The Way We Were: Whatever happened to ... Unit 4 schools

The Way We Were: Whatever happened to ... Unit 4 schools

The News-Gazette had its beginnings in 1852. While there aren't any folks around from those days, we do like to look back at our area's history.

That's what the new series is about. News-Gazette staff writer Paul Wood will collect groups of photos to spark memories from decades past.

Today, the series continues with more than 120 years of memories about Champaign's public schools.

In the spotlight: At new Centennial, 'We didn't want to be the Mellon Heads'

It was the Great Divide. Elementary schools have come and gone, but one high school had united all of its young adults for decades.That changed with the construction of a new high school to the west of Central, at first called the Annex. Mellon High was considered as the permanent name when construction finished, alumni said.

"We saw it being created," said Sally Good Shores, a member of the first graduating class.

Soon, a rivalry began. At first, Centennial and Central did not compete against each other in sports to keep tension down, notes Shores, part of the first cheerleading squad.

(She's the one leaping above other cheerleaders, both from Central and Centennial, in the photo above.)

There's still a playful rivalry between the Maroons and the Chargers.

In fact, Central alum Barbara Pece Huffman jokes, "We Maroons still call it the Annex."

Vicki Michael Tempel, who was also in the first class, said that name is still used by crosstown rivals.

But there's no real antagonism. Central and Centennial will hold their 50th reunions together.

The Annex being outdated by the completed school building, the school's new name was voted on by students. In 1967, Centennial was chosen, since the school is in that park, and a school was erected 100 years before.

"We really didn't want it to be called Mellon High School. We didn't want to be the Mellon Heads," Shores says. "The swim team would have been the Water Mellons."

Democracy ruled.

"During my junior year, we voted on the school nickname and colors. I voted for Chargers and light and dark blue," recalls Randy Russell. "We took a beating in most first-year sports. Football did well and dominated the following year. Track finished second in the conference meet by half a point."

Tempel says that, to avoid conflict, Centennial played schools from far away, with St. Joseph-Ogden an exception. She has a football schedule from the first season.

Shores notes that Centennial lacked sports equipment and uniforms in its first year, and the Illini lent the players their practice jerseys.

But Centennial has prevailed, Shores says. Among the Olympians Centennial has produced include Bonnie Blair, Katherine Reutter-Adamek and Gia Lewis-Smallwood.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Education, People

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carol wrote on February 04, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Wow!  I didn't remember that Mellon was considered for our school name...and Sally's right:  Mellonheads?  Watermelons?  No no no!!