School History

The following is a history of Muncie (Indiana) Southside High School. It was written by Joyce (Hale) Parkison, a 1971 Rebel graduate and a 26-year Southside faculty member who retired in June 2013. Her significant effort in researching this document is greatly appreciated. It was originally produced in 2009 and will be updated throughout the following months after the announcement of Southside’s pending close in June 2014.

Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form for any purpose (commercial or non-commercial) is prohibited without express written permission from the author and/or You may not transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.

By Joyce (Hale) Parkison

On September 6, 1962, 706 sophomores, 369 juniors, and 165 seniors scurried through the doors of Muncie Southside High School. As they sauntered the wide, untrodden corridors, they observed the decorative mosaic tile designs and glass-paneled stairwells. But what impressed them the most were the bright, clean colors.

Bright colors would most likely impress these pupils, for 534 of them had previously attended the old Central High School building in downtown Muncie. But they were now the inaugural students of Muncie’s newest high school.

Southside’s opening in 1962 created the first new high school in Muncie since 1915. (The only exception is Muncie Burris, which then served fewer than 300 students in grades 10-12.) However, Southside was not the only new school in town. Kuhner Junior High (now the Muncie Area Career Center) and Northview Elementary also opened in 1962.

Muncie’s population growth in the 1950’s had overcrowded Central, which had become one of Indiana’s largest senior high schools. Central had also become hemmed in by the downtown business section.

In addition, a fire at Garfield Elementary in December 1947 prompted school officials to examine the condition of the existing educational facilities in Muncie. A survey group from Ohio State University was commissioned to study the Muncie community, analyze curriculum, and predict population trends. The group recommended the construction of a new high school on Muncie’s south side.

Because of Muncie Central’s tradition in the community, the construction of one new large high school for all Muncie students was considered. However, it was decided that an additional high school was preferable.

Planning for Southside began in 1957 when the Muncie School Board purchased 40 acres of land at the intersection of East 26th Street and Macedonia Avenue. Actual construction of the school started in August 1960. Louis Kingscott and Associates, an Indianapolis architectural firm, designed the building. The initial structure was 176,000 square feet and cost $2,505,000. Teaching supplies, ground development, and furniture brought that figure to $4,000,000.

Ralph Dennis, then-president of the Muncie School Board, laid the first mortar at the cornerstone ceremony April 25, 1960. Sealed in plastic and put into a copper box and placed into the cornerstone were a Bible, an American flag, two issues of Our Muncie Schools (Volume 1, Number 1 and Volume IX, Number 4), the current issues of the Muncie Star and the Muncie Press newspapers, the Muncie Community Schools’ personnel directory, and the Time magazine article “Space Story.”

Rev. C.A. McCallister of St. Paul’s Methodist Church gave the invocation and benediction at the cornerstone ceremony, and a Central High School Choral group sang.

Construction was completed for school to begin in September 1962, and the building dedication ceremony was January 27, 1963. Participating in the ceremony were N. Durward Cory, superintendent of Muncie Schools; Claude B. Williams, Southside principal; the School Board; and the architects.

Special features of the original building included science labs, an electronic language lab, and a large cafeteria with a stage at one end. A separate wing for industrial arts and a home economics living center with folding doors and a lecture room were among other features.

However, the most prominent facets of the new building were the library and the gymnasium. The library was designed to house 10,000 books, and it had six adjoining rooms for conference areas, magazine storage, and teacher preparation. Besides being spacious, the library was attractive with its mahogany paneling and maple furniture.

The multi-purpose gym was built with folding dividers so that three physical education classes could meet simultaneously. In addition, the architects designed the gym with a full-sized basketball court, bleacher seating for athletic events, and a stage at one end.

Architecturally, the two-story building with an elevator was notable for its size, color scheme, and symmetry. Unique to the building were five mosaic tile murals on the east wall opposite the cafeteria. The murals, designed by Steve Lowery and Jim Weber, depict a student as he goes through the school day. Lowery and Weber were among Central High School seniors who submitted ideas for the murals in Mr. Paul Carmichael’s 1961 art classes.

Made up of one-inch square mosaic tiles, each mural is six feet tall and twelve feet wide. Each mural is separated by two-foot columns of tan brick. The first mural portrays athletics, followed by one representing music, art, and drama. The middle panel pictures academics. The next combines the academic and vocational areas, while the last depicts industrial technology.

In 2004 some of the characters in the original tiles were glazed to better portray the diversity of Southside’s student population. Then-Associate Principal Dale Basham planned the project, along with retired art teacher Bob Hartley. Muncie Black Expo financed the project.

