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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    << Back to The 30's    

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THE 40's

  "Sir" may become possible to set up nuclear chain reactions in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated.
.."  -  Albert Einstein in a letter to President Roosevelt.

On August 2, 1939, Einstein wrote his now famous letter to the president. He was announcing the possibility of what would be known as the "atomic" bomb. Man's capability for self-destruction was about to be multiplied many times. The issue of the 1940's was power. The issue is the same today.

In the summer of '41, Ted Williams was the American League batting champion; the spring had seen Whirlaway win the Triple Crown of horse racing. Abbott and Costello, a new comedy team, had made a movie called "Buck Privates", and the world's high jump mark was 6'11" and people were wondering if it was possible for a human being to jump 7'0. Professional golf was about to be a box office smash. 1941 was almost a very good year.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; the next day the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan. By December 11 we were officially at war with Germany and Italy. And, on December 19, Congress extended military conscription to men between the ages of 20 and 44. The power of a nation would be tested in the years ahead.

Strange place names became important to the mothers of America and to those who were left behind: Bataan, the Coral Sea, Guadalcanal, the Aleutians, Burma, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima in the west and North Africa, Tripoli, Normandy, the Bulge and Remagen to the east. Twelve million peopled the armed services of the United States in World War II. 32,188 were killed, 700,000 wounded in all theaters of the war. After a silence of twenty years, the United States was again answering a tolling bell.

Betty Grable and Jane Russell appeared in bathing suits to boost the morale of troops home and away. Count Fleet won the Triple Crown in 1943 and Cornelius Warmerdam set a world record in the pole vault of 15 feet eight and three-quarter inches. Hydrotherapy, radar and sulfa drugs were invented and used widely in the care of wounded. The Glenn Miller Band momentarily took our minds away from war. Life carried on while surrounded by death.

Americans are generally suspicious of philosophy and philosophers. So it is ironic that the ultimate philosophical question should be ours. On 6 August 1945 an atomic bomb with an explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb destroyed about 4 square miles of the city and brought death or injury to over 160,000 persons. President Truman had answered the question of whether to use the bomb. Three days later another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The next day, 10 August 1945, the Japanese offered to surrender. Three months before, on 8 May, 1945, Germany had surrendered and the war in Europe was finished. The initials and days, V-J and V-E brought joy to a people who had fought well and suffered much.

Although many would have liked a return to the isolation of the past, it was not to be. America's fate was intertwined with that of Europe. In the post war period Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie" appeared and Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard (Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside) scored touchdowns for the glory of the Army, however, the collective mind was still on foreign affairs. The new United Nations was struggling with questions of national integrity and international issues; the Marshall Plan committed us to European recovery and the so-called Truman Doctrine made us a military friend.

The decade of the 40's began in war and was to end in war. When "All The King's Men" won the prize for best picture in 1949, many thought it symbolic for the times. The Atomic Age had begun and the United Nations housed talk about the issues of nuclear power. The 40's were a time of national growing for America. The country was about to play an ever-enlarging role in world affairs and, as Einstein hinted, new elements of our identity would doubtless be found. We, as a people, were no longer young.



-    The football team's record was 6-1-2. The only loss was to Wyandotte (7-20). The team was champion of the Northeast Kansas League.

-    Storm windows were added to both east and west buildings.

-    A favorite school cheer was:

"Our team is red hot - Scalp 'em, Indians, Scalp 'em."

-    The school had 4 cheerleaders (2 boys and 2 girls).

-    970 students were enrolled.

-    The lunch hour was divided into 2 periods for the first time.

-    The Junior Class presented "Jane Eyre".

-    School was let out the day after the football and basketball teams won league championships. Two free days!

-    The Board of Education was composed of:

C. E. Woodman
R. W. Speer
H. H. Livingood

-    The Principal was A. L. Cross.

-    The Vice-Principal was O. K. Wolfenbarger.

-    The Prom theme was "A Night Under The Stars". Clayton Harbour's Orchestra played and the boys wore rose-bud boutonnieres.


-    Orval Hemphill and Ruth Votte organized the first Debate Team.

-    Both football and basketball teams repeated as NEK League champions. The latter's record was 17 and 5.

-    Anna Marie Edwards joined the faculty. She taught Social Studies.

-    Robert McAnany was the first Shawnee Mission graduate to be killed in action. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Robert A. McAnany of Shawnee. Robert had graduated in 1936. He was a pilot in the Royal Air Force. His plane crashed on October 1, 1941.

-    The girls were involved in the Junior Red Cross Knitting Club.

-    A third building was added. It housed the Future Farmer program, wood-working and the Art Department.

-    Students bowled at the Plaza Bowl for 15-cents a line.

-    Everything was "hep".

-    Dancers "cut a rug" to the "jumping jive".

-    183 students were enrolled in Spanish.

-    Many claimed to be "Bored of Education"

-    And the Senior class prophecy included those who would spend their lives searching for the grapes in grapefruit, opening muscle schools, and growing salted peanuts on the salt plains of Utah.


-    Shawnee Mission won its first state championship in basketball. The team's record was 24 and 1 and it defeated Wyandotte in the final game.

The main players were:

Tom Dawson
Ervin Fouts
Dick Maloney
Capt. Henry "Doc" Sullivan
Bud Shepherd

-    Mildred Noel became the school's first nurse. She began in the fall of '42.

-    The Hi-Y sent $65 to a missionary in Nicaragua.

