Illiopolis High School “Pirates”

Illiopolis High School
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The History of Illiopolis High School

Illiopolis (population 916) is located in the very center of Illinois in the northeastern portion of Sangamon County.  The town is located about 15 miles east of Springfield and 12 miles west of Decatur.  “Old Route 36” runs through town and connects it to Interstate Highway 72 which passes by Illiopolis about a mile and a half to the south.  The Norfolk Railroad lays tracks through the heart of Illiopolis to the east and west.  The “Old River” flows to the southwest of town.

An EXCELLENT history of the town can be found at the website address of .   This is one of the nicer websites of any small town on this site.  It provides a detailed account of the history of the town of Illiopolis and its educational beginning.  Some interesting facts found on this site include that Illiopolis means “City of Illinois”.  It was originally platted in 1814 for the purpose of becoming the State Capital. This idea was due to the area being the center location in the State of Illinois.  After much debate the idea fell through and the the town of Illiopolis’ original location was abandoned.

A new town formed in the 1850s when the Norfolk Railroad laid her tracks through the area.  In 1869 the name of Illiopolis was chosen for the town that had been platted just north of the original Illiopolis. The year of 1854 saw the first school house built in the town. In 1867 a brick school house addition was added to the original frame building.  As the town grew another addition to the school complex was added in 1880.  By the mid 1880s a high school curriculum was added.  In 1891 Illiopolis High School enjoyed its first graduating high school class.  The class included 9 students. Illiopolis High School became an accredited four-year high school in 1912, one of the first in its area. A new brick high school and a grade school building were built in 1926.

Illiopolis High School Building
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Photo Submitted by Beau Spencer

Illiopolis High School served its community very proudly for over a century.  the early years of 2000 saw declining enrollment and financuial worries take their toll.  Consolidation talks arose between the school districts of Illiopolis and nearby Niantic-Harristown.  These efforts were realized in the spring of 2004 with the creation of the Sangamon Valley School District.

The high school for Sangamon Valley was located in Niantic.  The junior high and grade school were located in Illiopolis.  The Illiopolis high school builidng is pictured at the top of this page.

Illiopolis High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                                 late 1880s

Year of 1st graduating class:           1891 (9 students)

Year brick HS building built:            1926

Year closed:                                  2004

Consolidated to:                             Sangamon Valley School District (Niantic)

Illiopolis HS team nickname:           the “Pirates”

IHS team colors:                            Red & Black

School Fight Song:                         “Illiopolis Loyalty”

                                                     (University of Illinois Fight Song Tune)

                                                     We’re loyal to you, ICHS.

                                                     We’re Red and we’re Black, ICHS.

                                                     We’ll back you to stand,

                                                     ‘Gainst the best in the land,

                                                     For we know you have sand, ICHS!

                                                     Rah!  Rah!

                                                     So crack out that ball, ICHS.

                                                     We’re backing you all, ICHS.

                                                     Our team is our fame protector,

                                                     On boys, for we expect

                                                     A victory from you, ICHS!

Illiopolis Cinder Track and Football Field
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The Illiopolis kids were a very competetive bunch.  Several titles were won and several state medals were earned.  Included was a State Championship!!!  The boys competed in basketball, track, and football.  The girls competed in track, basketball, and volleyball.  School team nickname, colors, fight song, team records, and coach’s names are all being sought.


Move over Hebron, Illiopolis High School has a “David vs. Goliath” story of its own!!  How about a STATE CHAMPIONSHIP in girls track!  How about that this championship was won in a one class system!  The girls went on to add three more top-five finishes, ALL in the original one-class format.

An incredible group of athletes, led by Debi Kilhoffer, and the team, led by Coach Shirley Alford, brought home a slew of medals which led to this incredible run by the Lady thinclads of IHS.

From a good fan of the site, “Kaylorjd”, regarding the Illiopolis lady trackster success of the 1970s:

“Yes our lady tracksters were awesome – worthy almost of a movie. Among them, I believe Debi Kilhoffer went on to Illinois State University and, rumor had it, ended up holding a national record in the hurdles for one day. Rita Lamb went on to run the 800 at ISU – by the way, she is Rick Lamb’s sister”

1972-73          Jani Blakeman         High Jump     State Champion!!      

