When Headen Embry graduated from Gainesville High School in the early ‘90s, his English teacher, Calvin Hanrahan, gave him an old soccer ball.
It wasn’t just any ordinary soccer ball, but the one used at his school’s first soccer game in the ‘70s.
“He told me he was the first soccer coach at Gainesville high,” Embry said. “He started the first season, then Gene Beckstein took over.”
Embry said he plans to donate the ball to Gainesville City Schools once it starts up its Heritage Collection, which will display artifacts and memorabilia from the school system’s 125-year history.
“I played all four years and was the captain of the team senior year,” Embry said. “He (Hanrahan) felt like as he was leaving, I’d keep it in good hands. It should be in a trophy case. This (Heritage Collection) will be perfect.”
Gainesville school board member Kris Nordholz said he felt inspired to help create the collection after celebrating Gainesville High’s 125th anniversary with the district’s parents and alumni.
People ended up bringing memorabilia and artifacts from the high school for the event, and Nordholz said a discussion arose about installing a permanent historical archive.
“With the new facilities going up at the high school, I think (Superintendent) Dr. Williams and some people in the system could use those new facilities as a way to display that history,” he said.
A few months ago, the system decided to officially move forward with the Heritage Collection and began accepting applications for both temporary and permanent donations of school artifacts.
Superintendent Jeremy Williams said people are encouraged to complete the Heritage Collection survey in the community tab under “alumni and former students” on the system’s website, if they are interested in offering an item or have memorabilia in possession.
So far, he said the district has seen a range of submissions like megaphones from the ‘70s and a yearbook from 1914. Williams welcomes all forms of contributions that embrace the history of the city’s schools, including Red Elephants and Tigers memorabilia.
“There’s a lot of connections to the tradition of Gainesville City Schools, whether it’s Gainesville High School, Fair Street or Butler High School,” Williams said. “We have an alumni group proud of where they went to school. We want to make sure as we transition into a new campus, we’re able to honor the traditions of the past and merge them with the present.”
Nordholz, who graduated from Gainesville High, said the collection will most likely be put on display in the high school’s new advanced studies center, which is set to open in the fall, and the cafeteria and media center building, which should open next January. Williams said people will be notified if their item submissions can be used for the collection. However, the system won’t begin taking the pieces until it is prepared to construct the display.
Once Gainesville receives enough submissions of artifacts and memorabilia, Nordholz said the installation could be ready for public viewing as each facility opens. He said the system’s heritage committee is working to figure out the best way to protect and showcase the items once they start accepting donations.
“Looking back, I’m thankful for growing up in a community like Gainesville,” Nordholz said. “Now, raising my kids here, I hope they’ll look back and say the same. I think the history and school spirit aspect is telling about what a strong community Gainesville is.”