East St. Louis Assumption/Central Catholic H.S. “Pioneers”

The History of East St. Louis Assumption (Central Catholic) High School

East St. Louis (population 31,542) is located in southwestern Illinois along the banks of the Mississippi River in northwest St. Clair County. The town sits across the river from its namesake, St. Louis, Missouri. Several roadways lead to and from East St. Louis including Interstate Highways 55 and 64, as well as several Illinois Routes including 3, 111, 157, and 203. Several railroads also travel through town including the Norfolk Southern and Illinois Central Gulf. East St. Louis was first settled as “Illinoistown” in 1818 (http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/la/LA437-F95/reports/History/timeline.html), however it was not platted officially until 1859.

A boys catholic high school, Central Catholic, was established in 1929.  According to the web address of http://www.eco-absence.org/esl/parsons/petraitis.htm, the history of this school is as follows:

Assumption (Catholic Boys) High School was founded in 1929 as Central Catholic High School at Wabasha and St. Clair Ave. in East St. Louis. It moved to 6th and State Streets in 1931. In 1953, it moved to a modern building at Kingshighway and St. Clair Ave. and changed its name to Assumption High School. Heidemann Field (football) opened up on its campus sometime after 1970. The school became co-ed in 1974 and closed in 1989. Its campus was purchased by the State of Illinois and, after major renovations, re-opened as Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center (a state prison) in 1995″

(Information written by Thomas Petraitis).

For more information on the Assumption and Central Catholic high schools check out www.ahspioneers.org, as provided to us by Jim Fehner.

The original Central Catholic school building has been razed. The following article on the conversion of the Assumption High School building into a prison was provided to us by Douglas Combs. It was written on September 29, 2007, by Scott Wuerz and published in the News Democrat Newspaper:

“Posted on Sat, Sep. 29, 2007

Same building, new purpose: Assumption alums tour prison

Derik Holtmann/BND

Assumption High School Alumni tour the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center Friday.

BY SCOTT WUERZ     News-Democrat


A lot of people remember their high school as being a lot like prison.

But for the Assumption High School class of 1957, a tour of their old school Friday made it seem even more that way.

It is a prison.

The former all-boys Catholic high school, which closed in 1989, was reopened six years later as the Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center, a minimum security prison. Located at the corner of St. Clair Avenue and Illinois 111, it houses nonviolent drug offenders who eat in the same cafeteria where students had their lunches, sleep in dorms where classes were once held and work out in the gym where basketball games, band concerts and school dances took place.

“For me, it was great to get to see the gym,” said grad Gerold Thebeau, who transferred to Assumption after three years at St. Henry’s Preparatory School in Belleville. “That’s where the senior prom was held, and I had the first date of my life. Her name was Doris, and she was from Granite City. I never will forget that dance.”

A tour through one of the dorm areas jogged the memory of grad Tim Krumm who said he had freshman and sophomore classes there. In those days, according to Krumm, students sat in the same room all day and their teachers moved from room to room teaching different subjects.

“Everything was regimented,” Krumm said. “You went to your locker at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. They didn’t want you in the hall. And if you were in the hall, there was no talking. Otherwise one of the brothers would slap you in the head.”

Another member of the tour muttered, “I can see Brother Middleton right now.”

Assistant Warden of Operations Jeff Parker told Krumm that students, in some ways, had it harder than the prisoners. “We’re not allowed to hit them,” he said.

Today, the job of the prison staff is to wean inmates off drugs — especially meth — and teach them the skills they need to make something of their lives.

Life is regimented, with long hours of work and classes. There are 671 inmates. They average age 25 and serve about 15 months. Most are from the Chicago area, but one mentioned to the tour group that he attended Assumption in the 1970s.

The tour was arranged by former Illinois State Police Capt., U.S. Marshal and Belleville Police Chief Terry Delaney, who oversaw the conversion of the school into a prison in 1990. The project later was cut from the state budget, then revived, and the prison finally got its first inmates in 1995.

“The one thing I didn’t get a good look at was the old assistant principal’s office — I spent more time there than any place else,” joked Delaney, who said he was a smart-mouthed public school kid when he went to Assumption for some straightening out. “I left with a lot more discipline than I came in with.”

Current warden Jim Davidson is a 1968 Assumption grad.

“It’s surreal to be in here after this is where I went to high school,” Davidson said. “I’ll be up in one of the old classrooms where inmates stay and tell them, ‘You know, I used to sleep a lot in this room, too,’ and they wonder what I’m talking about.”

East St. Louis Central Catholic / Assumption High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                                     1929 (as Central Catholic HS)

Year name changed to Assumption:    1953

Year became co-ed:                           1974

Year Assumption closed:                   1989

School building today:                        Southwestern Illinois Correctional Institute

Assumption HS team nickname:         the “Pioneers”

Assumption HS team colors:              Cardinal & Gold

School Fight Song:                            “Cheer, Cheer for Old Assumption High”

Unofficial Words

Beer Beer for old (Central/Assumption) High

You bring the whiskey I’ll bring the rye

Send the loyal freshmen out for gin

And don’t let a sober sophomore in.

Junior’s may stagger Senior’s may fall

But we’ll sober up on wood alcohol.

Loyal kids of Assumption High,

Stagger back to the bar for more!


The Central Catholic/Assumption boys had a long traditon of sports excellence. This history continued after the girls joined the school in the fall of 1974. Several great successes were recorded in the school’s athletic program.

These accomplishments continued through the very end, with the school excelling in even its last season, 1988-89. Cheerleaders for this all-boys school came from their sister school, East St. Louis St. Teresa. These seasons, as recorded on the IHSA website (www.ihsa.org), are in turn recorded below.

Boys Baseball

The Central Catholic boys of the early 1940s had some excellent seasons. Especially, the teams of 1944 and 1945. Under the leadership of head coach Brother Ed Dunne, these two teams made consecutive trips to the State Championship game, finishing second both times! As Assumption, the boys won a Regional title as well.

As Central Catholic

1941-42             District Champions

1943-44             IHSA STATE RUNNER-UP!!!!           Coach Brother Ed Dunne

                         District Champions

                         Sectional Champions

                         Elite 8 Finalist

                         Beat Chicago Heights Bloom   3-0

                         Final 4 Finalist

                         Beat Chicago Marshall    8-1

                         State Championship Game

                         Lost to Maywood Proviso  9-1

1944-45             IHSA STATE RUNNER-UP!!!!           Coach Brother Ed Dunne

                         District Champions

                         Sectional Champions

                         Elite 8 Finalist

                         Beat Chicago Kelly    6-1

                         Final 4 Finalist

                         Beat Maywood Proviso  5-3

                         State Championship Game

Lost to Chicago Lane Tech   6-1

As Assumption

1964-65             Regional Champions    

**The following are Assumtion High School baseball players that were drafted by Major League baseball teams:

1965 Glenn Flake, Pitcher, was a 25th round draft pick of the Cincinati Reds.

1967 John Howard, Pitcher, was a 22nd round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals.

1970 Ed Blake, Pitcher, was a 3rd round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles.

1970 Don Briddell, Pitcher, signed a Free Agent Contract with the Baltimore Orioles and later player briefly in the St. Louis Cardinal organization.


Boys Basketball

Several excellent seasons followed the East St. Louis Central Catholic and Assumption boy’s basketball teams. None, however, were greater than their final one. The boys of the 1988-89 season made certain the school spirit of the many years enjoyed at the school was rewarded when they advanced to the Elite 8 round of the IHSA Class A State Tournament!  Many other great seasons were enjoyed as well, the list as found on the IHSA website is transcribed below.

As Central Catholic

1932-33   20 – 2                                                          Coach Louis Meinhardt

1933-34   18 – 7                                                          Coach Francis Mueller

1934-35                                                                     Coach Mike Culler

1935-36                                                                     Coach Tony Gerhardt

1936-37                                                                     Coach William Callahan

1937-38   13 – 8                                                          Coach Henry Heideman

1938-39                                                                     Coach Henry Heideman

1939-40   16 – 14                                                        Coach Henry Heideman

1940-41   14 – 14                                                        Coach Jack Corcoran

1941-42                                                                     Coach Henry Heideman

1942-43                                                                     Coach Ed Rohrbach

1943-44   16 – 7                                                          Coach Ed Dunne

1944-45   19 – 8                                                          Coach Ed Dunne

1945-46                                                                     Coach Ed Dunne

1946-47   20 – 8                                                          Coach Tom Dunn

1947-48   17 – 11                                                        Coach Tom Dunn

1948-49                                                                     Coach Tom Dunn

