Riley County High School Turns "50"

(Photo taken from the inside cover of the 1963 RCHS Yearbook.  Click on picture to see a larger image.)


RCHS  Alumni


Class of

Jonne Avery
Darryl Benninga
Norma Benninga
Mary Butler
Rodney Butler
Marjorie Crowl
Claudia Ewing
Charlene Funk
Janice Grater
Eldo Heller
Karen Henton
Thaine Hoffman
Janice Hohman
Gail Johnson
Roseanne Johnson
Linda Miller
Janet Nauerth
Penney Price
Leonard Purvis
Della Rightmeier
Beverly Sprecker
Ruth Strauss
Lyle Walter
Gary Wood
Janice Zeisset
Jack Zeller
John Zeller

Class Sponsors

H.D. Caine, Jr.
Mrs. George Timmons


Class of 1961

Joe Beck
Don Benninga
Cheryl Black
Margie Brannon
Ed Duncan
Larry Hedman
Gary Jenkins
John Johnson
Lowell Johnson
Patty Johnson
Sherrie Johnson
John Kilian
Marlene Kleiner
Kathryn Lewis
Charles Llewelyn
Rex Lober
Michael Malmstrom
Sandy Marker
Evelyn Moody
Dean Nelson
Bill Norris
Price Oman
Richard Pollman
Harold Pottorf
John Rickard
Norman Rood
Carole Schurle
Carolyn Schurle
Pauline Schweitzer
Judy Scott
Karen Stone
Richard Stone
Connie Thurlow
Myrna Walter
Jerry White
Jim Wilson
Romelle Wilt


Class of 1962

Ronald Allen
Pat Barr
Keith Carlson
Marcella Chapman
Sondra Dodds
Lora Duncan
Ronald Harrison
Larry Hinson
John Ray Jahnke
Mary Kaump
Elden Keener
Lester Krause
Robert Lantz
Roger Larson
Myron Lawson
Joyce Llewelyn
Aloha McFadden
Mary McKemy
Neal Medlin
Connie Nudson
Carol O'Neil
John Olson
Leota Paquette
Larry Remmers
Carol Stadel
Beverly Stone
William Tudor
Judy Winkler
Kathy Wood
Kay Wood


Class of 1963

Marearl Bahr
Barbara Baxley
Eldon Beichter
Judy Benninga
Rosie Berbohm
Eldon Bergeson
Anita Blodgett
Grace Brandenburg
Leo Chalmers
Gene Cheesman
Frances Clark
Joanne Dugan
Colene Evans
Robert Fleming
John Gendre
Danny Glanzer
Denny Grater
Ron Haller
Verlyn Henton
Jeannette Holladay
Nancy Jahnke
Carl Larson
James Lawson
Richard Lindstrom
Beverly Lober
Diana Morris
Bruce Nelson
May Norris
Mel Nudson
Mark Ruthstrom
Charlotte Sand
Reva Scheele
Altame Slansky
Kenneth Thurlow
Gary Tyson
Sharon Wahl
Glenna Walter


RCHS at 50

by John Olson, Class of 1962
Also published in The Riley Countian,
Friday, September 11, 2009

A new era in local education commenced on a rainy Monday morning, the fourteenth of September, a half-century ago.  The building wasn’t completely finished, but surrounding schools had started two weeks previously, so it was time to make do with the situation at hand.   140 students from Keats, Leonardville, and Riley came together for the first time as the new student body of Riley County High School.  There was a certain amount of apprehension about what the consolidation would bring, but for most there was a spirit of expectation as well.  As RCHS reaches its Golden Anniversary, it seems appropriate to take a look back at that pioneering first year and the events that shaped the birth of a new school.

