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Wampum Public Schools - Wampum, PA

The residents of Wampum, a small settlement founded in Western Pennsylvania back in 1796, were served by several small schools throughout the nineteenth century. One particular school burned down in the fall of 1875, and as a result children began attending classes held in the basement of the Methodist Episcopal Church (built in 1871). A new schoolhouse was built in 1877, which I believe was the one located at the intersection of Kay and Church Streets – behind where the old International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Hall is still located. Overcrowding at this school led to students attending classes at several annex locations, including in a large room over William Yoho’s blacksmith shop on Beaver Street.

In 1912 and citizens of Wampum began debate on financing for a new school house. With favorable financing several lots were purchased comprising a triangular property at the end of Main Street, just where the Newport Road veered off past St. Monica’s Catholic Church. The new two-story school house and playground were erected with haste beginning in March 1914, and construction was completed just prior to school opening on September 14 of that same year. The school featured a distinctive tan brick construction that was similar to St. Monica’s Church, which was erected across the street back in 1905. The school served various grades but was mostly known for housing the older kids of Wampum High School. Over the next two decades I believe the school building was expanded and a small annex was built right behind it (all completed by 1934).

The school utilized a small gymnasium on the top floor of the IOOF Hall on Main Street and the baseball field currently located on the Wampum playground. In 1940 the gym in the IOOF Hall was condemned due to the deteriorating condition of the building and the cagers were forced to use the Shelby Gym in nearby Ellwood City. In 1942 the borough was finally able to fund and build a small school gymnasium right across the street from the Wampum School.

It was under the tutelage of head varsity basketball coach L. Butler Hennon, also the school principal and mathematics teacher, that the Wampum High Indians achieved a reputation for incredible success on the hardwood floor. Hennon, a Wampum High and Geneva College graduate, took over the team in 1933-34 and posted a record of 8-7. The next few years were lean on wins, but by 1940 the team had a legitimate superstar in high-scoring center Coy Craine. They won the WPIAL Section 20 championship in February 1941 and repeated this feat in 1944, 1946, and 1947. For such a small school district Hennon would be blessed with some special talent in the coming years that included Coy Craine’s brother Ceasar Craine and step-brothers Rich (Dick), Harold, and Ron Allen, and Hennon’s own son Donnie. Other notables included Ronnie Galbreath, John Novalesi, Ed Marich, John Melfi, Joe Schnitzki, Eugene Swogger, and John Grinnen.

The boys from Wampum won twelve straight Section 20 championships beginning in early 1950. In was during the decade of the 1950’s that the Wampum Indians varsity basketball team became a national (and international) sensation of sorts and essentially put the tiny town on the map. Coach Hennon’s unusual practice techniques, which featured his players wearing weighted jackets, heavy gloves, thick boots, and special glasses to improve their skills, paid off during their games. The team dominated league play while competing primarily against Union, Shenango, New Wilmington, Mount Jackson, Laurel, Darlington, Bessemer, and Zelienople and put up numerous long unbeaten streaks including an amazing 82-game streak in 1957-1959.

The Indians reached their first Class B state championship game in early 1953, but lost a heartbreaker 71-70 to Irwin High School. Wampum, led by senior sensation Donnie Hennon, was soon back in the hunt, this time going an incredible 31-0 and winning their first Class B state title in early 1955. The team also went undefeated in league play the following season, but unfortunately bowed out in the WPIAL finals. Led by the Allen boys the small school racked up two more Class B state crowns in 1958 and 1960. The story of the Wampum High’s basketball team was featured in a cover story in Life magazine in January 1958, and some of Hennon’s techniques were subsequently adopted by the Olympic basketball team of the Soviet Union.

Many of Hennon’s players enjoyed success after their high school days ended. Coy Craine went on to play basketball in the U.S. Army and later with the Harlem Hobos, a Philadelphia-based barnstorming team that performed to crowds all over North America. Hennon’s high-scoring son Donnie, who led the team in 1955 as a senior, went to star at the University of Pittsburgh and later passed up a pro career to study medicine. He later served as a doctor in U.S. Army before becoming a renowned surgeon in Pittsburgh. Rich (Dick) Allen, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, made an immediate impact in the big leagues and was awarded as the 1964 NL Rookie of the Year. In 1972 he won the AL MVP Award with the Chicago White Sox while leading the league with 37 home runs and 113 RBI. He was also a moody agitator who is often remembered as one of the most controversial figures in baseball history. His brothers Harold and Ron also had brief stints in the major leagues. After graduating from high school Ron Galbreath went to be a key player with the Westminster College basketball team and was a renowned college basketball coach in Western Pennsylvania for forty-five seasons.

