In social studies classes, students learn about world history and United States history. They can recite the emperors of China and the effects of the Civil War. However, there is more history a bit closer to home. Here is the history behind some of Webster Groves High School’s landmarks and traditions:
When students pass the Chelsea Detrick Experiential Learning Center, their eyes are frequently drawn to the terracotta warrior in the doorway.
However, if they were to look past the warrior and to their left, they would see a painting of Chelsea Detrick, the person the center was named after. Chelsea graduated from WGHS in 2003 and attended Elon University. After graduating college, she moved to Washington state and contracted cancer. She died on April 9, 2009.
Glenn Detrick, Chelsea’s father, had been talking with principal Dr. Jon Clark for years about experiential learning, and after Chelsea’s death he asked what it would take to get a center at WGHS.
“Kids grow up having all these experiences, and we as adults don’t do anything to help them learn from those experiences,” Detrick said.
Detrick donated money and presented his ideas for the center.
“[We would] have kids talk about what they’re passionate about and use that information to find them internships or jobs,” Detrick said.
Julie Burchett stepped in as the coordinator and began to research current experiential learning programs.
The Chelsea Center provides opportunities like internships, service learning, travel, credit for employment and a shadowing program.
Students have assignments before, during, and after their experiences.
“Before you would write your expectations, then during you’d keep a journal saying what you did like ‘today was a good day, this is why’ or ‘today was not a good day,’ and then after you’d write a reflection about the experience and yourself,” Detrick said.
Detrick is grateful for the center.
“Even though she (Chelsea) lived such a short life, she could still have an impact,” Detrick said.
Every year since 1996, the Varsity cheerleaders do birdies in their routines. According to assistant cheerleading coach Dana Miller, student Michelle Yoder came up with birdies as a cheerleader in 1996 when she would have graduated.
“That year, Michelle and another cheerleader (Jenny Sprague) were in a car accident, and they passed away, so ever since then the cheerleaders do birdies every year in memory of them,” Miller said.
Webster Groves High School has been around for over 100 years, but Plymouth Field hasn’t always been there, nor has it always had the same name.
Plymouth Field was originally used as a football field and named Kopplin Field after Richard Kopplin.
Kopplin graduated from Webster Groves High School in 1917 and joined the military to fight in World War I. Kopplin fought in the war for three months until he died in France on July 15, 1918.
While at Webster Groves High School, Kopplin was an athlete.
Other students wanted to commemorate him by renaming the field. In 1947, part of the field was needed for the rebuilding of Roberts Gym, so the school converted the football field into two baseball fields and a parking lot.
Roberts Gym hasn’t always been where students play basketball, volleyball, or participate in P.E. class.
In the early 1910s, Roberts Gym was used as an armory to train soldiers for World War I. After the war ended, the facility was donated to the school to use as gyms.
The facility was used as two gyms, but according to alumni relations director Pat Voss, “(the gym) was not big enough to hold fans that came to watch,” so they decided to rebuild it.
Construction began in 1945 but took over three years to complete due to a lack of steel because of World War II and the labor strike. During construction of the gym, the basketball team practiced and played games at Maplewood High School.
After the completion of the gym, the Statesmen basketball team played its first game against Maplewood because “it only seemed right to do so,” Voss said.
The new gym gained its name after Charlie Roberts, who was a coach and athletic director.
Roberts was named the “Maker of Champions” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for his 21 straight track State championship wins. He also coached football and basketball at Webster. Roberts was one of only six athletic directors in Webster’s history and one of three famous coaches. He taught and coached at Webster for 39 years. Roberts died in 1946.
The gym was named after him two years after he died.
Jerry R. Knight Auditorium
Jerry Knight, principal from 1969-1986, was a strong advocate for the arts.
“He told me as a teacher and then as a young assistant principal that you had to have someplace to go when things got bad, when you have terrible crazy days as an administrator and his always was something with the fine arts,” alumni relations director Pat Voss said.
According to Voss, Knight never missed a band concert, choir concert or play.
The auditorium was built in 1927 but remained unnamed until the late 1990s when Knight retired.
He retired as principal in 1986 and became the district CFO.
The auditorium was named Knight Auditorium in 1997.
“He had a very, very special place in his heart for the arts, and that was only appropriate that that (the auditorium) then be named for him,” Voss said.
Moss Field is dedicated to a man who was one of only five athletic directors WGHS has ever had.
The field was originally named War Memorial Field in honor of the soldiers who died in World War II, but it later was dedicated to Moss due to his 25 years of coaching and directing.
Moss’s final game was the Turkey Day game of 1994.
Moss retired in 1995 and the field’s name changed to “Moss Field” in 1974.
The field has been renovated several times to look how it is now. The field got bleachers in 1978 and lights in 1979. The track was added in 1984 and the locker room was added in 1990.
Alumni relations director Pat Voss was principal for eight years before being succeeded by Dr. Jon Clark.
“My first two years of being principal I thought God had put a curse on me. We (the school) lost five students in two years and we lost four in one summer,” Voss said.
After the these students’ deaths, other students wanted to remember those who had passed and collected money to buy brick stones with the names of those who died.
The bricks along with a mosaic statue were placed into a garden in the middle of the courtyard.
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