Neponset High School “Zephyrs”

Neponset High School – August 06, 2005
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Neponset Sesquicentennial – Neponset Alumni in Foreground (Photo Courtesy of Susan & Marty Golby)
“Welcome to Neponset 2006”
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Courtesy of Marty Golby

The History of the Zephyrs

Neponset (population 473) is located in the southwest portion of Bureau County on U.S. Route 34 approximately 7 miles east of Kewanee. Neponset today is known for its biggest employer, Martin Engineering.

The village was originally established in 1836 about one mile north of its current location. There are currently markers that identify this location near Blake Farms. The town was named Brawby by William and Ann Studley. It is thought this was the name of their town in their native England. In about 1866 the town name was changed to Neponset by railroad agent Myron Lee when it was moved to its current location along the Central Military Tract Railroad line that had been laid through the area. Lee named the town after his hometown of Neponset, Massachusetts which is now a part of Boston. Neponset is thought to be an Algonquin “Indian” term for “place of small summer.”

(Neponset name history found in a book titled “”Place Names of Illinois” by Edward Callary.)

Sign for Brawby, 2014
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Memorial Stone for Brawby, Illinois
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Downtown Neponset Looking West – 2007
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Submitted by Marty Golby
Neponset “Main Street” Looking East – 2007
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Courtesy of Marty Golby

A high school was established in the mid-1870s; and the first graduates of the school, Emma Moore and Laura Emery, graduated in 1878. The brick high school building was built in 1926. The school sports teams were named the “Zephyrs” after the infamous train that made stops in Neponset several years ago.  The high school was always small in enrollment compared to those schools around it, however its athletes were known to be fierce competitors.  The enrollment fluctuated from the high 30s to the low 80s. The boom time in Neponset was the late 1960s and 1970s when class sizes reached as high as 25 (Class of 1978) students and total enrollment reached the low 80s. For most of the rest of NHS’ history class sizes ranged from five to the high teens.

Enrollment and financial hardships finally took their toll and high school was deactivated in 1999 (ironically graduating one of the biggest classes in NHS history, 22 students). The high school aged students had their options of attending a number of nearby high schools. This changed when the Neponset School District merged with the Kewanee School District. The former high school building still stands proudly in town, now used as a private residence.  The grammar school in Neponset has consolidated with nearby Kewanee. The former Neponset Grade School now serves as a grade school for classes of the Kewanee School District.

 

Neponset Grade School 2014
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Neponset High School Dedication Stone – 1926
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Neponset High School “Quick Facts”

Year School Established:     Late 1800s, early 1900s

Year brick HS building built: 1926

Year Closed:                        1999

Nickname:                            the “Zephyrs”

School Colors:                      Maroon, Gray, and White

School Building:                    Still standing, used as private residence

School Fight Song:

                                           NHS,

                                           Our hats are off to you,

                                           We work and live and fight for you,

                                           To you we give our heart,

                                           For you we do our part,

                                           To you we’re always true!

                                           Rah Rah Rah!!

                                           NHS,

                                           Three razzling “rah rah rah’s” for you,

                                           Hail, Hail, Neponset High,

                                           To you we’re always true!

                                       

                                           Cha Hee, Cha Ha,

                                           Cha Ha Ha Ha,

                                           Neponset High School

                                           Rah,  Rah, Rah!!

Neponset High School Gymnasium 2013
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Now a Private Residence

Athletics

Boys Basketball

The boys basketball program enjoyed many successful seasons.  The team enjoyed its best success in the mid-1960s grabbing three District Championships.  In all the Zephyrs won four District titles.  One of the best players to grace the hardwood for Neponset was Roger Cannon. His 51 points in a January 4, 1965 game against Lyndon is the school record. Records of the teams and names of the coaches are not currently available.  The Zephyrs enjoyed some good success in the 70s also.  If anyone can provide further information regarding the Zephyr boys basketball program please complete a school submission form.  The best Zephyr seasons are listed below.

1934-35                Galva District Tournament            Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Bradford 40-19

Bradford lost to Kewanee in 2nd Rd

Kewanee beat Alpha in title game

1935-36                Sheffield District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Ohio 55-17

Ohio lost to Lamoille in title game

1936-37  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1937-38  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1938-39  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1939-40  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1940-41  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1941-42  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1942-43  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1943-44  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1944-45                Atkinson District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd score needed

Semi-final lost to Atkinson 42-31

Atkinson lost to Sheffield in title game

1945-46                Atkinson District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Atkinson 39-31

Atkinson beat Sheffield in title game

1946-47                Atkinson District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd score neded

Semi-final lost to Atkinson 53-33

Atkinson lost to Mineral in title game

1947-48  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1948-49                Atkinson District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Cambridge 46-37

Cambridge lost to Atkinson in title game

1949-50  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1950-51                Atkinson District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

