Reitz History


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  The following text was 'borrowed' from various places - one being Reitz High School web page and another being Carol Scheller Schmitt.

Evansville High SchoolIn 1916 Evansville had one high school, Evansville High School. It was located on Seventh Street between Vine and Court Streets.

The class of 1916 had only 6 graduates living west of Pigeon Creek (the WEST SIDE). This was less than one percent of the city's high-school population. However the west side had 20,000 inhabitants. Evansville High school was too far away.

The idea for a school on the west side of Evansville came from the Centennial Club, led by Mrs. C. F. Werner, who fought a genteel, but determined, battle with the reluctant school board. The ladies said the Evansville High School was too far away to be financially practical for many west side families. After four years of crusading, the Centennial Club won. At the time, children who lived on the West side attended Centennial or Daniel Wertz schools. These schools only went through sixth grade.

Coal Mine Hill

FrancisOn January 29, 1917, the superintendent made a report to the board recommending Forest Hills (aka Coal Mine Hill) as the site for the new West Side High School. The site of the school was selected because it contained a natural bowl. Nine acres were purchased at a cost of $8000. Twenty-three additional acres were secured later for $20,025.

The project was expected to cost $223,844.00. War conditions had raised havoc with the bond market and, whereas the bonds would have seemed marketable in 1917, by 1918, it was a different story. There were no bidders! Mr. Francis Joseph Reitz had agreed to buy the entire issue. The grateful board members promptly voted to name the new school for him.

Mr. Reitz was the president of National City Bank, and also served as a member of the Board of School Trustees.

At first Reitz was intended to be a Junior High School, including only seventh, eighth, and ninth grades, but as the student body grew older, the curriculum was geared to fit the needs of older students. As the enrollment grew (after 3 years) the 7th and 8th graders returned to Daniel Wertz and Centennial schools. Reitz graduated its first seniors in 1921.


Click on FRAMED images to see larger pictures

Reitz under construction 0     Reitz under construction 1

Rietz under construction 2     Reitz under construction 4

On November 3, 1917 the cornerstone was laid. Mayor Benjamin Bosse presided over the ceremony.

In September 1918 a two-story and basement building of brick and stone classic design was open. This was just a few months before the end of WWI.

       A Reitz band was formed in 1918. The Orchestra formed in 1920.

Reitz postcard

The impressive new structure boasted a panoramic view of Evansville's growing downtown area and the Ohio River. Fluted stone columns graced the three entrances.

Reitz finished front     Reitz from river, on hill    

The Evansville High School was renamed Central High School. The building known as Central High School on Seventh St. was later referred to as "Old Central", when the 'new' Central High school was built on First Avenue. Old Central High school was razed in 1973. The only structure that remains of "Old Central" is the gym - which is now the YMCA, built in 1927.

In 1921, the first year in which Reitz High School was fully accredited by North Central Association, the 10,000-seat Reitz Stadium was completed. The project cost $75,000.

     Reitz bowl construction 2           

The Reitz Bowl, one of the great natural stadiums in the nation, was born by accident. It was originally planned as a retaining wall fo rthe new F. J. Reitz High School. Foresight by a school member noted that with some small changes a football stadium could be made too.

Reitz holds their graduation ceremonies in the Bowl every year that weather permits.


The first two years was a reserve football schedule (due to age of students) and then in 1921 Reitz began varsity play.

Reitz bowl construction 5     Reitz football  

Rietz Bowl




By 1923 Reitz had a football team that beat Central High school which had an enrollment of 2400 students.

In 1926, a four-story classroom building was added to the west end of the building. This contained 13 classrooms and boys and girls gyms.

Reitz with addition  

School Colors: Reitz's original school colors were orange and purple, but those were given to Lincoln High School (now elementary school) during the early 1900's. After they gave away their school colors they picked blue and gray, as Reitz sits on the Mason-Dixon Line, and Blue and Gray were the colors of the North and South during the Civil War.


In 1931, Reitz played its first night football game.


