The History of New Burnside High School
New Burnside (population 242) is located in the far-southern portion of Illinois in northeastern Johnson County. The town is situated about 15 miles southeast of Marion and 25 miles southeast of Carbondale. U.S. Route 45 is the main roadway leading to and from New Burnside while Illinois Route 166 gets its start in town. Pond Creek flows through town. The Conrail Railroad has tracks that travel through New Burnside as well.
The history of New Burnside and its high school is in need of research. A brief history of the town of New Burnside can be viewed at http://www.nostalgiaville.com/travel/Illinois/newburnside/new%20burnside%20il.htm. Our guess is that New Burnside had a school in place by the late 1800s. It is probable that a high school was established by the late 1800s or early 1900s. Our best guess is that New Burnside High School served the community for several years. It may have been in the late 1940s, possibly even later, that New Burnside High School closed her doors.
After its’ use as a high school, the school building was used as a grade school for kids from New Burnside and the neighboring towns of Simpson and Ozark. It incorporated grades 4-8. It was discontinued as a grade school in the early 1990’s. The New Burnside High School building was still standing as recently as July of 2013. The New Burnside kids now attend school in Vienna.
The following memories from attending New Burnside school in the 1940s/50s were provided by Ruth Eilers:
“Our family moved to New Burnside in 1945 when I was 4 years old. We moved there from a small house somewhere near Parker City, Ill which was already a ghost town. My paternal grandfather worked for the railroad in Parker City.
I am the second oldest of 7 children and we all attended the school in New Burnside. It had been a high school in an earlier time; my dad attended high school there and played basketball although he did not graduate. At the time we moved to New Burnside, several country schools had already closed and country kids came to school there. I don’t remember busses, so don’t know how they got to school.
The small farm we moved to was adjacent to the school property. Prior to our arrival a small piece of this land was sold to the school to build a reservoir to hold water for the building. While there was water to the building, there were no inside restrooms. There were two outhouses, one for the boys and one for the girls. I can still picture the entire building which had two floors. In my child’s eye, it was a very large building. One walked up several steps to the double doors in the center of the building, then either up a wide set of steps to the classrooms or down a more narrow set of steps to the level where the kitchen, eating area, janitors room and furnace was. A hot lunch was available, I don’t remember what it cost; we seldom got to eat there as we lived close enough to walk home for lunch-it was just across the pasture and through the back yard to our kitchen door. It was a special treat when we did get to eat hot lunch, usually only on really bad weather days. In the hall outside the kitchen was a long metal sink with 4 or 5 faucets along the length of the sink where anyone having lunch there had to wash their hands first, in cold water as there was no hot water. The other way to school was down the road, around the corner and up a long hill, probably no more than 4 blocks from our house but it seemed a long way when the building was just across our pasture but when the field was wet it was pretty muddy around the small creek we had to cross on a board placed across it by our dad.
Upstairs the building was divided into two classrooms, one for grades 1-4 and another for grades 5-8 each with a cloakroom where we put our coats and boots if we had them. Mr. Yandall was the principal and taught the upper grades, Miss Burris taught grades 1-4. I still have some of my report cards. There was a gymnasium with a stage where our Christmas operetta was presented for the community each year, in 8th grade I got to be the angel and wear a beautiful white dress. There was also a community wide Halloween party in the gym for many years. Adults as well as kids came in costume and we all walked around the perimeter of the gym in a parade hoping to be chosen for the best costume of the year. Baked treats, coffee and kool aid was provided by parents. The gym was in back of the building with an entrance on one side, it must have been built on some time after the original building went up. Bleachers pulled out from the side of the gym floor. The school really was a community center.
We had a boys basketball team and a softball team. Any girl in the upper grades who wanted to, could be a cheerleader. My mom made several skirts for us, red and white circle skirts below our knees with red bloomers we had to wear under them (we were not supposed to twirl around enough for bloomers to show-Mr. Randall’s rule). I think we were the New Burnside hawks.
I remember a sand table in the room when I was in first grade where we could go play at certain times while other grades were having lessons. My first trouble in school came in first grade when my enthusiasm at the sand table caused sand to fly into another girls hair. I had to leave the table and sit at my desk, humiliated; I didn’t do it on purpose!
A bookmobile came to the school sometimes, we could check books out to keep until it came back around.
At the end of the school year, the 7th and 8th grade students were taken to Ft. Massac state park near Metropolis for a day. We took a sack lunch and traveled there in the back of an enclosed truck, it must have belonged to a parent, I’m not sure. I remember we all sat around the inside, leaning against the back sides and it all seemed quite exciting to be going so far for a day away from school. There were probably no more than 10 or 12 of us in the two grades and a teacher or two along to supervise.
New Burnside High School Quick Facts
Year opened: late 1800s / early 1900s
Year closed: 1949?
Consolidated to: Vienna High School
New Burnside HS team nickname: “Hawks”
NBHS team colors: Red & White
School Fight Song: unavailable