The History of Atwood-Hammond High School
Atwood (population 1,290) is located in lower-eastern Illinois about 25 miles east of Decatur. Atwood is unique in that it stradles the county lines of Piatt (western Atwood) and Douglas (eastern Atwood) counties.U.S. Route 36 passes by the south side of town. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad travels through the center of town. The Lake Fork Creek passes by the western edge of Atwood.
Atwood was officially recognized as a town in 1874. It’s name is likely taken from a town of a similar name in the eastern USA. However, some say the town name is derived from statements made by early settlers who would often meet “at the wood” or that the original town was described as “one at the wood.”
Hammond (population 518) is located in east-central Illinois about 17 miles east of Decatur. This places Hammond in south-central Piatt County. U.S. Route 36 is the main roadway to and from Hammond and runs by the south side of town. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad runs through the north side of town. According to Map Quest (www.mapquest.com) the Hammond Mutual Ditch flows by the east side of town.
The village was established in 1873. Its original names included Shumway and Unity. It was decided eventually to name the village after the president of the newly erected Indianapolis-Decatur- Springfield Railroad line which passed through town. His name was Charles Hammond.
Both Atwood and Hammond supported their own high schools from the early 1900s (possibly even the late 1800s) through the late 1940s. It was in 1948 that the two communities agreed to consolidate their educational efforts. Atwood-Hammond High School was formed in the summer of 1948.
Atwood- Hammond High School served the two communities and surrounding farm kids very well for 64 years. The school survived consolidation talks as early as the late 1980s. In 2011 studies were conducted concerning the feasibility of consolidating the Atwood-Hammond School District with the nearby Arthur School District. In the spring of 2013 voters of both school districts passed resolutions to allow for the merger. The Atwood-Hammond voters passed the initiative by a vote of 456-327.
The 2013-14 school year was the final one for Atwood-Hammond High School. The final senior class graduated in May of 2014. In the fall of 2014 high school students from the Atwood-Hammond area will attend Arthur High School. The Atwood-Hammond High School building is projected to be torn down in the summer of 2014.
Atwood-Hammond High School Quick Facts
Year established: 1948
Year closed: 2014
Consolidated to: Arthur High School
A-H HS nickname: “Rajahs” (boys) / “Rajenes” (girls)
A-H HS team colors: Black & Gold
A-H HS Fight Song:
The Atwood-Hammond High School sports teams have enjoyed many successful seasons over the years. The most successful was the IHSA Class 1A State Championship won in football in 1980. Below are listed all of the athletic accomplishments and season records as found on the IHSA website (www.ihsa.org) . The teams competed in the Little Okaw Valley Conference. We are seeking more information and photos of these and other great teams in Atwood-Hammond High School history.
**From the Atwood-Hammond High School website (2014) http://www.ah.k12.il.us/ :
“History of the RAJAH”
“Atwood-Hammond High School was the first of two schools to own the Rajah nickname. There is not a specific date that the Rajah nickname became effective, but it occurred sometime in the late 1920s. It was by accident that Atwood-Hammond High School became the Rajahs. Coach Clarence Edward Rogers, better known as “Rog” by his close friends, was a longtime Atwood coach.
Eddie Jacquin, a sports editor of a local newspaper, devised the nickname after Coach “Rog” while he was speaking with some officials prior to a football game. One of those officials explained that “Rog” meant prince of a fellow. Eddie Jacquin then stated “Rog is a Rajah”, which Rajah means an Indian prince or chief. Newspapers in the area began referring to Atwood as the Rajahs when writing about the Atwood teams.
Two schools, Atwood-Hammond High School in Atwood, IL and Indio High School in Indio, CA, are over 1800 miles apart and are the only two schools to have the Rajah mascot. For approximately 30 years, Atwood was the only school with the Rajah nickname, because Indio High School wasn’t built until 1958.”
Atwood-Hammond entered into a co-op agreement with Bement High School beginning in the 1994-95 school year. The sports of football, girls basketball, baseball, and track were all a part of the agreement. The uniform colors were black, yellow, purple, and white. This agreement lasted until the 2011-2012 school year ended. Thank you to Andrew Brown for this bit of information.