 1st Rd Beat Lafayette 44-43

                             Semi-final lost to Sheffield 73-50

Sheffield lost to Mineral in title game

1951-52                Atkinson District Tournament       Coach’s name & record needed

 1st Rd Beat Buda 62-37

                             Semi-final lost to Atkinson 43-42 (2 O/Ts)

Atkinson lost to Mineral in title game

1952-53  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1953-54  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1954-55  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1955-56  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1956-57  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1957-58                Atkinson District Champions    Coach’s name & record needed

Early Round Scores Needed

                             Title Game Beat Atkinson 55-47

                             Princeville Regional Tournament

                             1st Rd lost to Wethersfield 73-58

Wethersfield lost to Kewanee in title game

1958-59                Annawan District Tournament      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Mineral 64-57

Mineral lost to Atkinson in semi-final

Atkinson lost to Annawan in title game

1959-60                Buda District Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Atkinson 63-55

Atkinson lost to Mineral in semi-final

Mineral lost to Annawan in title game

1960-61  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1961-62                Annawan District Tournament      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Lafayette 65-45

Lafayette lost to Annawan in semi-final

Annawan beat Buda Western in title game

1962-63                Buda District Tournament             Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Lafayette 63-43

Lafayette lost to Buda Western in semi-final

Western lost to Annawan in title game

1963-64                IHSA District Champions           Coach’s name & record needed

District Scores Needed

                             Kewanee Regional Tournament

                             1st Rd lost to Dunlap 78-58

Dunlap lost to Kewanee in the semi-final

Kewanee beat Wethersfield in title game

1964-65  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

        

1965-66                IHSA District Champions           Coach’s name & record needed

District Scores Needed

                             IHSA Regional Qualifier

                             Regional Scores Needed

   

1966-67                IHSA District Champions           Coach’s name & record needed

District Scores Needed

                             Kewanee Regional Tournament

                             1st Rd lost to Wethersfield 51-35

Wethersfield beat Dunlap in title game

1967-68                Bradford District Runner-Up     Coach’s name & record needed

                             1st Rd Score Needed

                             Semi-Final Beat Toulon 72-66

                             Title Game lost to Buda Western 64-53

1968-69                Kewanee District Runner-Up     Coach’s name & record needed

                             1st Rd Beat Sparland

                             Semi-Final Beat Atkinson 67-53

                             Title Game lost to Toulon 63-60

1969-70                Toulon District Tournament          Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Toulon 58-54

Toulon lost to Bradford in title game

1970-71                Neponset District Tournament      Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd lost to Atkinson 90-73

Atkinson lost to Buda Western in semi-final

Western lost to Annawan in title game

1971-72                Galva Class ‘A’ Regional Tourn.   Coach’s name & record needed

1st Rd Beat Wethersfield 94-64

                             Semi-final lost to Princeville 64-62

Princeville beat Toulon in title game 79-51

    

1972-73  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1973-74  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1974-75  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

  

1976-77   19 – 7   Bureau Valley Conf Co-Champs    Coach Robert Tasker

                            Wethersfield Tourney Runner-up

                            Manlius Tourney Runner-up

                            Regional Scores Needed

  

1977-78  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1978-79  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1979-80  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1980-81  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1981-82  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1982-83  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1983-84  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1984-85  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1985-86  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1986-87  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1987-88  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1988-89  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1989-90  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1990-91  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1991-92  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1992-93  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1993-94  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1994-95  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1995-96  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1996-97  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1997-98  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

1998-99  Postseason scores, record, and coach’s name needed.

Neponset Zephyr Basketball 1976-77
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Bureau Valley Conference Champs 19 – 7 Record

Girls Basketball

Girls basketball captivated the town in the 1980s and early 1990s.  With hometown product Chuck Blake leading the charge, the Zephyr girls touched the hearts and imagination of every small school in the area, and probably northern Illinois.  The Lady Zephyrs won eight Regional titles in one ten year span between 1984 and 1994.  Included were three straight Sectional titles and subsequent trips to the Sweet Sixteen.

The Neponset kids were not afraid of anyone.  Included in their seasons were trips to Chicago to play in “shoot-outs” with AA schools. One of the great Lady Zephyrs stories comes with “David vs. Goliath” type proportions.  The Lady Zephyrs invited then powerhouse Westchester Immaculate Heart of Mary to play in the Zephyr home gym in the 1992-93 season  The IHM girls were in the midst of their own “hey day” having won a State Championship in 1987 and 8 straight Regionals in the tough Chicago-land area.  The IHM girls were coached by their own future Hall of Fame coach Dave Power.  The Neponset girls, who were all “born in a small town”, pulled one of the biggest upsets of the year by defeating the IHM team.  What a story when Neponset’s enrollment probably did not exceed 70 students while IHM was likely hovering around 600 – all girls!

