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In Their Own Words: Hornet Alumni Remember Lew Wallace

When we reached out to Lew Wallace High School alumni a few weeks back to share their favorite memories of the school after it was decided by the Gary Community School Corporation board of education that 2013-14 would the the final year for Lew Wallace as a traditional high school, we were impressed by the number of responses and more so by the specific memories they shared. Thanks to the FORMER LW STUDENTS Facebook group, Hornet alumni will forever have a place to remember their school. Since we could only include snippets in our article on several memories, here are the full responses to our inquiry for memories.

Pam Nahod Mandich

One great memory was Homecoming Week. We had so many great things going on. Decorating floats for the parade, decorating the hallways, pep rallys, bon fires and the homecoming mums!!! Fun times!!!

Debbie Clements Thomas

I loved strolling through the woods in front of the school on my way home, especially in the Fall, when the weather was crisp and fallen leaves would crunch as I walked on them. I can count on one hand the times my mother was Not in the house when I came home from school. She always wanted a full report of my day, class by class and she was a great audience. Often, when I had a reading assignment, I would sit on the kitchen stool and read to her while she prepared dinner. We loved Lew Wallace. My mom, my aunts, my cousins, all graduated from there. We all were, and still are, proud to receive a wonderful education.

Kate Mowell - Class of 1970

I am only too happy to share the memories I have of Lew Wallace High School.

My memories go back to attending kindergarten at Lew Wallace, through attending the many virtually free "community recreation" activities which were held throughout the week - as well as on the weekends, to graduation from Lew Wallace in 1970, and finally to attending the alumni tour which took place on May 31.

One of my earliest memories was "standing on my tip toes" in order to be "tall enough" to take swimming lessons in the pool during the summer. I spent many hours enjoying all of the activities during "community recreation." Some of those activities included making a wooden pig cutting board in the wood shop, making metal bracelets in the metal shop (both of which I still have), roller skating in the old portable gym which was located on the north side of the school, and the many hours the pool was made available for swimming. All of these activities occurred while I was in grade school.

As a student at Lew Wallace, I remember going down to the rifle range in the basement near the furnace room, putting on a shooting jacket, lying on my stomach aiming, pulling the trigger, and hoping to hit the target down range. The campus itself was beautiful...whether it was going between buildings in the pouring rain, or freezing temperatures and/or the days when it was so beautiful that it made a student tempted to skip school. Open lunch hours provided us with many opportunities to enjoy a "healthy lunch"...perhaps at Burger King on 47th and Broadway, or a bag of Peerless potato chips with a 12 cent Hostess lunch cake and a Royal Crown cola (hoping to get a 10 cent winner under the cork on the bottle cap) at Dan's grocery store on 45th and Harrison, or walking to the bakery on 49th and Broadway. The walk through Morningside was a pleasant break from classes any time of the year.

My heart is saddened that the wealth of experiences which our generation was blessed to enjoy at Lew Wallace are only a memory frozen in time, unavailable to the current generation and generations to come. Hail to Lew Wallace...glorify her name.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my memories of Lew Wallace. Wishing you many submissions of LW memories to allow your article to reflect all of the treasures Lew Wallace represents.

Susan Eng Price

One of my favorite memories was the "rails" that went around the school next to all the sidewalks. Everyone had their favorite spot to sit, where they'd meet their friends, or finish up some homework.

Julie Komanecki

I remember a caring and nurturing environment and a supportive community. I remember football coach Ed Herbert, who went above and beyond the call of duty to teach me to drive. I was 16 and did not want to spend my summer in driver's education, but was deposited there by my mother. Being behind the wheel of a car totally flustered me at the time. Coach Herbert quickly realized I needed help, found out I lived in his neighborhood, and told me he was picking me up for extra before class practice time. I'm sure I tried his patience as I would make right turns when he told me to go left, and vice versa. And he used those dual brake pedals. He yelled at me one day and I yelled back in sheer frustration. But, I credit Ed Herbert for teaching me to be the good driver I eventually became. I still think of him when I get on I-65! When I read his obit at age 95 this year, I found out he played pro football with the Bears and the Eagles. Whatever he did on the football field, I think his true measure of grit and determination was teaching me to drive! I also remember one particular act of Al Fissinger, the choir teacher. I never had him for a class, but I wanted to participate in the NISBOVA contest for piano and gave him my entry. The teachers went on strike, and it was only later when they returned that Mr. Fissinger told me that he had paid my fee so I didn't miss the deadline! I later reimbursed him, but I thought it was a classy thing to do. I remember English teacher Dorothy Jaclack exhorting us in class not to be "seat-warmers" but to be participants (which was also a good life philosophy), and I remember Carol Puchowski and her passion for the modern classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" and her trust that sophomores could understand and appreciate it. And I am forever grateful to Mildrene Conwell who enabled me to graduate with only one semester of gym because she offered her two hour independent study government class, which trumped senior year gym class! We also had teachers such as Olive Leskow (math) and Esther Kay (physical education), who began their careers in the 1940s, and years later, fondly remembered "their kids" and continued to take an interest in our lives. I thought the recent Wallace tour was a perfect "Bookends", closure, as the Simon and Garfunkel song lyric says: "Time it was And what a time it was, it was

