Bloom High School Then and Now

It is such a trip to walk through a completely obliterated building and see floor tiles still affixed to the concrete. Most people in Ford County, Kansas are well aware that the entrance to the Bloom High School is all that is left standing. I remember when it was taken down but I never really knew much about the town…other than it hadn’t been incorporated in ages.

Photographer Unknown

Bloom was established in 1887. It was never going to be a thriving metropolis but its position on the Rock Island Line ensured at least some commercial activity, including a weekly newspaper.

The Weekly Telegram, July 25, 1889

In April of 1889, the Bloom School had about 20 pupils attending class. In 1915, the two-room schoolhouse held 39 students. They weren’t breaking any records. By comparison, the fancy new school in Ford had 128 students at this time. There was a severe drought that just about wiped Bloom off the map. The newspaper died. The post office closed in 1891 and it was actually hauled away in 1894. I’m not sure when the City of Bloom became an unincorporated place but I imagine it was about that time.

Bloom experienced a renaissance in the early aughts, however, and a new post office opened in 1908. Soon, residents were getting their news from a different source.

The Bloom Booster, September 28, 1916

Bloom finally got some attention and organized support for a new school in October of 1916. Initial estimates came in at around $9,000 but we know how that goes.

The Dodge City Globe October 19, 1916

Less than two months later, the cost had risen to $15,000 and voters approved the bond issue.

Dodge City Daily Journal, December 10, 1916

The Bloom Booster, February 15, 1917

Contracts were awarded to Peters & Cobb of Ford for the building and W. F. Polly of Hutchinson for plumbing and heating. The idea was for the new school to be ready for the 1917-18 school year but it never works out that way. Bloom ran into the same problems as other Ford County districts with construction materials being slow to deliver. In July of 1917, the district thought the building might be ready about two weeks into the school year. Seven months later, with an epic typo:

The Bloom Booster, February 14, 1918

The new school had six classrooms, an auditorium with seating for 250, and a gymnasium “large enough for basket ball.” With enrollment at about 30 students, Bloom had high hopes for the future. Unfortunately, the school wasn’t yet accredited because it only offered three years rather than the four required by the state. Parents were unsure whether sending their kids to Bloom would cause their work to go uncredited so the district was under extreme pressure to get that fourth year offered. Then they had an outbreak of influenza in December of 1918.

Bloom peaked in the early 1930s, as many Kansas communities did during the Dust Bowl.

The Spearville News, February 27, 1930

Bloom didn’t have a football team (at least in 1932) so their athletes focused on “base ball” and “basket ball.” The Ford basketball team was actually taking Bloom seriously, which is hilarious…except Bloom marched onto Ford’s home court and beat them 17-12.

The Ford Progress, January 6, 1933

I feel like “wholesale slaughter” might have been a touch hyperbolic but sports reporters are sports reporters.

The Ford Progress, January 13, 1933

Speaking of the Dust Bowl:

The Catholic Advance, September 18, 1937

If you ever want something to be outraged about, peruse employment ads prior to the Civil Rights Act. It’s an HR Manager’s worst nightmare. These ads are fine but holy crap the others are awful.

The Wichita Eagle, February 10, 1956
The Evening Eagle, September 10, 1956

Somewhere along the way, Bloom formed an eight-man football team. That may have been a mistake.

Garden City Telegram, September 16, 1960

The Bloom High School Class of ’64 consisted of eight graduates so I think it was clear the lights would soon be out forever.

The Hays Daily News, May 12, 1964

Bloom’s school district merged with Minneola in 1964 and that was the end of the Bloom Badgers.

Garden City Telegram, January 12, 1965

I really want to know more about these reunions. Are they still a thing? Where are they held? The Bloom Alumni Association was still active in 1996 but that was the last mention I was able to find.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, April 29, 1984
The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, October 21, 1984

The Bloom Post Office closed for the last time in March of 1992. I think the Co-op may be the only business left in the community, unless someone has a home-based business. The Rock Island depot is still standing and is a private residence. The Lighthouse Baptist Church still has a presence but I’m unsure if they’re still using the building they put up inside the footprint of the old gymnasium. Seriously. The 2020 Federal Census listed 110 people in all of Bloom Township.

I remember reading about the upcoming demolition of Bloom High School and thinking at the time I should go down there and take some photos. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Not only can I not remember when it happened, I can’t remember where I read it. Was it in the Globe? The Banner? Where was I sitting when I read it? No clue! All I know is the article mentioned a decision to leave the entry standing, which was 100% the right call. I really, really love that it’s still there.

The school was definitely demolished prior to June of 2008 because those are the earliest Google Street View images available online and it was already gone.

Searching Globe online archives is borderline impossible bit I did find this story about the gymnasium roof blowing off in November of 2006. Clicking on the story won’t get you anywhere but the photo clearly shows the school buildings were already down. Speaking of the gym, the Lighthouse Baptist Church tried their best to keep the structure intact. They replaced half the roof and most of the flooring back in 2002. It must have been a major gut punch to then have all that work destroyed within four years.

Here’s how the school looks now:

Did the record skip when you compared the old newspaper photo to those I just took? Yeah, same here. That’s definitely not the same entrance from 1918. Everything about it looks much more modern. So what the heck? Sam at the Kansas Heritage Center sent me this photo showing the gymnasium that was added on the north side of the school during the Great Depression. It’s clear that the original school building faced west and the entrance left standing that faces Highway 54 was from a later addition.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Heritage Center

This satellite view from Google Maps clearly shows the church that was constructed inside the old gymnasium. I’m amazed the county issued a building permit for this but I verified that they sure did.

I’m glad I grabbed a few pics of the gymnasium and the debris pile from the original school building. If I had known at the time what all I was looking at, I would have taken more. Because it’s all just piled there where it fell, it’s very difficult to see which areas are safe to step. There are a lot of weeds potentially covering holes and brittle flooring materials…not to mention snakes.

I’ve reached out to the Minneola Public Library and the Minneola High School Library to see if they have any interesting materials but haven’t had any luck. I’ll update this post if I receive any additional information.

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