The Atwood-Hammond High School “Rajahs” won the IHSA State Class 1A Championship in the Fall of 1980. This was an incredible accomplishment for what was probably one of the smaller schools in the field of teams. The Atwood-Hammond boys continued competing on their own for many years. It is believed to have been in the mid-1990s that the school began a cooperative agreement with nearby Arthur regarding it’s football program. However, the Rajahs may have competing on their own well into the 2000’s. If you have this information please contact us.
1950-51 1 – 6 – 1 Coach Les Gadbury
1951-52 7 – 2 Coach Les Gadbury
1952-53 5 – 3 Coach Les Gadbury
1953-54 1 – 7 Coach Les Gadbury
1954-55 5 – 3 Coach Les Gadbury
1955-56 7 – 0 Undefeated Season! Coach Les Gadbury
1956-57 5 – 2 – 1 Coach Les Gadbury
1957-58 5 – 2 Coach Les Gadbury
1958-59 4 – 2 – 2 Coach Les Gadbury
1959-60 2 – 6 Coach Don Magee
1960-61 3 – 5 Coach Don Magee
1961-62 5 – 3 Coach Don Magee
1962-63 4 – 3 – 1 Coach Don Magee
1963-64 2 – 6 Coach Bob Williams
1964-65 2 – 6 Coach Bob Williams
1965-66 7 – 1 Coach Larry Higgins
1966-67 1 – 6 Coach Lynn Strack
1967-68 4 – 4 Coach Lynn Strack
1968-69 8 – 0 Undefeated Season! Coach Lynn Strack
1969-70 1 – 5 – 2 Coach John Ganley
1970-71 4 – 3 – 1 Coach John Ganley
1971-72 2 – 6 Coach Willie Wellhausen
1972-73 1 – 6 – 1 Coach Willie Wellhausen
1973-74 4 – 4 Coach John Lyons
1974-75 6 – 3 Coach John Lyons
1975-76 3 – 6 Coach John Lyons
1976-77 0 – 9 Coach John Lyons
1977-78 6 – 3 Coach John Lyons
1978-79 3 – 6 Coach John Lyons
1979-80 9 – 1 IHSA Class 1A Playoffs Coach John Lyons
Undeafeated Regular Season
1st Rd – Lost to Caitlin 35-8
Caitlin lost in semi-final round to Chenoa
Chenoa placed 2nd
1980-81 14 – 0 IHSA Class 1A Champs! Coach John Lyons
1st Rd Beat Jacksonville Routt 18-12
2nd Rd Beat Martinsville 14-0
Semi-final Beat Roseville 35-34 (O/T)
Title Game Beat Lexington 17-16
*Atwood-Hammond scored on a safety in the title game tying an IHSA record for number of safety’s recorded in a title game!
1981-82 4 – 5 Coach John Lyons
1982-83 1 – 8 Coach John Lyons
1983-84 3 – 6 Coach John Lyons
1984-85 1 – 8 Coach John Lyons
1985-86 3 – 6 Coach Bill Estes
1986-87 4 – 5 Coach Tim Burk
1987-88 5 – 4 Coach Tim Burk
1988-89 6 – 3 Coach Tim Burk
1989-90 7 – 3 IHSA Class 1A Playoffs Coach Tim Burk
1st Rd lost to Rossville-Alvin 36-6
Rossville lost to Arcola in Elite 8
Arcola lost to Lexington in semi-finals
Lexington lost to Orangeville in title game
1990-91 5 – 4 Coach Tim Burk
1991-92 3 – 6 Coach Scott Bales
1992-93 3 – 6 Coach Scott Bales
1993-94 5 – 4 Coach John Lyons
*The 1993-94 season is the last season as a solo school for Atwood-Hammond High School. (http://www.ihsa.org/SportsActivities/BoysFootball/RecordsHistory.aspx )
As the South Piatt “Wildcats”
Atwood-Hammond entered into a co-op agreement with Bement High School beginning in the 1994-95 school year.
1994-95 2 – 7 Coach John Erwin
1995-96 2 – 7 Coach John Erwin
1996-97 3 – 6 Coach Jerry Smalling
1997-98 6 – 4 IHSA Class 1A Playoffs Coach Jerry Smalling
1st Rd lost to Lexington 29-28
Lexington lost in 2nd Rd.
