About Central

(Pg.  4  of  9)

  . .        ..     
Sixty-Eight Years ___ Since
our Graduation ___ Sixty-Seven Years
Yes !  our  Class  Numerals  are  still  embedded  in  concrete  in  front  of  the  school.

. . .


” K N O W L E D G E 
Central   High    CLASS    MOTTO    from the early  1950s



. . . . to read stuff you may have forgotten years ago.
Grand Rapids Central High School’s heritage began in 1849,
making it the oldest high school in the mid-west and perhaps one of the oldest
in the country. The present building at 421-431 Fountain St. was dedicated in 1911
with a first graduating class from the Fountain building in 1912. The decorative
elements of the building have Gothic overtones, particularly the use of gargoyles.
The school was used as a model for other schools being built around the nation.
Jesse Davis, was an early principal, and responsible for much of the design for
Grand Rapids Central High School, #4. Prior to 421 Fountain Street;
School #1 was located at Lyon and Barclay, and school #2 replaced it on
the same property. School #3 was then built nearby, on the SE corner of
Ransom and Lyon Street, and later became part of the Junior College campus
(now G.R. Community College complex.)
The last “High School” graduating class from the present Central
was June, 2012 as the Fountain Street building became 100 years old. ( 1911-2012 )
and the school itself became 150 – years old (in 2012). Now, this complex of buildings
between Fountain and Lyon streets / and / College and Prospect –
embarks upon a new (but different) form of educational excellence.
It will no longer be called a High School.
Plans are in progress at this time to convert Fountain Elementary, on College Ave,
and the OLD Public Museum building into part of the Central Campus of GRPS
It’s been exciting for all of us to learn about our school’s history.
Those who attended the 150 year celebration in 2012 (about 1,800 people),
had a wonderful time and were proud to participate. The name “CENTRAL”
will remain; (although no longer as a High School), we shall continue calling it
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL – for the purpose of our website. In September, 2012
we met Mark Frost, the new Principal, and heard his plans for the future of …
“The Central Complex” of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS).

1952 .. Class Officers: .. President,  . Bob  Knutson
Vice President, ..  Stuart Matheson*
Secretary,  Jeanne Camburn* .. &  Sally Six    . . .   Treasurer, .. Tom Klein;
Girl Advisor,  Barb Frey   –   Boy Advisor,   Paul Williams*
Faculty Advisor,  Mr. Wendell Shroll*.

1953 .. Class Officers: .. President, . Bob  Sprague *
Vice  President, ..  Tom  Conlin*
Secretary,  Mary Towle   . . .     Treasurer,  Bonnie McDugal
Girl Advisor,   Mary Lou Forsberg    –    Boy Advisor,  Bob Tazelaar *
Faculty  Advisor,   Mr. Wendell  Shroll *

 .       __________________________________________



Our Class Numerals in Bronze – are located in the main center walkway,
in front of the school, 3 & 4 squares-in – from the city sidewalk. Our records-keeper
has a Locator-Chart showing where to find the numerals for every graduating class
from the 421 Fountain St. building over the past 100 years. ….. (A chart for finding
our numerals was printed in the 2012 class membership directory / booklet.)

^ looking NORTH from the front sidewalk ^

“Numeral Day” each year at Central was a big outdoor celebration.
The numeral in this photo is from the Class of 1912
The very FIRST graduating class from this building!
The Year 2012 was the Last HS graduating class.




in 2012, after completing its 100th year in this building.
(and 150 years of being a city High School)
(The area is now the Central Campus of G.R. Public Schools Learning Center.)


One reason we combine our class activities –
is because of so many student intermarriages between 1952 and 1953.
(twenty-one couples that we know of so far ……. ( forty-two people! ) – – –
We usually refer to our high school as Grand Rapids Central High School
because there are other Central High Schools around the country,
such as Traverse City Central High School. One reason so many basic items
are left on our website is the influx of new viewers, especially those who
seldom use a computer but can refer to this material can serve as a constant
reference source, and update for various items of interest.
d.  =  Deceased.  m.  Missing .   i.  Inactive.
No Status , is a very good thing!  and means members are alive and well
and still on our “Active Mailing List” … and with known whereabouts.
The Status; ( d.   m   &   i. ) are those we refer to as … “LIST – THREE.”
PLEASE …… Help us  . (if you can) .  to find our  MISSING MEMBERS. –
(See listing on   . “Class Members” page.)
On the “Class Members” page,  if looking through the specialty group
‘Deceased Members’,  for example,  each page contains only 30 names.
At the bottom of some pages are tiny numbers to click on
in order to see   . the  rest  of  the  names.

