Better Than Necessary:
A Celebrational History of
Shawnee Mission North High School



I - The Decades
The 20's
The 30's
The 40's
The 50's
The 60's
The 70's
1980 and Beyond

II - Selective Pictures
and Facts

III - School Spirit

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THE 20's

"With malice toward none; with charity for all.., let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace."

The words, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address, designed to heal the wounds of what the Indians called the "Brother-Brother" war, might have been spoken in 1919, at the end of World War I. A hundred and twelve thousand Americans had died in the war against Germany. Two hundred and thirty thousand had been wounded. The direct economic cost of the two-year war effort was over $21 million. Vengeance was desired in many quarters; payment was expected.

The roots of the third decade of the 20th Century were embedded in previous years. Henry Ford had opened the Ford Motor Company in 1903. This economic fact quickly surrounded the lifestyle of almost every American. By 1914 Mr. Ford could announce a $5.00 a day minimum wage for his workers. And, by 1922, a Model T could be purchased in Shawnee Mission, Kansas for about $400.

By 1920 Americans were trying to forget the pain of war. Philosophically they were struggling with the existence of evil and a just God. There was an urgency to eat, drink and be merry.

Historians have called the 1920's the Age of Prosperity. Americans wanted to be prosperous in economics, lifestyle and fun. Now was not the time for the nuances of philosophy nor for the inconsistencies of thought and action. So while the Ku Klux Klan, which was blatantly anti-Catholic, Jew, foreigner and against birth control, pacifism, internationalism, Darwinism, and the repeal of prohibition, grew to about 5 million members and John T. Scopes was indicted in Dayton, Tennessee, for teaching the theory of evolution and while Sacco and Vanzetti were erroneously executed in 1925, Americans sought prosperity in all forms.

Flagpole sitting became a national fad, as did marathon dancing. A 3,000 hour dance was almost commonplace. And if marathon dancing was not so common, hip flasks were. Despite the reality of prohibition, the consumption of liquor flourished. Bootlegging became one of the country's biggest industries. The Charleston was danced; ukuleles were
played. College attendance doubled between 1920 and 1930 and Freud's ideas on the unconscious mind led to a preoccupation with sex. Jazz music was played in New Orleans then moved up the river to Chicago and then east to New York.

Women began to demand equal rights and, despite the apparent contradictions, science and the ouija board both flourished.

For those who wanted to escape through the written word there was the dime novel. Consumption was high. For the more serious readers Sinclair Lewis described the life of the emerging businessman in Babbitt, James Joyce wrote Ulysses and T.S. Eliot penned "The Wasteland". Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms in 1929.

"Is Everybody Happy?" Ted Lewis asked and most yearned to answer in the affirmative. Bobbed hair and flat chests were in fashion for the ladies. Mae West, as Diamond Lil, invited the gentlemen to "come up and see me sometime."

Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith and Bix Beiderbecke provided the new Jazz sound while Rudy Vallee played with the hearts of women. A new, young singer, Bing Crosby, joined Paul Whiteman's Band. And the whole country tried to dance the Charleston and the Black Bottom.

The first radio station was KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, six years later, in 1926, RCA Victor formed the National Broadcasting Company, which was followed in 1927 by CBS. The electronic age had began.

The push toward happiness included science also. Insulin was discovered in 1921. Eight years later penicillin started to make our lives better. By the end of the decade electricity had invaded most homes and two years before the end the cathode ray tube was invented. This was the beginning of what would come to be known as television.

Movies attracted increasing numbers in the 20's. Heroes emerged from the big screen. Tom Mix, one of the original "good guys" was paid $20,000 a week to ride across our imaginations and do battle with the forces of evil. In 1920 Charlie Chaplin appeared in the "The Kid". Douglas Fairbanks acted heroic while Lon Chaney was Frankenstein. 1927 and 1928 were big years for the movies and their consuming public. In the former, Al Jolson made "The Jazz Singer" and in '28 The Marx Brothers made "Animal Crackers" and Mickey Mouse was born with animation. 40,000 women attended the funeral of Rudolph Valentino in 1926.

When Americans were not listening, reading or going to the movies, they were watching sports. The New York Yankees gave vision to a public searching for that which was bigger than life. The '27 team, starring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, is still considered one of baseball's greatest. Ruth, the great player who sought fun at night and at the ballpark, personified dreams. Baseball also produced famous managers Connie Mack and John J. McGraw in Philadelphia and New York. Johnny Weismuller, the future Tarzan, set a national record in the 100 yard freestyle. Man O'War won his last race against a horse named Sir Barton. The purse was a staggering $80,000.

The decade of the 20's was a time of contradictions and diversity. Americans voted for prohibition while drinking copiously. Rin-Tin-Tin appeared on the screen and the first trans-continental trip by truck took 13 days and five hours. In 1926 Chesterfield used the first woman in cigarette advertising. She suggestively said, "Blow some smoke my way." Men claimed they would "Walk a mile for a Camel." And a Boeing 80A Tri-motor flew coast to coast in 27 hours.

Life was good. Speakin was easy. Still, there was an under current of disease which no amount of fun seeking could totally erase. The American mind had been injured in the years between 1917 and 1919 and reparations were expected on both sides of the Atlantic. In another decade we would again be involved in a rending war. But that was in the unforeseen future. Now was fun time. Even this, however, was tainted. In the soil of free-living lay the seed of a bad economic crop. October 29, 1929 came too soon. The stock market crashed and with it went the dreams of the fun seekers. With malice and little charity the people tried to bind their wounds. The 30's would test their healing skills and their spirit.




