Ames High’s History

Ames Highs History

“Not ended, but begun” These are the words of Ames High’s past. The year is 1900. “Central” The first brick schoolhouse in Ames has been the lovely home to knowledge for all grades over the past 20 years. It’s location? on the west side of Clark Street between 5th and 6th. Classes take place from 9-12 in the morning and 1-4 in the afternoon. A prayer service in the great hall begins the day, every day. Unfortunately,“Central” will no longer be the name of this fine school, and it will no longer be teaching children from all grades. Only a select few will now spend their days here, the high schoolers. Ames High Schoolers to be exact.

We spend 5 days of the week, for 4 years walking the halls of Ames High School, and yet, what do we really know about our school? Sure, we know the best bathrooms to use and the coldest water fountains. We know the fun classes to take and the worst lunches to avoid. We know what awards we’ve won, and even some of the amazing alumni who’ve gone on to do the greatest things. But Ames High School is more than just a building that houses grades 9-12. It is more than just a structure we learn in. The high school helps shape who we become. It’s there on the best and worst days of our lives. It is home to the Little Cyclones. It is our home.

Former school principal, M.F. Morgan stated in 1891 “Our schools are open to all who wish to obtain a higher education. We do not wish you to come here with a misunderstanding of things. Make up your mind to what you wish to accomplish, have an object in view before entering, then submit willingly to the mental drills and discipline of your teachers.”

On May 12th, 1911, an election was held asking for $100,000 to build a new school. The votes were 374 total, with the men at 235 in favor, and 45 opposed. Population increase forced the first high school to inevitably make way to Ames High number 2 in 1912. This building would later become the junior high and would connect to the third Ames High via tunnels under the street. Unfortunately, in the 1980’s, this building would be torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The third building is one we all should recognize. Though, the location was originally supposed to be on a 20-acre plot on between 13th and grand. Public concern forced the school board to reconsider, and the building was eventually built on the grounds of the original AHS in 1937. It served the high school students of Ames well for 26 years until it became our current city hall in the 90s.

As we know, there is only one more Ames High after #3 closed its doors to the students. This is our beloved Ames High #4. In 1961, the transition to our current high school was beginning to be made. Students would spend half of their day in the new high school and half of their day in the old high school. They eventually finished the transition from schools, and in 1962, students began going only to the current Ames High.

In the early 1970s, life was a bit different for the typical high schooler. Ames High was home only to grades 10-12, with enrollment at 1,200, and a full-time staff of 84 faculty members and administration. “Ames did a very good job of hiring teachers,” said 1974 AHS alumni, Jerry Clemens, “teachers cared about the kids.” Students only needed 32 credits to graduate and had classes like sewing and typing to keep them busy. “We accepted what we had,” Jerry said, “We didn’t know any difference because some things weren’t out there for us.”

Former AHS student, Marian Neff Miller, wrote in the class of 1946 reunion booklet, “[…] I do believe that the thing most outstanding in my thoughts is the “freedom” we were allowed to experience–both in our homes and at school. We grew up in a community small enough to nurture, but large enough to offer exciting experiences, thus growth.[…] As I look back on those experiences-and many others- I am convinced that the things I hold dear today had their beginnings in the community where we were encouraged to “spread our wings” Weren’t we the lucky ones to grow up and go to school in Ames, Iowa?”

Ames high school has always been home to the talented. 1951 graduate E.W. (Red) Millikan stated in his autobiography, Once Upon A Time, “I had already learned winning was a way of life for the Little Cyclones.” Some of our earliest activities included declamatory and debate. Debate was organized in 1901, but the first official club was not taught until 1904, and the debate state league was not joined until 1917. A single publication of an annual, The Meteor, appeared in 1908, and in 1912, The Spirit was born. As of the late 70’s, Annual publication was still issued once a year. While early issues had appeared quarterly and included original poems and narratives, as well as, reports of student activities. As for The WEB, we were not born until 1928, but that does not mean the students didn’t care about journalism. On Sept. 21st, 1911, the first official AHS newspaper was published. Some forgotten clubs of Ames High, include Glee club (1923-1924) and Library club (1934), while groups like, Orchestra (1908), Student council (1924), and Mixed Choir (1926), still remain an integral part of what makes our school so special.

“We have, for the most part, great students. Students want to come to school, and they like to do well in class,” said Ames High teacher, since 1983, Kirk Schmaltz. He then went on to say that, “I started out very young in my career here at Ames High School and I had a lot of people support me, to help me grow as both a teacher and as an individual and to always get better in the classroom.” 

Have any of you ever heard about the forgotten lady of Ames High School? No, she is not a ghost that roams the halls late at night. The forgotten lady was once a prized statue of AHS. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom and peace. She was a gift from the class of 1908 and stood at 7ft tall. On Halloween nights, she would receive a makeover from the students. She would get a coat of lipstick, and garlands would be placed around her neck. She watched over Ames High for many years, until it was time to move to our current location. Sadly, there wasn’t any room for the glorious woman, that many of the Ames High students had come to love. She was eventually put into storage, before finding a new home within the SAE house at ISU. 

1946 alumni, Jane Odell Davis, wrote “There are two memories that stand out in my mind. The first is the day I took a snake from the biology lab and ran down the hall with it. The second one was the day the guys decided to roll marbles down the aisle in study hall. I don’t remember the name of the teacher, but she was young and new and practically hysterical. When all the marbles started rolling, she called for the principal, who called for the Fire Squad to help recover all the marbles. There was a large waste basket full. My mistake was putting some in my pocket. The next period I had the same teacher for math and as I got up to turn in a paper, the marbles clicked and clacked in my pocket. A dead giveaway. I don’t remember what the consequences of this action were, but I will always remember the marbles rolling.”

While our motto has since changed, and many of our classes and teachers are different. The message has stayed the same. We don’t just go to Ames High school, we are a part of Ames High school. It has bonded us through generations and generations of past students, in a way many other schools can only dream of. I am proud to go to a school with such a long history. I am proud to learn in a place that treats us as individuals. I am proud to be a Little Cyclone, and I hope you are too.