(Shirley) Ben Funk High School “Cornhuskers”

Ben Funk HS (as it appeared in the 1920’s)
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Shirley, IL (courtesy of Funk Prairie Home Museum)
Ben Funk HS
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Students using transportation in 1917 to get to and from school

The History of Shirley Ben Funk High School

Shirley (population approximately 50) is located in central Illinois about six miles southwest of Bloomington. This places Shirley in the southwestern portion of McLean County. Old Route 66 passed through town during its “hey day” and is still the main roadway leading to and from Shirley. Interstate Highway 55 passes by the east side of town and has exit ramps allowing you to visit Shirley. The Illinois Central Gulf Railroad runs through Shirley as well. According to MapQuest (www.mapquest.com), Shirley is approximately three blocks by two blocks long and wide. A few photos taken in and near Shirley can be viewed at the website page of http://www.philiater1.com/Shirley.html .

The history of the town is in need of research. Education goes back to 1912 when a school opened for grades 1-8 on land donated by Frank Funk, which added two years of high school in 1914, followed by a third year in 1920. In 1917, Ben Funk became the first school in McLean County to use transportation (in the form of horse-drawn coaches) to bring students to and from school.

Promient architect A.A. Pilsbury, who designed many a building in McLean County in the early part of the 1900’s, was the architect behind the plans for the Ben Funk building in 1912. The school added on a second floor in 1920, then more space in 1954, and again in 1960 while removing the second floor.

Students had to attend a nearby high school in either Normal, Bloomington, or Heyworth to gain their high school diplomas. In the late 1940’s, Ben Funk fell victim to the consolidation effort pushed throughout the state. It was decided in 1948 to close Ben Funk High School. The students were then bused to nearby Heyworth to complete their high school eduction.

The Ben Funk High School building was then used for grade school students until 1991 when all students were brought to Heyworth. The building still stands today, and is owned by a family who lives in the building. The caretaker’s home on the school grounds is also used a dwelling for a family.

Ben Funk was featured in a 1920 Illinois schools journal. The following facts about the school were furnished:

No. of districts consolidated:          2

Square miles:                               16.5

Assessed valuation:                      $440,319

Cost of house:                              $9,000

Annual tax levy:                            $4,200

Tax rate:                                      0.93

Annual tax levy before:                  $1,175

Teachers now:                              3

Teachers before:                           2

Enrollment now:                           72

Enrollment before:                        46

Enrollment in grade school:           56

Enrollment in high school:             16

No. studying agriculture:               3

Aid from vocational fund:               No

Public conveyance:                      Yes

No. of wagons:                             1

Transportation cost:                     $722

Longest time on road:                   1:10

Years of high school course:         2

Months in year:                            8.5

The following questions posed for the 1920 journal were answered by Principal Walter M. Stacey:

Q – In what way do adults of the community profit by the school?

A – Without question the school is the social center of the community. Regular club meetings are held monthly; the women hold the Home Bureau meetings here; socials, etc., are held frequently.

Q – In what particular does the school meet the needs of the children and young people in the community in a superior way?

A – Patrons take a greater interest in the school because of the better building, better equipment, and better educational advantages, together with the better social condition mentioned above.

Q – What complaints are made?

A – The school wagon is too slow. It will be replaced by a truck next term if the proposed road improvements are made (Note: Today’s Old Route 66).

Q – What features give the most universal satisfaction?

A – Mention is most often made of the advantages derived from the teacherage. It is the home for the teachers and janitor, a refuge for students living at a distance and are not served by the school wagon, a meeting place of committees, school board, farmers’ business meetings, the center of social gatherings of the older students and the young people of the community, etc.

Ben Funk Yearbooks of 1937 & 1938
From Gordon E. Feicke / Submitted by Dorothy Blake
Ben Funk School Board 1937
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Submitted by Dorothy Blake

(Shirley) Ben Funk High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                                  1914

Year closed:                                   1948

Consolidated or annexed to:             Heyworth School District

Ben Funk HS team nickname:          the “Cornhuskers”

BFHS team colors:                          Blue & White

School Fight Song:                          “The Royal Blue and The White”

          (author unknown–taken from the 1945-46 Ben Funk HS yearbook)

                                        In the peaceful grove of Funks

                                        Our alma mater true

                                        In her colors so triumphant

                                        Looks down on me and you,

                                        In the song which we now render;

                                        With our honor shining bright

                                        Always we will stand defenders

                                        Of the Royal Blue and the White.