Although a swimming pool and auditorium were in the original plans for the new Southside High School, construction of those areas was delayed until 1970. They were dedicated, along with a new student recreation room and cafeteria annex, on February 28, 1971.

Since that time, other improvements have been made. The Lowell (“Odie”) Barnet Football Stadium and the all-weather track were added in 1972, and a greenhouse in 1975. In 1981 the varsity baseball diamond was renovated, and four tennis courts were built. A softball field was constructed on the southeast corner of the school property in 1999, and a soccer field was added in the fall of 2006. (The soccer field is behind Grissom Elementary School.)

Air conditioning was added to the building in 1988. A math wing was added on the southwest corner of the building in 1994 to contain five additional classrooms, and the courtyard was enclosed and converted into extra cafeteria space.  New locker rooms were added to the swimming pool area this same year. Thus, by 1994, the school had grown to 236,199 square feet since 1962.

Beginning In spring 2006 and ending in January 2009, a $25,000,000 renovation to the entire school building occurred. Featuring a commons area for students, an auxiliary gym, new heating and air conditioning, and six new classrooms, this new renovation added 13,706 square feet, bringing South’s total square footage to 249,905. The rededication of the school with its new renovation was May 3, 2009.

Of course, the building proper with all of its renovations needs personnel. Originally, Southside had 1,240 students and 56 faculty members. Only eight principals have served during Southside’s fifty-two year history: Claude Williams (1962-68); C.J. Smith (1968-69); John Walker (1969-70); Harold R. Huff (1970-73); James Hedge (1973-86); Tim Heller (1986-88); John Robbins (1988-2004); and Rebecca Thompson (2004-present).

Not until the 1975-76 school year did Southside become a four-year high school. Only grades 10-12 had attended before that.

Southside’s first graduating class, the Class of ’63, had 146 members. This class was small because juniors and seniors, who had previously attended Central High School, could choose whether or not to attend the city’s new school. The first students to have attended Southside for all three years were members of the 1965 class, which had 549 graduates.

Before that first school year ended in 1963, Southside had been nicknamed the Rebels. The name evolved naturally, an outgrowth of the school’s location and name. Students also voted to adopt red and white as the school’s colors; the second choice had been blue and gray.

Adhering to the southern motif, students voted to name the school newspaper the Sentinel, the yearbook the Southerner, and the top choral group the Southernaires. Until 1970 the school elected a Miss Southern Belle yearly in lieu of the present-day Homecoming Queen.

Two innovative curriculum changes occurred in 1972. WWHI, an on-the-air station manned by students, moved from Wilson Junior High School to Southside. South’s WWHI was the third educational frequency in the state to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. To train students for on-air broadcasts, mass media classes were added to South’s curriculum in 1972. Those classes still exist, but the radio station was closed down in 2002.

The Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Program (MCJROTC) was added to the curriculum in 1972. South’s MCJROTC has earned numerous regional and national awards.

Special education classes were added in 1972. Southside’s special education classes are part of a consortium which serves special education students from Delaware, Blackford, Randolph, and Jay Counties.

Athletically, twenty varsity sports, ten for boys and ten for girls, are now offered at South, increased from eight when the school opened. Southside athletes have earned three state championships, two in wrestling and one in basketball. Wrestlers achieved state titles in 1975 and 1990, and were state runners-up in 1985. Jim Cartwright coached the wrestlers to the 1975 title, and John Smith guided the team to the 1985 and 1990 honors.

The boys’ basketball team earned the Class 3A title in 2001. The 1999 team was the Class 3A runner-up. Coach Rick Baumgartner was at the helm of these two teams.  (Southside became a 3A school in 1997, moved to 4A status during the 2001-02 school year, and moved back to 3A in 2006.) The Rebel baseball team won the semi-state tourney in 1988 and competed in the state tournament that year under the direction of Coach Larry Lewis.

In addition, The Spirit of South Band and Guard are no strangers to state championships. They earned state titles in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2008 and achieved state runner-up honors in 2001, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010. All except the 2007 through 2010 (under the direction of Joe Poio) honors were under the direction of 1993 Southside graduate Chuck Reynolds, who is now Associate Principal. Stephen Driscoll, a 2002 Alumni, is the current band director. The Winter Color Guard attained a state title in 2005 under the direction of Rhonda (Reffitt) Reynolds, also a 1993 SHS graduate.

Today 989 students and 69 teachers file through the SHS doors daily. The corridors are no longer untrodden, but students possess something that South’s first students did not — a history.

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