1998-99 5 – 4 Coach John Hayden
1999-00 2 – 7 Coach John Hayden
2000-01 6 – 4 IHSA Class 1A Playoffs Coach John Hayden
1st Rd lost to Lexington 41-8
Lexington lost in Elite 8 Rd
2001-02 3 – 6 Coach John Hayden
2002-03 5 – 5 IHSA Class 2A Playoffs Coach John Hayden
1st Rd lost to Tremont 49-8
Tremont lost in Elite 8 Rd
2003-04 7 – 4 IHSA Class 1A Playoffs Coach John Hayden
1st Rd Beat Fisher 35-13
2nd Rd lost to Leroy 33-0
Leroy lost to Galena in State Championship game
2004-05 4 – 5 Coach John Hayden
2005-06 4 – 5 Coach John Hayden
2006-07 2 – 7 Coach John Hayden
2007-08 3 – 6 Coach John Hayden
2008-09 3 – 6 Coach John Hayden
2009-10 5 – 5 IHSA Class 1A Playoffs Coach David Elder
1st Rd lost to Brown County 34-0
Brown County lost in 2nd Rd to Tuscola
Tuscola won IHSA State Title
2010-11 4 – 5 Coach David Elder
*2011-12 2 – 7 Coach David Elder
*Last season for the South Piatt Wildcats
The Atwood-Hammond boys basketball program competed through the very final season of the school’s existence. Following their football team’s amazing season, and likely with nearly all of the same athletes, the team of 1980-81 had the largest amount of success in the IHSA State Tournament, making it all the way to the Sweet 16 in a two-class system. All of the seasons from 1950-51 through 2007-08 are listed on the IHSA website. Season records for the teams of 2008-09 through 2013-14 are needed. Several scores involving Atwood-Hammond in the IHSA State Tournament were located on a website titled “Illinois Postseason Basketball Scores.” These scores are listed below as well.
1948-49 (need record)Bethany District Tournament Coach’s name needed
1st Rd Beat Arthur 44-35
Semi-final lost to Neoga 39-29
Neoga beat Findlay in title game
1949-50 (need record)Arthur District Tournament Coach’s name needed
Semi-final lost to Lovington 56-20
Lovington lost to Windsor in title game
1950-51 3 – 18 Atwood District Tournament Coach Les Gadbury
1st Rd lost to Arcola 58-43
Arcola lost to Arthur in semi-final
Arthur lost to Bethany in title game
1951-52 4 – 17 Bethany District Tournament Coach Les Gadbury
1st Rd lost to Lovington 48-46
Lovington lost to Arthur in semi-final
Arthur beat Bethany in title game
1952-53 1 – 20 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Les Gadbury
1953-54 4 – 18 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Les Gadbury
1954-55 6 – 16 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Les Gadbury
1955-56 4 – 16 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Noffke
1956-57 8 – 17 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Noffke
1957-58 9 – 15 Findlay District Runner-Up Coach Ed Noffke
Title game lost to Windsor 60-53
1958-59 3 – 18 Lovington District Tournament Coach Les Gadbury
1st Rd lost to Lovington 56-52
Lovington lost to Windsor in semi-final
Windsor beat Arthur in title game
1959-60 3 – 17 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Joe Rockford
1960-61 9 – 12 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Joe Rockford
1961-62 18 – 9 Lovington District Tournament Coach Wayne Hammerton
Semi-final lost to Arthur 67-53
Arthur lost to Bethany in title game
1962-63 12 – 10 Lovington District Tournament Coach Wayne Hammerton
Semi-final lost to Bethany 50-47
Bethany lost to Windsor in title game
1963-64 11 – 12 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Wayne Hammerton
1964-65 5 – 15 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Dean Stroble
1965-66 15 – 8 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Dean Stroble
1966-67 9 – 13 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Dean Stroble
1967-68 16 – 11 Lovington District Runner-Up Coach Dean Stroble
1st Rd Beat Findlay 75-65
Semi-final Beat Windsor 65-64 (O/T)
Title Game lost to Arthur 57-48
1968-69 18 – 10 Findlay District Champs Coach Dean Stroble
Semi-final Beat Bethany 72-68
Title Game Beat Windsor 71-52
Arcola Regional Tournament
1st Rd lost to Arcola 64-62
Arcola lost to Mattoon in title game
1969-70 9 – 14 Lovington District Tournament Coach Earl Avenatti
Semi-final lost to Windsor 50-42
Windsor lost to Findlay in title game
1970-71 8 – 16 Findlay District Tournament Coach Earl Avenatti
1st Rd Beat Windsor 62-56
Semi-final lost to Findlay 96-50
Findlay beat Bethany in title game