1973-74           STATE CHAMPIONS!!                     Coach Shirley Alford

                          District Champions

                           Individual Medalists

 Debi Kilhoffer           110 Yard Hurdles            State Champion!!

                           Relay Team              400 Yard Relay               State Champions!!

                           Relay Team              880 Yard Relay               State Champions!!

                           Jani Blakeman         80 Yard Hurdles              4TH Place
Connie Huyear          880 Yard Run                 8TH Place


                           Final Team Standings

                           1)  ILLIOPOLIS HIGH SCHOOL                     17                          

2)  Park Ridge (Maine South)                          13

2)  Springfield (Southeast)                              13

4)  New Lenox (Lincoln-Way)                          10

4)  Chicago (Harrison)                                    10

4)  Mt. Prospect (Prospect)                            10

7)  Chicago (Parker)                                        9

7)  Oak Park (O.P.-River Forest)                      9

7)  Park Ridge (Maine East)                            9

10)  Cahokia (H.S.)                                           8

10)  Mendon (Unity)                                          8

10)  Chicago (Hirsch)                                        8

10)  Sycamore                                                 8

1974-75          Finished FOURTH in State Meet Competition!!          Coach Shirley Alford

District Champions

                          Individual Medalists

Debi Kilhoffer             110 Yard Hurdles             2ND Place

                          Debi Kilhoffer               80 Yard Hurdles             4TH Place

                          Jeanne Kilhoffer         Long jump                      2ND Place

                          Relay Team                 1 Mile Run                      3RD Place

                          Relay Team                 400 Yard Relay               5TH Place

                          Final Team Standings

1)  Oak Park (O.P.-River Forest)                     24

2)  Springfield (Southeast)                              18

2)  Chicago (Calumet)                                    18

4)  ILLIOPOLIS HIGH SCHOOL                     14

5)  Lansing (Thornton Fractional)                     12

6)  Chicago (Dunbar)                                      10

6)  Park Ridge (Maine East)                            10

6)  New Lenox (Lincoln-Way)                          10

9)  Cahokia (H.S.)                                           9

10)  Mt. Prospect (Prospect)                              7

10)  Carthage (Hancock Central)                         7

1975-76         Finished SECOND in State Meet Competition!!           Coach Shirley Alford

                        Individual Medalists

                        Debi Kilhoffer                110 Yard Hurdles            STATE CHAMPION!!

                        Debi Kilhoffer                 80 Yard Hurdles             2ND Place

                        Debi Kilhoffer                 Long Jump                    2ND Place

                        Rita Lamb                       880 Yard Run                 3RD Place        

                        Relay Team                    1 Mile Relay                  3RD Place

                        Relay Team                     400 Yard Relay             5TH Place

                        Relay Team                     880 Yard Medly             5TH Place 

                        Final Team Standings

1)  Chicago (Calumet)                      21


                        3)  Carthage (Hancock Central)         14½

4)  Evanston (Twp.)                          12

4)  East Moline (United)                    12

6)  Lansing (Thornton Fractional)        10

6)  LaGrange (Lyons)                        10

8)  New Lenox (Lincoln-Way)               9

9)  Moline (H.S.)                                 8

10)  Belleville (West)                             7

10)  Park Ridge (Maine East)                 7 

1976-77       Finished FIFTH in State Meet Competition!!                 Coach Shirley Alford

                       Individual Medalists

                       Debi Kilhoffer                  110 Yard Hurdles           STATE CHAMPION!!

                       Debi Kilhoffer                    80 Yard Hurdles           STATE CHAMPION!!

                       Rita Lamb                         880 Yard Run                8TH Place

                       Final Team Standings

                       1)  East Moline (United)                     16

2)  Evanston (Twp.)                            15

3)  Cahokia (H.S.)                              14

4)  Hillside (Proviso West)                  13


5)  Watseka                                      12

7)  Galesburg (H.S.)                           10

7)  Piper City (Ford Central)                10

9)  Bartonville (Limestone)                    9

10)  Chicago (University)                        8

10)  Chicago (Lindblom)                         8         

1977-78       Rita Lamb                880 Yard  Run             7TH Place

1987-88       Kathy Whitehead     400 Meter Dash           6TH Place

INCREDIBLE RUN by the Lady Illiopolis HS Tracksters!!