                                        Through the three long years of high school,

                                        Midst the scenes we love so well,

                                        Where the mystic charms of knowledge

                                        We vainly seek to spell,

                                        And we win athletic victories

                                        As all children do with might,

                                        Still we’ll work for dear old Ben Funk

                                        And the Royal Blue and the White.

                                        When the cares of life o’ertake us,

                                        Mingling fast our looks with gray,

                                        Should our dearest hopes betray us,

                                        False fortunes fade away,

                                        Still we banish care and sadness

                                        Throughout the day and the night

                                        And recall those days of gladness

                                        ‘Neath the Royal Blue and the White    

Ben Funk Cornhuskers of 1942-43
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courtesy : “Local Legends: A Photographic History of McLean County Sports 1884-1969” by Don Raycraft
Ben Funk 1938-39 Basketball Team
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courtesy of Funk Prairie Home Museum


We know that Ben Funk High School competed in boys basketball, baseball, and track. More information about the better team records of the Cornhusker athletic teams are being sought.


Though no IHSA hardware was won (www.ihsa.org), it is certain that Ben Funk High School competed in basketball. The following information has been taken from yearbooks that were supplied to us by former Ben Funk students Doris Rotramel Milling and Harold Rotramel, along with Rick Jannusch.

1933-34          3-  ?                                       Coach Roy Hovious

1934-35          1-12                                       Coach Roy Hovious

1935-36          3-  8                                       Coach Roy Hovious

1936-37          2-11                                       Coach Roy Hovious

1938-39          4-  8                                       Coach Ralph Bates

1939-40          4-  6  Tri-Hi Tourney Champs Coach Ralph Bates

1940-41          2-12                                       Coach Paul Glaeser

1941-42          0-13                                       Coaches Paul Glaeser &

                                                                     Cocoa Traylor

1942-43          8-  8                                       Coach Herman Conrady

1944-45          5-14                                       Coach Herman Conrady

1945-46          8-14                                       Coach Herman Conrady

1947-48          4-10  Last season                   Coach Herman Conrady


There were a couple of fall seasons when the Cornhuskers took on area teams on the diamonds before harvest.

1933        2-3                                         Coach Roy Hovious

1934        1-6                                         Coach Roy Hovious

1935        1-5                                         Coach Roy Hovious

1936        0-5                                         Coach Roy Hovious

1939        4-1                                         Coach Ralph Bates

1941        0-3                                         Coach Paul Glaeser

1945       (??)                                         Coach Herman Conrady


Yes, this is correct. In one season, we found that Ben Funk played softball instead of baseball. During the fall of 1944, Herman Conrady’s team was 2-0 in a limited schedule.


Competing in the Tri-High Conference with the likes of CongervilleChestnut, & Emden, Ben Funk won the conference track title in 1942 to go along with a 3rd place finish at the Congerville Invitiational and 5th place at the McLean County Meet. Two Cornhuskers won conference titles in that 1942 Tri-High meet: Charles Park (discus and high jump) along with Ralph Roy (shotput).

Ben Funk Grade School Tie Pin and Class Ring 1967


The following images are of a Ben Funk Grade School Class Ring and a Ben Funk Grade School Tie Clasp. They were kept by Douglas Feicke and submitted by his sister Dorothy Blake.

Ben Funk Grade School Tie Clasp 1967
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Submitted by Dorothy Blake
Ben Funk Grade School Class Ring 1967
Submitted by Dorothy Blake


In addition to Doris Rotramel Milling, Harold Rotramel, along with Rick & Rey Jannusch (manager of the Funk Prairie Home Museum), we’d also like to commend Bill Case at the Funk Prairie Home Museum for allowing us to gather information about the school for this page. The museum has not only information about the former school, but also a significant gemology collection and a history on the corn crop with Funk Seeds, for which the Funk family is widely-known.

Need your Assistance

If you have ANY further information about Ben Funk High School and its historic past, please send it to us via e-mail. Athletic accomplishments, as well as overall high school information is being sought. Information can be sent to us at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net. You can also write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva St. 

Chicago, Il.  60631

Ben Funk High School
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Shirley, IL

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