By Daniel Thompson
Reporter 

Historical Society seeks to breathe life into old Kimball High School

 

Jacob Misener

The former Kimball High School now sits vacant, as the Plains Historical Society seeks funds to renovate the interior of the structure.

The old Kimball High School which sits on the south side of Highway 30 is yet another tragic tale of aging structures filled with a rich history falling by the wayside in today’s fast-paced world.

Its halls once flourished with the chatter of youths speaking of basketball games and dances, knowledge was acquired in each classroom, and the staff roamed the halls spending each day trying to shape each student for the world of tomorrow.

Now, the sounds heard throughout the building are few and far between: the flapping of birds that have found their way into the building through broken second floor windows, the creaking of hinges--long bereft of any grease, and the whisper of the wind as it infiltrates the structure, as if it too like time, seeks to blow the history away, spreading its debris and memories throughout the tall grass of the Nebraska prairie.

Pictures of its early years on the walls covered in dust show the multitude of past students of the high school looking out with beaming faces into the now empty hallways.

However, many of the portraits have been defaced by vandals that broke into the structure last year, spray painting the walls with profanity, painting over the old pictures, and inconsiderately leaving blemishes on the history of the building they are too young to care about.

Vandalism has been a recurring problem for the old building. Along with the vandals who broke into and defaced the inside of the building back in July 26, 2012, another break-in occurred nearly a year later on June 26 of this year.

However, this time the motive behind the break-in was not due to desires of vandalizing the school, but rather it was a former student who just wanted to walk the halls one more time out of an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, according to Kimball Police Chief Huff’s statements at the time.

It is for this reason that the Plains Historical Society, which currently owns the building, has been hard at work trying to erect a fence around the property in order to keep potential vandals and vagrants away from the inside of the building, trying to preserve the elements of its history that still reman salvageable.

According to Glynn Felkins, President of the Plains Historical Society, it is their hope that once the fence has been finished they can raise the funds in order to re-shape the inside into a new museum.

“Our goal is to eventually make that building the Historical Plains Society Museum for Kimball and the surrounding areas,” Felkins said.

However, when previously asked what repairs the structure needs, the task itself seems like a new battle for school.

“We have to put in a whole new heating system and replace the electrical system. We also need to add handicap ramps. It’s a very daunting task and takes a lot of funds which we do not have at this time,” Felkins said.

The old school was first commissioned to be built in 1920 due to an overcrowding problem in the Kimball school system, according to the May 13,1920 edition of the Observer, and it was built at a cost of $135,000 at the time. The reason behind its construction feels almost ironic to apply to the building now as it now stands completely empty aside for a few old books, chairs, and old Halloween decorations in a downstairs classroom.


There is still hope for the structure.

Unlike the Wheat Growers Hotel, which has recently been talked about at length by this paper, time has not taken its complete toll yet. The efforts being led by Felkins and the Plains Historical Society could very well bring the school back to life, at least giving it the dignity of serving some purpose again.

“We’re searching every day for grants, and we would accept any donations we could get,” Felkins said.

It would truly take the effort of the entire Kimball community through both action and donations in order to give the old building a fair shot at not fading away. Though the task seems daunting and the work more than any one person could bear alone, it can be done if given enough help and support.

The task at hand and the payoff if it were to be completed are perhaps best summed up in the words of Greek philosopher Epicurus, “The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.”

With the closing of West Elementary, the still vacant lot where the Corner Bar used to stand and the fate of the Wheat Growers Hotel seemingly perpetually up in the air, can Kimball really take losing another part of its history? More importantly, if the old school crumbles, what will Kimball be without it?

Jacob Misener

A large portion of the iron fence that will surround the school is near complete. The entire project should be completed within the next few weeks, according to sources.

 

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