In February 1954 Wampum – after several years in a temporary union – entered into a permanent jointure with the Big Beaver Township school district. This move brought more area students to the Wampum school. As a result of the jointure some of the younger students in Wampum also started attending classes at the Newport School and the Glenkirk School.

A few years later, due to several factors including financial concerns, Wampum officials started to look at a plan to pull out of the Wampum-Big Beaver jointure and merge with the Ellwood City School District. This led to a rather nasty dispute between Wampum and Big Beaver officials. In June 1961 the Wampum School Board voted to rescind its relationship with Big Beaver effective July 1, 1961, with intentions to join the Ellwood City School District. State and county level officials soon approved of the plan. The illustrious history of Wampum High came to an end with the decision to merge into the newly reorganized Ellwood City Area School District for the 1961-62 school year. Local high school kids from Wampum and Chewton, including my mother MaryAnn DeMarc, generally began attending Lincoln Junior-Senior High School in Ellwood after this. Hennon also went on to coach the Lincoln varsity basketball team at the Class A level, but never duplicated the success he had achieved at Wampum.

The school building in Wampum continued to serve the local community as an elementary school. Plans formulated in 1974 by the Ellwood school board called for the original structure to be razed and a new elementary school to be built in its place. The annex building would be maintained and renovated, while the rebuilt main school building would resemble the Perry Elementary School. At that time the aging structure needed extensive repairs, evidenced by the fact that the second floor was closed off in 1975. In the fall of 1977 the total cost for the project was estimated at $505,000, including $113,000 for renovating the annex building. At that time the students in grades 1-6 were transported to attend classes in the Ewing Park School, while kindergarten classes were held in a local church. The school sat vacant pending work slated to begin in early 1978.

However, by the spring of 1978 the school board, citing delays from state officials in Harrisburg and a growing budget crunch, nixed the entire project and closed the school for good. This angered the residents of Wampum and led to bitter feelings towards the Ellwood City school officials. There was talk of joining up with Mohawk Area School District, if a promise of renovations to the old school could be secured. That initiative did not meet with success and the local students continued to attend classes in Ellwood City.

In early 1980 the Wampum Borough purchased the main school building, the smaller annex, and the gymnasium. The annex was soon remodeled and reopened as the home of the municipal offices and police department of the Wampum Borough. Various plans were discussed for the main school building, but it was eventually sold and converted into an apartment building.

The small gymnasium was maintained as a community center and opened to the public. In March 1994, with 84-year-old Butler Hennon and many of his former players on hand, it was rededicated as the L. B. Hennon Recreation Center. It’s still in use today and seems like it has been well preserved from its heyday. It’s a bit like entering a time machine when entering the building, due to the assortment of trophies and photos and the “old school” look of the tiny gym. This cramped place must have been something for opposing teams to enter back in the 1950’s!



To see an attendance report from the Wampum School on Kay Street for the month ending on January 13, 1891, click on: JAN 1891 REPORT. In May 1913 the citizens of Wampum were engaged in a rather bitter dispute concerning where to build the proposed new school – the Stewart Hill site or the so-called Point site on Main Street (which was soon selected). To read more about the debate click on: SCHOOL SITE DEBATE ARTICLE. In late January 1914 the school board was also able to begin purchase of the Stewart lot – passed over in the initial property acquisition – to increase the size of the new school grounds. To read about it click on: OPTION ON STEWART LOT ARTICLE. To read about the school board selling $500 bonds to finance the new school construction click on: WAMPUM TO BUY BONDS ARTICLE. In early February 1914 the school board selected a light brown-colored brick similar to that used to build nearby St. Monica’s Catholic Church. To read more about it click on: DECIDED ON COLOR ARTICLE.


