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Paoli High School

501 Elm St.
Paoli, IN 47454
(812) 723-3905

    Memories Resurrected and Made at Dedication

    On September 23rd, 2011 approximately 700 people packed into what now will be called College Hill Apartments.  When looking throughout the room, many familiar faces were recognizable.  Previous teachers, faculty, students, teammates and administrators gathered and reminisced on old memories.  For most of the people attending the dedication however, the big building on the hill will forever be known as “the old high school” or “Stalcup.”

    Built in 1927, Paoli High School withstood the effects of the Great Depression, numerous wars and over 5,000 students running up and down her staircases.  In 1968, with the opening of the new Paoli High School across town, the building became Stalcup School for grades five and six. Beyond the learning, ball games were played there and hours upon hours of laughter were shared inside the walls.  When the final bell rang in May 1979, the halls fell silent.  For a few short years in the 90s, Hillcrest Manufacturing occupied the space but for years and years, this building that held so much history, sat empty.

    Hoosier Uplands CEO David Miller and other board members tried to think of something to fill this empty building.  Several ideas were tossed around, including a teen recreation center, but finding continual funding for operations put a halt to the projects.  Converting the building into affordable housing seemed to be the best solution.  After applying for grants and loans and waiting a year, Hoosier Uplands was contacted with good news saying that they were approved and ready to roll.  A year later, College Hill Apartments were completed.

    Thousands of hours were put into this project by many hoping to host the grand opening on the anniversary on which a time capsule had been placed in the school’s cornerstone.  Eighty-four years to the day, the College Hill Apartments were opened for public viewing.

    “If These Walls Could Talk,” painted on the wall of the refurbished auditorium, could not have been more fitting an expression for the day.  Excited alumni started arriving more than hour early to see the memorabilia and photos that had been collected and made a major part of the renovation.

    “The open house was very emotional for me because that is where I started my teaching career at Paoli. It also meant a lot to me because my father graduated from there. The open house brought back many memories of teachers I taught with and students I had the short time I was there. I really enjoyed going into the apartment that used to be my room and looking out the windows to reflect on what I used to see from them,” commented Throop Elementary teacher Kathy Stroud.

    As the Paolite editor sent to cover the open house, I found it interesting to see and hear the older generations reminiscing.  But more gratifying was the sense of pride I felt.  All of those photographs that had been collected, scanned, sorted, and framed and all the memorabilia that filled the display cases came from the effort of my grandma, Reita Nicholson. Over the past year my family and I have watched this project come to life.  Although my siblings and I never attended school in that building we gained the feeling of what it was like to be within those walls.

    And as if that weren’t enough, my family was honored to have the auditorium named for my great grandmother, Hilma Abell-Murphy.  Although we saw “Murphy” (as we called her) as a wonderful grandma, we never really realized how big an impact she had on so many. She was the very first married mother to be allowed to attend Paoli High School.  She went on to graduate in 1944 in the top 10 of her class. For nearly 30 years she was a teller at Orange County Bank.  There were few people in the area that she didn’t know.  She served more than 15 years on the Hoosier Uplands board of directors and was a volunteer gardener and tour guide at the West Baden Dome throughout its restoration.  It’s been 10 years since her death, but people are still talking about what a special woman she was.  As Grandma Reita spent so much time and effort on this project, she had no idea of the honor that would be bestowed on her mother. She was simply following in her mother’s footsteps as a member of the Hoosier Uplands board and a lover of preserving the past.

     As door prizes, commemorating the revitalization of such a beloved building, David Miller presented two lucky recipients with pieces of the original gym floor.  They felt as if they had received a real treasure.  But in reality, my sister Elizabeth, my brother Andy, and I were the ones who walked away with the real treasure that day.  We were able to witness first-hand the love and appreciation felt toward our grandma and great-grandma for all the time and effort they shared with our community over the years.  I hope that I will be able to follow in their footsteps in a way as impacting as they have.

    By Stevie Thomas

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