1971-72 10 – 14 Arcola Class ‘A’ Regional Coach Jack Sunderlik
1st Rd Beat Arcola 78-67
Semi-final lost to Lovington 72-69
Lovington lost to Sullivan in title game
1972-73 10 – 14 Postseason scores unavailable Coach John Conklin
1973-74 17 – 7 Postseason scores unavailable Coach John Conklin
1974-75 16 – 10 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Leonard McKean
1975-76 3 – 21 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Leonard McKean
1976-77 18 – 8 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Leonard McKean
1977-78 8 – 16 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Tim Burk
1978-79 10 – 16 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Tim Burk
1979-80 10 – 13 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Tim Burk
1980-81 26 – 4 IHSA Class A Sweet 16 Finalist Coach Tim Burk
IHSA Regional Champions
Regional Scores Needed
Tuscola Sectional Tournament
Semi-final Beat St. Joe-Ogden 52-40
Title Game Beat Chrisman 53-39
IHSA Super-Sectional Finalist
Title Game lost to Pana 46-45
Pana lost to Liberty in Elite 8 round
Liberty lost to Dunlap in semi-final
Liberty placed 4th in tourney
Dunlap lost to Madison in title game
1981-82 9 – 14 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Skip Romine
1982-83 5 – 18 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Skip Romine
1983-84 2 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Bill Carpenter
1984-85 1 – 21 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Bill Carpenter
1985-86 2 – 20 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Bill Carpenter
1986-87 9 – 15 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Tim Burk
1987-88 11 – 14 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Tim Burk
1988-89 1 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Harry Kunsch
1989-90 13 – 13 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Harry Kunsch
1990-91 17 – 9 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Harry Kunsch
1991-92 1 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Scott Bales
1992-93 1 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Scott Bales
1993-94 0 – 23 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Scott Bales
1994-95 1 – 21 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ray Lamb
1995-96 2 – 21 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ray Lamb
1996-97 1 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Toby Whiteman
1997-98 2 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Toby Whiteman
1998-99 7 – 18 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Toby Whiteman
1999-00 17 – 10 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Toby Whiteman
2000-01 4 – 22 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Shane Smith
2001-02 9 – 18 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Coller
2002-03 11 – 19 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Cory Whitt
2003-04 11 – 21 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Coller
2004-05 19 – 11 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Coller
2005-06 8 – 19 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Coller
2006-07 19 – 10 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Ed Coller
2007-08 11 – 18 Postseason scores unavailable Coach Rich Wilson
2008-09 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
2009-10 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
2010-11 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
2011-12 (need record) IHSA Regional Coach’s name needed
1st Rd lost to Arcola 67-45
Arcola lost to Windsor in semi-final
Windsor lost in Sweet 16 Rd
2012-13 (need record) IHSA Regional Coach’s name needed
1st Rd lost to Lovington 68-33
Lovington lost in Sweet 16 Rd.
2013-14 Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
Three members of the “Rajene” track & field program earned medals in the IHSA State Meet. The names, events, and medals won by these athletes are listed below.
1994-95 Melissa McMillan Class ‘A’ 400 Meter Dash 3rd Place
1997-98 Tosha Stevens Class ‘A’ 1600 Meter Run 6th Place
2004-05 Lacy Mitsdarffer Class ‘A’ 400 Meter Dash 8th Place
BOYS TRACK & FIELD
The “Rajah” track & field program produced four boys who earned a total of seven medals in the IHSA State Meet. The names, events, and medals won by these athletes are listed below.
