By LaVern (McConnell) Johnson
I graduated from Lyons High School in 1945. At that time there was a big wave across the county of closing the small schools “to save money and give a better education,” they said, and
“to have one big high school in an area instead of several small ones.”
In the late 40s, we were in School District #47. Lyons locals Bertha Ramey, George Kelling, Hal Hall, and George Kinsey had been school board members.
One of my first memories on this subject was a PTO meeting in our old high school in 1948, with Kinsey in charge. He spoke about how great it would be to be part of Longmont High School, and whenever one
of us would talk, he would rattle the keys in his pocket so we couldn't hear. His son went to Longmont High School; as did some other Lyons teens. We did not have open enrollment like we do now. We had our PTO meetings and decided we did not want our children to be bussed to Longmont; thus started our crusade.
Wayne Maurer and Ray Robb sat on the front seats at the school board meetings for fourteen years. The school district offices were on North Main Street at that time. Many of the Lyons group attended every school board meeting. One of the owners of the Times Call told us “We couldn’t see the forest for the trees,” for wanting to keep our small school.
In 1950s my mother, Irene McConnell, was president of the Lyons PTO, and she went to Fort Collins to file an injunction against making one large school district in the county. In 1961, a vote was passed to form two districts, Boulder Valley and the St. Vrain District. Hal Hall continued serving from Lyons District #47 on the St. Vrain School Board. Other PTO presidents were: Leona Trevarton, Ada Peila, Betty Totten, Ada Lou Hammans, Ray Rob, Bill Temple, E.C. Carter, Tome Sherwood, Henri Kinson, Frances Brackett, Dana Crumb, Vernon McNeill, Vera Forsberg, Darlene Thompson, and others.
In those days, they closed the Mead High School, which was closed for forty years, and just reopened within the last maybe twenty years. They closed Frederick High School and bussed the kids to Erie. We worked hard to get board members from each area; thus they built the Skyline and Niwot High Schools, and finally built a new high school in Frederick, Mead, and Erie. Some of the board members were: Frank Prescott, Wade Carlson, Maynard Johnson of Erie, LeRoy Schlagel of Niwot, E.C. Carter, Dana Crumb, and Henri Kinson.
E.C. And Harriet Carter lived in Allenspark, and crusaded for their kids to come to Lyons. In fact they eventually moved to Lyons for that reason. There was a proposal at one time that would have bussed the Allenspark kids to Estes Park. Mr. Carter served on the St. Vrain School Board from 1967 to 1971. On May 21, 1970 he states, “Three years ago, I agreed to run for the School Board in District A. I want to see two things accomplished: 1. Our schools kept in Lyons. 2. Some new facilities built. Next Tuesday, we will vote on a bond issue that includes a new JR/SR high school building in Lyons. Let us prove to the district that we are sincere in having a new school here. We need to carry a large majority for support of the present proposal. Vote “yes” next Tuesday.”
In 1968, the school board wanted to pass a bond to build a new Longmont High School and close Lyons. Looking for a unanimous vote to support their proposal. KLMO radio announced the next morning “armed with black coffee, the School Board met in executive session far in to the night. But Lyons representative on the Board, E.C. Carter held out, refusing to endorse the bonds and authorize the closing of Lyons High. Finally at 3 a.m., they adjourned and Carter's defiance initiated a movement which saved the Lyons High School. The school bond for our new high school passed in 1970. A glorious celebration was held. Mr. Carter died of a stroke Feb. 22, 1971. We were at a basketball tournament in Sterling when we heard the sad news.
Luckily, Dan Crumb had moved to the district with IBM from New York in 1967. He had served as Chairman of School Finance Committee, was a member of the Advisory Council, served on the St. Vrain Planning Council, was the Chairman of the “Name the School” committee, president of the Lyons Lions Club, and assistant advisor of Explorer Post 61. In campaigning for the board he stated he wanted: “Equal education opportunity district wide.” He served from 1971 to 1975, and was in charge of the groundbreaking for the high school, where various folks spoke including Irene McConnell, the previous owner of the twenty acres the high school would be built upon. When the school was finished in February 1975, there was a truly big celebration for the new and saved Lyons High School. Dan served on the school district during the crucial years when the new bond was passed, the bridge and the high school were built, as well as various other schools in the outlying areas of the district that were in jeopardy of being closed and centralized in Longmont. We reminisce the many battles that all the Lyons community went through to save our schools here in Lyons, and we owe a big debt of thanks to the Crumbs for their part in helping to obtain the schools in Lyons. The Crumb children were: Crystal - class of 1968, Dan – 1971, and Neil -1974.
