South Iredell High SchoolFirst Day of Class September 12, 1966A GIFT FORTY YEARS IN THE MAKING:
THE HISTORY OF SOUTH IREDELL HIGH SCHOOLCONTROVERSIAL BEGINNINGS:A SCHOOL IS BORN
By James Hogan
Though it has risen to ranks of School of Distinction, South Iredell High School was born out of controversy and difficulty. The genesis of South Iredell—and her sister school, North Iredell—came after nearly three decades of struggle to consolidate several community high schools.
Iredell’s citizens, much like today, were often polarized over how best to fix problems with public schools. Before the conception of the county’s consolidated high schools, students attended local community schools. These K-12 institutions were centerpieces of their towns and hamlets. Opening South and North Iredell meant closing seven other high schools, which created resistance.
Yet the citizens understood that their children’s futures were at stake. Consolidated schools meant better academic and vocational opportunities that could not be as extensively or equally offered by smaller town schools. With this new vision of success, people campaigned, voted, increased taxes to raise funds, and planned two state-of-the-art schools.
South Iredell was planned for 34 classrooms that could accommodate 1,100 students. The county school board (remember, Statesville City schools did not merge with the county until 19TK) intended for both campuses to house 10th-12th grades, and leave ninth-grade for junior high schools.
However, few things follow even the best-laid plans. The identically designed schools were built for a total of $3.3 million (Adjusted to inflation that would be $19 million for two schools. Current plans to add to ISS have been estimated to cost upwards of $30 million for one school). So when county officials lacked the facilities and money to fund junior highs, the schools were then designed as four-year high schools.
The original campus plan called for the two-story academic building (known as A building), a vocational building (B building) with a cafeteria, shop, and gymnasium. Though the design called for an auditorium and football stadium with permanent lighting, budget cuts forced school officials to scrap them.
Construction progress on the South Iredell campus was slow. By July 1966, it became apparent that the facility would not be ready to open in August. The school buildings were nearly ready for inspection, but furniture and equipment had not been installed. Superintendent T. Ray Gibbs pushed back the start of school until the second week of September. To keep construction moving forward, county residents quickly passed a bond resolution to fund the auditoriums and stadiums for both schools, which were completed later that year.
In the end, building principals, supervisors, and even the superintendent himself pitched in to assemble furniture and equipment for the school. Over 1,000 students filed through the halls when classes began on Monday, Sept. 12, 1966. They haven’t stopped since.
By Ayla (c/o 2007)
When South opened in 1966, it offered 21 clubs, including clubs that no longer exist at South, such as the Monogram, Literary, Photographers and Math Clubs. Over the years, the numbers of clubs would wax and wane, starting in 1967, when South’s number of clubs quickly increased to 26. South added the French, Health Careers, Drama Club, and Interact Clubs and FBLA. The following year, South added Keyettes, Writer’s, Advanced Chorus, Girl’s Chorus, Art, and Science Clubs. That year, the French and Spanish Clubs combined to form the Foreign Language Club.
In 1968, the Keyettes Club was created as the female counter-part of Key Club. South also had the Future Homemakers of America, the female version of the Future Farmers of America, which is no longer present at our school.
Unlike today, Yearbook (the Saga), Newspaper (the South Wind), Drama, and Band were not classes; they were simply clubs. Although students had to take time outside school to participate in these clubs, they had more participants than the classes do now. South also had a Glee Club, which simply went around school singing in order to cheer up the school.
Other clubs that began in 1960s have changed names over time. Committed Young Christians (CYC) replaced Student Christian Association. Teacher Cadets replaced Future Teachers of America. However, as technology developed, student interest in reading subsided, causing the Literary Club to fade into the past. Similarly, the Bus Driving Club is now extinct. Surprisingly, students of the senior class served as school bus drivers, picking students up and taking them home every day. This club remained until the 1980s, when faculty realized that not all students were capable of driving these large, yellow vehicles.
Other clubs look decidedly different. Junior Jaycees used to be composed of only guys. It was a very honorable club considering that only eight freshmen, 10 sophomores, 10 juniors, and 12 seniors were allowed to join each year. Interestingly, some organizations such as Beta Club exist relatively unchanged by South’s 40 years.
