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Echoes in the Hallways: History and Recollections of 102 Closed Iowa Schools, by James Kenyon


Echoes in the Hallways: History and Recollections of 102 Closed Iowa High Schools
by James Kenyon
576 pages - ISBN: 978-1-7342477-9-4

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Author James Kenyon collected stories from student alumni of closed Iowa high schools, documenting102 institutions. Kenyon consulted county historical records as well as interviewing former students and teachers, culminating in unique school profiles that include information ranging from the origin and growth of education in each county to sporting records, programs, and school traditions.

 Kenyon was a veterinarian for 35 years in a mixed animal practice in Iowa and a seven-time veterinarian for the Alaska Iditarod Dog Sled Race. He also served for twenty-four years on his local school board. He is the author of, A Cowfor College and Other Stories of 1950s Farm Life and Golden Rule Days: History and Recollections of 109 Closed Kansas High Schools. Both books received commendation as Martin Kansas History Book Award winners. 

Praise for Echoes in the Hallways:

“This 99-county anthology of 102 high schools across Iowa is history-rich and chock-full of anecdotes that capture the competition and camaraderie of classmates and the vitality Iowa schools bring to their communities. As a product of New Hartford High School and Class Valedictorian, I enjoyed the walk down memory lane and I’m sure generations of Iowans will enjoy sharing Echos in the Hallways with their children and grandchildren for years to come.”  

— Chuck Grassley, New Hartford High School, Class of 1951  

Echoes in the Hallway is a time machine for those who love Iowa history, or those who simply enjoy remembering the days of long ago. No matter where in the lengthy book you drop in for a visit, the pages contain sweet, funny, or memorable tales of long-ago schools and school days. And even better for those who take pride in the Hawkeye state are the stories told by the classmates or neighbors of the famous, notable, and just plain interesting folk who attended and thrived in the small schools that dotted the plains of the state before consolidation had even been heard of.

 “Although not a native Iowan himself, author James Kenyon shows a real appreciation for his adopted state, writing of the history of the small towns whose schools are no more. And while there are many topics he includes in each of the renderings of 102 ghost high schools of Iowa, he treats with the special fondness of a native the stories of six on six girls basketball and what it meant to the tiny schools that were Goliath slayers in the annual state tournament. He let the local historians sitting around the kitchen tables, in the libraries, in the parks and the history centers tell him and his readers their stories in their own words and their love and pride of their no-more schools comes through in the words he captured.

 “In all, Dr. Kenyon met with hundreds of Iowans recording memories of 102 high schools—one for each county and then three extra—that are no more. Through his vignettes, those stories of those forgotten schools have been saved forever. As a graduate of one of those schools, I thank you, Jim.”

 — Linda Artlip Weinstein, Villisca High School 1966, An administrator of Facebook’s “Forgotten Iowa Historical Society”

Dr. Jim Kenyon’s Echoes in the Hallways gives an in-depth look at early education in Iowa.  By focusing on one high school that has closed in each county, he paints a vivid picture of secondary education across the state.  Hearing the voices of those who attended each school adds wonderful, intriguing memories that come alive in a way that only can be told by individuals who were there.

High schools have long made up the social fabric in communities across the state, especially in rural Iowa.  By engaging with community members in the 102 schools cited in the book, Dr. Kenyon reveals the extreme pride people of Iowa have in their schools and communities.  Echoes in the Hallways showcases how Iowans have built an extraordinary education system school by school.  Because it is so well researched and written, once you pick it up you’ll have a hard time putting it down.

 Dave Else, PHD, Professor Emeritus, University of Northern Iowa

K-12 education has an extremely rich history in Iowa.  As a result, nearly every community, large and small, had a high school, and it was a source of pride and joy for its residents.  Often, the school and its activities defined the community’s history. However, as the rural landscape changed over the years, resulting in fewer farm families, many of the smaller schools declined in enrollment.  Much to the dismay of these communities, the school districts either reorganized with larger districts or closed its buildings altogether.  A rather large number of communities were left with empty school buildings.

Author James Kenyon captures the history of 102 of these closed Iowa high schools in his most interesting book, Echoes in the Hallways.  Through interviewing people within the community who were invested in the school’s history, researching noteworthy events in the town, honoring students, teachers and staff who impacted the school, and, finally, noting the school’s final closing days, the school’s history was fittingly recorded. I thoroughly enjoyed Echoes in the Hallways and appreciate the efforts to preserve some of the history of Iowa’s schools. 

 Les Douma, Retired Chief Administrator, Northwest Area Education Agency

Echos in the Hallways was most pleasant! James Kenyon did an excellent job of detailing the history and people in 102 small Iowa schools.

I have been involved with school work for 45 years at Iowa schools. My two grandfathers had three years of education at county schools, my father got a high school diploma in 1925, and I got an EDD in 1968. I believe that small schools are mighty! Iowa schools make America a great nation.

 Dr. Leland A Thomson, Associate Professor of Education & Director of Planning, retired, University of Northern Iowa 

“James Kenyon’s book, Echoes in the Hallways: History and Recollections of 102 Closed Iowa High Schools, is much more than just the stories of those particular schools. This is some essential state history. Small schools were the heart and soul of Iowa for at least its first 125 years. Since about 1960, when they started closing and consolidating, those schools’ stories have been fading. Kenyon recently spent 17 months traveling all over Iowa, talking to nearly 1,000 mostly-older people who still knew those stories. He presents them here in very readable and entertaining form, with tales about some great teachers, grand characters, exceptional pranks, major accomplishments, and a little heartbreak, too. You’ll come away with new understanding and appreciation not only for Iowa’s early education system but also our culture.”

— Chuck Offenburger, retired “Iowa Boy” columnist for the Des Moines Register

Bravo, James Kenyon! Reading this treasure will be an engaging experience for everyone. It brings early Iowa history to life, providing a way for each reader to appreciate the passion and the effort to build a community with educational opportunities for their children. This author has so successfully retold the long remembered friendships and experiences in a fun and endearing manner. This portion of each school's alumni memories and stories is a delightful, amusing read. This book is wonderfully written to preserve the history, the spirit, and the achievements of thousands of people who worked together to build towns, and  schools for educating their families.

 Gwen Bierstedt Good, Retired Elementary Teacher, Lakota, Iowa


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