1949-52                                                                     Coach George Walsh

1952-53                                                                     Coach George Mattz

As Assumption

1953-54   11 – 8                                                          Coach Robert Astroth

1954-55   16 – 8                                                          Coach John O’Brien

1955-61                                                                     Coach John O’Brien

1961-62                                                                     Coach Dick Mason

1962-63                                                                     Coach Dick Ryan

1963-64   19 – 7                                                          Coach Dick Ryan

1964-65                                                                     Coach Dick Ryan

1965-66   16 – 8                                                          Coach Dick Ryan

1966-67   14 – 9                                                          Coach Dick Ryan

1967-68                                                                     Coach Dick Ryan


1968-69   22 – 4                                                          Coach Dick Ryan

                         Mater Dei Tournament Champions

                         Bi-State Conference Co-Champions

                         E. St. Louis City Champions

1969-70   24 – 2                                                          Coach Dick Ryan

                         Mater Dei Tournament Champions

                         Dupo Tournament Champions

                         Bi-State Conference Champions

1970-71   20 – 7                                                          Coach Dick Ryan

1971-74                                                                     Coach Dick Ryan

1974-78                                                                     Coach Lou Gregory

1978-79   17 – 10                                                        Coach Lou Gregory

1979-80   18 – 8                                                          Coach Lou Gregory

1980-81   13 – 12                                                        Coach Ted Daniels

1981-82   17 – 9                                                          Coach Ted Daniels

1982-83   15 – 12                                                        Coach Greg King

1983-84                                                                     Coach Greg King

1984-85   13 – 12                                                        Coach Greg King

1985-86   14 – 11                                                        Coach Greg King

1988-89   24 – 8   IHSA CLASS A ELITE 8 FINALIST!   Coach Ronald Woods

                          Regional & Sectional Champions

                          Sweet 16 Finalist – Beat Flora 73 – 71 (3 O/Ts)

                          Elite 8 Finalist – Lost to Fairbury Prairie Central 68 – 58

                          Fairbury finished 3rd

The following information was researched and submitted by Mark Jurenga regarding East St. Louis Assumption boys basketball team’s participation in the annual Breese Mater Dei High School Christmas Classic:

East St. Louis (Assumption)

MD tourney champions 1968, 1969,1981.

2nd place 1970 and 1976

3rd place 1963, 1972, 1988.

Consolation champs 1962

Assumption’s Rick Suttle continues to be the top scorer all-time at the tourney with 312 points in 4 years 1967-70.

Central Catholic’s Dee Alberts was another great player in his day, having been named honorable mention All-State in 1940-41.

The school’s record at the MD tourney was 50-37.

All-tourney members:

1966- Don Huekla

1968 – Ed Edmiston

Lou Gregory

1969 and 1970- Rick Suttle

1972- Bobb Young

1973- Jerome Heavens

1976- Eric Wright

1979- Gerald Stevenson

1981- Joe Hurst (MVP)

Tony Berry

1988- Ian Stanback

*Ian Stanback, continued his basketball career at Purdue, he also played professionally in Portugal.

Girls Basketball

Two Regional titles highlighted the ladies’ basketball program at East St. Louis Assumption High School. Unfortunately, team records and coach’s names of these and other great Assumption teams are not currently available.

1984-85           Regional Champions

1985-86           Regional Champions

Boys Football 

No less than EIGHT Assumption boys football teams made the IHSA State Playoffs! Coach Jim Monken appears to have built an excellent small school program in a large metropolitan area during his 29-year career at Assumption. Included in these trips was one final “hurrah” in the school’s final year of existence. Here’s some results from the IHSA website as well as from Don Greco about the AHS football program listed below.

1943                  Only had one loss (to E. St. Louis Sr.)

1951    7-3                                                                Coach George Martz

1952    9-1                                                                Coach George Martz

1955    8-3                                                                Coach George Martz

1960    5-5         Defeated East St. Louis Senior          Coach George Martz

First win in 26-year series history, school was dismissed the following Monday

1961    6-4                                                                Coach George Martz

1962                                                                        Coach George Martz

1963    6-4                                                                Coach George Martz

1964    7-2-1                                                             Coach George Martz

1972    7-2       Upsets East St. Louis 36-29                Coach George Martz

1979  10-1      IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

                            Elite 8 Finalist!!

