The Making of Illinois High School Glory Days Trip 2016

With not a lot on my plate at the present time, I have thought of this year’s Illinois High School Glory Days trip.

That only came after cleaning off my desk at work to rediscover the stuff I still have yet to post from last year’s trip.

Some time in May, I’ll be traveling many a road to search for old school buildings, and perhaps some old school histories. Last year’s trip was around the northern part of the Metro-East area of St. Louis. I’ll be returning to Chicago and Chicagoland for this year’s trip.

For those unaware, here is the website:

My friend Dave Nanninga founded Illinois High School Glory Days in February of 2005, with the old Mineral High School (near the Bureau-Henry County border) being the genesis of a school history website that, today, consists of over 1,100 schools which offered high school education at some point.

After Dave, Beau Spencer, and I (who later joined) uncovered a lot of schools from around where we lived, the road trips to find more tallied a lot more miles. Since then, we’ve added four more “site authors,” and we travel around Illinois uncovering the histories of these old schools in our state.

There are only so many high schools, and exactly 11 years after the site’s creation, we’ve likely uncovered 95% of the possible high schools there are to possibly rediscover. I say “possibly rediscover” because I estimate that there are about close to 200 schools that may have offered high school education, and either the records are lost forever, and those who attended have all since passed away.

When we “find” a school, we’ll post what we know. However, there is still tons of information missing from that point on. That’s where the road trips come in. I’ve gone on several throughout my “beat area” of northern Illinois, as well as Chicagoland and the City, as well as the Peoria area and, most recently, the aforementioned Metro-East trip.

Since we’ve uncovered a lot of information, the road trips don’t happen as much. For me, it’s whittled down to a point where I dedicate only one or two days a year to research. On top of that comes about one or two days of planning the trip.

1) Search the area.

Because more information and new schools are added throughout the year, I check the list of schools in the area I’m about to head to. For this trip, I looked at all of the pages of schools that were located in Will, DuPage, Cook, and the City of Chicago. I find out what pertinent information we are missing.

For example: We don’t have pictures of schools such as Immaculate Conception of Braidwood, Channahon, Manhattan, and Marian Hills Seminary of Hinsdale. A couple of those schools don’t have a whole lot of information, which warrant a trip to a library or historical society to uncover information. Since those communities are more toward the edge of Chicago, those would be my first stops.

Many of the City schools I jotted down don’t have pictures, and I would simply drive by and snap one. Time constraints don’t allow for me to stop at each school and research, but having a picture of the school (which we post at the top of each school page) is the best thing we can have that will stimulate the memories of the school for visitors of those pages. I have addresses for some of these Chicago schools, and some I need to dig deeper to find.

We have a couple of schools on our “to-do” list, including Crane and Dyett in Chicago; and I’ll be adding Lincoln-Way North of Frankfort to this list as well (as it will close at the end of this school year).

2) Which schools are worth going to?

For each metropolitan school that I can pinpoint an exact location, I get on the Google Maps street view to find these places. If they are still standing, great. If they are not, I won’t drive by it and note that the school is no longer standing. In some cases, I have taken pictures directly from street view.

For the smaller communities such as Braidwood, Channahon and Manhattan, I may not find the school, but will find libraries and such that may have information. Unlike the fronts of school buildings, whose “hours” are dawn to dusk for picture taking, libraries have hours that I need to try to plan my trip around.

This is probably the only instance that I ever use a map (I like to consider myself a human GPS system, and I do not have one in my car). I then connect the dots in an efficient path. The question of whether to come in from north to south, or south to north depends on library hours and whether I can hit them. I write a list from start to finish with stars for each school and arrows pointing certain ways to turn.

I have found it better to start as early as possible. I like to physically be at my first school around 7 a.m., which requires leaving home for this trip around 4 a.m. Because I don’t know what I’ll encounter along the way, I have all of this daylight time to use. The earlier I get done, the better. And if I have oodles of daylight left, perhaps I’ll make an impromptu trip to some other part of Chicagoland for a school or two.