Jolene Bair led the Sweet Sixteen charge being named a Chicago Tribune 3rd Team all-state selection in the 1992 and ’93 seasons.  She was named to the first team all-state squad by the Champaign New-Gazette after the 1993 season.  The all-state teams were all-incompassing meaning they included players from “AA” as well as “A” schools. Jolene is still listed on the IHSA website as one of the State’s All-Time Leaders in the following categories (http://www.ihsa.org/activity/bkg/records/aindiv.htm):

#20  Career Rebounds – 1,228, Jolene Bair, Neponset, 1989-93

#39  Most Games of 10+ Points in a Season – 29 Games, Jolene Bair, Neponset, 1989-93 (actually tied for 7th)

Kim Hansen was another Neponset Lady Zephyr great who graced the courts with Jolene in the early 1990s. Kim also is listed among the State’s All-Time leaders in the following categories:

#38  Most Consecutive Games of 1+ 3-Point Field Goals – 14, Kim Hansen, Neponset, 1991-92

#45  Most Assists, Career – 498, Kim Hansen, Neponset, 1988-92

The Zephyr girls basketball team accomplishments, as listed on the IHSA website, are in turn listed below. As you can see, several team records are needed. If you have further information please write to us at: ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net

1983-84   N.R.A.      Regional Champions       Coach Chuck Blake

1986-87   N.R.A.      Regional Champions       Coach Chuck Blake

1987-88   N.R.A.      Regional Champions       Coach Chuck Blake

1988-89   N.R.A.      Regional Champions       Coach Chuck Blake

1990-91   26 – 3        Sweet Sixteen                Coach Chuck Blake

                               Regional Champs

                               Sectional Champs

                               Super-Sectional Finalist 

Lost to Seneca 58 – 53, Seneca evetually finished 2nd.

1991-92   27 – 2        Sweet Sixteen                Coach Chuck Blake

                               Regional Champs

                               Sectional Champs

                               Super-Sectional Finalist 

Lost  to Seneca 51 – 49 in overtime

1992-93   25 – 3        Sweet Sixteen                Coach Chuck Blake

                               Regional Champs

                               Sectional Champs

                               Super-Sectional Finalist 

Lost to Gibson City 59 – 53, Gibson City eventually finished 3rd.

1993-94   N.R.A.      Regional Champions       Coach Chuck Blake

Track and Field

According to the IHSA web site (www.ihsa.org) the Zephyr thinclads had one individual bring home medals from the state track meet.  The years were 1926 and 1927 when a male athlete named “Ducky” McMillen walked the halls of NHS. His accomplishments are listed below.

1925-26     Ducky McMillen      5th Place        50 yard dash      State Track Meet

1926-27     Ducky McMillen      3rd Place        50 yard dash      State Track Meet 

Boys Football

The earliest team of Neponset Football can be traced back to as far as 1921, when they defeated Kewanee in a game by the score of 28-7; not bad for beating a school at the least 10x bigger than you. Other years and the records are not known, however the Neponset Zephyrs were competitive in football and faired quite well in some years.  The program was discontinued after the 1975-76 school year due to declining numbers.  Some of the better records for Neponset HS Football are listed below as researched by Tom Sikorski.

1955  4-4                   Coach Bob Hauser

1956  5-2-1               Coach Donald Quinn

1962  4-4                   Coach Larry Freeman

1963  5-3                   Coach Larry Freeman

1965  5-4                   Coach Larry Freeman

1967  3-3-1                Coach Larry Freeman

1968  3-3-1                Coach Larry Freeman

1971  5-1-1                Coach Larry Freeman

GREAT COACHES

Coach Chuck Blake

Coach Blake’s successes were touched on above, however they can never be mentioned enough.  Coach Blake left Neponset after coaching the girls basketball program there from 1981 through the 1994 season.  He coached several more seasons at Kewanee Wethersfield and Kewanee High, and has 369 wins to date in his career, one of the top accomplishments for all girls basketball coaches in Illinois history. 

Coach Chuck Blake was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coach’s Association Hall of Fame in 2004!

Coach Blake by the Numbers:

4   – Trips to the Sweet 16 (3 with Neponset)

4   – Sectional Championships (3 with Neponset)

8   – Regional Championships with the Neponset Lady Zephyrs

13 – Regional Championships Overall (5 at Wethersfield)

#44 – All-Time in IHSA History for Number of Wins Overall by a Coach

Overall Career Record  369 – 137

Coach Larry Freeman

On the boys side one person who sticks out and defined the Zephyr tenacity was Coach Larry Freeman.  Coach Freeman coached all sports at Neponset and was a respected man in the community for many years.  Assistance is being sought for more information on Coach Freeman.

