Each year, Noel Hamrick takes her US History class to see the old bomb shelter at Independence High School, leading them out a side door, through a chain link fence, down concrete stairs, and through a hot boiler room.
But the thing most students take away from the trip is not the impact of Cold War tensions, it’s the hundreds of Big “I” trophies stored on rusted shelves in the dank, flood-prone room.
Dating from 1967, the trophies include academic and athletic achievements, everything from small wooden plaques and certificates to huge three-tiered trophies.
“Wow. That’s probably the best word I could use to describe it,” said Ivan Blair, senior at Independence. “It was devastating, I guess you could say…I didn’t know that we had that many trophies, and I definitely didn’t know that they were all down there.”
Hamrick is adviser to the DREAM Team at Independence, a group of 10 seniors that pledge to serve their community and their school, of which Blair is a member.
This year, the DREAM Team is leading an initiative to get the trophies restored and back on display at Independence.
“We’re starting at ground zero,” said Hamrick. “If we don’t do this, nobody’s going to do it.”
Some trophies are highly damaged, some unrecognizable and seemingly beyond repair, but most are in need of general cleaning and restoration and can go back on display.
Before being moved into storage in 2003 by then principal Rick Henson, the trophies were on display in the main mall, in cases that were built into the building during its construction. “They had been there ever since the school was built and that’s where all the trophies were kept,” said David Scott, security associate at Independence. “One day he (Henson) came up with this idea that
he wanted them out.” The trophy cases wrapped around the bottom of the stairs and had lights wired into the frame of the staircases, which are now covered with sheet metal. Another trophy case existed along the wall on the second story of the mall, but was also torn out and bricked in.
“That was the whole history of the school. There’s all the debate trophies and everything else down there,” Scott said. “Everything that Independence had that they won a trophy for was in those cases.”
According to Scott, building services took the trophy cases out, with no small difficulty, and moved the trophies to their current location, leaving them on the floor in cardboard boxes.
“At that time, the trophies were all sitting on the floor in boxes and it had flooded down there,” said Scott. “Finally they got some shelves and stuff, but it was too late, the damage was done.”
Neither Hamrick or Scott know why Henson wanted to move the trophies, but both want them back on display.
“People wonder sometimes why schools’ prides can hurt,” said Hamrick, “And I think that’s one thing, there’s nothing that shows the alumni anymore that they matter.”
Currently, the DREAM Team is in the beginning stages of the project, trying to garner support and gathering supplies.
“So far, we’ve just been trying to get our name out there and get sponsorships and enough money so we can get a trophy case and get those put up and get cleaning products, and just receive anything we can,” Blair said.
The team is accepting anything that can help them get the trophies back on display, from rags and cleaning supplies to time and money.
“Any donations—if they just want to drop off anything as small as gloves, rags, any cleaning products that they have at home that they don’t use, it would definitely help,” Blair said.