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When guns and schools were pals

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Drizzt, May 6, 2006.

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  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Moscow on the Colorado, TX
    When guns and schools were pals
    By Mike Moore

    Time to settle up on a bet.

    It started with a conversation I had in a Downtown bar a couple of weeks back. A guy tried to convince me when he'd gone to Mitchell Middle School, there was a shooting range in the basement.

    He saw my skeptical eyes narrow into that "How many have you had?" look. He suggested I try to confirm it.

    Possibly, if I'd read my buddy Chris Bennett's Glad You Asked column about another old range, I'd have believed the story right away. But the guy described more than the thing's existence. He remembered students traipsing into the school office to get the guns.

    Could be that sounded foreign because I've adapted already to the world of ID badges and students emptying backpacks at metal detectors. Yes, that's the same world where rule-happy principals feel compelled to throw the book at students who carry butter knives to home-ec class. But it's also the world where "Columbine" has instant name recognition.

    So I took the case. Besides, the odds were double if I won.

    First, I stopped at the school, on Racine's south side. Principal Bob Wilhelmi said he'd heard rumors of the range, but that there's no shooting down there now. Only dust bombs skipping from box to box in storage.

    A couple of phone calls sent me into a bit of a time warp, with each person referring me to the previous Mitchell principal. Finally, I reached Wally Stenavich, who was principal in the late 1950s or so and still lives in the area. Was there really a shooting range in the basement? "I helped build it," he said.

    An industrial arts teacher oversaw the construction of it and started a rifle club league. Stenavich was a student in 1939 and got involved in one of the teams.

    Later, as a teacher and principal, he took over the teams.

    Dang, my payoff was in danger. The only chance I had left was to squeeze by on a technicality. I asked Stenavich if the guns were stored in the office, as I'd heard.

    Sure, he said. And we're not talking the air rifles that some schools compete with today, the ones that barely give crows a tickle.

    "At the time, the U.S. Army was encouraging these things, and they supplied us with the rifles," he said.

    Not quite like picking up a hall pass.

    "It wasn't the tightest control, kids in and out of the office," Stenavich said, but he didn't remember any problems or injuries.

    The range had more features than the one at Horlick High School, he said. A separate door to the outside kept teams from disturbing the nighttime activities upstairs.

    I'm assuming it was soundproofed somewhat, although a well-timed "BOOM" can really liven up a PTA meeting.

    The rifle teams from various schools would compete, which produced an occasional battle of the sexes. Stenavich remembered the time one cocky boys' team got beat by an all-girls team.

    "They concentrated a little better after that," he said.

    The spirit of competition is stuck in Stenavich's bloodline. His grandson Adam, from Marshfield, has a shot to be an NFL offensive lineman after signing with the Carolina Panthers this week as a rookie free agent.

    The competition was secondary at the range, though.

    "Our main purpose was to teach gun safety," Stenavich said, "and hunting was a big thing during that time."

    After he moved on, Stenavich said, nobody was there to oversee the program. The rifles were sent to an armory in St. Louis.

    I suggested 21st century America would never allow this. To him, that's a sad thought.

    "We've become paranoid in this world," he said. "But I have a lot of confidence in our kids."

    And I have a little more confidence in barroom storytelling.

  2. Run&Shoot

    Run&Shoot Member

    Dec 27, 2005
    While not nearly as fun as having a range in the school basement, I went to a middle school across the street from a NG armory. It had a .22 range in its basement back in the 1960s. We used to shoot for NRA marksmanship badges. In the 1990s I was once again living in the area and stopped by to see if the range was still in use. same sort of thing. The private knew nothing, sent me to an older sargent, who sent me to an even older seargent who couldn't belive anyone still knew about it. Unfortunately, the range had long ago been relegated to store room status.

    As an aside, it was pretty common to see us kids trekking through the fields and woods between the grade school and homes with pellet and .22 rifles stalking squirrels and starlings. That was just accepted as NORMAL. Most boys owned at least a pellet gun if not a .22 or .410 (a .30-30 didn't come along until you were 14) and I can't remember even one negligent discharge, let alone any mis-use in anger or criminal activity from any of the boys. Well, except for the neighborhood kid that blew off his fingers with a CO2 catridge filled with black powder...and the other kid who got in trouble from the Coast Guard for shooting CO2 mortars at passing tug boats. But those were just bombs, not firearms. :)
  3. MFL Jim McLoud

    MFL Jim McLoud Member

    May 1, 2006
    Guns in school part II

    When I was 16 years old-I asked to take my Savage 340/30-30 to school because I had planned to go hunting after. I was told everything was fine as long as I didn't have it loaded,and kept the ammunition separate. I had the bus drop me off that day aprox 3 miles from home-and shot my first deer that day :>)

    Even before that: when I was in sixth grade or so, we went on a class trip one day with the Gilford, NH Police Dept. to the sand pit in the rear of the Laconia, NH Airport. We were shown some gun safety and then watched a shooting demonstration to include two machine-guns. I didn't get to shoot it,but it may explain (7,500+ NFA transfers later) why I'm still addicted. ha ha it's the cops fault! :evil:

    Never heard about school shootings then, we can thank the media for the 20 minutes of violence every night followed by the sports & weather. :fire:

    Ahhhh the good old days :rolleyes:
  4. bedlamite

    bedlamite Member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Back row of the peanut gallery
  5. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

    May 21, 2004
    "Land of (dis)Enchantment"
    Yes Virginia, there was a time when guns were welcome at schools all over this nation.

    It was a rare day, indeed, when I didn't have either a rifle or a shotgun, or both, either in the trunk of my car or in a gunrack in the back window of my pickup in the parking lot at High School. Shot lots of rabbits, coyotes, quail, and doves before and after school. Additionally, I had a weapons card for my ROTC M14 (w/"da switch") in my pocket, and could check it out at will so as to clean it, practise drill, etc. These were operational M14s, and we would take these same rifles to the military firing range once a year to fire a qualification course.

    If that wasn't enough, we had a 50' indoor range, and could check out .22 rifles to shoot between classes.

    Of course, in those days, nobody blinked an eye that you were carrying a 4" Buck folder on your belt, in fact it was an expected part of normal everyday dress. Guess what? I felt a whole lot safer in school then than I would if I was subjected to the draconian "safety" controls of today.
  6. nadeem

    nadeem member

    Feb 12, 2006
    theres a shooting range at my school and i live in england. we fire .22 rifles (anshutz and NO.8 (converted lee enfield))
  7. lbmii

    lbmii Member

    May 17, 2004
    Overland Park, Kansas
    I was on the rifle team at my high school. We used the Winchester Model 51.

    The range was closed in 1985 and the space was used for a weight room.
  8. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

    Aug 11, 2004
    somewhere on Puget Sound
    While in high school in the mid-70s, my school had a rifle team. Not only that, it was considered entirely acceptable to miss one's classes for the first week of deer season (unless one was also on the football team, alas). 'Twas routine to have our deer rifles and shotguns hanging in the racks in our trucks and cars for all to see ... in the school parking lot.

    And yep, we all carried pocket knive every day as well ...
  9. velojym

    velojym Member

    Apr 9, 2006
    And the violence didn't ensue until the anti's, in a manic fit of 'public service' declared schools Unarmed Victim Zones.
    At my school in NM, kids brought pistols in for show-n-tell.
    Nobody got shot. Go figure.
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