West Brooklyn High School

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West Brooklyn High School 1900-47
courtesy of John & Betty Gehant

The History of West Brooklyn High School
West Brooklyn (population 174) is located in far north-central Illinois in the southeastern portion of Lee County. The town was platted in 1872, but not incorporated until 1894. A short write-up on the early history of West Brooklyn can be found at http://www.leecountyhistory.com/lee_county/brooklyn.htm. It is located about 10 miles due north of Mendota on West Brooklyn Road about two miles west of Illinois Route 251. A branch of the Green River flows through town. 
The history of the town's school system is a long one. According to the Illinois Trails website (http://www.iltrails.org/lee/leecitywbrook.html), the first school in the West Brooklyn area was built in 1874. A better, more modern building was built in 1900. West Brooklyn originally offered a two-year course of study for high school students. It is believed around 1931 or 1932 that a third year of high school courses was established. If a student wanted to continue their education, they had their choice between Amboy, Mendota, and Lee Center to gain a four-year diploma. Enrollment was said to be about 10-12 students for all three classes of high school students.
We believe West Brooklyn High School fell victim to the large consolidation effort which swept the state of Illinois in the late 1940's. The high school was closed in 1948 with students sent over to Compton High School and a year later, that school was absorbed into the Mendota school district. The grade school may have stayed active for a few more years; however it, too, is now closed.

West Brooklyn High School Class of 1917
courtesy of John & Betty Gehant

The kids of West Brooklyn today attend school in Mendota. The fate of the West Brooklyn School building is a sad one. It may have been used as a private residence for many years after it closed. Though still standing the building is in extremely poor condition. The photos below were taken by Roberta Van Briesen in 2013.

West Brooklyn School Building Rear 2013
Submitted by Roberta Van Briesen

West Brooklyn Schol Building 2013
Submitted by ROberta Van Briesen

West Brooklyn High School Quick Facts
Year first school building built:           1874
Year "newer" building built:                1900
Third year of education added:          1931 or 1932
Year School closed:                           1948
Consolidated to:                                 Compton, & later Mendota
West Brooklyn HS team nickname:    unavailable
WBHS team colors:                            Purple & Gold
School yearbook:                                The Brooklynite
School Fight Song:                             "We're Loyal to You, Brooklyn High"
                                   (sung to the tune of the University of Illinois fight song)
                                   We're loyal to you, Brooklyn High,
                                   We're purple and gold, Brooklyn High,
                                   We know that you stand
                                   For the best in the land
                                   And we know that you'll win, Brooklyn High,
                                   Rah! Rah!
                                   So dribble that ball, Brooklyn High,
                                   And pass on that ball, Brooklyn High,
                                   For you are our vain protectors,
                                   On boys, for we expect a
                                   Victory from you, Brooklyn High
(thanks to John & Betty Gehant for submitting the words, which were listed in the 1945-46 school yearbook, The Brooklynite)
We know that basketball was a sport offered at West Brooklyn High. It is likely that baseball and track were also part of the athletic program. If you have any further information such as team nickname, uniform colors, and school fight song, please contact us via the means listed at the bottom of this page.
Boys Basketball
West Brooklyn High School did compete in boys' basketball. In 1932, they even finished second in the District Tournament to advance to the Dixon Sectional (which was allowed due to the format used in the state basketball tournament at that time). 
During the 1945-46 school year, WBHS was 14-3 and 7-1 in Meridian Conference play as they won the conference title. Twelve of those wins were in succession over teams such as Compton, Kings, Caledonia, Cherry Valley, Harmon, the Mendota freshmen, Poplar Grove, and Lee Center, before the streak was ended by Steward in the semifinals of the Franklin Grove District tournament. What makes this fact interesting is that the school did not have enough boys two years earlier to even field a team! Captain John Gehant led the West Brooklyn team in scoring during the two seasons listed below, pumping in 266 points in 1945-46, including a school-record 44 in one game. 
1931-32                District runners-up                         Coach unknown
1933-34                Sterling District Tournament           Coach's name & record needed
                            1st Rd. - Lost to Lyndon 42-19
1934-35 through 1943-44 Postseason scores, records, & coach's names needed.
1944-45     0-11  Franklin Grove District Tourney          Coach H.W. Loy
                           1st Rd. - Lost to Lee Center 66-18
                           Lee Center lost in semi-finals 
1945-46  14-  3   Meridian Conference Champions       Coach H.W. Loy
                            Franklin Grove District Tourney
                            1st Rd. - Beat Lee Center 30-26
                            Semi-Final - Lost to Steward 51-16
                            Steward won District title.
1946-47               Franklin Grove District Tourney        Coach's name & record needed
                            1st Rd. - Beat Compton 50-23
                            **Semi-final - Lost to Lee Center (forfeit)
                            Lee Center won District title.
1947-48   10 - 1   Undefeated Regular Season          Coach G. K. Poyser
                             Franklin Grove District Tourney
                             *1st Rd lost to Compton 37-33
         3 players fouled out, finished the game with 3 players on the floor.
                             Lee Center Beat Steward in title game
*Final boys basketball game for West Brooklyn High School. With only 10 students enrolled in the 3-year high school, and 6 of them being boys who played on the team, this final season was pretty remarkable. The team had beaten Compton 2 times during the regular season before falling in the first round of the District Tourney. Below is a great article about the West Brooklyn High School boys basketball team of 1947-48.

Dixon Telegraph, February 18, 1948

West Brooklyn played its home games in the church hall at St. Mary's Parish in the village. There were two distinct features about the facility. The first was it had a low ceiling, so arching shots were out. The second is that the baselines of the floor were nearly up against the walls, leaving very little room for those who were trying to inbound the ball.
Extra-Curricular Activities
We are aware that there was a school band and choir. Please contact us via e-mail if you have any further information you would like to share.
Seeking More Information
If you have ANY more information regarding the great history of West Brooklyn & its educational past, please take the time to share it with us. Photos and information can be e-mailed to us at dr.veeman@gmail.com. You can also write to us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, IL   60631 

West Brooklyn St. Mary's Grade School
Some of its students went onto West Brooklyn HS (courtesy of John & Betty Gehant)