1975-76 Randy Cherry Class ‘A’ Pole Vault 6th Place
1976-77 Randy Cherry Class ‘A’ Pole Vault 4th Place
2001-02 Andy Hendrix Class ‘A’ Long Jump 3rd Place
2002-03 Andy Hendrix Class ‘A’ Long Jump 7th Place
2003-04 Justin Wierman Class ‘A’ Discus 6th Place
2004-05 Justin Wierman Class ‘A’ Discus 5th Place
2009-10 Steve Bryan Class ‘1A’ Triple Jump 9th Place
First row: Steve Rahn, Delbert McDivitt, Joe Daugherty, Gerald Alexander, Timmy Behrend, John Pourchot, Bob Dallas
Second row: John Swartz, John Martin, Frank Andrews, Joe Sanders, Larry Harshbarger, Larry Sawyer, David Behrend, Dennis Behrend
Third row: Bill Beatty, Eddie Mosely, Jim Daugherty, Roy Dallas, Coach Les Gadbury, Larry West, David Schmidt, Jim Brown, Bill Austin
1958 Track “Bests”
High Hurdles Roy Dallas 16.0 1st Place in Conference Meet
100 Yard Dash Bill Austin 10.4 Tied School Record, 2nd in Conference Meet/4th @ District
Mile Run Larry West 4:42 School Record/3rd in Conference Meet
Frank Andrews 5:01 F/S School Record
440 Yard Dash Bill Beatty 56.5
880 Yard Run Larry West 2:10 Tied School Record/3rd in Conference Meet
180 Low Hurdles Roy Dallas 22.9 2nd in Conference Meet
220 Yard Dash Bill Austin 22.6 School Record/Conference Champ/District 2nd Place
High Jump Roy Dallas 5’11.5″ Conference Champion
Dave Schmidt 5’08.5″ F/S School Record
Broad Jump Bill Austin 19′ 3″ 3rd in Conference Meet
Pole Vault Dennis Behrend 10’3″
Shot Put David Behrend 49’2.5″ Conference Champion
John Swartz 44’10” 4th in Conference Meet
Discus Joe Sanders 140’9″ School Record/4th in Conference Meet
David Behrend 131′ Conference Meet Champ
*Results reprinted from 1958 school yearbook.
The girls basketball program had some nice seasons on the hardwood court. We currently only have three seasons available to list here. We know that the girls basketball program formed a cooperative agreement with Arthur High School at some point. Season records, coach’s names, and any other information is welcome regarding Atwood-Hammond High School “Rajene” basketball.
2002-03 6 – 17 Coach Lynn Farmer
2005-06 8 – 20 Coach Bill Lyons
2006-07 5 – 22 Coach Bill Lyons
The softball program was involved in a cooperative agreement with Bement High School at some point however the following records are listed on the IHSA website for Atwood-Hammond High School.
2002-03 10 – 10 – 1 Coach John Strack
2003-04 9 – 13 Coach John Strack
2004-05 10 – 13 Coach John Strack
2005-06 9 – 13 Coach John Strack
2006-07 15 – 9 Coach John Strack
2007-08 12 – 8 Coach John Strack
Currently only two season records are listed on the IHSA website regarding the A-H HS volleyball program. If you have further information to add please contact us via the means listed at the bottom of this page.
2007-08 9 – 19 Coach Bill Lyons
2008-09 10 – 19 Coach Bill Lyons
Atwood-Hammond HS also competed in the sport of Bass Fishing, qualifying for the IHSA State Finals in 2009-10!
2009-10 IHSA State Qualifier Coach Brian Fay
We know the experience at Atwood-Hammond High School was a very well-rounded one. We are confident that Band, Choir, Student Government, and other activities were offered. In addition clubs such as FFA, FHA, NHS, and many others were available for the students as well. If you have additional information regarding the activities at A-H HS please contact us.
WE ARE SEEKING FURTHER INFORMATION
If you have any further information to share regarding Atwood-Hammond High School please contact us via e-mail at IHSGDWEBSITE@COMCAST.NET or via USPS at the following address:
6439 N. Neva Ave.
Chicago, Il. 60631
Small towns lovingly tug home their daughters and sons
Sun, 11/24/2013 – 7:00am | John Foreman
Approach the little burg of Atwood through the country — and there is, frankly, no other way to approach — and the first thing you see are the lights. They glow high in the pitch black of an autumn evening, higher than anything in town save perhaps the big grain elevator that once gave places like Atwood their reason to exist.
By the time you depart the car and test your jacket against the night air, the very atmosphere seems charged with the current of those lights. I’ve experienced those sensations perhaps a hundred times, felt that tingle of the electricity. I remembered it instantly.
Friday night offers the full week’s entertainment in thousands of places like Atwood. That’s not a complaint. People don’t seek such places in search of excitement. But an evening’s diversion under those big lights seems welcome by nearly everyone.
