LOVINGTON — The annexation of Lovington High School by the Arthur School District was emotional for Lovington, as it is for most communities when schools with a rich history find they must merge with others to continue the mission of educating their children.
After months of community meetings to consider various options, Lovington students began attending high school in Arthur in 2012. The following year, Atwood-Hammond voters approved the annexation of their district with Arthur.
However, the Lovington community didn't want to let the memories of its high school fade, and the Lovington Alumni Association continues to hold an annual homecoming banquet. This year's event is Saturday, Sept. 29.
The athletic, academic and agricultural trophies that continue to radiate school spirit and pride have also found new homes in four Lovington locations: Hardware State Bank, Shawnee Communications, Lovington Library and Okaw Farmers Co-op. Class photos are stored at Lovington Elementary School.
“We had a great volleyball program, and we also did very well in basketball for a small school,” said Ray Duncan, chairman of the board for First Community Bank of Moultrie County, of which Hardware State Bank is the Lovington branch. He coached basketball at Lovington for eight years, too.
“The reason we wanted to display them is, I went to Niantic High School. Niantic merged with Illiopolis years ago and created Sangamon Valley, and when I went back to Niantic, all the trophies we'd won as Niantic were gone," Duncan continued. "We found them stored in an attic. Then I talked to the people from Bethany, and they merged to form Okaw Valley, and their trophies kind of disappeared, too. So when we merged with Arthur, I thought that we shouldn't let that happen here.”
Deciding which trophies would be displayed at which businesses was just a matter of logic, Duncan said. Because he'd coached basketball, he said it made sense to house the basketball trophies at the bank.
Dave Bowers had played football for Lovington, so football trophies went to Moultrie Independent Telephone Co., which is now Shawnee Communications.
Scholastic Bowl, WYSE and other academic trophies went to the library. For homecoming each year, alumni Kay Webb and Dale Jones put together a display of photos, yearbooks and memorabilia at the library, too.
Leroy and Alma Fair collected the class photos that had been on display at the high school, which are now on display at the elementary school.
“That way, when people come back for homecoming or just to visit, they can come through and look at the memories,” Duncan said.
Some of the trophy cabinets were built especially for their new homes by alumnus Harold Garmon, some were moved from the high school before it was demolished and some were refurbished.
Duncan's wife, Sally, is president of Hardware State Bank, and held her 40th class reunion there on Sept. 22. Classmates celebrated in the bank lobby, which boasts the purple rug from the high school with the Lovington Panthers logo.
The bank also displays Lovington historical photos of people and places dating to 1902. One group of photos features Chester Barnett, known to the entertainment world as Bobo the Clown, who was a regular on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
Leroy Fair is a graduate of Lovington, while his wife, Alma, went to Arthur High School.
“We have our homecoming banquet the same weekend that Arthur does,” Leroy Fair said. “We used to have our own weekend, and we'd have a ballgame out here, but when we annexed with them, we started having separate banquets.”
Awards given at the alumni banquet, voted on by alumni, include Athletic Award, Who's Who, Outstanding Graduate and Honorary Alumni, which is given to someone who didn't attend Lovington but has done much for the community. Alma Fair was a recipient of that award one year for her work with the Alumni Association.
When Arthur annexed Lovington, Alma Fair said, the school colors were changed to include Lovington's gold with Arthur's red. When Atwood-Hammond joined the annexation, their black was added, so that all three schools are represented and none lost their identity. Students voted to keep the Knights as the mascot.
The FFA and other agricultural awards went to the Okaw Farmer's Co-op because that just made sense, said Gary Smith, who runs “the elevator,” as it's known.
“People come out, and some of the customers we have, that we don't see very often, will come out to see the trophies and we get to see them at least once a year (for homecoming),” Smith said.
Four years ago, a member of the Meridian Conference champion football team brought to Shawnee Communications a signed presentation football, which is displayed in the lobby, Bowers said.
“It means more than just something to those who participated,” Bowers said. “It means that someone still cares about the accomplishments of the past, and we have the opportunity through the businesses to show that.”