For a number of years the three small town schools, built in the twenties, had experienced declining enrollment.  Single digit graduating classes were not the educational ideal.  Small faculties dictated very few opportunities for class selection and electives.  Leonardville’s last year saw only 40 students enrolled with a graduating class of six.  Keats, once the new school was approved, chose to forgo its last year leading up to the merger.  Most of the Keats students transferred to Riley for the ’58-’59 school year, however, a few elected to go to Manhattan.
There had been some talk of a Leonardville and Randolph union with the possibility of a new building at the old Lee country school site, three miles east of Leonardville.  When that didn’t work out, LRHS looked to the south.  In 1958 a vote was taken and a majority found favor in creating consolidated District No. 8.  The title of USD 378 would not come about until the statewide unification of schools in 1965.  RCHS was ahead of the times.  The school board for the proposed undertaking was made up of David Schurle representing Keats, Raymond Swanson from Leonardville, and Ivan Sand of Riley.

When board members met with the architects in December of 1958, the new site had been established, an adequate water well had been drilled, and final approval of the drawings and specifications was made.  It was announced that bid letting for construction would soon take place.

Construction progressed throughout the spring and summer of 1959, but when it was time for school to start the work was not yet completed.  The starting date for school was set back two weeks and finally the south classrooms were approved for occupancy.  When school started, lockers had not yet arrived resulting in students being assigned a number chalked between two lines on the concrete ledge where the lockers would one day stand.  The unfinished cafeteria dictated sack lunches from home to be eaten in the library or a classroom.  Vocational Ag classes were held in the south bleacher tunnel, with numerous field trips, and Home Economics met in the small workroom next to the office.  Physical Education was classroom oriented during the first months.

Noon hours found some students in the gym, watching workmen install the new “floating floor”.  The hardwood flooring was nailed to alternating two-foot-long two by fours with small rubber pads placed on the side next to the concrete, giving promise of cushioned landings for future players.  By the end of December the construction was mostly complete and school days became more normal after Christmas.  Conditions that first semester weren’t ideal, but the promise of better things to come prevailed.

R. H. Turner came from Waterville to be the first principal, and his wife was the school secretary.  Teachers included H.D. Caine Jr., music; Alberta Timmons, English; J. Lester Hooper, science and drivers ed.; Gilbert Dyck, mathematics; Karen Sanders, Spanish, English, history, and speech; Jean Ovenstone, social science and school counselor; Cordelia Overfield, business and girls phys. ed.; Jack Bowman, boys phys. ed.; Les Olsen, vocational ag. and biology; and Corrine Wright (who became Mrs. Les Olsen the following summer), home economics.  Foster Pfaff took pride in keeping the new building spic and span. Cooks Elsie Fleming Wohler and Marcene Johnson Remmers prepared tasty meals daily.

For the first three days of school, students did not yet have a mascot.  On Wednesday, September 16th, the student body assembled in the library at the end of the school day to decide if they would be beasts, birds, or otherwise.  Possibilities were solicited from individuals and when the vote was counted it revealed that Riley County would soar as Falcons.  Other suggested possibilities included Blue Aces, Polar Bears, Eagles, Jets, Pioneers, Scorpions, and Raiders.  The only other Falcons at that time were at the Air Force Academy.  They sent the school a picture of a Falcon to hang in the student commons.

The student council president that first year was Lyle Walter.  Jonne Avery was editor of the yearbook with Della Rightmeier as assistant.  The newly established “Falcon Flier”, the school newspaper, was edited by Janice Zeisset, her assistant being Linda Miller.

Early in the school year Riley County was accepted into the Blue Valley League.  The other schools in the league were Blue Rapids, Clifton, Frankfort, Hanover, Linn, Waterville, and Washington.  Since schedules for football and basketball had been made up earlier in the year, Riley County had to schedule games where they could.  Many contests required fans to travel a considerable distance to cheer on the Falcons.

The schools had begun the process of coming together the previous year with the music departments.  Music teacher Homer Dodge Caine, Jr. taught mornings at Leonardville and afternoons at Riley.  In the spring of 1958 combined vocal concerts were presented, Riley one night, Leonardville the next.  A couple of weeks later the same was done with a joined band.  Proceeds from the concerts were added to the fund for new band uniforms at RC  In the beginning RC boasted a mixed chorus numbering 57 and a band of 46.