Other dedicated school board representatives that served since 1961 were Hal F. Hall, E..C. Carter, then Henri Kinson, who served for sixteen years, until his death in 1993. Mr. Crumb retired in 1975 and he and wife “Dee” sailed in his ship “The Whistler” around the world. They returned to visit after nine years. They would sail to various ports, staying a few weeks or months and going to the next. The Crumbs lived on Blue Mountain Road, and finally set anchor in Nevada.
The Kinsons moved to Lyons in 1964 from Illinois. We declared Henri and Dana Crumb as being our “white knights” who came to save us. The Kinsons moved here and bought Shelley's cottages. They had three sons, Roe - Class of 1970, Roby - 1971; and Bill - 1975. Henri taught at the Baseline Jr High, and Pat was the Lyons kindergarten teacher until retirement in 1987. After Crumb's retirement, Henri was elected to the school board in 1975 and dedicated thousands of hours. He was a strong advocate for Lyons and other small schools and fought to keep the Lyons school open.
Before 1961, Lyons had its own school district, and was pressured to join a large, consolidated district, which would serve the entire county. Finally in 1962, against local protests, a plan was adopted to create two county school districts and proceed to close the small, outlying high schools. Mead and Frederick were closed, but because of Lyons debt (We were paying on our own bond since 1958, which included the school gym), Lyons was allowed into remain open until the local bond was paid off.
The meeting was held at the school gymnasium in which the district administrators came from Longmont to describe the advantage of the consolidated school plan. When they finished, Kinson told them: “We listened to your plan. We don't like it. We are not going to lose our school. We'll see you at the polls.” The big crowd of people all got up and went to Rogers Hall to strategize.
The bond issue for the new Longmont consolidated high schools passed. The vote in Lyons was six “yes” and 400 “no” votes. Faced with those number, the school board decided to build the new Lyons middle/senior high school in Lyons, The new school was completed in February 1975 and later the same year Kinson was elected to his first term on the school board.
As the school board representative, Kinson forged alliances with other rural board members in Frederick, Erie, Mead, and Niwot to prevent the Longmont-dominated board from running roughshod over the rural areas. He fought for, and got, small teacher-student ratios, telecommunication classes, and improved facilities, and he presided over the xpansion of the high school and its new computer lab.
Kinson served sixteen years and was the president at the time of his death from cancer in 1993, representing the Lyons area - District A. At the present time Roe lives in Georgia; Robby and Pat in Porte Averie, and Bill in Idaho.
During the campaigns every four years for the school board, hundreds of young folks volunteered, passing out flyers, writing letters to the editor, etc. The elementary kids helped pass out flyers. We went campaigning in my old 1931 Model A. One day in Longmont, I let six girls (Pam and Cindy Platz, Becky Boone, Lana Tilson, Georgina, and another) out and they were to go around the block, knocking on doors and passing out flyers asking them to vote. We waited and waited for them to come back, and were getting worried. They had gone to a lady's house who invited them in to see her doll collection. Later we noticed that her doll collection was donated to the Longmont Museum. We let the old Model A run out of oil which caused its demise.
Marti Block, a small school supporter was then the representative of District A and did a good job. Joie Secrest is now our school representative.
After Al Evans, principal, we screened and hired Mark Mills, from Casper, Wyoming, who was for small schools. He stayed sixteen years and is now a District Administrator.
For many years we were leery of the district, where some of the administration kept telling us how expensive a small school was; it was very scary. Now, thankfully, when Dr. Don Haddad visits our school he repudiates that “We don’t ever intend to close this school” which is music to our ears.
Through the years, Lyons High has become a top school; third in the state in academics. It has proved that students can take part in most everything, go to top ranked colleges, and get a good education.
Thanks to all for the years that Lyons fought for, saved, and supported our schools here in Lyons, bringing people, economic growth, and making our community a better town, with a lot of pride.
Can you imagine our Town without a High School? Thanks to all who fought the battle!