. I remember couples in the shadows beneath the stairs, sharing special moments. My naive self was fascinated at their boldness.

Then there was the amazing and huge auditorium. We had concerts, plays, and speakers. The dome in the center of the building held the most fascination for me though sadly I never got to go up there. Walking through the doors of Springfield High made me want to do my very best.

At the end of my junior year, I chose to go to the new high school since North High was built in own neighborhood. There was the trauma of leaving something known for something new and leaving behind many of my friends.

North High was a new building and, as such, a special place to be. Yet, this modern red-brick building became more of a setting for being a high school senior involved with friends and activities than a building that inspired a special bit of magic.