WAYNE TOWNSHIP — Former students plus rural community members will soon gather to celebrate a notable — even historical — step taken 115 years ago when voters here approved a bond to build a centralized school for Wayne Township.
The move to consolidate eight tiny subdistricts within the township is believed to mark the first consolidation of rural schools in Ohio. The upcoming Tuesday, May 28 event won’t restrict itself to this extraordinary occurrence in Ohio rural education; it also will remember the subsequent 60-year history of Wayne and Simon Kenton schools, from 1905 to 1965 when further consolidation with Sabina brought about the current East Clinton district.
The vote to centralize and build a new school failed the first time but passed the second time around in 1904. As a result, the Wayne Township School was built in Lees Creek and opened in 1905, according to research done by John (member Simon Kenton Class of 1960) and Margaret Myers (Class of 1965), a son and daughter of William D. Myers, the superintendent from 1933 to 1963.
An additional purpose of the 115-year anniversary event is to inspire people who grew up in Wayne-Simon Kenton to add content in the form of photos and stories for an existing website created by John Myers at www.Wayne-SimonKenton.org .
A visit to the website shows a site with high-quality vintage photographs, thanks to Myers’ technical ability to revive and restore old photos. Not everything is school-related, either. There’s a photo of the Leslie Bros. country store in Lees Creek, where you could buy groceries and hardware and where men in the community liked to sit at the back of the store on what for fun were called Liars Benches.
There’s an outdoors photo taken behind the Wayne school gym showing a baseball batter in overalls, and a backstop that was made of sapling tree trunks, scrap lumber, and chicken wire. “Right off the farm,” said Myers.
When Reesville, which is in Richland Township, joined the school system in 1953, the name was changed to Simon Kenton. Not long after, another vote funded a major remodel and modernization of Simon Kenton, including a modern physics and chemistry lab.
The new lab led to the formation of a science club named KATS — Kenton Association of Talented Scientists. James K. Short taught math and science there, and was “an extraordinary teacher,” said Margaret.
Generations of farm families worked the land in Wayne – Simon Kenton. “That community has a continuity to it — the Bonds, the Henrys, the McFaddens ….,” John said.
Wayne – Simon Kenton sent a lot of students to district academic competitions, he added.
The school had an all-boys vocal ensemble and an all-girls ensemble, as well as a barbershop quartet, according to the website. At a variety show in March 1963, the boys ensemble sang “Wedding Bells are Breaking up that Old Gang of Mine” and, perhaps more controversially, “Tavern in the Town”.
For the farming community, said John, it was a time and place for ice cream socials and Friday night basketball games, “definitely basketball.”
The Tuesday event will be from 1 to 4 p.m. at East Clinton High School in Lees Creek. From 1 to 2 p.m., attendees can mingle and discuss the photos and exhibits; from 2 to 3 p.m. presentations and entertainment are scheduled; and from 3 to 4 p.m. mingling and other possibilities offer themselves.
Attendees who were students at Wayne or Simon Kenton will each receive a gift that’s sure to bring enjoyment.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.