Robert VanBriesen, Author

SVHS Class of 1966

I grew up across the street from the Stillman Valley High School. The original building was built in 1927, when my dad was a sophomore.  As a child I enjoyed sitting on the front porch watching the high schoolers.  This was before the days of the school cafeteria, so the kids would, in good weather, eat their sack lunches on the grounds, and then pair off, or as a group walk up the street in front of my house.  I admired the girls saddle shoes with rolled Bobby sox, the popular draw string purses and cardigan sweater sets.  Being a farming community, many of the guys wore the blue FFA jackets.  I couldn’t wait to be in high school.  (these “kids” are in their 70’s now)

In the 1940’s Stillman had absorbed some of the students when the Kishwaukee and Kings High Schools closed.  They also accepted the high school students of Davis Junction, part of Holcomb Grade, Lindenwood Grade, Kishwaukee Grade, Kings Grade, and  Paynes Point, a one room school in a tiny community closed about 1958.

I remember watching the first athletic field being built.  Football was new in town.  The one room schools were closing and being auctioned.  My dad and I attended many of these auctions.  He was a local history enthusiast with a new camera.  Luckily he took photos of many of them.  Our 1879 grade school, with two grades to a room was bursting at the seams, so an addition with 4 more classrooms and a basement cafeteria was built in 1954.  Kindergarten, which lasted only a few weeks in the spring, was moved from the church basement to the school basement.  I was in that first class.

The cafeteria was a wonderful thing.  It not only provided a nutritious hot lunch with milk to the students, it became a community meeting place.  It was a place for the newly formed Lions Club to meet, many fund raising dinners were held there, in addition to vision and hearing tests, and polio shots.  We watched movies there, and the inaugural of JFK and John Glenn come back.

In the late 50’s, Monroe Center HS closed, and they joined the Stillman district.  This time it was the high school that was bursting at the seams.  A large addition was built, with a beautiful gym and a multiple level music room.  The cafeteria was relocated to the former gym, and the home ec room featured turquoise St Charles kitchens!  I graduated there in 1966.

A new and larger high school was built in the mid 70’s and the former high school building became the Meridian Jr. High.  Later, the 1927 building was razed, and a new addition was built.

As I look at the photos on IHSGD, I see many schools much like mine.  I hear the basketball game noise, the bands playing, and see the drivers Ed car go slowly down the street.  Many changes are not made without controversary, but things do change.  It was said the Monroe Center annexation was harder on the parents than the kids.  Over the years, the wounds have healed.   The fledgling football program has become a 4A powerhouse team with several state championships.  A very large and respected FHA chapter has faded away, but the FFA program is going strong.  Academics have always been a priority.  It’s a school to be proud of.  Some of the kids even got married!

Luckily, Stillman Valley has grown.  It has tripled in population since the 50’s.  Sadly, downtown has been hit hard.  Most of our retail businesses, including 2 nice grocery stores have faded away.  The bowling alley and drive in are gone.  The memories linger tho.  I am so glad our school survived, but I do miss the old days.

I am just a small town girl.  I have 4 sons and 1 daughter.  Luckily, several of them are interested in local history, and will sit and listen to me ramble on or stop and turn their car around so I can take a photo of a tumbledown school building somewhere.

I was a customer service rep at Kable Fufillment in Mt Morris for 15 years. My particular position allowed me to be on the Internet as long as I did my job.  I had been looking for info on the former schools of Illinois, and one day I saw an article about IHSGD, and it was just what I wanted!  I had time to do research, and loved finding schools.  I even had photos to share.  The less than 4 year schools all  closed in 1948, that makes their students around 80 years old now.  None should be forgotten.