By Sean Neary
Lincoln High has been in this location on J Street for exactly 100 years, which calls for a celebration. On March 29, 2015, people of all ages swarmed into the building. All the parking spots were filled for this spectacular event, 100 Years on J Street. “I think that having a school in the center of town is an absolute must, because not everything can go on the edges,” Brenda Frank- Collins, class of ‘81, said. “I always think it’s so funny that when they first built this location, the complaint was that it was too far out of town, because the downtown really was quite a ways away, but I have always loved it,” IB Coordinator John Heineman said. “I’ve always lived in the Near South Neighborhood, which is the neighborhood just west of Lincoln High, and so I’ve always really loved this neighborhood. I love the history, and I think it’s a great mix of being both downtown and being in a neighborhood, so I like the location.” Heineman has served as a teacher at Lincoln High for 30 years.
Heineman is currently our IB Coordinator at Lincoln High, making him an administrator. Before he was promoted to that position two years ago, he has taught English and Theatre. He will be retiring this year. Though many of us know Lincoln High has been located on J Street for exactly 100 years, few know where it was located before it was located here. “I heard from Dr. Zimmer, there have been two other locations, but I know the second location was where Pershing Auditorium is now,” Heineman said.
“That was considered part of town,” Frank-Collins said. “This was still considered far enough away that they were worried about their kids heading off in the middle of nowhere.” “They outgrew their building, so they rebuilt out in a very open spot, which they could keep expanding upon,” Frank-Collins said. Both Heineman and Frank- Collins noted that, because Lincoln High was first built in the middle of nowhere, people were worried that their kids would get eaten by wolves, coyotes and snakes. Believe it or not, that’s how far out of town this location was in 1915. According to Frank-Collins, the students at the time would walk, ride a bicycle, or ride a buggy to school. “If you do background research on Lincoln, it’s kind of neat to see how it did grow up around the school,” Frank-Collins said. While at this location, Lincoln High has helped all kinds of people grow and develop over the year
s. “I’ve met some amazing people and the diversity is wonderful,” Junior Clara Higgins, class of 2016 said. “I try to meet someone new every day, and a lot of those people come from different backgrounds than me. I think that’s been a great influence on my life.” “I think it really made me the good teacher that I am, and I say that without bragging because it’s Lincoln High. Lincoln High demands the best out of people and I think that it’s done that for me, and so I’ve been very lucky to have colleagues who have been mentors along the way and other teachers who have helped me become a great, fine teacher, so it’s been a great 30 years,” Heineman said. “If someone didn’t take advantage of their opportunities here at Lincoln High, students who don’t get involved with the newspaper of theatre or sports. That’s the one thing that’s always been frustrating, because you can always get involved more at Lincoln High,” Heineman said.
“In a very short sentence, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything,” Frank-Collins said. “I transferred to come here from Southeast because I was not impressed there. I was very impressed here. People were not as opinionated here. You could be who you were and it didn’t matter. At Southeast, the first thing that some older friends asked was what kind of car I was going to drive when I came to school, and here it didn’t matter.” “I was born in Europe, so when I came to Lincoln, my English wasn’t up to par, so I was very impressed with the teachers,” Irene Murphy, class of ‘55 said. “They were really kind and thoughtful and guiding us through the school.”
“Best school ever!,” Dyla Romanis, class of ‘56 said. Lincoln High has undergone many changes over the 100 years on J Street. Romanis went on to say that, when she was in high school, there was only Lincoln High and Northeast, so their sports teams traveled a lot more than they do now. “It was one building then, and there are more students here now,” Rasma O’Connell, class of ‘55 said. “It was just the main building, and, after we left, they put on the Johnson Gym.” “The sports we had were football and basketball,” O’Connell said. “Mainly football, I remember. We followed football everywhere.” O’Connell noted that she, Romanis, and Murphy were all in the Pepper Club together. The Pepper Club supported sports and led the cheers at all the games. It was different from cheerleading. The Pepper Club was mostly made up of seniors.
They wore uniform black skirts, red sweaters with the Lincoln High logo on the front, and little, bowed hats. The three of them also added that football, the “big thing” at the time, was more competitive than it is now. “We would remember if they had been real bad. I’d say that they were pretty darn good,” Romanis said. Another difference, as Murphy added, was the way students got to school. “I lived on 27th and W Street, and in the summer and winter I walked to school and back. That generation of students didn’t have any cars,” Murphy said. “There wasn’t a parking lot in front of the building, just trees, grass, and a little park, and J Street was the main street here, where people would come in and out.” All three alumni of that generation added that their experience at Lincoln High was better than their middle school or elementary school experiences. “I would say the experience was great,” O’Connell said. “The friends were like close family. We hung together. We went to football games and things like that.”
In 1981, according to Frank- Collins, there were lots of opportunities to get involved. “You could do everything, everything you’ve got now, even the Aqualinks and the Pomalinks,” Frank-Collins said. Frank-Collins added that, also in 1981, there was great diversity. “The governor’s daughter went here when I was here, and there were kids that didn’t know where they were going to be at the end of the month because they’d been evicted,” Frank-Collins said. To celebrate Lincoln High, the changes and traditions it has undergone, and the way it has helped all kinds of students in different ways, Lincoln High celebrated 100 years on J Street on March 29, 2015 with a grand open house for students, future students, staff, alumni and anyone else who wanted a feel for what Lincoln High is like today. “I’ve seen teachers that I’ve known from college that are now teaching here, and former colleagues from different schools,” Frank-Collins said. “Sam Nelson, who was the principal when I was here is here today, and so is Mr. Zuspan. I’ve known Mr. Heineman, the theatre thespian guru, for a very long time.”
“Today has been very memorable,” Murphy said. “This brings back memories to the days we were walking the halls.” From a different perspective, there were musicians that played in the cafeteria during this event. “We’re here helping people have a good time,” saxophone player junior Sander Sieglaff said. Sieglaff noted that he was only there for a short time, warming up with his instrument, but that he noticed a lot of people there, which, to him, seemed pretty cool. Another interesting fact is that Social Studies Teacher and Track Coach Bob White started teaching at Lincoln High in 1978, Frank- Collins’s first year here. Believe it or not, he was an English teacher for sophomores. “I just think everyone comes together and every group shares what they love,” Higgins said. “It’s just really cool to like, be a whole school together in one place.” “I think Lincoln High has earned this,” Frank-Collins said. “I think the people who have gone through Lincoln High and been a part of Lincoln High need to see, especially on the 100 year birthday, exactly how it’s doing and all the changes that are inside and outside.”