Here are a few of our contributing members … and with many thanks !
Roger Danielson ’53    Barb Simpson ’55
Mary Bennett ’53     Ray Seidel* EGR ’52
Shirley Humphrey ’53    Tom Klein ’52
Jim Anderson ’52     Carmen Hall ’53
Betty Larson ’53    Judy Lindberg ’53
Sidney Straight ’53    Roger Perham ’52
Sunny Marlett ’53     Cherie VanPortfleet ’55
Doris M. Moore ’47    Donna  J. Hecker* ’49
Jan Oppenhuizen ’52    David Thompson ’52
Bob Barr ’52     Jackie Williams ’53
Clarence Bouknight ’53    Don Dunstan ’53
Joyce Cain ’52    Henrietta Fegel* ’53
John VanLaar – Kent Co. Aeronautics Admin. (Ret.)
Prof. Douglas Moore, (CHS) – Univ. of Wisconsin
Gail M. Snow  –  Author / Historian


Many items on this page remain intact, month after month,
and are intended as reference to new and old viewers alike.
Certain OTHER pages have all the new and latest information.


And  WHERE   are  we  located   TODAY ? ? ?
Our  Combined  Central High class  had  324  members.
137 are available and still in our 2020 Membership Directory
(which is our current mailing list) as of January, 2020.
Quite  a  few  have  permanent  ‘Out-of-State’  residences;
11  in Florida,     4  in California,     2  in Arizona,
3  in Ohio,   and  4  in Illinois  …  plus  the  following;
MA-2,     CO-3,     WI-2,     IN-2,     OR-2,     TX-1 ,
and  10  individuals in  10  other states.  –  91  are  STILL  in  MICHIGAN
(Many also have winter address locations away from their home towns.)

The FIVE Great Lakes Surrounding our State

SuperiorMichigan HuronErie Ontario
Only Lake Michigan is entirely within United States Borders.
The North Shore of all the others is shared with the Dominion of Canada

We, who live in Michigan, are fortunate,
indeed … to know that wherever we live – we are
not more than eighty-five miles from one of
the FIVE Great Lakes of North America.


Find our site faster with; http://www.chs5253.com/
Once you see the website, save it in favorites for easier access next time.
When you type the above http:// do so on the very top line of your Web Page,
and not in the large Finder Box for your Browser; Click the ‘Return button’,
and it should bring you right to our Home Page, with the school picture showing.
Then, mention this to fellow classmates so they can follow our activities
and be completely up-to-date. But also … tell us things that we should
know and might want to share with other class members.
Our basic web arrangement was produced by: David Korff
DK digital studios.com – Grand Rapids, Michigan
Contact our Web Administrator / Records Keeper
‘Mr. Hap’  at  (616)   451-8855
We hope you will contact us – if you have a question
or comment or to let us know if you move –
or change address information.

Well, now, we have finally discovered the background
regarding the term “HILLTOPPERS”
– – – – – – – – – –

The FIRST Central School in Grand Rapids
1849 – 1867
Atop Lyon Street Hill, at Barclay Ave.

More History about old Central High
in Grand Rapids, Michigan:


The SECOND of four Central (High) Schools in Grand Rapids:

The following was found in a book on a library shelf. “Grand Rapids –
Then and Now” It was written by James VanVulpen (1988) with
contemporary photographs by Rex Larson. – We have taken the
liberty of copying the picture captions here – word-for-word:

“The Central High School, serving all students in town who want a diploma,
has stood since 1868 on Ransom just south of Lyon, where Grand Rapids’
first stone schoolhouse was built in 1849. The class of ’88 [1888]
numbers forty-two graduates, spread among seven majors which
all concentrate heavily on languages and classical studies.
If we weren’t here after hours, we could get the janitor to
unlock the tower for us to enjoy the greatest view the city has to offer. ”
(the three-story square brick structure had a basement also partly above
ground and a massive bell tower in one corner. (Pg. 138)
“After a new high school building went up beside it in 1892 [see above],
the old structure was demoted to a grammar school. [this new building probably
refers to what we know as the old J.C. Gymnasium on the southeast corner of
Lyon and Ransom.] When Central moved to its present site at [421] Fountain Street
in 1911, the 1868 building was torn down. Its successor served as a junior high
and then, in 1924, became home to Grand Rapids Junior College. Now part of a campus
covering several city blocks, today’s JC Learning Center, – the fourth education
building to stand on this spot represents Grand Rapids’ unchanging commitment
to the future, as symbolized in education.” (Pg. 139) ……
The THIRD Grand Rapids Central High School
The same location as #1 & #2, but on Lyon Hill at Ransom Ave.
(Later became the Junior College Gymnasium)
{ The front faces Ransom Ave. – Left side would be on Lyon Hill }
Note: much of this above building still stands, but it has been
severely re-worked, and refaced well before the year 2000.

( An interesting image; showing School #2 (on the left)
the newer School #3 (on the right)
And, of course, the FOURTH Central High building; (1912) ………
at 421 Fountain Street – as we knew it.
This photo was likely taken soon after construction was completed in 1911.
Notice there are no outside lamps at front entrance, and no flag pole until WW-1 days.
(Notice also the OLD windows, as we experienced them
before energy conservation partly boarded them up.)