Edna Mae Shaw (class of 1931) composed the now famous (however politically incorrect) lyrics to the school song. It is sung to the tune of "On Wisconsin".
RHS Boys, RHS Boys, Fight on for her fame. Take the ball right down the field, and win for her this game. Rah! Rah! Rah! RHS Boys, RHS Boys, to this name be true, fight fellows, fight, fight, fight. We're backing you. R-R-R-E-I, I-I-I-T-Z, Reitz, Reitz, Victory.

This is the school song regardless of sport being played, or the sex of the players. :-)

Reitz Bowl       Reitz, see old cars

The BIG "R" located on the SE side of Reitz Hill was donated to the school by the graduating class of 1924. The 'R' bears the names of each of the 76 members of the class. This monument is viewable from the Ray Becker Parkway. Just above the "R" is a great place to watch the 4th of July fireworks, the Blue Angels airshow and Thunder on the Ohio. Also, this former parking lot was a place to watch the "submarine races ".

Big R  Big R 1959

Reitz       Reitz  

On October 31, 1942 hundreds of people thronged the Reitz parking lot to view the first ship built in the Evansville shipyards slide down the ways into the water of the Ohio River.

LST Launch      Reitz HS top right corner on hill

In the Spring term of 1945 a new grading system was put into place. Students were given a grade of: A, B C, D or F.

Enrollment at Reitz during the war was lower than normal. This was due to some students having to work, and a few of the older boys serving their country. The fall of 1945 saw a freshman class of almost 500 students.

construction 1957       Construction       Construction 1957       Construction 1957

BIG changes happened to the campus of Reitz High School in the 1950s. In 1956, an addition of a new office wing, nurse's suite, counselors' offices, home economics kitchen, dining rooms, sewing rooms, print shop, band and choir rooms, library, and study hall was added.

Office wing

Classroom wing addition

In 1957, a five-story classroom wing, a second gym, seating more than 3,000, department offices, teachers' lounges, industrial shops, a new auditorium, a new cafeteria, and new restrooms were added. In the fall of 1958 both wings and most of the gymnasium were finished. The additions on the west end of the school contained the Printshop and Journalism rooms. The east wing contained rooms for Science, Art, English, and Social Studies. By 1959 the gym was complete enough to play the last home game in the Big Gym. The addition off the west end of the new gym contained soundproof Band and Orchestra rooms.

Construction       Large Gym 1959       Band Choir rooms

The school additions in the 1950s destroyed the beautiful entrance to Reitz High school. The new entrance was located on the Northeast side of the school near the Offices.


I'm looking for information on when the Tunnel and press box was built - anyone?

The class of 1972 donated a 45 foot tall flag pole in the bowl.

In 1973, a new greenhouse was completed. Also this year a "new" all transistor scoreboard was installed at the bowl. This scoreboard was a gift from the West Side Nut Club.

    Campus 61

In 1974 the Bowl received Prescription Athletic Turf (PAT) which is a method of draining and irrigation from pipes laid beneath the playing surface. A new all-weather track was added to the bowl also, along with renovated bowl seating.

Permanent metal bleachers were added to the visitor's section of the bowl in 1976. They hold 2300 people and cost $95,000. This brings the stadium's capacity to 9,482. Also, in 1976 the school cafeteria was remodeled. Walls were painted blue, new floor tiles added and round and square tables were added. Most of these changes were aimed at keeping the students on-campus during lunch time. Also added to the cafeteria was a snack bar which features fast foods. The library was also enlarged in 1976 by removing a wall that separated it from a classroom. Royal blue carpet was installed in the library. Other changes were: 300 lockers, reception area for counselors office, new entryway to nurses office, improvements to the large gym locker rooms.

In 1977, a driving range on Barker Avenue was added to accommodate the Driver's Education Department. The Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation owns the land on which the range is located.


In the winter of 1978 800 new lockers were installed at a cost of $5000. The lockers were meant to brighten the school decor. The lockers were blue, yellow, orange, red and green.

The graduating classes from 1971 - 1981 donated money to improve the look of the school entrance.

improved entrance         improved entrance

In 1984 the large gym got a new floor.

