The History of Lockport West High School
Lockport (population: 22,161) is located in northern Will County about 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago and about seven miles north of Joliet along Illinois Routes 7, 53, and 171. The Des Plaines River also runs thru the community and it is also the headquarters of the Illinois-Michigan Canal, which was built during the 1830’s as the community was an agricultural center where the steel plow was developed.
Over time, Lockport grew as did the grain trade on the canal and became incorporated in 1853. But when the Sanitary and Ship Canal south of Chicago was built in 1895, the grain traffic stopped and bankrupted one of the wealthiest people, Hiram Norton, as his flour mill, hydraulic power plants, and canal boats were rendered useless. The water power may have lived on, but it wasn’t until 1911 when the Calumet-Sag Channel was built north of the city cut off most of the power and any mills that depended on it closed their doors. Lockport then turned its attention to oil refining that same year when the Texas Company (aka Texaco) opened a facility at the northern edge of the city, staying there until the 1980’s.
Lockport was also important as a community whose residents lived there but also worked in Chicago when the Chicago & Alton RR offered daily commuter service, which is still being offered today with Amtrak and Metra.
The history of education in Lockport goes back to when the community was founded back in the 1830’s as classes were held in a log cabin. The first school was built in 1857, and high school courses were begun at a later date as the first graduates received their diplomas in 1888.
Lockport’s high school system grew and expanded to the point that it opened East and West campuses in the 1960’s. Lockport East was for freshmen and sophomores that would move over to the Lockport Central (main campus) for junior and senior year, while Lockport West opened its doors as a four-year school in 1963. The school system stayed intact until 1971 when Lockport West deannexed from the rest of the school district to start its own district in Romeoville, where it remains today using that community’s name for its high school.
Michael Rudy tells us the kids of Lockport West’s junior class in 1970 stayed loyal to their school for their senior year:
“The last class of Lockport West to wear the Lockport West class ring was the class of 72. The school changed names at the start of their Senior year and this class vowed to always be considered as Lockport West Spartans and still does to this day.”
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT LOCKPORT WEST HIGH SCHOOL
School opened: 1963
School closed as Lockport West: 1971
School nickname: “Spartans”
School colors: Navy Blue & White
School song: Lockport West Fight Song
Words courtesy of Janice Bly & Michael Rudy!
Lockport West we cheer for you,
Hear us lift our voices high.
Blue and White we’re full of fight
As we give our victory cry.
You Rah Rah!
Spartans all we’ll answer the call
To bring honor and fame to Lockport West
Who’ll lead all the rest
And we’ll win, win, win this game!
Yell, Shout, Kick, Scream,
Go Go Go Team!
Yeah white, yeah blue,
Yeah team were for you!
One two three hooray!!
The school offered sports for its male students only during the time it was opened for interscholastic purposes in baseball, football, basketball, and tennis. The Spartans were charter members of the Illini-8 Conference with other schools in the Joliet area, such as Lockport Central, Joliet Central, Joliet West, Joliet East, Kankakee Eastridge, Kankakee Westview, and Summit Argo. Michael Rudy tells us that in 1970 the Illini 8 changed and both Kankakee Schools left the conference and were replace by Joliet Catholic and Marian Catholic
The girls were not able to form teams that played other schools during the period it was opened, but did compete in the IHSA’s postal tournaments in bowling, and could have done so in basketball, archery, and swimming. Given that the school was growing, you would think that they would have offered track, wrestling, and swimming, but there are no records of these sports on the IHSA website (www.ihsa.org). If you know of any information about those sports being offered at Lockport West, please contact us.
The Spartans were successful on the diamond as they were winners on the field from the first year the school played. No IHSA hardware was brought back to the trophy case, but there were some good teams at Lockport West.
1964 7- 4 Coach Bill Kappmeyer
1965 9- 8 Coach Ken Kurtz
1966 9- 9 Coach Ken Kurtz
1967 10-10 Coach Ken Kurtz
1968 17- 3 (impressive record!!) Coach Ken Kurtz
Lockport West wanted to prove to its fellow school and to others in the area that they were competitive, which they did while they were known as LWHS. Here’s the complete listing of the eight-year history of the gridiron program:
1963 4-5 Coach Don Seitzberg
1964 3-4-2 Coach Don Seitzberg
1965 4-3-1 Coach Melvin Deskin
1967 6-2-1 Coach Melvin Deskin
1968 4-3-2 Coach Melvin Deskin
**Paul Jursa was an all-state football player in 1969.
**Craig Stout was named to the all-state team in 1970.
**Bill Bandemeir was named to the all-state team in 1971.
The first football team known as Romeoville HS was filled with Lockport West kids. This team, which played in the fall of 1971, went 6 – 3 and was coached by Mel Deskin, Dick Ruppel and Tony Fazio.
The Spartan netters were active each spring in the Chicagoland area, capturing one district title in the school’s final season before the school detached from the district.
1970-71 District Champions Coach Don Barone
Even though Lockport West did not have a winning season in its school history, the Spartans did improve as they battled year in and year out with area powers such as Joliet West and Joliet Central in the Illini-8.
1963-64 1-20 Coach Frank Blum
1964-65 6-15 Coach Rick Maack
1965-66 7-17 Coach Rick Maack
1966-67 3-20 Coach Rick Maack
1967-68 4-19 Coach Harry Garrett
1968-69 9-16 Coach Harry Garrett
1969-70 10-15 Coach Bill Parmentier
1970-71 2-20 Coach Mike Keasler
*Lockport West HS was one of 8 schools invited to participate in the Plano Holiday Tournament in 1963.
Lockport West probably offered GAA (Girls’ Athletic Association) activities during the time it was open (which was just prior to Title IX being passed and mandated that females be given the same interscholastic opportunities that boys were already receiving).
But in just its second year as a school (1965), the girls’ bowling team won the state postal tournament by defeating Manlius and Galesburg for the title. Way to go, Lady Spartans!!!
The Spartans were active in inidividual activities as a speech team and placed among the state’s best in 1966, as Chris Tingley won an individual state title. Another team followed it up two years later with a district championship.
1965-66 Tied for 6th place in state Sponsor unknown
STATE FINAL STANDINGS
1 Pekin 10
6 Washington 5
6 Bloomington HS 5
6 Macomb 5
6 Lockport West 5
6 Dolton Thornridge 5
6 Carbondale University 5
6 Peoria Richwoods 5
6 Orland Park Sandburg 5
Chris Tingley original comedy—STATE CHAMPION!!
1967-68 District Champions Sponsor unknown
Ken Kurtz—70-39 in six seasons as baseball coach (.648 winning percentage)
Melvin Deskin–25-22-6 in six seasons as football coach (.528 winning percentage)
WE’D LIKE TO GET MORE DETAILS…..
but need your help to fill in the gaps about the short history of Lockport West High School. If you have more information, such as coaches’/sponsors’ names, win-loss records. names of notable grads, words to the school song, pictures of the school or teams, and more, let us know. You can either e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by clicking on this Guest Commentary link. Or you can mail items to:
Illinois High School Glory Days
6439 N. Neva Ave.
Chicago, IL 60631