Arlington High School grads heading back to school Saturday
Arlington High School has been closed for 33 years, but it still lives on in the hearts of thousands of alumni who graced its hallways.
This weekend in Arlington Heights, Cardinals spirit will be on display again for an all-class reunion taking the form of a high school homecoming. Organized by Northwest Suburban High School District 214, the event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the former Arlington High School building, now Christian Liberty Academy, at 502 Euclid Ave.
Arlington, which opened in 1922, was the first District 214 school. It closed in 1984 amid declining enrollment across the district.
Just like Arlington's famous homecomings of yesteryear, attendees will be able to apply red "war paint" on their faces, put on white mums with the letter "A" made from pipe cleaners glued on top, and decorate a large chicken wire "A" with tissue paper (reminiscent of old parade floats).
From 1 to 3 p.m., an alumni band -- The Cardinals -- will play music from the 1960s until 1984. The band also will perform at a separate event at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Arlington Ale House, on the third floor at 111 W. Campbell St.
Memorabilia will be on display, including yearbooks, and Arlington T-shirts and mugs will be on sale.
There will be free chocolate chip cookies -- using the original recipe from Arlington's cafeteria -- baked by Elk Grove High School culinary students. Additional refreshments will be available for purchase.
And alumni will be able to walk through a few classrooms "more nostalgic in nature" that haven't been completely remodeled by Christian Liberty Academy, said Erin Brooks, assistant director of community engagement and outreach for District 214.
"When I have brought alumni in there, they've commented on how they love being back because it's enough of Arlington still," Brooks said. "They feel they're stepping back into those memories and that old time.
"The Arlington spirit is still alive and well in Arlington Heights. The building still captures that and so many elements people remember."
Arlington alumni have been asking for such an event, Brooks said, since the District 214 centennial kickoff celebration at the old school three years ago. Last year, the district held a similar reunion at the former Forest View High School, which in 1986 became the second Arlington Heights school closed by the district.
"People have this affinity for their school," Brooks said. "They like to come back -- in particular Arlington and Forest View since those buildings closed."
Also Saturday, Arlington's old Grace Gym will host a basketball scrimmage featuring some 30 boys and girls from current teams in District 214, including Hersey and Prospect. They'll be wearing red and white jerseys that say "Arlington."
"These are students who may in fact currently be living in what would have been Arlington attendance boundaries," said Kip North, a member of the last graduating Arlington class and currently the athletic director for boys at Buffalo Grove High School.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, an awards ceremony honoring alumni involved in service to the "community, state, nation and humanity" will be held in the school theater. The list of honorees includes some 50 graduates, including military veterans, teachers, librarians, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, nurses and doctors.
Jim Ewart, a member of the Class of 1964, is organizing the presentation of these first Arlington Awards. He recalls the value of community service being a big part of his high school experience.
"I knew what meant the most to me about Arlington was the way I was educated," Ewart said. "I was taught the value of things in life."
The school's last principal, John Rowe, remembers the last year as being difficult for students, teachers and staff. But the school adopted the motto "Class to the last" and held events like picnics and ice cream socials to keep spirits up.
"We were a classy organization to the very last day," said Rowe, who retired and moved to Arkansas upon the school's closure. "We celebrated the existence of Arlington High School, not the closing."
More than 400 alumni have already registered for the reunion, which is free. Families are welcome. To register, visit d214.org/alumni/#homecoming.