Writer / Heather Chastain
Photography / Washington Township Public Library
The Avon High School graduating class of 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first graduating class in Avon. The first graduating class was back in 1917 and only had two graduates – Russell Blair and Mary Davis. The class of 2017 will have 680 graduates.
Avon graduate Marsha (Quearry) Acton (Class of 1960) was surprised to hear how many were preparing for commencement since she only had 56 students in her class. She married her high school sweetheart, Lloyd Acton (Class of 1959). “When we were in high school, you didn’t miss the basketball games. One of my best memories, we’ve laughed about it a lot, one of the basketball players was also in the band. At halftime, he would come out and play in his basketball shorts at halftime and go back and finish the game,” laughed Marsha. “It’s hard to imagine now, since we have such a large band,” she added.
Music was always very important in Avon. In a picture dated 1929, you can see the boy’s quartet dressed in tuxes and top hats despite being in the middle of the Great Depression.
Avon’s basketball team has always been thriving, but the football team didn’t always exist. Avon-Washington Township Library Historian Susan Truax said many parents didn’t want their kids playing football because it was too rough. However, 1963 graduate, Lydia (Ferree) Degan said the football team was established her junior year. “Most of us had never seen a football game, but we went and cheered anyway,” said Degan. Since then the football team has grown and was even awarded the 2015 Regional Champions.
Class trips were also a big deal for the juniors and seniors. Students used to sell concessions under the stairs in the basement to raise money to pay for those trips. You can see in the pictures they went to Washington D.C. one year and Mammoth Cave another. However, Degan said instead of a class trip, government teacher, and AHS grad, Arthur “Feeney” Davis, took them to the Danville courthouse. “The day we went, a murder trial was underway that had been moved from Marion County. We were so fascinated with it, we went back every day during the trial,” said Degan.
Over the years, the school system evolved. According to a research project complied by eighth graders in 1966-67, Washington Township began as 10 different subscription schools. That meant any parents wishing to have their children educated personally paid the teacher. Avon did offer a three-year high school until 1916, but abandoned it for a new consolidated school.
Avon-Washington Township Library Historian Susan Truax said at one time the high school was located on U.S. 36 where the Avon Fire Department currently resides. The high school was moved across the street at some point. According to “The History of Hendricks County, 1914-1976,” the old high school building was demolished in 1970 and was replaced by the current building which is now Avon Middle School South.
“There were 131 students in my senior class. I attended all 12 years in the same building, now the middle school on U.S. 36. My school life was great! I had so much fun being a class officer for 4 years and on the yearbook staff. We were not allowed to wear pants until my junior year. It had to be a matching outfit,” said Cindy Turner Simmons, Class of 1972.
The town of Avon has grown drastically over the years. At one point, the only stoplights on U.S. 36 were at Raceway Road and 267 and people used to shop at Monty’s Market, located near where the Speck’s Pet Supply is now. The addition of a fast food restaurant in the 1980’s was also a big accomplishment for the town. “It was a big deal when we got a McDonalds. We felt like we had finally arrived. Before, we had to drive to 10th Street in the Chapel Hill area, Plainfield, or Danville to get fast food,” said Brian Richardson, Class of 1988.
“It’s funny, all we wanted to do was grow, grow, grow. But looking back, I think most of us miss that smaller town… with a lot less traffic,” said Richardson. A common theme from the former graduates was how close everyone was with one another. “It was pretty easy to know everyone in your grade as most people had been here from the very beginning,” said Penny (Carlisle) Ebert, 1983 graduate.
Avon has quickly grown into a rich, diverse school system with 7 elementary schools, 2 intermediate schools, 2 middle schools and an expansive high school. The current high school was built in 1999. The class of 2000 the first graduating class out of the new Avon High School. Graduates that year remember the transition to the new school and the acid spill that gained the attention of the local news. “Everyone in the school being evacuated to the stands in the football stadium. Coach Jim Kaiser disregarded the evacuation order and went back into the school before it was declared safe to get practice prep materials from his classroom. He ended up having to go through decontamination protocols, and his picture was in the school paper and later the year book,” said Quinton Owens, Class of 2000.
In the last 17 years, Avon High School has continued to expand., The building now has a performing arts center (built in 2007) and an Advanced Learning Center (added in 2010). Renovations to Intermediate East will be starting soon. The building was built in 1952.