By Sarah (c/o 2007)
Any sports fan will tell you that the hardest thing to build is tradition, but that is the challenge South faced when the school opened in 1966. That first year South had only five varsity teams: football, wrestling, men’s and women’s basketball, and cheerleading. But strong interest from underclassmen meant a need for junior varsity teams in men’s and women’s basketball and freshmen teams in football, cheerleading, and men’s and women’s basketball. Amazingly, there has been much continuity at South as Gary Sherrill (basketball) and Bill Mayhew (wrestling) helped begin their programs and still coach them today.
Notable achievements from that first year include the wrestling team winning its conference and girls basketball beating crosstown rival Statesville High. Then 1968 brought more success, including new varsity teams in track and baseball. Varsity football went 2-8, but that included a 13-0 shutout of North Stanley. But the recently created JV squad gave hope for the future, going 5-3-1 with shutouts of North Iredell and Central Davidson. Eight athletes received All-Conference honors, including junior David Cash for football, wrestling and track. Randy Freeze, Tommy Thompson, Barry Ostwalt, and Donnie Carrigan all received honors for wrestling, as did Steve Rankin (baseball), Annette Harrington (basketball), and Ernie Pope (basketball).
The addition of new teams and squads required more revenue, so students and parents created the “Viking Activity Bus” as a project of the Athletic Booster Club. It quickly became very successful.
In 1969, Cash was the talk of the school in his senior year. He was the MVP in every sport he played, coming in second place in wrestling and captaining football. He helped football defeat North Iredell 67-0 on homecoming as did Terry Thompson who led the North Piedmont Conference in scoring. Cash also finished second in the conference in wrestling, ahead of teammates Barry Ostwalt (third) and Mike Walden (fourth). Cash eventually signed to play football for the University of South Carolina.
By Marty (c/o 2007)
“The ‘60s around here didn’t start until the 1970s,” says Mr. John Jolly, an English teacher at South Iredell High School and a local resident for half a century. There were no drug problems or “hippies,” as mainstream America saw during this time period; that lifestyle was unknown in our area until the early 1970s. In a time where boys wore slacks and girls wore dresses to school, student life in the 1960s was immensely different from what students know today. It was very much a Leave it to Beaver type environment. Students were well groomed; if you had sideburns below your ears then you were forced to go to the office and shave your face, or else you would be sent home. And if you were sent home, parents were not very forgiving. Corporal punishment was commonplace, but students simply did not back-talk teachers. The majority of students were better mannered than students today. Discipline was strictly enforced not only at school, but at home as well. Most students came from a two-parent household, whose primary source of income came from the father. Women rarely entered the workforce in our area during the 1960s. After school, students often worked out on the farms or in factories.
Iredell County was a very secluded area until I-77 and I-40 were completed in the late 1960s. Many students took the bus to school, but there were also many that drove to school. There were an abundance of trucks, along with muscle cars from the 1950s that filled our student parking lot. Once students got to school, they would face rigorous academic challenges. After school, students were very physically active. If you did not play a sport for the school, you would often play with neighbors in the backyard. Popular activities for students after school included basketball, baseball, football, and especially hunting. Everyone listened to the Beatles and Rolling Stones on AM radio except the African American population, which preferred the sounds of Motown. “There have never been that many blacks at South, but back then blacks and whites didn’t really socialize,” said Mr. Gary Sherrill, a PE teacher at SIHS. He attended a segregated black school until SIHS opened in 1967. Troutman High School, SIHS’s predecessor, was a racially segregated school. South Iredell has been integrated since its inception. Though there were not many blacks, discrimination towards black students was nonetheless present, and there were some fights due to racial tension.
In addition to listening to rock n’ roll and Motown, students religiously watched classic television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show. Popular hangouts of the time included Allison’s Woods and the Village Inn Pizza Parlor in Statesville, NC. Of course, there were many students who were satisfied just to play sports and games with their friends.
South Iredell was a simplistic environment that mainstream America did not reach until the 1970s. There were no major drug problems, and students were well behaved.
Students watch David Cash sign his letter of intent to play for the University of South Carolina.