-    An advertisement in the yearbook read:

  "Thanks for using less gas. It will keep him better equipped.  Let us who remain at home buy more war stamps and bonds to back him up!"
  Gas Service Co.
  Merriam, Kansas

-    The chorus presented a program on April 16. Admission to the show was the purchase of a war stamp or bond.

-    John Francis left the music department to enter private business.


-    "Ted" Kimpel began working in the office in the fall.

-    Total enrollment was 1,054.

-    The school's first golf team began play.

-    21st anniversary of the school. The school has come of age and celebrates its "manhood".

-    National Honor Society inducted 31 members.

-    The budget for the school year was approximately $145,056.

-    School activities were partially financed by home room dues.

-   "Lost Horizons" was the spring play.

-    The Debate Club sponsored a Debate Tournament.

-    The football team came in third behind Lawrence and Olathe.

-    Dr. Howard D. McEachen became the 3rd principal in Shawnee Mission's history.


-    The tradition of crowning a Homecoming Queen began. In 1945 an Indian Princess and Chief were crowned. Janet Anderson, Junior was the Princess and Lawrence Clark, Senior, was the Chief.

-    December, a flu epidemic hit Shawnee Mission.

-    Brooks and Hering were elected Student Congress President and Vice-President.

-    Dr. McEachen wanted to drop the "Rural" designation in the school's name. He sent a Senior student by the name of Robert Bennett to Topeka to effect this change. In three days Bennett returned and Shawnee Mission Rural High School had become more simply Shawnee Mission High School.


-    Vice-Principal was Carl D. Gum ("Spearmint").

-    Enrollment was 1,127 the largest in the school's history.

-    6 cheerleaders were elected.

-    A crew of teachers worked during the summer and doubled the capacity of the stadium.

-    During an observation period only 5 of 35 cars stopped at the stop sign near the entrance to the school.

-    3,270 fans attended the first home football game.

-    A student was charged $3.66 for an activity ticket.

-    Seniors sold arcade passes and study hall books to incoming freshmen.

-    5 local dentists offered free teeth inspection to all students. The doctors worked at the school from 9 to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.

-    The librarian announced the acquisition of new magazine subscriptions. Her list included:

"American Girl"
"Fashion Digest"
"Home Craftsman"
"Textile World" and
"Typing News".

-    October, 1946, Maurice Swanson, joined the faculty. He was to coach debate and teach Sociology.

-    All the students took a driving simulation test. The girls scored higher than the boys.

-    On dates students went to Winstead's for hamburgers and everybody loved Hoagy Carmichael's "Buttermilk Skies".


-    Shawnee Mission's first baseball team formed.  The coaches were Harold Reade and W. O. Atwell. The team practiced at Segner's Field in Overland Park between 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. each day.

-    A. C. Coole was Student Body President.

-    Ann Callaghan was valedictorian of the Senior Class.

-    The '47 football team beat Wyandotte for only the 2nd time in the school's history. That year the Indians went to the "highly effective T-formation and made consistent gains through the Wyandotte line".


-    "Ladies and Gentlemen..." began Dr. McEachen with the morning announcements.

-    LeRoy Bratten set a new world's record by chewing 86 sticks of gum at one time.

-    The Junior Class sponsored a dance on November 22nd. The theme was "Gold Rush Days in California". Students took picks and shovels to the dance and were invited to "check their shotguns and likker at the doors".

-    Ann Heiden was elected cheerleader.

-    80 boys went out for football. Due to a lack of equipment 45 had to be cut.

-    The Senior Class Play was "Pride and Prejudice".

-    Vice-Principal Carl D. Gum was assigned the following duties:

1.    To take care of all monies.
2.    To oversee all pupil-parent conferences.
3.    To handle all gate duty assignments at athletic events.
4.    Guidance work.
5.    Concession assignments.
6.    To check all senior credits for graduation.

-    By 1948 "Coach" Reade had won 5 Northeast Kansas League Championships in football; 7 League Championships and 2 State Titles in Basketball. Also, his golf team had been league champions 5 times and state champions three times.

-    The Homecoming Queen was Dottie Poindexter. Attendants were Marilyn Hardin and Betty Schulteis.

-    For the Homecoming Dance, Dottie was gowned in a white brocade off-the-shoulder dress with a fitted bodice and full skirt. The attendants wore powder blue dresses.

-    The most popular spot in the school was Study Hall 102 in the morning.

-    Students sold pencils in order to finance the yearbook.

-    The basketball team's record was 17-7; their scoring average was 38 points per game; their opponents scored an average of 25.

-    After 10 years of coaching track, A. P. "Pop" Snodgrass had won 6 NEK championships and 2 Regional championships.

-    Hi-Y Club sold over 2,000 schedule pencils.

-    Horizon Club members made scrapbooks for children in hospitals.


-    The '49 football team's record was 7 and 1; the only loss that year was to Lawrence.

-    1,050 yearbooks were sold.

-    The new vocal music director was Robert DressIer.

-    Student Congress sponsored a monthly dance.

-    150 boys went out for track.

-    Wally Beck was the captain of the Basketball team. Other good players were Jack Kastman and Mark Rivard.

-    Homecoming Queen was Janey Clayton.

-    The basketball team won 21 straight games. The team lost to Wellington (36-43) in the State finals.

-     "Murlie" Welch was named Vice-Principal.

-    Bill Puckett was Student Body President.

-    There were weekly assemblies in the auditorium.

-    Everyone knew about "The big Study Hall".

    Forward to The 50's >>

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