Coach Fitzpatrick

A prominant man of the Neponset community and a well respected coach of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Coach Robert Tasker

Coached some great NHS teams in 1970s and 1980s.

Other Memorable Names from the NHS Past

Teachers Carrol Blake Gerrond, Marjorie Clark, John Neil, Mary Ann Block, Vernon Luther (FFA), and Tom Blake are all well known in Neponset High School lore.

Alumni Greats

*Dave Mueller (Class of 1977) – All-Conference / Honorable Mention All-State basketball.  Now one of the premier basketball referees in northern Illinois.

*Elizabeth L. (Eggleston) Huff (Class of 1897) – Author of “Spoon River Homestead”

*Thomas Gunning (Class of 1899) – Republican Illinois State Senator from 1931-1943, was also a dentist and a member of the Freemasons, Elks and Odd Fellows.

NHS Zephyr Memorial Signs at the Entrance to Town
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Submitted by Marty Golby

Memories

From Brenda Kopp:

“What an awesome website! My days as a Neponset High School Zephyr were some of the best of my life.  I pretty much wore nothing but maroon, grey and white during the 1980’s. The building had hardwood floors, wooden folding doors, an old balcony, back stairways, a boiler that late at night sounded like a woman screaming and tons of other character.  All my life I want to be a Zephyr.  Thanks for putting a smile on my face.  I also love the music you have chosen.  Great Job!”

From Brandi (Hamilton) Elias:

“I graduated from Neponset High in 1993. I will never forget all the great times I had playing basketball. We were all friends and thats what made us such a good team. And I’m so glad we had Chuck Blake as our coach. He and his family did so much for me through out my school years. And ask anyone about running the “HOG JOG”!”

Seeking Further Information

If you have any information you would like to share with us regaring Neponset high School please write or e-mail us at the addresses listed below.  We are especially interested in photos of the great teams and the high school building itself.

To e-mail us:          ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net

 

To write us:           Illinois HS Glory Days

                              6439 N. Neva St.

                              Chicago, il.   60631

Neponset HS Football Field
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Tennis Courts on left / Baseball Diamond in Background
Neponset HS Zephyrs
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First Golf Team – 1976-77
Neponset High School Track
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1976-77
NHS Lady Zephyrs
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First Girl’s Basketball Team 1976-77
NHS Teacher/ Coach
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Coach Robert Tasker
Neponset High School
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Picture Courtesy of Marty Golby
Neponset High School Building 2012
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Now a private residence – photo by Roberta Van Briesen

A Neponset Icon

Reprinted from the Quad City Times:

Neponset barber gives no-frills trims for $1.75

By Bill Wundram | Monday, May 07, 2007

NEPONSET, Ill. — John Edwards, the $400-haircut presidential candidate, should drop into Mike Mowbray’s little barber shop the next time he needs a cut. The price is only $1.75. Edwards won’t have any trouble finding Mike’s shop because it is the only one of its kind in this Bureau County town of 500, about 55 miles east of the Quad-Cities.

A hand-lettered sign on the wall — hanging alongside a mounted pheasant — states the price. It has been the same for 35 years. Mike’s Barber Shop is the classic small town shop, the kind that is disappearing from rural America — the single barber’s chair, the checked tile floor, the little radio for Cubs’ games, the cross above the white porcelain pedestal sink.

Mowbray, 68 and cueball bald, gets a kick out of the two haircuts that cost the Democratic presidential candidate $400 apiece.

“As for me, I think $1.75 is a fair price for a haircut.”

He said that if Edwards came to his shop, he would be pleased to cut his hair — for $1.75.

Mowbray says, “I charge a small price because my customers are loyal and it is one way that I can help people save money. You know, the price of gasoline and that sort of thing. I make a living and I’m fortunate. That’s enough for me.”

Mowbray and his wife, Joyce, own the barber shop building, which cost $4,500 in the 1950s. They live in a combination of cozy rooms attached to the shop, and several more upstairs.

“I have one fellow who regularly comes here all the way from Chicago. I can’t say it’s for the price. He just likes to drive out here and enjoy a small town that is away from the busy-ness of Chicago.”

Donald Wilson of Kewanee is in the chair while Mowbray snips and shears away. There is nonstop small town talk between patrons who wait in a line of leather chairs. They don’t have to wait long. Mowbray’s shop is the home of the 10-minute haircut. Wilson kids Mowbray that sometimes he thinks the price is too high.

The barber laughs. “One more remark like that and I’ll cut your initials in the back of your hair.”

He dusts the neck of Bob Lewis of Neponset with an old-style soft barber’s brush while another customer stands to step forward. Mowbray doesn’t have to say “next.” Everyone politely knows their turn.

The bargain price is not to say that a customer always gets out of the shop for $1.75. Most customers give him $2 and tell him to keep the change.

 


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