1959-60 RCHS Band

(picture taken from the 1960 RCHS Yearbook / click on the picture to see a larger image)

(names were not printed in the yearbook)

Back Row: (left to right) Neal Medlin, John Olson, Claudia Ewing, Carol Stadel, Marearl Bahr, Kathryn Lewis, Colene Evans, Price Oman, Marjorie Crowl, Lowell Johnson, Thaine Hoffman, Lyle Walter   Third Row: Eldo Heller, Melvin Nudson, Keith Carlson, Mark Ruthstrom, Bruce Nelson, Connie Nudson, Myron Lawson, Janet Nauerth, James Lawson, Galen Sprecker, Bill Tudor, Gene Cheesman    Second Row: Grace Brandenburg, Joyce Llewelyn, Glenna Walter, Pauline Schweitzer, Charlotte Sand, Jonne Avery, Nancy Jahnke, Mary Kaump, Leonard Purvis, Romelle Wilt, Judy Benninga, Carolyn Schurle    Front Row: Roseanne Johnson (Drum Major), Charlene Funk, Diana Mae Morris, Beverly Stone, Judy Winkler, Sondra Dodds, Judy Scott, Beverly Sprecker, Myrna Lou Walter, Mary McKemy, Homer Dodge Caine, Jr.  /  Kneeling in Front: Marcia Lindstrom and Vesta Mae Sargent (majorettes)

1959-60 RCHS Mixed Chorus

(pictures taken from the 1960 RCHS Yearbook / click on the picture to see a larger image)

In athletics, it was a different time.  After their demise in the fifties, women’s athletic teams would not return to interscholastic competition until the seventies.  This is not to say that the young ladies did not participate.  At that time in history R C had a very active pep club.  The yearbook pictures 60 participants, all neatly dressed alike in white skirts and Columbia blue sweaters with a Falcon emblem on the front.  Five cheerleaders directed the cheering with chants like: “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for RC stand up and holler”.   The quintet-of-leaders consisted of Penny Price, Connie Thurlow, Janice Grater, Roseanne Johnson, and Romelle Wilt.  Mary Kaump served as the alternate.

1959-60 RCHS Cheerleaders

(picture taken from the 1960 RCHS Yearbook / click on picture to see a larger image)

1959-60 RCHS Pep Club

(picture taken from the 1960 RCHS Yearbook / click on the picture to see a larger image)

The last football game between Leonardville and Riley was held on a Tuesday afternoon.  Originally scheduled for Friday the fourteenth, it was decided to make the last game a little more festive by combining it with Veteran’s Day on November 11th.  Businessmen in the towns closed their doors and provided free coffee and donuts for the event.  The pep band was a combined band of the two schools and played a concert before the game.  Previous to consolidation, area football teams played six-man football.  A team had a center, two ends, two halfbacks, and the quarterback.  Riley was the winner of the football contest.

Jack Bowman was RC’s new head football coach and Gilbert Dyck was his assistant.  The football team got a head start on the student integration process.  For two weeks preceding the first day of school, the team underwent two-a-day practices.  Not only did they have to get in shape, but they also had to learn the game of 11-man football.  Since construction of the new school was not yet completed, the first locker room was in the gymnasium of the old Riley grade school and Riley’s field from previous years was used for practice.  RC ran an unbalanced formation with the center lining up between the guard and the tackle.

1959 RCHS Football Team

(picture taken from the 1960 RCHS Yearbook / click on picture to see a larger image)

The first game came four days after the start of school, on the 18th at 2:00 in the afternoon, against the team from Axtell.  It took place on the former Riley field, which, as many fields of that era were, was located on the town’s ball field.  The north end of the football field was on the infield and as it was a muddy day, play in the diamond area was a quagmire.  The quarterback, Lyle Walter, scored all three touchdowns in an 18 to 6 victory for the Falcons in their first game ever.

The premier game on the present field took place on the 23rd of October against Gypsum.  It, too, was an afternoon contest as the lights had not yet been installed.  That game also marks the first time for the locker rooms to be used.  The Falcons dominated the game with a 40 to 0 victory.