An early postcard of the school on Kay Street, which was built in 1877 and replaced a nearby schoolhouse that was destroyed by a fire two years prior. (c1905) Larger Image


Schoolhouse built in 1877 on Kay St where it intersects Chruch St. Notice the large American flag hanging sideways atop the school. Photo taken in early 1900’s.


Another postcard showing the same schoolhouse on Kay St in the early 1900’s.


A class photo of students from the Wampum School in 1892. Teacher Miss Tillie Weatherspoon is standing on far right. Among the surnames of the students are familiar names such as Douthitt, Veon, Davidson, Morrow, Freed, Parshall, Cunningham, Stiglitz, and Allen. Larger Image

The report card for Laura Freed (1884-1958) from the 1896-97 school year. Looks like she did pretty well! Laura was the daughter of Robert and Ann (Miller) Freed. Laura later married William T. Maloney (1881-1936) and together they had three children. (Report card courtesy of Laura’s grandson Clif Maloney) (1897)


Old photo revealing where Kay St schoolhouse stood. It’s directly behind the IOOF lodge building (where a second floor gymnasium was used by Wampum school kids for some time) on left side of photo. Notice the horse drawn carriages on the street. c1905.


House on Kay St that now occupies former site of old schoolhouse. Photo taken from middle of Church St. Apr 2010.


I believe this may be a dedication ceremony held at the new Wampum School, sometime after it opened for classes on Monday, September 14, 1914. The school opened with 193 total pupils.


The graduating class of Wampum High School from 1917. (1917) Full Size


The former Wampum Public School during the winter months. (Feb 2011) Full Size


The front of the old school basks in the spring sunlight. (Apr 2011)


The letter my aunt Kay LaPatka (Migut), a May 1938 graduate, earned for playing varsity basketball at Wampum High for three seasons under head coach J.D. Shellatree. She played until her junior year and said there was no girls’ team her senior season. (Aug 2010)


Old photo of building used as the high school in Wampum. Facade is marked with a sign that reads “WAMPUM SCHOOL.” Unknown year but I estimate this picture was taken not long after the school was completed in September 1914.


This is a photo I took in November 2009. The facade sign now reads “Olde Main” and the building is subdivided into apartments. Note the steeple, flag pole, and arches/eves have been removed from the roof and the windows have been redone. A small window has been added to the side of the front facade.


The Wampum school building during the winter of 1955-56. Notice the steeple is still on the roof.


A combined 7th & 8th grade class taught by Miss Marie J. McKim (far right). Photo marked as “Sept 24, 1923.” McKim was one of only two members of the 1917 graduating class of Wampum High. She left the school after May 1924, but I am not sure what she did after that. My uncle Robert Aiello, an eighth grader and future Wampum Council member, is 2nd from left end in 2nd row.


A class of youngsters at Wampum, possibly the combined 1st and 2nd grade class from 1915-1916 or 1916-1917. The kid 2nd from right end of 3rd row looks like Robert Aiello.


Another class photo from the Wampum Public School, possibly the combined 3th & 4th grade class from 1917-1918 or 1918-1919. I believe Robert Aiello is seated 4th from left end. His brother Richard may be in this photo as well.


Wampum School. (1944) Full Size


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Members of the 1942-43 Wampum High varsity basketball squad, including star player the senior captain Coy Craine Allen. (1942) Full Size


Members of the senior class of 1943. (1943) Full Size


Cheerleaders from the 1944-45 school year. (1944) Full Size


The faculty of Wampum High School during the 1945-46 school year. (1945)


The senior class of Wam-Pa-Hi during the 1945-46 school year. (1945)


The senior class officers during the 1945-46 school year. (1945)


Varsity basketball team of the winter of 1945-46, led by coach Hennon and senior caption and forward Ed Marich. This squad finished 20-4 in regular season play, which included easy wins over Princeton High 120-28 and Eastbrook High 83-13. They won the WPIAL Section 20 championship. (1945)


A summary of senior Edward Marich, the captain of the 1945-46 varsity basketball squad. Marich led the county in scoring as a senior totaling 393 points in twenty-four games. (1945)


The “Twirlers” from the 1945-46 school year of Wampum High. From left its Doris Tebay, Janes Davis, Mary Krosovic, Peggy Grinnen, Helen Johnson, and little mascot Janice Hennon. (1945)


