REITZ 100: 1950s a ‘boom’ for Reitz, West Side

The newly built gymnasium sits nearly ready for use in 1959. The gym was built where the original entrance to the school stood. (Reitz History archives)

As the nation saw a boom both industrially and population-wise following the second World War, so too did Reitz High School.

Amid immense athletic success, the school itself underwent significant architectural changes. What resulted was a vibrant school community during the 1950s following a trying previous two decades.

The construction that shaped the 1950s at Reitz was done to keep up with the growth of Evansville’s population in the mid-to-late 1940s and to compensate for the eventual growth of the student body due to the approaching Baby Boomer generation reaching high school.

The existing structure of the school was incapable of holding such numbers, so it was time for an upgrade. The renovation started in August 1957, billing the school a total of $1.5 million, which equates to almost $14 million today.

These renovations included the large gym, the math/english/science classroom wing, the office/media center, and the journalism/print shop classrooms.

The large gym construction started in the beginning of 1958 and concrete was poured in April of the same year. Upon completion, the last two home games of the 1958-1959 season were played in the brand new arena.

The new classroom wing, which now houses mostly English, Math, Science, and Art classes was the biggest addition to the school until the 1990s when the Link and “new” side of the school was constructed. (Reitz History archives)

One of the biggest additions to the school, since opening in 1918, was the addition of the new classroom wing. This addition started in October 1957 and the exterior was finished in September 1958. The renovations became home to beautiful classrooms that many believed brought a much better environment for students to work in. In addition to the classrooms, the school opened the doors to its brand new main office on April 5, 1958. In the summer of 1957, the school began to add journalism and print shop classrooms as well.

There was excitement on the athletic field and among other Reitz activities as well, highlighted by success in many corners.

The football team brought back three state titles in 1953, 1956, and 1957. Reitz basketball also made it to the State championship in 1951, but fell short of the state title to Muncie in a nailbiter. The Panthers had a second shot at the state title in 1955, but fell short in the semi-state round.

In light of other successful teams, the golf team made their mark at the 1950 state tournament as state runners-up.

The arts also became a popular form of entertainment as a way to take its audience into a story outside of the real world. Reitz theatre presented fan favorites like “Ghost Wanted,” “Ship Ahoy,” and “Home Sweet Homeside” throughout the 1950s.

Reitz students also captured an honors title in the district music competition. The social revival of the 1950s is present in the lives of students at Reitz High School as they flocked to athletics and the arts as an outlet from the hardships of reality. 

The changes and success during the 1950s laid the foundation, both figuratively and literally, for the next half century and beyond.

“Reitz 100” stories are part of an ongoing series produced by Reitz High School Journalism students as part of Reitz’s Centennial celebration. Read more at www.reitzmirror.com and follow Reitz Journalism on Twitter @ReitzJournalism

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