First RCHS Homecoming Royalty (Fall 1959)

(l to r) - Karen Henton , Queen Janice Grater, Roseanne Johnson

The last game of the season was homecoming, a game lost to Clifton.  Janice Grater was elected Homecoming Queen.  Roseanne Johnson and Karen Henton served as attendants. The Falcons initial season ended with a 3 win, 5 loss, record.  The game played against Solomon was a close 0-6 loss at a time when they were ranked 5th in the state.  Other teams played include St.Johns of Salina, Centre twice, Frankfort, and Linn.

Basketball the previous year saw the Tigers from Leonardville and the Wildcats of Riley both win the last game against each other on their home courts.  At Leonardville, the home team played the two games with only nine players suited up.  Four of the “A” team starters played one quarter in the “B” game.  At Riley, the second half started with a brief speech by Dr. Oltman.  He began by saying, “This is the last game between the high schools from Leonardville and Riley”, then after a short pause, he added the word “ever”.

Basketball season at RC began on an unfinished wood floor.  Lines and varnish would be added during the Christmas break.  Gilbert Dyck was the head coach with Coach Bowman as his assistant.  The opening game took place at Miltonvale, on December 4th, with a 45-56 loss to the Pirates.

Not yet eligible for Blue Valley League tourney play, over Christmas break the Falcons played in the Tonganoxie invitational.  RC defeated Lansing in the championship contest, 52-40, to take home the school’s first ever trophy.  It had four eagles mounted on its base, and the players thought they really looked like Falcons.

The first battle of the hardwoods that local fans witnessed on the home court did not feature the Falcons.  Would anyone guess it to be the K-State Wildcats!  On January 7th, Coach Tex Winter brought his freshmen and junior varsity squads for a game.  Coach Winter had his first 7-foot player in freshman Roger Suttner.  When he introduced the players, Tex announced his height as 6 feet, 11 and ¾ inches.  Roger and his teammates would go to the NCAA Final Four a few years later.

1959-60 RCHS Basketball Team

(picture taken from the 1960 RCHS Yearbook / click on picture to see a larger image)

After starting the campaign with eight “away” games, the Falcons finally played at home on January 12th.  RC was victorious 70 to 53 and the headlines proclaimed, “Falcons Christen New Gym with Blood of Paxico”.  Leading scorers for Riley County were John Olson with 20, Lyle Walter had 15, and Bill Norris added 14.  John Jahnke scored 15 points to lead the “B” team to a 57-27 conquest in the preliminary game.

The season concluded with the district tournament held at Riley County.  The Falcons captured the consolation trophy by defeating Lucky High of Manhattan.  RC posted a season record of 13 wins against 8 losses.  Other teams played during year one include Frankfort, Emmett, Onaga, St. Peter and Paul, Alta Vista, Linn, Milford, Alma, Immaculata of Leavenworth, and Westmoreland.

Spring found twenty-one tracksters reporting to Head Coach Bowman and assistant Dyck.  The Falcons came out on top of the Riley County Invitational with invited teams finishing in the following order: Miltonvale, Waterville, Alma, and Blue Valley.

The league meet became the first time Falcon athletes competed in Blue Valley League competition.  The Falcons finished sixth among the 7 teams competing.  Frankfort did not take part as they played baseball as a spring sport.  For trivia buffs, lone regional qualifier, sophomore high-jumper John Olson and Coach Bowman became the first to represent Riley County in post-season state athletic competition.

At the beginning of the year five seniors enrolled from Keats, nine from Leonardville, and thirteen from Riley.  By the June sixth graduation date, a metamorphosis had taken place and twenty-seven seniors walked across the stage as Falcons of Riley County High School.  A number in the class desired to be the “first graduate”, so a name was drawn from a hat and the honor went to Beverly Sprecker.

Hundreds of teenagers have passed through the doors of RCHS over the past half-century.  There have been a multitude of accomplishments attributed to those many students during that time.  Riley County High School will surely continue to be the hub of the major land area of the county in the years to come.  It is hoped that this time to reminisce has brought back memories to those who lived it and enlightened those who have entered Falcon Country since then.