Class Officers for 1952
Secretary’s; Jeanne Camburn*  &  Sally Six,  Class Advisor: Wendell Shroll*,
Boy Advisor: Paul Williams*,  Treasurer; Tom Klein,  Girl Advisor: Barb Frey
(seated) Vice President; Stuart Matheson*   President; Robert Knutson
(Class Colors; Maroon and Gray, ~ Class Flowers; Carnations.)


Class Officers for 1952
Making plans for presentation to class advisor, Mr. Shroll*
Standing: – Sally Six, Paul Williams*, Tom Klein,
Seated: – Jeanie Camburn*, Stuart Matheson*, Bob Knutson, Barb Frey.


In case your eyes have grown dim, I will reprint the names here – in larger print:

Class Officers for 1953

1st. Row:   Secretary,  Mary Towle,    Class Advisor,  Wendell Shroll*,
Girl Advisor,  Mary Lou Forsberg,    President, C. Robert Sprague*.
2nd. Row:      Vice President,  Tom  Conlin,*
Boy Advisor,  Bob Tazelaar*,    Treasurer,  Bonnie  McDougal.


The NEXT Web page – after this one
is the CLASS MEMBERS page.
Remember; this is the only page of our site
which is in Database form – and contains the names
of ALL 324 members in our (now combined) class of ’52 & ’53.
Only 30 names can be listed on one page, and small numbers lead you
to the next page. Often total counts are shown – and also several categories
are provided in order to find a classmate faster. There is also a Finder Box;
and of course you can always click on the Initial of a person’s Last Name …
(as it was in High School.) – The STATUS shown is of interest to us all.
(And the Status Codes are well known to us by now.)

Aerial  View  of  the  CHS  Neighborhood



Our Year Book Covers … for 1952 and 1953

1952 HELIOS Annual
Class of 1952 . Helios Annual – Vol. LX (60)
Class Motto: “We Build The Ladder By Which We Climb”
Class Colors: Maroon and Gray
Class Flower: Carnations

1953 HELIOS Annual
Class of 1953 . Helios Annual – Vol. LXI (61)
Class Motto: “Our Past Is Where Our Future Lies”
Class Colors: Navy Blue and Silver
Class Flower: White Gladiola and Blue Iris
Class Song & Poem: We have the words to each – in the 1953 Class Day bulletin.
September, 2012, we celebrated “Part-One” of our Sixtieth Anniversary – (1952)
September, 2013, we celebrated “Part-Two” of our Sixtieth Anniversary – (1953)
From that point, we have simple gatherings – but we no longer count exact years.
September, 2014, we celebrated a combined 52/53 Luncheon at Sunnybrook C.C.
September, 2015, No Event,   but switch   from  FALL to SPRING … 2016
April 29, 2016 – FRIDAY Noon Reunion Luncheon, at G.R. Woman’s City Club
May 5, 2017 – FRIDAY Noon Reunion Luncheon, at G.R. Woman’s City Club
(the 65th – part- one reunion especially for the class of 1952)
and a wind-up to our Annual Events was held on May 4, 2018
It  was  part -two  of  the  65th  –  for  the  class  of  1953 . . .
And now we rest for a while:
No group event in 2019,  and  none scheduled for  2020.

Note: If unable to find a name on the “Class Members” page …
you may need to click on a tiny number indicator at top or bottom of the page
in order to reach subsequent pages in the database – and see the rest of the names.
(You can also type a Last Name in the “Finder” box at the top of that page)
And our Webmaster’s confession … where you see all manner of
dots and dashes on our pages – it is NOT Morse Code!
The website’s basic design seems to have a mind of its own
as to how it wants the spacing,  etc.  done in a certain way.
For the time being this is the only way we can “beat the system”
and make things look as we want them to,  for your ease of reading.

W. B. Hecker — Combined Class Secretary
Records Keeper & Webmaster
{ 616 }   –   451-8855

(2012) The 150 year Celebration of Grand Rapids Oldest High School

Thanks for visiting this particular page of our Website.
Have you also looked at the other eight pages ?


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =




“NEW Name for a Very OLD School”

Look for a LINK to: Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS.com)
to learn more about a new plan for the very oldest school.

Above is an aerial photo of Central High … but the scenery has changed considerably.
First of all; the entire two blocks of houses behind the school is now gone, and is a green space with auxiliary parking for the present day school. (also a lot across Lyon St.) and …
The modern “angle” building on the right – (corner of College and Fountain,)
has been bulldozed (in August, 2016.) — Fountain School, in the upper right corner
is also part of the Central Campus now … of the new school-arrangement.


(After looking at a “Link” use your back-arrow to return to our site.)




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