                            Beat Carlinville  20-9

                            Lost to Marshall  22-14

1980  10-2     IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

                            Final Four Finalist!!

                            Beat Sesser-Valier 19-13

                            Beat Macon  29-8

                            Lost to Danville Schlarman 15-12

                            Schlarman eventual State Champs

Ranked #1 in St. Louis Metro Coaches’ Small School Final Poll

1982              IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

                            Final Four Finalist!!

                            Beat Gillespie 21-7

                            Beat Mt. Sterling Brown County 14-6

                            Lost to Casey 20-3

Casey Finished 2nd

1983              IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

                            Final Four Finalist!!

                            Beat Williamsville  36-7

                            Beat Hamilton 20-14

                            Lost to Bloomington Cent. Cath.  14-0

BCC finished 2nd

1985              IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

                            Lost to Dupo  20-14 (O/T)

1986              IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

                            Final Four Finalist!!

Beat Hardin Calhoun  35-6

                            Beat Carlyle 42-25

                            Beat Virden  34-32

                            Lost to Decatur St. Teresa  28-0

St. Teresa finished 2nd

1987              IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

Lost to Columbia  27-20

1988              IHSA Class 2A Qualifier                     Coach Jim Monken

  Elite 8 Finalist!!

                            Beat Columbia   28-10

                            Beat Dupo  21-0

                            Lost to Carlyle 12-0

Carlyle won State Championship

Other notable items from the Pioneer football program (courtesy of Don Greco);

–Jerome Heavens: was a three-year starter from 1972-74, wound up with 45 TDs and 3,117 rushing yds, attended Notre Dame (see below)

–Assumption was known for its defense. Two of its own players were among the leaders in interceptions in the St. Louis Metro Area as Jim Manley picked off 10 passes in 1979, and Curt Mink matched his total during the 1987 season.

–Outside of Heavens, the Pioneers also featured Larry Stricklin, Jimmy Collins, and Jacques Norris as their running backs. Stricklin scored 16 TD and 100 points during the 1984 season as he piled up 1,177 yds rushing on 167 carries. Collins had 22 rushing TDs & 134 points as one of the top scorers in the St. Louis Metro Area during the 1985 season, while Norris broke Heavens’ career rushing record with 4,500 yards from 1986-88.

Boys Soccer

We know the boys of East St. Louis Assumption played soccer as well. Only one season is listed on the IHSA website. The year and coach’s name are listed below.

1968-69                   Coach Mike Villa

Boys Tennis

One name placed the stamp of approval on the East St. Louis Assumption High School tennis program. Jimmy Connors was an Assumption Pioneer, placing 5th in the IHSA State Tournament in 1967. More of Jimmy’s accomplishments are listed below under “Great Athletes”.

1967   Individual Medalist – Jimmy Connors    5th Place

Tennis Memories from Donn Hornberger:

“Both Jimmy Connors and his brother Johnny played well and began playing very young. I remember Jimmy and John rolling a tennis ball across their front room floor to me at ages 4 & 6.

First, Jim didn’t play #1 all the time while he was at Assumption. That was often Randy EdmistonRandy, an excellent player, played for Kentucky in college, Murray St., as I recall. Jimmy was taken out of school by his Wimbledon-winning mother, Gladys Thompson, and headed for California at age 16. While at Assumption, Jimmy had merely a mediocre record. Jimmy played briefly for Stanford then turned pro, I recall.

After Randy and Jimmy, coached by Kent DeMars, the team began to win in IHSA meets. The entire DeMars family were all excellent players in the local tourneys. They never attempted to play beyond that but had they, they all would have had remarkable records. There were others that made Assumption one of the best high school tennis team traditions in the entire metro St. Louis area.

BUT…the real story for tennis happened in the mid-70’s after Kent had left, when the team had a truly great player…a female, Julie Garcia. Because of her individual prowess, she played #1 on the boys team after the DeMars brothers graduated. Julie won in the Mississippi Valley tourneys often during the summers and in the local youth tourneys for her respective age group. She began playing at age 14! She began winning at age 15. Coming from the tradition at Assumption, playing against those several terrific players in high school, she was fearless against other players and frustrated most. She was a born winner.

