By Gary Herrity
Special to the Herald
— Many people ask, “Just who was W.J. Yourd?"
William John Yourd (1886-1941) was a young man when he died, while still the active principal of Clinton High School, January 25, 1941. He was young in appearance and a handsome man, who was well-loved by his faculty and also by the students. He had a son, John, teaching in Grinnell; and two young daughters at CHS, Leta a junior, and Loretta, a sophomore. Sadly, his heart gave out and the community was devastated with their loss. An overflow crowd attended his services at the old 1st Congregational Church on South 4th Street and at the memorial service at CHS.
Yourd was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and matriculated at a Tennessee college, Maryville, and taught in that state for several years. He then went to be a principal in Nebraska, before coming to Clinton as a young administrator in 1917, as the leader of the cram-packed old Clinton High School (now Roosevelt), when it had 540 students in it, which was twice the number it was supposed to hold. The adjoining Washington School as well as a neighboring residence were also used! He assisted in moving into the new high school in 1922, which soon grew to be 1000 students. The town was growing, and more students decided to continue their education instead of terminating school after the eighth grade -- which had been the previous, common custom.
Many school administrators of that era used both of their initials. Men like Superintendents R. T. Grau and J.R. Mounce and well-respected, long time Washington Junior High School principal, J. R. Ingraham, who was sometimes known as “Lefty” Ingraham when he pitched for the State University of Iowa in 1929 and in this area in his early years. They were a special breed of top administrators. C. Olen Higbee, Harold “Doc” Blanchard, Marion Howard, Art Hoogheem, Stan Reeves, Ethel Holmes, and Marie Kaufusman were among many other fine ones. Always at the top of the list remembered by old-timers, however, is W. J. Yourd.
In Yourd’s final days, some famous and well-remembered teachers and students commingled within the halls of CHS. Mary East, Nellie Jones, Harry “Hop” Findlay, and Athletic Director and coach Lloyd Harper were remembered as favorite instructors. The football coach was Roger Bowen, and soon a young coach by the name of Joe Schneider would arrive from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where he was a slightly built halfback. He was known to work the boys extra hard in P.E., by running them up 10th Street Hill, to prepare them for service in the impending Second World War, in which he also participated. Later, Schneider was a Big Ten football official and did the Rose Bow game one year. Many of those men and boys left together, and some men didn’t return to teaching afterward, because they had to raise their families and make more money. Other teachers, including Roger Stoskopf, Walter B. McMahon, and Leo Herkelmann, were stalwarts for years. John Carlson became both a lawyer and judge, Schneider worked at Clinton Foods after the War, and who can ever forget Leslie Fishwild, from math and science, who always worked at the swimming pool during the summer?!
Joan Wagner Beck was the valedictorian that year. She was the daughter of Roscoe Wagner of Clinton Foods, and went on to write a well-known column for the Chicago Tribune. Other students were Val Otten, Lucille Tyler, Mel Blumberg, Jean Underwood, Jane Snell, Bev Tyler, Robert Brumer, and Gwen Frimoth, “Miss Everything.” Other classmates in the senior class were Dean Honeywell, Jack Krambeck, Del Obermiller and his future wife, Betty Platt from Camanche, as were the Tylers. George Rajcevich was “Most Valuable” on the football team; George Jensen was later famous for being the friendly elevator operator at Van Allen’s. Within the pages of that year’s Clintonian were seniors John Root, Pearl Jackson, Jim Vining, and underclassmen buddies Bob Dalrymple and Chuck Duebner, who were also seen in the pages of the annual. A very small basketball team, which held its own, was coached by then-math-teacher Bowen and included Don Schumacher (later both a graduate engineer and doctor), Dick McNamara, Jim Johnson, Chuck McKinley, and Paul Woods. Jim Harding was on the team, and he later would coach college basketball. Coach Howard Judd produced another fine swimming team filled with numerous talented athletes. All the male teachers supported each other by belonging to a social group call "The Men's Forum." This is how they all pulled together.
It could be noticed in the background that all the basketball pictures were taken in the WJHS gymnasium, where they played from 1935 until the Yourd Gym was built in 1958. In 1941, CHS had “Hall Monitors,” and it was noted that Leo Cozzolino was a member ,as well as one of the star athletes at the school. (This year we mark the 50th Anniversary of Yourd Gym, which has been a tremendous asset to the community and the site of many fine contests.)
Ads from local businesses first appeared in the high school’s annual of 1941: Marcucci’s, Beil Studios, MidWest Novelty (where you could by your favorite records), and Brandt Buick all advertised in it. And Pete Stampe’s “One Stop Shell Service” took out an extra large advertisement.
Early 1941 was still a quiet time. No one in Clinton or at the high school knew what was to come in December of that year. Many of the students in the halls would be going off to war after graduation, and some of them would even die for their country. W. J. Yourd preceded them though, and in this way was spared the pain of seeing his country at war and the devastation which would befall many of his beloved students.
A special memorial article highlighted the many accomplishments of W. J. Yourd in both the Clinton Herald of Monday, January 27, 1941, and in the Clintonian for that year.