North Montgomery High School honors senior scholars

North Montgomery High School honored a record number of seniors at its 24th annual Academic Awards Banquet at the Crawfordsville Country Club on Monday. A total of 55 seniors with an accumulated grade-point-average of 3.5 and above had their chance to say thank you to the person of their choice who they consider instrumental in their academic growth.

The North Montgomery Parent Advisory Council sponsors the event. Also in attendance were North Montgomery school board members and school administrators.

Parent Advisory Council member Gail Emerick was one of the council members to organize the banquet. She said the change in the format was a first.

“This is the first year that juniors were not in attendance at the annual banquet,” Emerick said. “It is great to see the number of honor students getting higher, but we cannot accommodate all the seniors and juniors on the same night.”

After the meal each senior read a letter he or she had composed with their mentor standing beside them. The letters are the highlight at each banquet and often times became emotional for both the student and the mentor.

Senior Sam Lovold selected his grandfather Bob Stwalley as his mentor to honor. For Stwalley, being chosen was humbling.

“I am excited and humbled to have Sam choose me,” Stwalley said. “He has spent a lot of time with his grandmother and me out in the woods. He has a great appreciation for the outdoors.”

Three senior award winners have perfect 4.0 grade point averages. They are Elizabeth Budd, Emily Foley and Korey Pierce. 

The large amount of senior award winners prompted a change in the banquet’s format. For the first time junior honor students were not present at the event.

A record number of 54 juniors being honored this year is also a record. They will be recognized May 17 at the High School Awards Night. Juniors with an eight semester cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher receive a North Montgomery High School Academic Letter. Last year 43 juniors were honored.

Tornado sirens to sound in yearly drills

As west central Indiana received its first dose of springtime thunderstorms and with peak severe weather season approaching, it’s time to practice taking shelter from the storm.

Public safety officials are raising awareness of storm readiness during Severe Weather and Flood Preparedness Week. 

“This might be a good time because we’re right in the middle of that right now,” said assistant emergency management director Brian Campbell, as severe thunderstorms rolled through northeastern Montgomery County Monday afternoon. “We have one-inch hail at my house.”

Two statewide tornado drills will be conducted today. Outdoor emergency sirens will be sounded at 10:15 a.m. and 7:35 p.m.

The morning test is designed to allow schools and workplaces to practice their action plans. The evening drill is geared toward families at home.

Residents are advised to take the opportunity to develop a safety plan and identify the safest shelter inside their home.

The basement or the lowest level of a home offers the best protection during a tornado warning. If you don’t have a basement, go to an interior room such as a closet or


The county is installing new outdoor sirens in Mace and near the Chigger Hollow subdivision, the areas where last summer’s tornado struck, Campbell said.

For indoor notifications, residents can receive alerts through the county’s mass notification system, which sends messages by text message, email and landline telephone. To sign up, go to montgomeryco.net and click “Emergency Alerts.”

Weather radios and local radio and television stations also relay severe weather information.

One of the biggest misconceptions about severe weather, Campbell said, is that if a twister has not hit a certain neighborhood, it never well.

“Tornadoes don’t pick and choose their paths, and there’s really nothing that deters them from taking a certain path,” he said.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security offers the following safety tips during severe weather:

• Postpone or cancel outdoor activities and monitor weather reports.

• For lightning, shelter inside a building or hardtop vehicle, but do not touch the metal inside.

• Do not go near isolated tall trees or any other tall objects, or near downed power lines.

• Do not stop at underpasses. Wind speeds increase and can cause serious injuries.

• If tornadoes are expected while in a vehicle, get out and take shelter in a strong building if possible. 

• During tornado warnings, mobile home residents need to evacuate immediately. Shelter in a building with a strong foundation.

• If caught out in the middle of a body of water, return to shore as soon as possible.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends the following flood safety tips.

• Turn around, don’t drown. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.

• Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.

• If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.

• If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.

• Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

A ‘Splendid’ School

As the last day of classes for the beloved, but run-down old Crawfordsville High School drew near, the stained glass windows in the main hallway were taken down for a scrub.

An old student painting was shipped off to a museum for a face-lift. And no sooner than Helen Hudson learned the names of her new colleagues, she was packing up her lesson plans for the move from the landmark building in the heart of the city to a roomier campus on the edge of town.

“It struck me as almost puppy-like the excitement that the staff had,” said Hudson, who was a temporary English teacher during the transition year. “They were so excited about this new building.”

Students and staff had fond memories of the old school, but they wouldn’t miss the pests and rodents.

“No more will there be cockroaches the size of sanitation trucks crawling across the floors and desks,” read the 1993 edition of “The Athenian,” the final one published from the old building. “This new school will have all of the facilities that the old school never had.”

‘Magnificent’ new building

When the old CHS closed in 1993, it marked the end of more than 140 years of education in Jefferson Square, bounded by Jefferson, College, School and Seminary streets.

Students first arrived in 1852. By the 1870s, the neighborhood was anchored by the Central school building, which housed all 12 grades. (The community’s first school opened in a log courthouse on East Main Street in 1826, three years after Crawfordsville was laid out.)

Central was remodeled after a fire, but by the dawn of the new century, students were complaining about small windows, dark corridors and poor ventilation.

More than $92,000 was spent to build a new school. CHS opened in September 1911.

“Ours has been the honor to initiate a magnificent new building,” the yearbook staff wrote. “A building longed for, worked for and anticipated by every former graduating class – a structure of beautiful, yet plain architecture, splendidly equipped in every modern aspect.”

The Prairie School style was common for turn-of-the-century Midwestern homes, public buildings and businesses. CHS was known for its low roof with overhanging eaves, and the copper cornice.