Later, as Julie became a superior player, the Metro East Tennis Association and Youth Tennis Leagues took her case to the Supreme Court of Illinois. The IHSA sought to restrict two female players. The argument was over Julie could continue playing on a boys team…and beating most of the boys she played from the other schools…thus, messing up their seasonal records and drawing attention away from the scholarship-seeking boys. At that time, the girls team was non-existent at many Illinois high schools. Julie, a true champ, didn’t mind playing “up” against the boys, thinking this only strengthened her summer tourney game.

After Julie and Martha Knaust, Waterloo HS, and Youth tennis leagues, Inc. made their case, Julie at Assumption and Martha at Waterloo, both got to play on their all-boys teams. Until we argued for her, the IHSA was threatening to step in and stop both girls from playing against boys at all. The court decided that IF the high school didn’t have a girls team, didn’t have the funds to support one, and didn’t mind if the girls were on a boys team, then it was “Ok” in the State of Illinois for the girls to play on the boys team. This occurred in 1974-75, as I recall. Thanks to Jack Marks, a school teacher (math) at ESTL HS, we went into court and argued successfully for both Julie and MarthaJack was President of Youth Tennis Leagues, Inc. and paid for the attorneys.

Both Martha and Julie spent their high school playing years facing what was supposed to be superior boys and beating them. Both girls had winning records over their four years at their respective schools. Both girls were trail blazers for women’s tennis. Both girls could’ve played at a professional level, no doubt about that. Both girls were offered extensive athletic scholarships for tennis. As far as I know, both girls became nurses. I was very fortunate to have some role in coaching both players.”

Great Athletes

*Jerome Heavens – He was a Parade All-American Running back in 1974 in high school, went to University of Notre Dame as a running back, is currently listed at #4 all-time at ND in career rushing yards.

*Ian Stanback – Played basketball at Purdue upon graduation from E. St. Louis Assumption.

*Eric Wright – Played football at Missouri and was a Pro Bowl Def. Back for the San Francisco 49ers during their great decade of the 1980’s, was all-pro and was a 2nd round draft choice of the 49ers in 1981.

*Jimmy Connors – 1971 NCAA National singles champion for UCLA and UCLA was also the team champion. Connors became an international tennis star who was world’s #1 player for 160 consecutive weeks from July 1974 though August of 1977. Nine times he was the #1 ranked player in the world. He won eight Grand Slam singles titles, teamed with Ilie Nastase for two Grand Slam doubles titles and finished as runner up in mixed doubles with Chris Evert at the 1974 U.S. Open.

*Hank Bauer (Class of 1941) – Baseball great who played for the New York Yankees and won several World Series championships. Read more about Bauer at the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Bauer

*Larry Hoffman (Class of 1962) – named as a Parade All-American Football Player his senior year.

Individual Events

The Assumption High School program in general offered other activities besides sports.  The Individual Events team of 1962 won the District title with Maurice Zollner bringing home a medal from State Competition!!.

1961-62          District Champions

                      Individual Medalist –   Maurice Zollner    Radio     5TH Place

Accomplished Alumni

From our good friend Mark Jurenga:

Richard J. Durbin (Class of 1962)

*B.S. Georgetown University, Washingotn, D.C.

*J.D. Georgetown University, Washington, D.C..

*Eight-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, January 3, 1983-January 2, 1997

*Two-term member of the U.S. Senate, 1996-present

*Senate Democratic party whip (2005-present)

*All information as of 12-31-2007



Jerry Francis Costello (Class of 1968)

*A.A. Belleville Area College, Belleville, Il.

*B.S. Maryville College of the Sacred Heart, St. Louis, MO

* Eleven term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, August 8, 1988-present.

*All information as of 12-31-2007.


Rev. Monsignor John T. Myler, Ph.D (Class of 1972)

*Rector, The Cathedral of St. Peter

*Catholic Diocese of Belleville

200 W. Harrison Street

Belleville, Il.  62220

*B.A., M.A., St. Louis University

*M.A. (Theology) M.Div. Kennick-Glennon Seminary

*Doctorate, The Marianum in Rome

Faculty member Don Boevingloh —

Drama teacher and director in the 1970’s —

resides in California and has appeared in over 37 films and television series.



Need Your Assistance

As with every page, we are seeking some in-put from an Assumption fan or Assumption alumnus as to the history and great successes accomplished at East St. Louis Central Catholic/Assumption High School. If you can provide us with information please complete a School Submission Form or Guest Commentary Form. You may also write us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or via “real” mail at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago,  Il.   60631

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