GRAYSLAKE – A new exhibit at the Grayslake Historical Society & Museum aims to bring high school memories alive.
The “Be True to Your School: 75 Years of Grayslake High School” exhibit celebrates 75 years of Grayslake High School District 127 history.
From a water bottle to a gym bag to jerseys, letterman jackets, old black-and-white photographs, yearbooks and school newspapers, the items on display all tell a story. As important as the display itself are the memories it sparks, said Michelle Poe, executive director of the Grayslake Historical Society & Museum.
“I think the people who come through are going to love reminiscing,” she said. “They’re going to talk about their high school years and look at the prom pictures and see the big hair. … They’re going to think about what school was like then and what it’s like today.”
The “Be True to Your School: 75 Years of Grayslake High School” exhibit opened Aug. 27 on the first floor of the museum, which is located in the Grayslake Heritage Center at 164 Hawley St., Grayslake. It will remain on display through June.
To create the display, Grayslake Historical Society & Museum members and volunteer sought items and stories from graduates of both high schools in Grayslake – Grayslake Central High School and Grayslake North High School.
Grayslake Central High School, originally known as Grayslake Community High School, opened for the first time in 1946 in downtown Grayslake. Grayslake North was built in 2004.
“We want to make sure we’re including the story of both high schools,” Poe said.
Along with artifacts and souvenirs, the Grayslake Historical Society & Museum has sought written histories from students, teachers, administrators, support personnel and board members to compile into a published volume. Submissions of 400 to 1,200 words in length can be emailed as a pdf file to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the Grayslake Historical Society, P.O. Box 185, Grayslake, IL 60030.
Promos, plays, sports events, additions built. All mean something to the community and beyond, said Charlotte Renehan, museum curator and charter member of the Grayslake Historical Society. A Grayslake native, Renehan graduated from Grayslake High School in 1951.
“As a history bug, to me, it’s not the history of the high school as much as it is in getting people interested in history in general,” she said. “If this is one thing that hooks them to be interested in local history, we’ve won the battle.”
Renehan said she’s received “wonderful stories” about both high schools – ranging from club activities to sports experiences – and hopes to gather more.
An issue of the student newspaper, the Rambling Ram, published in 1967, shows photos of parade floats on hay wagons decorated with chicken wire and paper napkins. An article recalls when freshmen girls had “Big Sisses” to guide them during those first few weeks of high school.
The exhibit provides more examples of student publications, including a magazine-style publication at Grayslake North High School.
Among the many submissions, Poe enjoyed seeing photographs of a memorable banquet hosted in the 1970s by the Latin Club. Members would dress up in togas and have a feast of foods such as grapes and olives. Students who weren’t part of the club would sign up to help serve the food just to be part of the experience, Poe said.
When the first Grayslake high school originally opened, it was too small to hold all the classrooms needed.
“Home ec[onomics] was taught in a teacher’s house,” Poe said. “A bus would pull up and honk the horn when it was time to go to the next class.”
Other classes were taught in buildings throughout town, she said.
“It’s fun to tell those stories,” she said.
In putting together the exhibit, those involved are inviting high school alumni to a coffee time Sept. 10 at the museum and are compiling a list of notable and distinguished alumni. Among them are former presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen, who was the Libertarian Party’s nominee in the 2020 election.
Recent Grayslake Central High School alumnus Tyler Blevins is now known as Ninja, having gained fame as an American Twitch streamer, YouTuber and professional gamer. Blevins has more than 18 million followers on his Twitch channel, making it the most-followed Twitch channel as of July 2022.
It’s not just the notable who pique interest.
“People tend to think their experiences aren’t worth recording,” Poe said. “It’s almost exactly that that makes it worth it. If you think about how different school is now compared to the generation before … these little things that change over the years that you don’t realize are important. If you don’t record it, it’s lost.”