Illiopolis Football Press Box
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Photo By Beau Spencer


The Illiopolis boys football team held their own as well.  A total of four trips were made to the IHSA State Football Playoffs.  In this group the Illiopolis grid iron heroes made it to the Final Four on one occassion and the Elite Eight on another!!

Coach Jerry Smalling had the longest tenure of any coach at IHS, spending 28 years at the school and leaving with an overall record of 138 – 105. The football field at Illiopolis was officially named Smalling Field in honor of their great coach.

1950-52                                                                                       Coach W.L. Tomlinson

1952-53     6 – 1                                                                            Coach Dave Messenger

1953-54                                                                                       Coach Dave Messenger

1954-55                                                                                        Coach Walter Forsyth

1955-56                                                                                        Coach Tony Licocci

1956-57     5  – 3                                                                           Coach Tony Licocci

1957-58     4  – 3                                                                           Coach Tony Licocci

1958-60                                                                                        Coach Tony Licocci

1960-63                                                                                        Coach Jim Luallen

1963-64                                                                                        Coach Richard Isett

1964-65                                                                                         Coach Jerry Smalling

1965-66     4 – 3 – 1                                                                        Coach Jerry Smalling

1966-67     8 – 1                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1967-68     8 – 1                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1968-69                                                                                         Coach Jerry Smalling

1969-70     5 – 1 – 2                                                                        Coach Jerry Smalling

1970-71     8 – 0                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1971-72     7 – 1                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1972-73     4 – 4                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1973-74                                                                                        Coach Jerry Smalling

1974-75     7 – 3          Oualified for Class 1A Playoffs!                  Coach Jerry Smalling

                                       Sweet 16 Finalist

                                       Lost to Concord Triopia

Triopia Finished 2ND

Illiopolis Football Team of 1974
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Submitted by Richard Savage (From IHSA State Playoff Program)

1975-76     7 – 2                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1976-77                                                                                          Coach Jerry Smalling

1977-78     8 – 1                                                                              Coach Jerry Smalling

1978-79     6 – 3                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling

1979-81                                                                                        Coach Jerry Smalling

1981-82     6 – 3                                                                             Coach Jerry Smalling.

1982-83   11 – 1      Qualified for Class 1A Playoffs!!                 

                             Coach Jerry Smalling

                             Undefeated Regular Season

                             Final Four Finalist

                             Beat Williamsville 35 – 7

                             Beat Jacksonville Routt 6 – 0 (O/T)

                             Lost to Zeigler-Royalton 20 – 8

Zeigler-Royalton won Championship

The Pirates of 1982 – IHSA Final 4!!
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1983-84     5 – 4                                                                       Coach Jerry Smalling

1984-85     7 – 2                                                                       Coach Jerry Smalling

1985-87                                                                                   Coach Jerry Smalling

1987-88     5 – 4                                                                       Coach Jerry Smalling

1988-90                                                                                   Coach Jerry Smalling

1990-91     5 – 4                                                                        Coach Jerry Smalling

1991-92                                                                                   Coach Jerry Smalling

1992-93                                                                                   Coach David Bills

1993-94     5 – 4                                                                        Coach Dave Jacobs

1994-95     5 – 4                                                                        Coach Dave Jacobs

1995-96                                                                                    Coach Skip Mathieson

1996-97     5 – 4                                                                         Coach Skip Mathieson

1997-98                                                                                    Coach Skip Mathieson

1998-99   10 – 2          Qualified for Class 2A Playoffs               Coach Skip Mathieson

                                       Elite 8 Finalist

                                       Beat Clifton Central  18 – 15

                                       Beat Pearl City  27 – 14

                                       Lost to Aledo 39 – 20

Aledo won State Championship 

1999-00     5 – 4                                                                        Coach Skip Mathieson

2000-02                                                                                    Coach Rick Austin

2002-03     5 – 5           Qualified for Class 3A Playoffs!!            Coach Josh Johnson

                                        Lost to Tolono Unity

2003-04                                                                                    Coach Mike Kearney

*Coach Jerry Smalling was inducted into the Illinois Football Coach’s Hall of Fame in 1989!  Coach Smalling is said to stay in contact with his Illiopolis roots, attending many Sangamon Valley Storm football games (Thank you to Jack Campbell for this information).

Football Memories

The 1982 Pirates finished the regular season as the #2 scoring team in the state, behind Joliet Catholic.  During the regular season the Pirates outscored their opponents 367-53 for an average score of 40-6. If not for a severly sprained ankle by Phil Young in the last regular season game and a blown out knee by fullback Bill Ballinger on his way to 193 rushing in the first playoff game against Williamsville, the Pirates would possibly have went on to win the Class 1A Championship that year!!”

ICHS Football Team of 1952 – Record 6-1
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The Pirates Football Team of 1920
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Regarding the above football team photos:

*In the 1920 photo the tall skinny fellow second from right in the back row is likely the same Robert Williams of state track 220 and long jump lore from the early 1920’s of Illiopolis you will read about below.

*Notice in the 1952 football picture  #55, #56 and #38.   They are the fathers of #74, #64 (top row 4th and 5th from left) and #9 (middle second row) respectively on the 1982 team.

Boys Track & Field

Three boys won individual medals at the IHSA State Track & Field Meet.  One athlete, a boy named Robert WIlliams, socred second in two events leading the IHS team to an overall eighth place finish!!

1921-22B           Team Finished EIGHTH in State Meet Competition!  

                              Individual Medalist

                              Robert  Williams           220 Yard Dash                 2ND Place

                              Robert  Williams           Long Jump                      2ND Place            

Final Team Standings

                               1)  Forrest                                        19½

2)  Elmwood                                     15 1/5

3)  Greenfield                                    12

4)  Toluca                                         10

5)  Monticello                                     9

5)  Wheaton (H.S.)                             9

7)  Carlinville                                      8


                               8)  Berwyn-Cicero (Morton)                 6

8)  Onarga                                         6

1923-24B             ??  Smith             220 Yard Dash                 4TH Place

1979-80A             John Finch           Triple Jump                     4TH Place


Acting as the host school, Illiopolis wound up third in Track with 26 points (Auburn 42, Chatham 35) and coupled with 30 points in Oratorical & Essay, fell one point short in the overall competition (Auburn 57). Illinois Traction System special trains brought students and fans in from all over the county to take part in the meets.

Some streets were closed for the straight-away runs, which included running uphill to reach the finish line for the Half-Mile run. The Oratorical & Essay competition took place in the Opera House where Donald F. Clearwater of Illiopolis took first in Oration (speech) and Rose Warren of Illiopolis third in Essay.

In Track, Elmer Dickerson won the 220-yard Low Hurdles in a time of 29 1/5th seconds, was second in the Standing Broad Jump and third in the 100-yard Dash. Roscoe Foster won the Hammer Throw (tossed it 98 feet, 8 inches), placed second in the Shot Put; Russell Johnson took first in the Discus with a throw of 86 feet, 11 inches. William Maxwell gained third in the Running Broad Jump. Illiopolis took second in the Half-Mile Relay.

By 5 pm all awards had been given as fans and students departed on their trains back home. As the Illinois State Journal (Springfield) reported: “Before nightfall Illiopolis was again a deserted village, save for the cheers that were sent up now and then by local students.”

Illiopolis HS Gymnasium 2012
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Now Sangamon Valley Grade School Gym (Submitted by Bruce Firchau)


One District title and one Regional title, coming in back to back seasons, hi-lighted the Illiopolis HS boys basketball program.  Other solid seasons, as listed on the IHSA website, are in turn listed below. Coach Dave Orr had some real nice seasons, we are told, in the 1970s.  Coach Orr went on to coach at El Paso High School.  He is the son of Coach Paul Orr of Anchor High School fame.

