School consolidation has been an ongoing process in Plain City as in the rest of Ohio since pioneer days. From the early “dame schools” in homes we progressed to the familiar one-room schoolhouses. These gave way to the two “union” schools in town, one on North Chillicothe Street in Union County and one on South Chillicothe in Madison County. Then in 1892 the town built the first Plain City School on West Main Street for students in first through 12th grade. The first school was replaced in 1937 by the building still standing there.
The Canaan School on U.S. Route 42 south of Plain City and the Monroe School in Plumwood were independent schools also offering education for first through 12th grade. There are still many graduates of both schools in this area.
From the early years of the 20th century, Ohio, like many other states, encouraged small schools to consolidate to provide more educational opportunities for their students. As the motorized school bus became more common, it became easier for students to travel longer distances to school, another impetus for consolidation. In 1915, Ohio had 2,674 school districts. Early in the 1950s the state legislature offered incentives to small districts to merge or consolidate, and by 2010 there were only 613 districts.
The move to unite Plain City, Canaan and Monroe began in the early 1950s. In November 1954 the first bond issue, for $625,000 was approved by voters. The plan was that the existing schools would retain their elementary and junior high programs, and a new district high school would be built. A 26 acre plot of land for this building was purchased from the Huber family, at the corner of U.S. Route 42 and Kilbury-Huber Road.
The building contracts for the new high school were awarded in October of 1955 and construction began in November. In November of 1956 a second bond issue for $85,000 was approved, with $45,000 earmarked for the high school.
Competitions were held to select the name for the new district, its logo and Alma Mater. Robert Tedrick submitted the name of Jonathan Alder, Madison County’s first pioneer settler. Robert Converse designed the school’s pioneer symbol. (Or was it his brother Jim? The program for the dedication ceremony lists Robert; the 1958 yearbook has Jim.) The new Alma Mater was written by Judy Woods.
The first students entered the new building on Feb. 4, 1957. The Class of 1957 was the first official graduating class of the Jonathan Alder district, although they had spent all but three months of their school years at Plain City, Monroe and Canaan. The student body and yearbook staff chose the name of the new yearbook, the Powder Horn. The first Powder Horn in 1957 was dedicated to district superintendent George Robinson.
A formal dedication ceremony for the new high school building was held on April 28, 1957. The school band performed, one of Jonathan Alder’s descendants spoke and the keys were formally presented by the architects and contractors. The new Alma Mater was sung for the first time, and after the program tours of the building were conducted by student council members.
The Class of 1958 was the first to have spent a full year in the new school, and the Class of 1962 was the first to have completed all four years of high school at Alder.
The original building was enlarged over the years as district enrollment increased, and in 2005 a new and larger high school was built a short distance to the north. The original building became the district Junior High.
But for those of us who graduated from it, the 1957 building will always be The High School. We can go on at great length (just ask us) about Mrs. Sayre’s typing classes and the scramble for the electric typewriters, learning “Noche De Paz” in Miss Barto’s Spanish class, how uncomfortable the seats in the auditorium were, how Richard Smucker’s VW bug ended up in the back hall, and the mad scramble at 3:17 every day to get on the buses. Then there were the, shall we say, “aromatic problems” the football teams encountered when the neighbor’s cows decided to graze on the football field. (Not to mention the reactions of the players’ mothers when they had to wash those uniforms.)
We can also tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing just after 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 when, in my case, girls’ gym teacher Marcella Meyer opened the door between the kitchen and study hall and turned up her portable radio so that we could all hear the terrible news from Dallas.
Every school building generates indelible memories for its students, and even if our thoughts are not constantly “of thee,” it takes only the slightest reminder to send us back to those really good old days.
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.
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