The roots of Shawnee Mission's high school lay in the history of the area itself. Reverend Thomas Johnson's Mission to the Indians of Kansas resulted in The Shawnee Methodist Mission and Indian Labor School. The year was 1838.

Too soon, however, there were few Indians in Shawnee Mission. Small farms dotted the land, then were replaced by frequent housing. The same war that had embedded itself in the mind of America brought people looking for the good life of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

In 1917 the state legislature passed a bill which allowed rural high school districts to be superimposed on several elementary school districts. The elementary districts did not lose their autonomy. In the Shawnee Mission area there were 14 such districts.

In 1920 it was estimated that there were 140 children of high school age in the area. Of those who went to high school most went to Rosedale and Kansas City, Kansas. There was also a single high school in Merriam and Overland Park.

In 1921 the Shawnee Mission High School district #6 had been organized. Its elementary districts were:

Linwood -1
Shawnee -27
Corinth -32
Greenwood -35
Prairie -44
Valley View -49
Little Blue -79
Antioch -69
Merriam -79
South Park -90
Roesland -92
Westwood View -93
Hickory Grove-Overland Park -110

The district authorized a feasibility study for a rural high school to be made. When completed, the report suggested a site for the proposed high school building be "located within two blocks of Goodman station on the Strang Interurban Railway, because 80% of a possible high school enrollment lived within a three-mile zone, drawn around that point. It was further shown that good rock roads, rapid transit, electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and building rock was available to this site."

The idea of a rural high school was not without controversy. Farmers were afraid of additional taxation. Even those who supported a high school district were not unanimous on its boundaries. A vote was to be taken.

September 23, 1921, was for the battle of the ballots. The first tallies were:

  1,049 votes for

     975 votes against the proposition to organize a rural high school district.

  1,027 votes for

     952 votes against the proposition to authorize $150,000 in bonds for the purchase of a site and erection and furnishing of a building.

Shortly after, twelve and three-quarters acres on Merriam Road were bought for $12,000.

On November 22, 1921, the first meeting of the school board of rural high school district, number six of Johnson County was held. Those present were:

    A.M. Meyers    Director
    F.M. Plake        Clerk
    D.M. Alden    Treasurer

At this and subsequent meetings the plans for a rural high school were shaped.

Finally, on September 12, 1922, the Shawnee Mission Rural High School opened its doors. The building, itself was of reinforced concrete slabs covered with asphalt tile. The building contained a gym, auditorium, shops, laboratories, special rooms for homemaking and commercial courses, a lunch room, 6 regular classrooms and auxiliary facilities.

Presented here is a selected history of the school which has come to be known as Shawnee Mission North High School. Its people and events have influenced countless lives and have kept to the purpose of offering a high school training "commensurate with their needs...and in keeping with the wealth and dignity of the community."

-    Mr. D.A. Morgan was the first principal. He also taught Spanish. Mr. Morgan had come from Gardner, Kansas.

-    There were 12 faculty member, including the principal. By gender there were 7 women and 5 men.

-    5 courses were offered; General, College Preparatory, Normal Training, Commercial, and Vocational Agriculture.

20 students made up the first Senior Class. They came mostly from Rosedale and Merriam High Schools. The class motto was: "Nothing succeeds like success." Its colors were purple and white and its flower was the sweet pea.

-    Cyril Scott was president of the Senior Class and Miss Bartberger was its sponsor.

-    In October Miss Moody urged the seniors to join "The Forum" for the purpose of gaining an insight in debating and learning about the great questions that were interesting the world. As a result, four members of the class represented Shawnee Mission in the inter-scholastic debating league.

-    The Public Speaking Class presented the first play "The Charm School."

-    On December 9, 1922, the Senior Class sponsored a mixer. This was the first social event ever held in Shawnee Mission High School. Most of the 200 students attended.

-    The Girls' Basketball Team ("The Shawnee Mission Six") won seventeen straight games and was the "Kansas State Champion". This was the first state championship team at Shawnee Mission High School.

-    In Boys' Basketball, the team won two games in the state tournament, finally losing to Roosevelt

-    Coach A.L. Berry's first football team won 2 and lost 6.
"We had no equipment for a track team but a good place for a track. The A.A. bought a 12-16 shot, a discus, a javelin and a vaulting pole. The Manual Training classes made hurdles and jumping standards. Some of the boys dug a pit and filled it with sand left over from building the high school building. By using cinders from our furnace, some of the boys wheeled them in wheel-barrows along the 220 yard straightway. The remainder was rolled. The track is 440 yards around and almost level the entire distance... Here's hoping for much luck to our track team and its posterity."

-    1922 The school's Pep Club was formed. It was open to any student who found Study Hall boring. Eventually the club was opened to all students.

-    By 1926 the Senior Class had doubled in size to 41.

-    The rules for the Girls' Basketball Team were:

  A.    An average of 8 consecutive hours sleep a day.
  B.    Eat meals at regular times.
  C.    Do not drink coffee or tea.
  D.    Do drink one pint of milk daily.
  E.    Wear sensible shoes to school.
  F.    Do not wear "party" dresses to school.

-    The 1926 Senior Class abolished the yearbook due to excessive expenditures.

-    The 1927 Football schedule was:

Sep. 30 Paola (here)
Oct. 21 Argentine
Oct. 28 Eudora (here)
Nov. 2 Desoto
Nov. 18 Gardner (here)

-    1927 saw the formation of the first Student Congress.

-    In 1929 the organization called Quill and Scroll began at Shawnee Mission Rural High School.

   Forward to The 30's >>

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