1970-71    21 – 6    Cerro Gordo District Champions      Coach Bill Devers

                               Semi-Final Beat Cerro Gordo 68-51

                               Title Game Beat Argent-Oreana 66-51

                               Decatur Regional Tourney

                               1st Rd Beat Decatur MacArther 64-61

                               Semi-Final lost to Decatur Eisenhower 76-56

Eisenhower beat Stephen Decatur in title game

Sangamon County Tournament Champions

                               1st Rd Beat Auburn 55-37

                               Semi-Final Beat Rochester 48-44

                               Title Game Beat Riverton 62-61

Illiopolis HS Boys Basketball Team 1970-71
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Submitted by Mary Ellen Gass & Phil Shadid

Front row, from left: Bill Dever, head coach; Paul Lee, mascot; Dave Orr, assistant coach.

Standing, from left: Terry Kapper, Tyler Lyons, Mike Dobrinsky, John Bruntjen (scored the winning basket with 2 seconds left to give IHS a 62-61 win over Riverton in the championship game), Chuck Kilhoffer, Don Pickel, Jared Carroll, Rick Blakeman, A. Kilhoffer, Gary Leonard.



1971-72               Warrensburg Regional Champions    Coach Bill Devers

                            Semi-Final Beat Macon 102-53

                            Title Game Beat Warrensburg-Latham 49-43

                            Shelbyville Sectional Tournament

                            Semi-Final lost to Raymond Lincolnwood 61-57

LINCOLNWOOD (61): Hobson 35, Boehler 9, Fuchs 7, Sarver 5, Snyder 3, Aherin 2.

ILLIOPOLIS (57): Lyon 19, Kapper 16, Carroll 13, Blakeman 7, Pickel 2.

Lincolnwood beat Athens in title game

Lincolnwood would place 3rd in IHSA Class A Tourney

1975-76                                                                              Coach Dave Orr

1976-77                                                                              Coach Dave Orr

1977-78                                                                              Coach Dave Orr

1978-79    18 – 9                                                                  Coach Dave Orr

1979-80      7 – 15                                                                Coach Roger Albright

1980-81      5 – 17                                                                Coach Roger Albright

1981-82    11 – 11                                                                Coach Jack Handy

1987-89                                                                              Coach David Fitzgerald

1989-90    15 – 10                                                                Coach David Fitzgerald

1990-91    18 – 7                                                                  Coach David Fitzgerald

1991-93                                                                              Coach David Fitzgerald 

1993-94    14 – 12                                                                Coach Mark Camfield

1994-95    16 – 10                                                                Coach Mark Camfield

1995-96    18 – 11                                                                Coach Mark Camfield

1996-97    16 – 11                                                                Coach Mark Camfield

1997-98    15 – 11                                                                Coach Mark Camfield

1998-99    15 – 13                                                                Coach Mark Camfield

1999-00                                                                               Coach Skip Mathieson

2000-01                                                                               Coach Todd Venters

Sangamon County Tournament

Illiopolis was successful in this tournament on many occassions.  Check out their resume’ as provided by Mark Jurenga:

One championship  – 1971

Six 2nd Place finishes

Five 3rd Place finishes

Five 4th Place finishes

Illiopolis HS Gym 2012
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Now Sangamon Valley GS Gym (Submitted by Bruce Firchau)
Illiopolis HS Gym Bleachers 2012
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Now Sangamon Valley GS Gym (Submitted by Bruce Firchau)


Some of the Lady roundballer seasons are listed on the IHSA website.  No tournament hardware was won, however some nice seasons were recorded.

1987-89                                            Coach David Fitzgerald

1989-90    15 – 10                              Coach David Fitzgerald

1990-91    18 –  7                               Coach David Fitzgerald

1991-93                                            Coach David Fitzgerald

Charles Raymond Demmitt – Class of 1904
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Professional Baseball Player

Great Athletes

*Charles Raymond Demmitt – (IHS 1902-04)

Charles Raymond “Ray” Demmitt was born on February 2, 1884 in Illiopolis, Illinois the son of James F. and Emily Whitesides Demmitt. He attended Illiopolis High School from 1902 through 1904.  He played baseball for the University of Illinois in 1905 and 1906 and for the minor leagues, before going to the major leagues in April, 1909.

