Shawnee High School

Way back in 1969, I stumbled across a dying coal town in Perry County, Ohio, that looked like something out of a Western movie set. Many of the buildings had wooden balconies overlooking Main Street.

Most unusual was an effigy hanging at the main intersection in town. I was told that some in town thought it was supposed to represent the mayor, but I couldn’t confirm that.

I needed ten more hours to graduate from Ohio University, so I convinced an architecture prof to let me earn six hours of credit for documenting the town. I spent about 20 hours and shot over 400 photos. I didn’t think I had exhausted all the possibilities the town had, so I took an incomplete to keep working. Riots, a job offer in another state and circumstances kept me from getting the hours and the degree.

I spent almost a month recently digitizing the negatives, improving their quality and repairing dust spots and scratches. The result will be a series of exhibits in concert with the Little Cities of Black Diamonds and the Southeast Ohio History Center. The first showing will be at the Second Saturday celebration in Shawnee on June 9, 2018.

The first will center on Shawnee High School. The only thing left of it today is the gymnasium.

Gallery of Shawnee High School in 1969

Click on any image to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

8 Replies to “Shawnee High School”

  1. Very powerful photos that for me were heartbreaking to look at. Disturbing reminder of just how unimportant education was/is in Appalachia. I wonder what happened to all the senior class photos that were hanging on the wall.

    Going back to Shawnee is on my bucket list, this is a good time to do it.

    Thank you Ken.

  2. Shawnee, Ohio is still fascinating fifty years after these photos were taken, but it is now rapidly being hauled away in dump trucks as buildings collapse.

    When the coal mines and brick factories closed it became impossible to maintain the town, or any of the other nearby towns.

    When the contents of the school were sold at auction in the early 1990’s, my wife bought one of the desks, and it still has a place of honor in our kitchen.

    Just happened to have visited the adjacent town of New Straitsville earlier this week. The folks we talked to are proud of their town, and are glad to live there. Same can be said of the folks in Shawnee as well. The whole area is worth a visit.

    1. I have lots of fond memories of the small towns I roamed as a Messenger photographer in the late 60s and early 70. I’ve often thought that Shawnee is one match from being ashes.

      It’s nice to see some new life in town, though.

  3. Oh, wow I’m pretty sure that’s my father in one of his first years teaching! In the jacket and tie. Going to show him the picture to confirm but how cool! He taught at Southern Local for 36 years and my mother taught there for 35. It’s how they met!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *