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History of Clark High School on display in Whiting

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WHITING — If you’re going to Pierogi Fest, it’s your last chance to see an exhibit on the history of nearby George Rogers Clark High School.

The Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society has Clark’s history on display in the shop windows at Studio 659 on 119th Street. The shop windows allows the exhibit to be accessible 24/7 in a COVID-friendly way. The exhibit ends July 25.

It’s a timely display. The school’s final graduation ceremony was June 9.

Gayle Kosalko, who helped organize the display of Clark memorabilia and historical notes, is married to a 1960 Clark graduate.

“What a beautiful, pristine, beautifully kept school,” she said. “That pool is out of this world.”

Kosalko gave the arts programs at the school prominence in the temporary exhibit. “They had a really lovely auditorium,” Kosalko said, where she enjoyed seeing many of the popular theater productions over the years.

On display is the trophy for the Battle of 119th Street, which was awarded every year to the victor in the annual Clark vs. Whiting football game. The players met each year for a barbecue at 119th Street and Atchison, where Whiting and Hammond meet, to get to know each other in a show of sportsmanship, Kosalko said.

The winning trophy design was worth $119. The trophy now belongs to the historical society.

There’s also a silk prom dress from the 1950s to show what formal dances were like in that era. Dance cards are on display, too.

“They had an organization for everything,” Kosalko said. There was a debate club, pinochle club, poetry club, modern dance club and even a radio club formed in the 1930s. That club raised money to build its own radio in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.

A 1933 autograph book owned by Lois Gehrke is “one of my favorite things,” Kosalko said.

“Dearest Lois,” Kosalko’s favorite entry reads, “When you get married and your husband gets cross, Get out a broom and show him who’s boss!! The best in life to you.” It was signed, “Your Principal, R B Miller.”

Another autograph reads, “Yours till your house rottes away.”

The exhibit’s detail about the homecoming parade that got lost as they followed a police officer confused about the route is charming, too.

The school dates back to 1932, when it was built for $530,000 — $8.6 million in today’s dollars. Its first 94 graduates received diplomas in 1935.

Much of the information for the exhibit came from the school’s yearbooks, the Powderhorn, as well as the school newspaper and other material.

“We had a nice collection at the historical society” before the exhibit was planned, Kosalko said. “We’ve easily doubled our collection when this is over.”

Each item donated or loaned for the exhibit came with a story. One donor’s mother was typist for the school newspaper, so the daughter kept them all these years. “Now she knows these will come in handy for anyone who wants to study,” Kosalko said. “This isn’t just going to sit in somebody’s attic and get tossed.”

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