Freshman class officers from the 1945-46 school year. From left its Secretary Willa Stinnett, Vice President Willie “Sonny” King, Treasurer Bob Krosovic, and President John “Beef” McGonigle. (1945)


The future graduates of 1948, pictured here during the 1946-47 school year. (1946) Full Size


The varsity basketball team of 1946-47. This squad finished the regular season with a record of 19-4. (1946) Full Size


The Wam-Pa-Hi senior class of 1947. (1946) Full Size


The 7th grade class of 1953-54. Full Size


The 8th grade class of 1954-55. Full Size


The 10th grade class of 1955-56. Full Size


The high school band, led by director Paul Evans, giving a concert in the gym in October 1954. Full Size


Mathematics teacher Carol Sherman, a graduate of Slippery Rock State Teachers College, joined the faculty in 1956. (1957)


Carol Zoretich, a graduate of Indiana State Teachers College, taught English and French to the high school students. (1957)


Younger students of the elementary level prepare to enter the school in the spring of 1957.


Students learn typing in the commercial class lead by teacher Annette Lombardi during 1953-54.


The Wampum School. (1958) Full Size


The Wampum High Gym. (1955) Full Size


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The 1954-55 Indians, who amassed a 31-0 record, pose with some of the hardware they acquired along the way to Wa-Pa-Hi’s first Class B state championship. From left its Francis Bennett, Joe Schnitski, Bob Mathews, senior captain Donnie Hennon, coach Butler Hennon, John Melfi, John Grinnen, Eugene Swogger, Tom Galbreath, and Gabby McMillan. Full Size


The 1958 Class B State champs were led by senior captain #40 Harold “Hank” Allen and his brother #22 Rich “Dick” Allen. Full Size



The captains who delivered the Wampum High basketball team its three Class B state championships. From the left its Donnie Hennon (captain 1955), Harold Allen (captain 1958), and Rich “Dick” Allen (captain 1960). Full Size


Professor I.V. Holmes, who served as supervising principal of the Wampum school – including all grades – for many years. (1953)


L. Butler Hennon, the principal, mathematics teacher, and head coach of the basketball and baseball teams for Wampum High School. (1953)


Science teacher Jimmy Ferrante, a graduate of Slippery Rock State Normal School, started teaching at Wampum in 1932. (1953)


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Wampum’s 1938 varsity baseball team. Coach Hennon at far left.


Wampum’s 1937-38 basketball squad. Coach Hennon at far left.


Basketball star John Novalesi, the senior captain of the 1952-53 squad.


Wam-Pa-Hi grad Donnie Hennon pictured on the 1958 cover of Collegiate Basketball Record Book. An inside caption reads, “Pittsburgh’s little (5’9”) scoring giant…was named a member of the “little” All-American team, following his sophomore output of 21.1 points per game.”


A 1966 Topps baseball card of Dick “Richie” Allen, who broke in with the Phillies in late 1963. The back of the card refers to his 1964 campaign (29 HR/91 RBI/.302 BA), “Richie was the greatest rookie hitter in Philadelphia’s history.”


Dick Allen, now with the Cardinals, on the cover of the March 23, 1970, edition of Sports Illustrated. The cover story featured a story of the rising cost of player salaries and spotlighted St. Louis Cardinals’ owner August “Gussie” Busch Jr.


Six-footer and Wampum High center Harold “Hank” Allen reaches high! Life Magazine photo from January 1958.


A 1968 Topps baseball card of Harold “Hank” Allen, then a reserve outfielder with the Senators.


The 1952 Wampum-Big Beaver Joint School Board. First row from left: Mary Anderson, Thomas Cody, George Cook, James Tebay, and N. McChesney. Second row from left: Dr. Gerald Zeive, Charles Market, Charles Clark, Harold Marshall Jr., Leroy Parker, and John Cody Sr.


Mathematics class at Wampum High in 1952-53. Supervising Principal and math teacher I.V. Holmes is standing at left.


Half of the Wampum-Big Beaver school band for 1952-53. Carol Aiello is in second row seventh from left end and Paul Hergenrother is in first row on left end. This band, with a total of sixty-five members, was led by music director Leslie Marietta.