A new Fieldhouse with weight training facilites was built in 1988 at an expense that topped one million dollars.

fieldhouse 1988

In 1988, Reitz was known as the oldest high school building in Evansville. It was a hodgepodge of corridors, floors, and rooms from additions over the years, and Reitz was still the smallest high school in the area and had the smallest cafeteria.

In 1990 parking lots and sitework were done in preparation for a large expansion. In 1991 & 1992 new classroom addition, commons area, office and media center renovations were completed. In 1993 renovations of the 3-story classroom wing were completed. 1994 saw renovations to the auditorium and gym. Renovations of remaining classrooms, small gym and industrial arts are were completed in 1995 along with aire conditioning.

Finally the school board opted for renovation and after more than $26 million, Reitz celebrated its 80th anniversary in 1998 with a whole new look that makes it the largest and most advanced high school structure in Evansville.


In 2003 a brand new sound system was added to the Reitz bowl.

New paint and railings in 2007 made the bowl look like new.

During the 2007-08 schoolyear the Reitz Football team took home a State Championship trophy.


Reitz Bowl Gets A Facelift

Pictures taken April 17, 2009 by Jon Carl.


Francis Joseph Reitz never married and felt that it was a disgrace for a man to die so wealthy. He gave away millions, to churches, schools, and charities. Never having children he had a fatherly interest in the rising generation as a whole. He was the ONLY man in the United States to have TWO high schools named for him in the same city. Nine hundred thousand dollars built and endowed Reitz Memorial High School. In 1924, F.J. Reitz was decorated by the Pope for his gift of Reitz Memorial High School.

Reitz Memorial High School Francis Joseph Reitz

Francis Joseph Reitz Marker at St. Joe Cemetery Evansville IN

Reitz Family Memorial Plot at St. Joe Cemetery Evansville IN


Enrollment Statistics
Based on feeder school enrollment, Reitz's enrollment is expected to decrease 2004-2014
Year Total
All Grades
# Graduated Size of
2007-08 1434
2006-07 1398
2005-06 1352
2004-05 1410
2003-04 1447
2002-03 1459
2001-02 1510
2000-01 1524
1999-00 1547
1998-99 1622
1997-98 1648
1996-97 1657
1980-81 1695 430 started senior year
1979-80 1764 471 as Juniors
1978-79 1859 508 as Sophomores
1977-78 1943 518 as Freshmen
1976-77 438
1963-64 1822
1946-47 330 decreased enrollment due to war
1945-46 1318 333 decreased enrollment due to war
1944-45 251 decreased enrollment due to war
1943-44 279 decreased enrollment due to war
1921-22 585
1920-21 21
1918-19 287

Famous Alumni:
Don Hanson, NFL Player
Matt Williams, producer of The Cosby Show, Home Improvement, and Roseann
John Jennings ('51) - Composer of Broadway musical River Wind
Bill Morneweg - Successful Hollywood actor
Sam LaBudde ('74) - Internationally known environmentalist
Dr. Harold Halbrook ('57) Performed Indiana's first heart transplant
Fred Jandebur ('44) - Developed the mathematics to put America on the moon
Bob Hamilton ('40) - PGA champion
Frank McDonald, Sr. ('29) former Mayor of Evansville

Principal dates may not be exact

Principals of Reitz High School
Years Principal
E. E. Merely
1921-27 F. H. Bosse
1927-33 Ralph Irons
1933 Homer Humke
1934-47 M. L. Plumb
1947-70 Neil V. Pierce
1970-80 Delles Chastain
1980-87 Edmund S. Higgs
1987-Present Christine Settle

FYI: The 1946 "Senior Edition " documents the attempts to sell "Elevator tickets" to Greenies :-)

FYI: Reitz' first principal never actually served in that capacity. It is reported, Roswell Puckett was named before construction began, entered the Army in WW I and did not return to take up his appointment.


To contact me:

Don Counts
549 E. Parkland Ave.
Evansville, IN


Phone: 812-422-1792