Small-Town Life in the 1950s

  • In rural Indiana schools that were as small as Hickory High, almost all the teachers taught more than one subject.
  • The character of Myra Fleener is sometimes described as being the school’s assistant principal, because she takes over as principal when Cletus falls ill. However, Indiana schools that were as small as the one portrayed in the movie didn’t need an assistant principal. In fact, even being principal wasn’t a full-time job. The principal almost always taught a class or two.
  • Unlike what is shown in the movie, in that era teachers were hired by the township trustee, not the principal.
  • Small-town schools often housed grades 1 through 12. So the movie could have shown elementary and junior high students as well as high schoolers walking into the school in the morning.
  • In real life, residents of a town wouldn’t have had the authority to dismiss the basketball coach. They could only have made a recommendation to try to influence or pressure the superintendent or township trustee.
  • In the first half of the 20th century, every Indiana town, no matter how small, had its own school and basketball team. But the Indiana School Corporation Reorganization Act of 1959, informally referred to as school consolidation, resulted in the closure of many small-town schools. Districts that had an enrollment of fewer than 1,000 students in grades 1 through 12 were required to consolidate with neighboring districts. Over 11 years, the Act reduced 966 districts to 402. By 2007, Indiana had 293 school corporations.
  • In the 1955-56 school year, Indiana had 776 high schools. Only 41 of those, or 5.28%, had an enrollment of more than 1,000 students. By 2013-14, the total number of high schools had dropped to 405, and 109 of them (27%) had an enrollment of more than 1,000 students.
  • Indiana’s last single-class high school basketball tournament was held in 1997. The following year, when the tourney was split into four classes based on school enrollment, attendance declined steeply—and it never recovered. Although many people blamed fans’ loss of interest in the tourney on the adoption of class basketball, others believed the decrease in interest actually began all the way back in the days of school consolidation.