Carroll celebrates first graduating class

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Nineteen members of Carroll High School’s class of 1969 — the school’s first graduating class — attended a 50th anniversary celebration at the school Feb. 15. Alumni from Huntertown and Arcola high schools were in attendance as well. LOUIS WYATT

HUNTERTOWN — Nearly 200 alumni from Carroll, Huntertown and Arcola high schools gathered in Carroll’s cafeteria for a 50th anniversary celebration and dinner Feb. 15. The event honored the class of 1969, the first group to graduate from Carroll High School.

Alumni were treated to a dinner prepared by Carroll’s Blu Flame Culinary Program with music by the American Legion Band of Fort Wayne. The event was sponsored by the Carroll High School Student Government.

The event was the second of its kind. Last year, Northwest Allen County Schools celebrated the last graduating class of Arcola and Huntertown high schools before they merged to create Carroll. In 2020, NACS will celebrate the first graduating class of Carroll High School to walk the halls of the current building.

“We knew last year after this event was going on that we had to keep doing it. I’ve learned some great stories from last year. … We are very blessed to have a supportive community, wonderful families and wonderful students, and we are going to keep this thing going for as many years as we possibly can as it continues to grow,” Carroll High School Principal Brandon Bitting said.

Northwest Allen County Schools was established after the Indiana General Assembly passed the Indiana School Reorganization Act of 1959, which required school districts with fewer than 2,000 students to consolidate with nearby districts. Arcola and Huntertown high schools were combined, and the newly constructed Carroll High School opened in 1969. However, it wasn’t until 1970 that the school saw its first graduating class actually attend classes at the current Carroll building.

The district constructed several additions at Carroll High School in the 1990s, and the Carroll Freshman Center was added in 2005.

“We’re hoping that next year’s group who actually went to this building can elaborate and tell us stories about how different it is, because I know it doesn’t look anything like it used to, other than maybe a couple corners up in the front,” NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said.

Alumni at the dinner shared stories of their high school days. Dave Garman, a 1974 graduate and current head custodian at Hickory Center Elementary School, was one of many Carroll graduates in attendance. During the event, he shared a story about his involvement with the Huntertown Fire Department, which he was a member of for 30 years.

During Garman’s senior year of high school, seven Carroll students between the ages of 16 and 18 were members of “Cooney’s Boys,” a group of young firefighters who would oftentimes be called to leave school to fight fires in the surrounding community.

“It was just a different world,” Garman said. “We would go fight fires and then come back and finish our day if it was in the morning. That’s one memory that’s stayed with me.”

Several Arcola High School alumni that attended a reunion in September came to the event. Arcola was established in 1922, and Huntertown High School was established as the Public School of Huntertown in 1890 before becoming Huntertown High School in 1921.