The Legacy of Lemasters High School
By Sue Stoner
Although the Lemasters High School building sits empty and its graduates are now "senior citizens," the Lemasters High School Alumni Association is still an active force in the community.
The first recorded meeting of the group was held on the evening of May 16, 1924. "Bountiful eats" were enjoyed by fifty members out of a total of eighty-two alumni. There was musical entertainment, and Mr. A.C. Garland, "toastmaster," conducted the meeting "capably." Officers elected were:
• President - Mary C. McDowell
• Vice President- Rhoda Berger
• Secretary- Ethel Smith
• Treasurer-John C. Stuff
Over the course of the 1920s and 1930s, the group continued to meet yearly at the high school, Hotel Mercer, Vance Inn, Parnell Tavern or Buchanan Tea Room. The meetings were held in late May or early June, and members of that year's graduating class were invited and encouraged to join the alumni organization. For example, in 1933, the entertainment featured a mock wedding staged by Leon Alleman, Luther Lauch, Aaron Hoffeditz, George Ommert, and Albert Brindle. (I wonder who played the bride in this all-male skit!) Contests by the game committee included driving nails, dropping matches into a bottle, changing pop bottles from one circle into another and folding chairs. That same year (1933), the alumni president apologized for having a reception instead of a banquet "due to financials."
Alumni basketball teams were to be captained by Harold Smith and Thelma Unger in 1935 with some of the proceeds from the games going to the Lemasters Alumni Association. At the 1951 annual meeting, a "suit of clothes" was "chanced off," to add some money to the group's treasury. In 1953, a 25-cent coin card was mailed with each alumni letter to help cover the $75 annual postage expenses. A baked ham dinner ($2 per plate) was served at the 1951 banquet held in the Lemasters cafeteria.
In October 1954, 340 alumni and guests attended the annual banquet at the new James Buchanan Junior-Senior High School. Before the meal, they were treated to a tour of the building, conducted by Dr. E. Guy Greenawalt, Supervising Principal.
In 1959, the alumni were asked to decide what to do with the trophies “in the cuphboard” (sic) in the Lemasters building. No decision was made; however today, the trophies are on display in the lobby of the James Buchanan High School gymnasium.
The new Peters Township school, Mountain View Elementary, was the site of the October 1962 annual reunion. Two hundred alumni and guests attended the event which featured a turkey dinner in the school cafeteria. Following a business meeting, the group toured the elementary building.
By 1964, the group had decided to appoint a committee to study the matter of a scholarship fund. James Failor was appointed chairman, and Edgar Gluck and Stanley McGaughey were named as committee members. In October 1965, Mr. Failor proposed a plan for a scholarship, and the alumni approved. By November, a scholarship fund-raising committee was appointed. Members were Merle Bivens, James Failor, June Fritz, Raymond Hawbaker, Naomi Heckman and John Shelly.
In 1966, it was determined that the scholarship recipient must be a graduate of James Buchanan High School and a direct descendent of a Lemasters graduate. The student must be enrolled in a school of higher learning with preference given to a student working toward a four-year degree. By November 1968, the scholarship fund had $157.69 in the checking account, and $1262.08 in the savings account. Funds from the Hartman Estate were deposited into the scholarship savings account. The speaker at the 1970 annual banquet donated his fee back to the scholarship fund.
In 1971, Dr. Landis, Tuscarora School District superintendent, sent a letter of appreciation to the organization for giving a scholarship to a James Buchanan senior that year. At the annual banquet the following year, a collection was taken for the scholarship fund, and it netted $121. Over the years, individuals and classes have made memorial donations to the scholarship fund. Offerings for the scholarship fund have also been collected at the annual alumni banquets.
Although Lemasters High School has long been shuttered, the scholarships provided by the Lemasters High School Alumni Association continue to help local students further their educations. A master list of Lemasters graduates is kept by the alumni secretary, Shirley Lanman.
Since 1999, Lemasters Alumni Scholarship funds have been under the supervision of the Tuscarora School District. The high school selects the recipients based on the criteria set by the Alumni Association. Records indicate that ninety scholarships have been awarded from the 1970s onwards. Amounts ranged from $200 to $550. IN 2010, L.H.S. alumni made a change in the administration of the monies and are now spending down the principal and awarding two $1000 scholarships yearly until the fund is depleted.
The Lemasters Alumni Association continues to hold an annual banquet each fall. Traditionally, they conclude by singing the Alma Mater, written by Grace Brake, Class of 1931:
In the shadow of the mountains,
'Neath a sky of deepest blue,
In the state of Pennsylvania,
In the state so strong and true,
Stands the school we'll love and cherish
With a deep sincerity,
May her honored name forever,
Stand for truest liberty.
Let her worthy sons and daughters,
Shielding jealousy her honor,
For Lemasters proudly stand,
In one brave unbroken band,
Let us hold aloft her banner,
With a stout and steady arm,
Rallying her children round her,
From the city, town and farm.
Let us always sing her praises,
With a voice that's loud and strong,
Filling all the air around us,
With a melody of song.
Let us give to her the homage,
Which is due from you and me,
And hold sacred in our mem'ry,
Our dear Lemasters High.
This article would not have been possible without the help of Shirley (Ommert) Lanman, Class of 1954, and longtime secretary of the Lemasters High School Alumni Association. She generously shared hand-written minutes included in two secretary's books dating from 1924-1994. Shirley currently records the minutes of the annual meeting on her computer and keeps a master list of the 754 Lemasters alumni and the years they graduated. The school district is able to check with Shirley when it awards the scholarships so that it can ensure that the recipients are direct descendants of a L.H.S. graduate.
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