Later came more classrooms, an auditorium and the Works Progress Administration-era gymnasium, the longtime home of basketball sectionals. Once during a major snowstorm that canceled classes, students used tractors to haul spectators to a match-up.

Going forth to serve

Early on, students were active in athletic associations, debating societies, orchestras and other festivities.

Principal Anna Willson, who returned to helm CHS during World War I after a stint at Central, pushed the importance of community service among young people, giving them a wide berth to lead.

Willson pioneered the Sunshine Society, the service organization for girls. CHS hosted state conventions and chapters spread out across the state, supporting charities and raising money for Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

The school was the old stomping grounds of future state senator and lieutenant governor Richard Ristine, astronaut Joe Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke and crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz.

Classmates remember Van Dyke as a class clown and Shortz, who now works for the New York Times, often doodled puzzles on his assignments.

Teachers reflect

By the 1960s, generations of students had walked through the doors. Teenagers could be found after school at the soda fountain in the Gold & Blue, where the College Street Deli later served sandwiches.

Giving new government teacher Steve Gentry his first walk-through in 1963, then-principal Ward Brown said it wouldn’t be long before the building would be retired.

“It was showing its age then,” Gentry said.

He stayed in the same classroom for 30 years, buying his wooden desk from an auction during the move. Gentry retired  in 1999, shortly before being elected mayor.

The school district received the state’s blessing for a new school in the mid-1980s. Construction began on State Road 47 in 1989.

Hudson and her family were new to town as the community began debating the school’s future. Dr. Kathy Steele, then a central office administrator, recruited her to teach a few hours of 11th grade English in 1992.

“It looked to me like a building out of the past,” Hudson said. “It very much had those beautiful archways and that dark brick that I associated with being a schoolchild myself decades and decades before.”

As the staff began packing, they uncovered a large wooden plaque with the names of students on the school’s first athletic teams, a gift from the class of 1916. Hudson saved old LP records from the trash pile.

The last day of school was bittersweet for students, some of which Gentry remembers were close to tears. Some seniors were jealous that the next graduating class would benefit from the air-conditioned new campus with its modern classrooms and Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“This school will always hold a lot of memories for me, and I am proud to say that I attended CHS, even if it was about to fall down,” senior Erica Whitehead was quoted in the yearbook. 

The building was given a second life as a fitness center and senior housing community. Athena Sports and Fitness opened in 2001.

Show a touch of spring

A sure sign that spring is near is the annual Montgomery County Master Gardeners Flower and Garden Show.

This year’s event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Montgomery County 4-H Fairgrounds. Several vendors and educators will be on hand to help event-goers answer gardening questions.

Every year leading up to the show, the Midwestern weather varies. Last year spring came early. This year the area had an usually warm period in February which was interrupted by recent snowfall and dropping temperatures. Master Gardner Bob Smith said the current weather conditions always makes for different questions from event-goers.

“Mother Nature has all our outdoor plants and trees confused,” Smith said. “If you look at the crocuses and daffodils you will see them all bending over and touching the ground,” Smith said. “There is not a lot we can do about that, but hopefully not many fruit trees had started budding yet. That could be bad news later on.”

Smith said now is a good time for gardeners to plant seed starts in their homes so seedlings can be transferred outdoors when warmer weather returns. He also said this is a good time to clean up lawns and gardens to prepare for the planting season.

The Montgomery County Master Gardeners will staff their booth at the show to answer questions about gardening and lawn maintenance. Anyone asking a question at the club’s booth will get a free plant. The group is always looking for new members. They will have information on how to join.

Nucor will have a booth inside the fairgrounds arena. Employees will again distribute assorted types of free trees from 8 a.m. to noon.

Smith said there some new vendors will be present this year which gives the show something new. Vendors will offer all types of lawn and garden items.

Also new will be breakfast and lunch will be offered by Maxine’s on Green.

Smith said there is still room to add vendors to the show. Contact him at 765-918-0030.

Ahead Of Schedule

When Crawfordsville Fire Department’s new Station No. 2 opens this summer, firefighters can hang their hoses up to dry in the truck bay, clipping them on to hooks on the ceiling.

“I think they want me to put an electric hoist up there so they don’t have to pull them up by hand,” joked Dale Petrie, director of operations for the City of Crawfordsville, as he walked through the building last week.

Crews are slightly ahead of schedule on the $4.8 million project, which is slated to be finished in June. Construction began last year. The station will be more than 15 times larger the current facilities, which the department has long outgrown.

Construction manager Denny Barr of Envoy Inc. said the city was getting a good value for its investment, marveling at the amount of concrete used.

“This, I think, could substitute for a bomb shelter, I believe,” Barr said. “It’s incredibly built.”

Indianapolis-based Patterson Horth is the contractor. The project is being paid for through bonds.

Once drywalling is done, crews will finish electrical wiring and install the heating. Water is expected to be hooked up next week followed by the other utilities.

The larger vehicle bays will allow a third truck to be housed at the station. Trucks will exit onto Main Street, with firefighters able to control the traffic light at the Englewood Drive intersection.

There also will be space to work on equipment and train for rescues.

Firefighters will have an expanded kitchen, fitness room, family area and a patio on the ground level. A training room is designed for multi-purpose activities and open to crews from Station No. 1, which has slightly smaller training facilities.

Each of the three shift commanders will have their own computers and workspaces. Upstairs are the eight-bed living quarters, which boasts a television room.

“They’ll just be in heaven in this place,” Petrie said as he looked through the rooms.

Demolition of the current station is expected to take place about a week before the new facility opens to allow crews to finish the patio. Petrie said the downtown station will be the only one in service during that time, adding there are other buildings where the city can store trucks.