The high school has been closed for almost four decades, but that doesn’t mean its alumni’s allegiance is gone.
Former students of Sioux City’s Central High School have dug into their closets and found memorabilia any museum would be proud to house.
And in a way, the Castle on the Hill Gift Shop, 610 13th St., serves as a testament to the glory that went along with being a Little Maroon.
The former Sioux City Central High School – south side built in 1892, north side built in 1913, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 – closed as a school in 1972.
In 1976, the Castle on the Hill Association, a not-for-profit organization, was formed to preserve the history and physical uniqueness of the structure.
Since 2003, the former Central High classrooms, chemistry labs and turrets have served as apartments on the near northside of Sioux City. At the same time the Castle on the Hill (the name given the building for its architecture) Association took over responsibility of the auditorium and dungeon and began restoring and renovating both areas.
Shirley McLeod, gift shop manager, recalled it was the brainchild of alumna Lois Little to encourage classmates to start looking for items connected with Central High School so they could be displayed and perhaps sold at the gift shop, which opened in 2003.
“We didn’t want the memory to die,” insisted Caroline Conkey, president of the Castle on the Hill Association.
It won’t anytime soon, as walking into the gift shop is like a trip down memory lane, even if you weren’t a Little Maroon.
Lining the walls are about 100 photos of Central graduates who have done well. Mirroring each other are Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman, better known to the nation as advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, respectively.
“They would probably be our most famous,” McLeod acknowledged. “But we also have Macdonald Carey, who most know from (the soap opera) ‘Days of Our Lives.’”
Hanging on a rack are warm-up and letterman jackets from former athletes and band uniforms with furry hats.
“I’m always surprised what people discover in their closets that might be gathering dust that they bring in to us,” McLeod said. “We got the band uniforms from Diane (Widner) at the Dowry after their move from KD Station.”
Most of the memorabilia is not for sale; however, there are commemorative mugs, sweatshirts, magnet ribbons and books by Central grads. You could even own your own Castle on the Hill cookie jar.
“I always wanted one,” McLeod confessed. “So I had Steve Kammerer create 50 of them, all numbered, in 2008. There’s only about 20 left, and the mold’s been broken.”
Perhaps most eye-catching is a 5-foot high, colorful Native American, who is identified as Central’s Little Maroon.
“A custodian found it in a Dumpster and its eyes and shorts were yellowed,” McLeod explained. “Then, we found a student newspaper article that reported how Jerry Munson had created the carving for a woodshop class. He came in and refurbished it for us the year before he died of cancer in 2008.”
McLeod thought the most prized possession is an almost 3-foot tall clock, located on the counter.
“It was the time clock that the teachers punched into,” she said, gesturing to the base where a card could be inserted. “It’s not working and we’re not sure how old it is, but we got it in 2005.”
McLeod and Conkey anticipate receiving more items, as the organization is in the midst of getting ready for Central’s All-School Reunion, Sept. 9-11.
And although they enjoy receiving new items, both insisted monetary donations are what the Castle on the Hill Association would like to see more of.
“We’d really like to buy the building back,” McLeod said.