A time of innocence

A time of confidences

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They're all that's left you."

JoAnn Gamble

Wow the one great memories of Lew Wallace was when I ran for "Football Rama Queen" the parade started from "Walt Lounge" on 5th Ave, to Gilroy Statium where Roosevelt was playing Lew Wallace. My father took pictures which showed a crowd of black and white students getting ready for the game. I have the film 1969 I believe I will try to find and provide it.

Fran Frandson - Class of 1966

I am a 1966 graduate of LW and have been gone from the area since 1973. Being gone for so long it's sometimes difficult to recall places and faces from my high school years, but there is one memory that I will never forget.

Outside the building there were railings along the sidewalks which we sat on. They were commonly known as the "pipes". On November 22, 1963 I was sitting on the pipes waiting for classes to resume after lunch. A classmate ran by and yelled, President Kennedy has been shot!" I yelled back, "that's not funny." The bell rang and I headed inside to class and found my teacher all red-eyed and crying. She told us that President Kennedy had died and that we would all be sent home. Of all the happy memories I have of Lew Wallace, this is the one memory that always comes to mind first when I think of high school.

Kim (McQuaid) Steinert

One must remember that at a certain time, Lew Wallace served all grades, K-12. My elder sister fit into that group. Consequently, I spent a lot of time at Lew Wallace as a small child and even while attending Bailly and Webster.

Lew Wallace was something to aspire to in my mind. Proud, filled with tradition, and close-knit, we were a community unto ourselves. I remember my first day at Lew Wallace as a freshman, being awed to actually belong in those hallways as a student instead of a visitor.

Teachers were interested in their students, and cared that the kids learned. The inscription above the auditorium stage summarizes the whole of what we received at Lew Wallace: Character Is Higher Than Intellect. We were encouraged not only to acquire academic knowledge, but to think for ourselves and strive to be the utmost we could achieve.

As the years have passed, I have had opportunity to compare the education I received at Lew Wallace with those encountered by my children and grandchildren. I am proud of what I was given at Lew Wallace High School. Sure, the kids begin certain skills in earlier grades than we did, but somehow I miss the foundation of common sense and basic knowledge that we had.

As I close, one lighter note: my favorite memory of my years at Lew Wallace had to be the Homecoming football game of my senior year. Wearing our enormous pom-pom mums with black and gold ribbons streaming from them, we were allowed onto the football field to form a pathway through which the players ran. We were seniors, we were Lew Wallace Hornets, and the world was there before us.

Hail to Lew Wallace!

Richard Paskash (class of 1966)

Many of my favorite moments occurred with my band, called the Richmen. We played for many after school dances or sock hops in those days. We even performed in our auditorium during a battle of the bands and after school pep rallies.

But the memory that will forever stand on top is the Lew Wallace tour I had recently planned for the Former LW Student Alumni group (on Facebook). The tour took place on May 31, 2014, consisting of alumni that graduated as early as 1943 and as late as 1976 I believe. Former principal Mr. William Vorwald and his family attended the tour, along with 65 other alumni. Principal Vorwald was my principal thru out high school and both he and his wife graduated form Wallace in 1943. We walked the halls and many fond memories came flashing thru, bringing smiles and tears.

One devastating memory still rests in my mind and that was Nov. 22, 1963. I will never forget that moment I had learned the death of our beloved president JFK. I remember the time and place (in school) when the news was given to us.

We are all saddened over the news that LW is closing its' doors, but we will always remain proud of our beloved school Lew Wallace High School.


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