Story from The Manhattan Mercury
Many Manhattan High School alumni fondly recall the ceramic mosaic of an Indian head — the school’s symbol — that was formerly in the floor in front of the school gymnasium. Now they’re hoping to restore the Indian to its former glory and install it in a place of honor at the school.
The history of when the Indian mosaic was taken out of the floor — and eventually relegated to storage — is a little hazy at this point. But alums say they recall the mosaic as a source of pride — and torment.
“The seniors used to make the underclassmen shine it,” said alumna Cam Feltner. She recalled as well that it was understood that no one was to step on the Indian at any cost.
“It used to be interesting watching the hall during break because you just walked around it,” Feltner recalled. In fact, at one point a small wrought-iron fence was installed around the Indian to keep the mosaic pristine.
The mosaic was installed when the school was built in 1957. “I know it was considered to be a source of real pride with the students,” MHS alumni association president Dave Fiser said.
That wasn’t its only role, however. It also served as a focal point for pranks and hazing. At one point in the early 1970s, some students brought teacher and coach Earl Gritton’s Volkswagen in through the gym and pushed it part way onto the Indian. Gritton’s wife Lois said the students chickened out and ran off before they got the car fully on top of the mascot.
By the time MHS alum Larry McCarthy arrived at the school in 1973, the Indian was protected by the aforementioned fence. McCarthy heard tales, though, of seniors throwing sophomores onto the fenced-in Indian and making them spit shine it either with their rear-end or a rag.
He said the mosaic was taken out of the floor in 1974. “They … put it on the wall in the north gym. It was a beautiful mosaic,” he said.
Removing the Indian apparently didn’t stop the seniors. McCarthy said two blue “M”s remained on the floor after the Indian was removed, so the seniors transferred their attention to the letters. “One day they pulled my twin brother Gary and I out of class and made us race up and down on our rear ends and clean the M’s,” Larry McCarthy said. He recalls the perpetrators being Gary Spani, who went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, and Dan Schirer.
At some point, though, the Indian was taken down and relegated to storage.
Alumna Nancy Larson brought the Indian to the alumni association’s attention after her foster brother, Sid Hamilton, who works at MHS, recently tracked it down. MHS principal Terry McCarty has agreed to donate the mosaic to the association and would like to have a ceremony once the Indian is restored.
It may hang on the school wall again, or it may be installed in the association’s in-school museum. All that remains is official approval by the alumni association at its Feb. 24 meeting.
“We’re pretty sure we’re going to take it on as a project,” said Fiser. “Quite a few of the officers and directors have said, ‘let’s take this on.’ We think it’s a great thing to do to preserve history and tradition for our high school.”
Fiser said the association hasn’t decided how it’s going to pay for the restoration, but he hopes the more than 300 paid members of the association will be willing to help out. Other interested folks may call Fiser at 537-9123 or go towww.mhsalumniassociation.org.”