I believe the custom of a graduating class donating something tangible to the high school started in 1874 when the graduating class of Xenia Central High School wanted a project which would be remembered for generations yet to come.
If you visit Shawnee Park, you will find two columns with dates engraved on them. These columns originally stood in front of the old Central High School building and were the result of that desire.
The Xenia Gazette dated May 1874 reported “the alumni of the high school have placed in the high school yard the base of a monument, and the class of this year has placed upon that base, the first stone. Each subsequent class is expected to add a stone thereto, and at the end of a decade, their records will be complete and a handsome monument will adorn that piece of ground. “
Not every year is represented on the stones, so there is something of a mystery about why some succeeding classes apparently did not provide a stone. In 1958, the Board of Education sold the property to the city so that the columns were then located on a city parking lot on East Market. The city, not wanting to bear the cost of providing a new home for the monuments, hauled them to the city dump. There was a great outcry from alumni who knew the history, so the stones were retrieved and placed at the entrance to the park.
Now another memory is being preserved. The graduating class of 1958 decided to place a flag pole in front of what was then the new high school. That building, along with so many other structures in Xenia was destroyed by the April 3, 1974 tornado.
Tom Neeld who was president of that graduating class remembered well the stone which had been placed at the base of the flag pole. It was engraved with the year “1958” to commemorate that class. As soon as possible after the tornado, Neeld went to the school to see if the stone was indeed, still intact. He was able to retrieve it and has kept it safely for the past 40 years, with the hope that someday it could once again be placed at the high school.
There was some damage of course, but a trip to Dodds Monument confirmed that it would be restorable. As the 1974 signs repeated “Xenia Lives” and will continue to do so.
Neeld, along with his friend and fellow graduate, Bob Hagler, who served as vice-president of the class, have commissioned Dodds Monument to create a special plaque which commemorates the donation of the original stone for the flag pole.
Now, after nearly 40 years of storage, the stone is once again ready to be viewed. It is to be mounted inside the high school lobby. The new plaque has the following information: “The granite plaque is all that remains of the flag pole donated by the Xenia High School Class of 1958. The flag pole stood at the entrance to the Xenia High School which was destroyed by the 1974 tornado.” Included is the original granite marker with the year 1958 along with two photos. One photo depicts a flag being hung on the pole the other shows the front of the school with the flag pole in the foreground.
Thanks to the foresight of Neeld, this bit of history has been restored and will once again be a part of the Xenia High School.
A public dedication will be held at the High School on April 8, 2014 at 6 p.m. This commemoration of the 1974 tornado is done in partnership with the Xenia Community Schools, the City of Xenia and The Greene County Historical Society.
The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony. It is hoped that several members of the 1958 graduating class will be in attendance.
If you would like to view the video regarding this special presentation, it is available on U-Tube. Look for “Xenia Pride Dedication”.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and historical columnist.