Demmitt played for the New York Highlanders (Yankees) 1909; St. Louis Browns 1910 and 1917-1918-1919; Detroit Tigers 1914 and Chicago White Sox 1914-1915.  In his 7-year career as a big league outfielder, Demmitt batted .257 with 8 dead ball era homers. He enjoyed his best full major league season by hitting .281 for the 1918 St. Louis AL club. He died on February 19, 1956 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois at the age of 72.

He was found living back in Illiopolis in the 1920 Census.

*Rick Lamb (1975-76 through 1978-79) – fan Rob Proctor had this to say about former Pirate great Rick Lamb:

“Star Rick Lamb (6′ 8″, 245 pounds) … Rick lead the team to several conference titles and tourney championships in his era under coach Dave Ore.  In his final season Rick averaged 36 points per game, which was one of the highest for the state that year.  He went on to a successful college career at Illinois State University where he played for four seasons.” Lamb, after finishing at Illinois State University, went on to try out for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. He ended up being the MVP of the CBA league and played in the European League as well.

Rick Lamb was named the Decatur Herald & Review Small School Player of the Year in 1979.

*Eric Weaver (Class of 1991) – Eric averaged 35 points and 22 rebounds his senior year. He went on a brief stint in the majors as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners. He was arguably the best all around athelete in Pirate athletic history, being the quarterback of the football team as well. He turned down a  baseball scholarship to Bradley University, where he very likely would have played basketball as well.  In addition to the Dodgers and Mariners, he also played briefly with the Anaheim Angels. The last two summers, he has coached the Springfield Rifles baseball team.

*Brian Herold – As part of the 1982 football team, Middle Linebacker Brian Herold made the Chicago Sun-Times All-State team for Class 1A.

*Philip Young – was an All-Area selection for the Decatur Area, while several players offensively and defensively made All-conference as well in 1982.


Illiopolis High School Band
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Submitted by Janie Cruise
Music Director Richard Cruise
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The Illiopolis kids won the one and only state championship in the history of the school. The school’s musicians and choir, led by Director Richard Cruise, earned the IHSA school championship in 1960! Mr. Cruise served at Iliopolis High School from 1952 – 1960. The kids of Illiopolis gained first place honors at the IHSA Music Sweepstakes contest held at Milikin University in Decatur. Illiopolis scored 64 points in the two day competition beating Greenview and Metcalf Young America high schools for the title. According to an article from the Illiopolis Sentinal Newspaper dated April 28, 1960, the following students were recognized at the competition:

*Mixed Chorus – Superior

*School Band – Superior

*Boys Chorus – Excellent

*Joe Wofford – Tuba – Superior

*Jackie Chinnock – High Voice – Excellent

*Gerald Dunham – Medium Voice – Excellent

*Mixed Clarinet Quartet – Excellent

(Elaine Peters, Karen Johnston, Kathy Murphy, Walter Beck)

*Brass Duo – Excellent

(Jan Booker, Sharyn Kent)

*Vocal Trio – Excellent

(Sandra Ervin, Gail Bruntjen, Gerald Dunham)

*Mixed Vocal Ensamble – Excellen

(Gayle Grieshiem, Sally McDonald, Marsha Layton, Mary Meister, Paul Ford, Walter Beck, Joe Lamb, Bill Reeder)

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Submitted by Janie Cruise 
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Courtesy of Janie Cruise
Illiopolis High School Band – “SUPERIOR”
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Submitted by Janie Cruise
Illiopolis High School Band – “SUPERIOR”
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Submitted by Janie Cruise

If You Would Like To Share More Information…

…about the many accomplishments of Illiopolis High School please write to us via e-mail at . You can write to us via real mail at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.     60631

Illiopolis High School Entrance
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Illiopolis High School Building 1919 – Courtesy of Heidi Naisbitt
Illiopolis High School 1919 Yearbook Cover – Courtesy of Heidi Naisbitt

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