The Wampum High School reserve basketball team for 1952-53. Team captain #2 James Ciro is center bottom row, while head coach Butler Hennon is at far right of photo. This junior varsity squad finished the season with a 12-8 record, including a 72-23 victory over East Brook High and a 91-50 thrashing of Bessemer High.


Back view of the former public school (Olde Main), which now serves as an apartment building. The former school annex – now housing the Wampum municipal offices – is visible to right. Apr 2010.


The former school annex on left with Olde Main visible on right. Apr 2010.


View of the former school annex, now home to the municipal offices including the Wampum police department. (Feb 2011)


Just across the street from Olde Main sits the former school gymnasium, which was built in 1942. (Apr 2010).


The old Wampum Gymnasium, which opened in 1942, was the homecourt of the hardwood Indians until the school district merged with that of Ellwood City in 1961. During that time the boys from Wampum amassed great success including winning three Class B state championships in 1955, 1958, and 1960. (Feb 2011) Full Size


After playing in the old IOOF Lodge/Opera House building on Main Street for many years, the Wam-Pa-Hi basketball teams finally got their own floor with the building of this dedicated school gymnasium in 1942. (2010)


The facility is now a community recreation center and known as the Bulter Hennon Recreation Center. (2010)


The impressive plaque outside the building that honors the achievements of the Wam-Pa-Hi basketball program. (2010)


Inside the small lobby is an impressive display of trophies and photos. (2010)


The 1955 Class B State Championship trophy. The boys from Wampum went 31-0 that year and won it all! (2010)


Inside the cramped gym, where the boys’ basketball teams gained national prominence during the 1950’s. (2010)


One of the old backboards where many buckets were scored by the high-flying Indians! (2010)


The old red fold-out bleachers are still intact. (2010)


Red banners proudly honor the three Class B state championships won by the boys’ basketball teams in 1955, 1958, and 1960. (2010)


This photo shows the location of the former Wampum School and associated buildings. The old church and houses to the right (actually north) of the gymnasium were torn down in early 2014. (c2010)

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Comment

  1. Fresh out of SRSTC, my first year of teaching was here at Wampum, 1956 – 57. Looking at the pictures, there are several players I remember having in my Math classes. Just the beginning of many great years in the classroom. Thanks Wampum.

    Carol McVicker · 03/05/2012 07:18 PM · #

  2. Played a lot of basketball in that gym. L. Butler even gave me my own key so I could go in and play anytime I wanted.

    Ron Teck · 03/17/2012 11:14 AM · #

  3. Danny, I am in the band pictures.Donnie Hennon was my 2 door down neighbor. same age and year.I Remember all of the players. Those were good years. Mr. Hennon drove us to school. or we would all walk.We graduated in 1955. We had a small class 30 students if I remember right. Henrietta

    Henrietta Davis · 11/10/2012 02:27 AM · #

  4. Graduated in 1954. Was in 1953 Class but quit and went back to graduate in 1954.

    James I Cook · 03/11/2014 10:22 PM · #

  5. What a delight to stroll down memory lane with these wonderful photos of Wampum, Chewton and New Castle. I haven’t been back in almost 11 years, but I’ll never forget growing up in the prettiest little town in PA. I met Richie (Sleepy) Allen at a book-signing here in Philly right after we moved here, and he had wonderful memories to share about my Dad. Whoever compiled this collection deserves a great, big thank you from everyone who has enjoyed it and from everyone who will enjoy it in the future!
    Rita Zieve Goldberg, Wam-Pa-Hi Class of 1958

    Rita Zieve Goldberg · 05/17/2014 10:25 PM · #

  6. I’m a visitor to this site and wonder if any readers might know of a girl (woman now) names Carol McCown. She was from Wampum and worked at Conneaut Lake Park for three years with me back in the early 60’s. I’ve not seen or heard from her in over 50 years but she was so pleasant and fun to work with and I always wondered what life had in store for her. Any responses appreciated.
    Thanks….
    Roger Lane

    Roger Lane · 12/13/2015 09:15 PM · #

  7. Does anyone remember the old home along Route 18 just outside of the RV underground storage? I think the homes were pastel colored.

    Ann Colella-Murray · 03/17/2016 12:37 PM · #