Henry C. Conrad High School in Woodcrest brought a lot of excitement to its community before it was turned into a junior high in 1978 as part of a federal desegregation order.


Henry C. Conrad High School in Woodcrest brought a lot of excitement to its community before it was turned into a junior high in 1978 as part of a federal desegregation order.

One of the traditions that always excited neighbors was when the renowned Conrad Redskins band would march through the neighborhood, with the drum major or majorette donned in an Indian headdress as part of their grey and scarlet uniform. The band would play one of its two trademark songs, “Love and Honor to Old Conrad.”

Or it played “Cherokee,” a song that moves graduates like Faith Carter (1965), of Wilmington.

“When we hear the Alumni Band perform ‘Cherokee’ at any local function, it takes us back to our days at the school,” she said.

The Redskins band and mascot were high school traditions that no child should be deprived of, said Betty M. Shockley, a 1950 graduate.

“I loved the school and the super teachers there,” she said. “They cared about their students and there was lots of support from the community too.”

1960 graduate Lois Jeanne (Harvey) Baillargeon, of Rehoboth Beach, was captain of the band’s twirlers her senior year.

“Next to family, (Conrad) was the most important thing in your life,” she said.

High school sweethearts Shirley (Covert) Gardner and Philip H. Gardner, Newark residents who both graduated in 1952, called it “‘an Esprit de Corps’ that doesn’t exist in most schools.”

Pat Sanders, of Pike Creek, (1969) remembers that spirit.

“To say you were a Conradian had very special meaning to those who said it or heard it,” she said.

Conrad alumnus Laird Logue, class of 1952, made school friendships that have lasted more than 50 years.

“The spirit and friendship from athletic teams continues to this day,” he said. “Our 12th-grade starting basketball team was composed of Dallas Green, Bill Bowen and Harvey Halfen, all of whom I see on a regular basis.”

Conrad sweethearts Rich Henderson (1964) and Terry Henderson (1967), of Pike Creek, still get together with a group of friends from Conrad and former arch-rival Dickinson High for trips together.

“I still get chills when I go past that school,” Terry Henderson said. “It’s the school and the memories. It’s a beautiful building and it’s in excellent shape.”

But in 1978, things changed.

Tom Kelley was about to be a senior at Conrad for the 1978-79 school year when his school was converted in a junior high. The conversion was part of Judge Murray Schwartz’s mandate to begin busing suburban students into the city for three years of their schooling and city students into the suburbs for nine years.

“I loved attending Conrad High,” Jim Kelley said. “But once we were all bused to Wilmington High School, the spirit was gone.

“I never went back to any of Wilmington High's football, basketball, or baseball games but may do so when Conrad becomes a high school again,” he said.

Walter C. Wilson (1957), of Wilmington, was also sad to see his alma mater disappear. His daughter, Leigh Ann Wilson, was president of the senior class, the last year Conrad High existed.

“We wanted our (other) children to attend and graduate from Conrad High, but they went on to other schools,” he said.

Carolyn (Kress) Grant, of Newport, is a 1961 Conrad High School graduate. She too wanted her children to experience the same community-based high school education she had.

Susan (Wade) Green of Woodcrest, a 1973 graduate, didn’t understand the implications of the desegregation order until it was too late.

“It was like trying to stop a train moving at the speed of light,” said Green, who met her husband, Earl, at Conrad. “It seemed that only local communities could see that the order and the state’s plans were going to run the train right off the tracks. It was very frustrating.

“Why couldn’t the judges and those we voted into office see the same looming disaster as the rest of us?” she said.

“I can sum it up in three words:¬ abuse of power. In retrospect, I always say this decision was the beginning of the end of Delaware schools.”

Green would have sent her children to the Conrad that she loved, but not the Conrad it had become.

The change also angered Newark resident Don Quashne, a 1975 grad.

“Do I agree with a federal judge whose kids are in private school saying we needed to close down Conrad?” he said, referring to Schwartz. “No, I didn't agree with him and I still don't. We had white, black, Hispanic and Asian students at Conrad.”

1960 grad Lois Jeanne Harvey Baillargeon, of Rehoboth Beach, also underscored the diversity already at Conrad while she was there.

“For example, Mike Brown, who was African American, was an officer of our class,” Baillargeon said. “My friend Carol MacDonald, myself, along with Patrician Harmon and Karen Gardener, both African Americans, had a singing group together for two years.”

Eleanor Badders Steele, of Bear, a 1965 Conrad graduate, felt like a part of her personal history changed forever.

“I know they tear down schools to build other buildings, but for the building to remain and be changed to a middle school affected my pride in my alma mater,” she said.

Jeffrey Irwin, of Lewes, a 1965 Conrad grad, said he supported the desegregation order, and taking the high school away not bother him. But he, he opposed busing.

“It is a Band-aid, and an expensive one at that,” he said. “It serves no purpose other than to align the beans. The education system needs to be overhauled completely.”

Jane (Crowe) Gaudioso, of Chadds Ford, Pa. a 1965 Conrad High School graduate, agreed.

“To me busing has been a huge waste of time and resources,” Gaudioso said. “After school activities are a logistic nightmare for parents. Everyone ends up exhausted. The cost of busing should have gone into education and school improvements.”