Rivals to classmates

1963 consolidation of the Sunrise and Guernsey schools

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HARTVILLE – The Sunrise schools and Guernsey schools were two of the biggest rivals in the area back in the day. There are many stories of rivalry on and off of sporting fields concerning students, parents, teachers, coaches and residents. However, in the fall of 1963, the two schools were consolidated into the Guernsey-Sunrise schools. To this day, the rivalry still lives on in the hearts of many graduates prior to the consolidation. 

The Hartville Episcopal Perish Hall had many members of the community gathering together on Thursday, April 27, for Tim Newton’s presentation on the consolidation of the Sunrise and Guernsey schools. Newton is a retired teacher who began teaching at Guernsey-Sunrise in 1966. A few other members of the community also provided historical context and recalled their own memories. 

The “1963 Consolidation of the Sunrise and Guernsey Schools” presentation was arranged by the Sunrise Historic and Prehistoric Preservation Society (SHAPPS).

According to R.W. MacCannon’s book Sunrise: A Chronology of a Wyoming Mine, the first school was opened in Sunrise in September 1902 with 20 pupils. At this time, classes were only taught up to the eighth grade. By the early 1920s, the school had grown to include grade, junior and high school students. The first graduating class of Sunrise High School was in 1922. 

Pictures of the Sunrise schools show a smaller white building with a two-story brick building at its side. In front of the white building, was a merry-go-round for the grade school students to play on.

“When we were in grade school, it was our deal to get people on it and spin it around as fast as we could to see how many we could throw off,” Ray Mansoldo recalled. “So, you had to be careful if you wanted to get on it. We made it go pretty fast.”

The Sunrise school, known as the Sunrise Miners, was a proud school, that provided a quality education and had talented athletes. 

“The Sunrise schools were always considered some of the best in the state and consistently ranked near the top in achievement,” according to MacCannon’s book. 

Whether it be their close proximity or their competitive sports ventures, there were many tensions between the Sunrise and Guernsey schools. 

Mansoldo said Sunrise used to have an ‘S’ outlined in rocks up on the hill above the school. One year during homecoming, Guernsey students changed the ‘S’ to a ‘G.’ In retaliation, Sunrise students went to the Guernsey school and burned an ‘S’ and the school’s front lawn.

According to Sunrise graduates, Sunrise was better in athletics which led them to always win against the Guernsey Longhorns. This caused the rivalry to continue throughout the years. However, it wasn’t long before everyone was forced to put the rivalry behind them. 

The last class of Sunrise High School graduated in the spring of 1963. Beginning in the fall of 1963, all the students in Sunrise, Hartville and the surrounding area were bussed to the school in Guernsey. 

“Over the course of time visiting with people, I heard that basically, the reason for the consolidation was because Sunrise had the evaluation and Guernsey primarily had the students,” Newton told the audience. 

Newton explained back then schools were funded through the School Foundation Program. This funding system was based on the number of students a school had based on an average of their daily attendance. This system was harder on smaller schools.

“When I got here (1966) it seemed like the transition was practically complete,” Newton said. “Except for the fact that junior high students still traveled to Sunrise to use those facilities for morning classes. They had English, science, math and social studies up there.” 

The junior high students would be bussed to Sunrise every morning and then back to Guernsey in the afternoon to take PE, home economics, industrial arts, band and music. 

“Kids were getting along and everything,” Newton said. “If there were any ill feelings or anything, I think they were held by the previous graduates.”

Newton said the current elementary school in Guernsey was built in 1968 and they moved into it the week of Thanksgiving. That week there wasn’t school, instead, students reported and helped the teachers move into the new building.

“Ray Larson offered us the use of his grain truck to begin hauling the books, desks, science tables and whatever else that was at the Sunrise school to Guernsey,” Newton recalled. “For a couple of days, we drove that truck back and forth with so many things I don’t even remember.”

After they moved into the new building, the junior high students were no longer attending classes at the Sunrise school. Complete consolidation took five years, beginning in the fall of 1963 and ending in the fall of 1968. 

Over the years, the districts in Platte County have shrunk drastically over the years. Sunrise used to be school district 14 and Guernsey was 12. Now Guernsey-Sunrise is school district two. 

Before the Guernsey-Sunrise schools became what it looks like now, they used to be several separate buildings and a two-story building with a basement. Newton said all students had to go outside to get to the lunchroom and other classes. With this issue in mind, they created plans to connect all of the buildings and add a gymnasium in the middle.

“They tore down the two-story building and the contractor hired to tear it down pushed all of the brick into the basement and covered it up,” Newton recalled. “Then when they got ready to build that part of the school, part of the gymnasium is right on that hole. That’s why the doors on the northwest side and the southeast side don’t close because it has settled.”

Even to this day, there are still hard feelings over the consolidation of the Sunrise and Guernsey schools.

“[They tried to push consolidation] in 1962 when I graduated from Sunrise and I went around with the petition [to fight it] because I was not going to graduate from Guernsey,” Dee Orr said. “They never should have been consolidated. Those schools should have never been torn down and that town should have never been destroyed.”

SHAPPS is developing a partnership with Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) and will have many upcoming additions. EWC will be hiring a full-time and part-time archaeologist and a part-time geologist to work at the site. There is also money set aside for renovations to the YMCA building. 

They also have many upcoming events. On May 21, there is going to be a cleanup at the YMCA at 1:30 p.m. On May 25, is SHAPPS’s annual meeting at the YMCA with guest speakers Dr. Jeffry Hawes, president of EWC, and John Hanson, deputy director of institutional development at EWC. On June 10, there will be a yard sale fundraiser in Hartville. On June 24, will be the annual Sunrise tour fundraiser. July 12 is Wyoming Gives Day; this is a day where Wyoming Gives will match every dollar donated to participating organizations.