Calvin Coolidge was president. Gas cost about a quarter a gallon. And on Sept. 11, 1924, the new Evanston Township High School building opened at the corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue.
Now, planners are starting to gear up for the 100th anniversary of the structure, with a theme of “Celebrate, Narrate and Sustain.”
David Futransky, head of the ETHS Alumni Association, told the District 202 Board of Education Monday night that information about the centennial has already been mailed out to 30,000 alums, and sent electronically to 10,000 others.
While specific events are still to be determined, Futransky said there will likely be parties, tours of the campus, and events tied to the school’s history, all as “we celebrate the things about ETHS in this building in the center of our community.”
For example, the city is expected to put ETHS centennial banners on light poles around town.
The first public high school class in Evanston was taught in 1873 in a different location, with the first graduates, all two of them, completing their studies in 1876.
Futransky told the board, “it took the end of World War I” for the voters to “finally pass a referendum to raise $1.3 million” in 1919 for a new high school building, to fill what was farmland at the time.
(By comparison, the current year’s budget at ETHS, for operation and construction, is $96.3 million).
The centennial will certainly bring back memories for alumni and staff. Futransky said he remembered a room with a long table where typing was taught in the 1960s.
“In my mind, I see the typewriters bolted to a table,” he said, historical, but not exactly useful for 21st century learning.
And display cases, he noted, “look like walking into 1958.”
Besides looking back, Futransky noted, part of the 100th anniversary will include a fundraising effort to help modernize the school, along with making the celebration of the past century a lot more inclusive.
Most of those currently honored by ETHS are, Futransky said, male and white.
The “narration” portion of the observance will help “share the stories that have not been shared,” of women and of people of color.
Board Vice-President Monique Parsons said telling those stories is “long overdue,” and it “gave her some pride” to know that they will finally be incorporated into the saga of ETHS.
It’s actually a bit of a juggling act to pull off a 100th anniversary event.
Futransky noted that the Alumni Association would prefer to send out information electronically, but the overwhelming majority of documents sent to graduates so far went via the good old fashioned U.S. Mail.
“When you have the majority of your alumni being older,” Futransky said, “they like to read the newspaper and hold it in their hands. So we’re sending it out that way.”