3) Connect the dots

The 9 finalists for this year’s trip are scattered throughout the Southland area of Chicagoland, with the exception of two schools in Chicago proper. Those two schools, St. Vincent de Paul and Dyett, just need a few pictures and nothing more. I figure I can hit those two schools bright and early, thus being on the DePaul campus by 7 a.m. and then heading down the Dan Ryan toward Dyett.

By the time I hit my first school that mandates a library stop, it’ll be that time when those libraries start opening. I’ll be revisiting Luther East in Lansing, with a possible library stop if I run into any questions about it. I actually visited the site in April of 2014 while on my Golden Birthday trip, due to its close proximity to the hotel I was staying at. Then it’s down 394 to the library in University Park for information on Monee. We’ve got a lot about Monee’s other half, Crete, already.

One of the things I would also like to uncover when it comes to Monee is who they played for athletics, whether it was the Kankakee-area schools to the south, or schools north of there that I perhaps haven’t uncovered yet.

Next is a very modern stop, heading to the soon-to-be-short-lived Lincoln-Way North, which will close at the end of this school year. Chances are, whatever day in May that I go over it will be a school day, so I got to be prepared to be stopped fifty times during my trip to explain myself.

Next up is a library stop in Manhattan, a town that has since experienced a population boom in the form of suburban sprawl. However, in quieter days, it had a high school, and I’d like to expand on the history we already have on it.

Heading up toward the Joliet area next, a picture of the former Guardian Angel in Joliet will be in the cards, as well as a picture of the high school in Romeoville – Wait, isn’t the Romeoville school still going strong? The school used to be called Lockport West before it split off. Name changes of schools also make it on to the Glory Days website in certain situations, and because it was done in by the formation of a new school district, Lockport West makes it. I know there are old Lockport West alumni that preach that their school and Romeovile are two separate entities.

Heading more toward home, a stop in Channahon will be made, hopefully before the sun sets. I’m just hoping to get picture of the old school building, and if there is time, perhaps a library stop. This will be an interesting stop, because there may be a time in the near future where a difference will be made between “Old” and “New”. The Minooka school district opened a second high school campus within the Channahon village limits, naming it Minooka South. However, long-term plans are in place to make this particular school a 4-year campus, and initial plans were made to rename this school to “Channahon High School.” However, due to the recent pop of the housing bubble, the slowdown in the population growth hasn’t warranted these plans to take shape.

If, a big IF, I am able to make it there by 5 p.m., the library in Seneca will be my final stop to see if I can uncover anything on Kinsman. That is the “K” in MVK: Mazon-Verona-Kinsman. However, if I can’t make it, I might have time for it in 2017.

And that’s the trip.

What about next year?

In consideration on this year’s list was the school in St. George, a tiny community northeast of Kankakee. If this year’s trip didn’t include St. Vincent de Paul and Dyett, I probably would have made St. George my first stop this year. However, I decided to hit the last two Chicago schools (for now) on my docket this year, and make St. George a stop for a yet-to-be-really-planned 2017 trip. That would be the Kankakee-area and point south toward Champaign and Danville. However, a lot could change between now and then.

I’ve only been to Kankakee once, back in 2011 for a playoff football game between Bishop MacNamara and Morris. Prior to that, I hadn’t even been southeast of Morris.

4) The exact date?

While I’ve planned it out for some time in May, the exact date will revolve around work schedules. In particular, the postseason schedule for baseball and softball, which I’ll have plenty of newspaper work to do there I’m sure. I’m hoping for a Friday, but we’ll see what happens.

I need a breakfast suggestion for somewhere around the DePaul campus by 6 a.m., a lunch suggestion somewhere near the Southland, and a dinner suggestion somewhere near Morris. I’ll solicit opinions more toward the actual trip date.

I look forward to having some fun on the road this year.