The red-brick and gray school buildings are gone from Nebraska City's First Corso landscape, but not from the recollections of the Class of 1964 and students they helped shape over 85 years.
Nichi Barton, a member of the class's time-inducted reunion committee, said classmates feel a connection to the schools because they were the last to graduate from the red brick building. They feel it's only fitting to do something special as next year's 50-year honor class, she said.
The class is launching a fundraising campaign this summer to construct a memorial plaza with markers declaring the buildings' page in Nebraska City history.
Barton said the plaza is designed to fit into the architecturally-rich neighborhood, which includes the Morton-James Public Library, GAR Hall,Episcopal pioneer cathedral and former federal post office.
The small plaza will feature benches and two black granite tablets that depict the buildings and their timelines.
She said the traditional thing for the 50-year class to do is contribute to a scholarship, but Barton said the Class of '64 is not known as traditionalists.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963, the class considered the school's annual senior trip to Chicago and decided they would instead go to Washington, D.C.
They gained the school board's approval on condition that more than half of the students would go and if they raised the extra money.
"We took a bold step when we challenged a senior tradition and succeeded," Barton said.
"Now we are challenging tradition again to honor the alums of the red-brick and gray buildings."
The red-brick building was among the first in the United States to be built for the purpose of a junior high.
It became the high school in 1945 and graduated 19 classes. When the current high school was built west on Central Avenue, the building again became a junior high and served that purpose until it was razed for the new middle school in 1995.
The grey building was built in 1911 and is believed to be the city's second public high school. It was used as the junior high from 1945 to 1964 and demolished in the late 1960s. The two buildings faced each other on the area where the middle school is now and formed a campus.
Graduates of 1964 remember going back and forth between buildings for classes. The gymnasium, called the pit because the cramped seating hovered over the floor where the basketball players and cheerleaders performed, was at the red-brick building.
The choir instructor and the band classes were in the grey building. "When you went in the front door, the entrance to the gym was to your left. It was the only way in or out of there," said former cheerleader Diane Rinne.
Page 2 of 2 - "There was another door down there, but it went to the alley and no one ever used it except the basketball team," Barton said.
There were no sports for girls in 1964, but the girls took physical education in the gym and were certain not to miss the team in action."We loved our teams. They were very important to us," Rinne said.
The auditorium also held memories for the girls, who said they could stand, talk and hang out on the stage, but that tried to avoid kneeling because then teachers could see if their skirt was long enough.
When a girl kneeled, the skirt had to reach the floor or they were sent home to change. Diane Reese said all girls wore skirts in those days and they learned to leave their skirts long in the auditorium, but then roll them up at first opportunity.
Roxie Cillessen, another of the class's cheerleaders, said she was impressed with the three sets of stone staircases and the giant stone columns of the grey building.
Karen Hoemann Lester said the stone stairs were grooved on the main walkways because of so many people walking on them since 1911.
Hoemann also remembered a great football victory at Hayward Field.
"I thought we had won the state championship or something by the excitement," she said.
In actuality, it the team's only win of the season. Barton said legend has it that the Omaha opponent had a touchdown lead and was ready to go in for another score, when a senior pleaded with teammates that if there was a fumble they needed to pick it up and run all the way.
There was very little time on the clock. As it turned out, there was a fumble and a Pioneer picked it up and ran 99 yards for the score.
Linda Dierking Beermann remembered the narrow halls and creaking staircases of the school.
"There was no air conditioning," she added. "We suffered miserably in the late fall and spring."
The class is accepting donations for the $25,000 project, which includes engraved benches and memorial pavers. The class hopes to have all donations by Oct. 1 to begin construction.
A ceremony is planned for the reunion May 23-25.
For information on donations, pick up a brochure around Nebraska City or call Barton at 402-873-3437.