They’ll have it no more, not in Atwood, one more town now dark the whole week long.
These are the Friday night lights — storied in Texas, perhaps, but instantly recognizable in communities from Southern California to upstate New York. In villages, they mark the social center of the week, not for athletes and adolescents, but for everyone still able to board a pickup truck or minivan and make it to the school.
(I used to marvel that my late mother-in-law, who raised three boys, would decades later still drive herself to a spot facing the end zone and roll down her car windows. Severe arthritis kept her in the car, and milling fans on foot blocked the view from the seat. But she could see the scoreboard, hear the P.A., feel the airborne electricity and still make it home in time to see if the highlights she missed had somehow found their way to the TV news. If that seems odd, you’ve never lived in a place like Atwood.)
This night — this particular night — they were calling the game at Fred Boll Field in Atwood “the last homecoming.” It would be the final opportunity for those who graduated from Atwood-Hammond High School (or from Atwood Township High School before that) to see the lights, climb the noisy bleachers or cling to the surrounding fence.
And they came. Came from all over. Came from Arizona and Georgia and California. Came in numbers no one really expected, I think, to watch a game none of them particularly cared about. Mostly, like me, they just wanted to be there — maybe to feel the electricity they’d forgotten, maybe to bathe for a few minutes in the warm water of nostalgia, maybe just to see who else would come. But they came. And it had almost nothing to do with football.
Homecoming everywhere is the designated event to welcome back alumni. They rarely indulge. I hadn’t been to a homecoming game since I reached the age of majority. It’s really for the kids — a time to build floats and to wear flowers and fancy dresses and ride convertibles.
Tonight, the alumni came by the hundreds, someone thought maybe a thousand of them. At a school that graduated maybe 50 or 60 youngsters a year at its peak and far fewer now, a thousand is a lot. But the word had been sent and the welcome set out. In the west end zone, a tent awaited each decade of grads, each stocked with homemade cookies and jugs of lemonade and festooned with memorabilia from their era — pictures, old sweaters and football jerseys. Someone knew they would come.
There, beneath the lights, the decades all merged. The carefully managed high school cliques dissolved faster than the lemonade mix. Old classmates who may rarely have spoken as kids greeted each other with open-armed embraces. Age melted like ice cubes. Extended conversations arose between people who’d never even met before.
And at halftime, they toured the old school — now physically much smaller than it once was, as if it had sometime since been left in the dryer too long. Could the halls really have been so short? The rooms so very small? Everything was otherwise unchanged. The English room was still where the English room belonged. Biology was still in its appointed place.
And casual eavesdropping suggested that the inhabitants of the place maybe didn’t change so much over the years. A 60-year-old can be heard excitedly: “Do you remember that one time when we …?” as she passed through the library. A few minutes later, someone else — maybe 30 years her junior, giggles: “Do you remember that one time when we …?”
But as small as the old place has become, it is way too big for the current occupancy. The pictures of each graduating class on the wall tell the story. My own class of baby boomers was one of the largest, it turns out. Come next year, the handful remaining will make the trip to school at Arthur, a nice little town not really all that different.
Little Atwood will grow quieter still in the absence of school plays and Friday lights and boys in cars on gravel parking lots. Who knows what will become of the old brick building and Boll Field.
But I think I now know something that will remain. There are bonds, you see — long, strong and invisible — that tie people together against great differences of time, station and space.
This came back to me last week as I listened to people talk about Gifford. Those from there, but no longer of there, spoke of the need — not just the desire — to go back and help. “Those are my people,” one told an interviewer.
Maybe small towns are just that way. People grouped so closely for 10 or 20 years become like the ingredients in a long-simmering soup. They may seem as different as cabbage and carrots. But take one away, even far away, and it nonetheless retains the taste of all the others.
We live in a world where everything must be big. Big fish eat little fish. Big stores eat little stores. Big towns eat little towns. “Global” is almost a synonym for good. “Universal” is better.
But small isn’t bad. Good things, my mother told me, come in small packages.
People must be tightly bound to fit in small places. Some of us chafed at those bonds. We were far more alike than we knew, and we so wanted to be different. But the tethers stretch over great time and great space and great change without ever fully loosing their pull — be the occasion a great community maelstrom or no more than one last chance to happily share the lights.
John Foreman, publisher of The News-Gazette, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 677 in Champaign.