Mokena High School "Meteors"

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Mokena High School 1929 - 1944
Courtesy of Robert Horras

Mokena HS Bldg 2013 - Now Mokena Village Hall
Photo by Owen Pulver

Mokena School 1872 - 1929
Submitted by Robert Horras

The History of Mokena High School
Mokena (population 17,396) is located in far northeastern Illinois in the northeastern portion of Will County.  Mokena is located about 8 miles west of Joliet.  Interstate Highway 80 runs by the north side of town.  U.S. Route 30 travels past the south edge of town.  
An excellent history of the town of Mokena can be viewed on the web address of .  A short summary of this article includes the following:
The area Mokena is founded in was originally settled in the 1830s.  The Rock Island Railway made its way through the area in 1852, adding greatly to the town's growth potential.  A public school was established in 1855.  Mokena became somewhat of a farming center by the 1870s, with several businesses added to serve the growing farm population. 
Mokena was incorporated as a village in 1880.  That year its population was 522.  The population would only increase by 135 in the next 60 years.  Several things happened over the next 60 years (1940 - 2000) however that have made Mokena one of Chicago's fastest growing south suburbs.  Mokena's population exploded in the 1990s, more than doubling in the decade to a 2000 census of 14,583.  Housing growth in the area has maintained a steady trend which has brought the 2005 estimated population of the town to 17,396.
Information on the former Mokena High School was provided to us by former student Bob Homerding and former grade school student, and local historian, Robert Horras
Bob Homerding (Class of 1941) advises that Mokena High School was a two-year high school with students attending Joliet Central or Orland High School if they wanted to obtain a four-year degree.  
An extensive history of Mokena High School was sent to us by Robert Horras.  Robert submitted the following article regarding the history of Mokena High School:
"                                    HISTORY OF MOKENA HIGH SCHOOL

The Mokena High School was in operation from 1913 until May of 1944. It was always one room in a four room school building. The other three rooms were the grade school. There are no records that can positively set a beginning date for the Mokena High School. As far back as January 1883 there was a total enrollment in the Mokena school system of 81 students. Of that number, 22 of these students were 14 years and older. Was this the high school? It begs a different question; when did the term “high school” start?

The 1883 records are the only ones to survive prior to 1920. The proof of a separate high school class is a 1914 photo labeled “First and Second Year High School”. In the school years 1925-26 and 1926-27 there was a third year of high school added. The junior year of high school only lasted these two years. In 1925-26 there were 13 freshmen, 13 sophomores, and 9 juniors. In the school year 1926-27 there were 15 freshmen, 5 sophomores, and 5 juniors. This junior year was probably dropped due to enrollment declines.

As far back as the early 1930’s, students realized that they were not getting a good enough education to compete when they went on to their junior and senior year of high school. When the school board was asked why the one room high school should be kept open for this small enrollment, the response was surprising. The board explained that if Mokena did not keep the two year high school, the farm children would probably stop their education at the eighth grade and not continue. Therefore it seems that quality education was sacrificed in order to allow more students to attend school.

The high school enrollment had always been small. In 1914-15 the enrollment was a total of 16 students. In 1923-24 the total enrollment was 22. In 1930-31 the total was 28. The high point was 1939-40 when the total enrollment was 36. By the last year of the high school in 1943-44, the enrollment was down to a total of 19 students. In September 1943 the three grade school rooms were extremely overcrowded. It was decided to end the high school in May of 1944.

Mokena HS Bldg Entrance - 2013
Submitted by Owen Pulver

Mokena HS Bldg 2013
Submitted by Owen Pulver

CONTINUING EDUCATION:  According to surviving high school students from the 1930’s, most students completed their last two years of high school at the Joliet Township High School. At this time, the train schedule did not allow the students to take the train to Joliet. For this reason, students carpooled. Since drivers’ licenses were not required, the students could drive themselves.

By the late 1930’s the train schedules changed and the students rode the train to Joliet. Some students did take the train to Chicago and attended classes there.

Orland Park also had a four year high school. They had a bus that picked up students in southern Orland Township. Bob Homerding finished his first two years of high school in Mokena in May of 1941. He was recruited by Orland Park to play basketball during his final two years of high school. Orland Park sent the bus into Mokena to pick him up.

Submitted by Robert Horras (local historian) on January 5, 2008

Graduate of Mokena Grade School in 1961"

In 1951 the Lincoln-Way School District was formed out of several small Districts in the area. Mokena was a part of this action, and continues to be today.
The former Mokena High School building now serves as the Mokena City Hall.
Mokena High School Quick Facts
Year opened:                         1913
Year closed:                          1944
Consolidated to:                     Lincoln-Way School District (1951)
Mokena HS team nickname:   the "Meteors"
Mokena HS team colors:        Green & White 
School Fight Song:                unavailable
We are confident the Mokena High School boys competed in basketball with other schools in the area. Proof of this exists on the IHSA website. Robert Horras provided the following information on Mokena High School athletics:
"There were no sports teams prior to 1929. In the old school, which was built in 1872, there was no gymnasium. But with a gymnasium built in the new school, sports teams were started in the school year 1929-30. The only sport known to have competing teams was basketball. There was boys’ basketball from 1929 through the closing of the high school in 1944. Mokena was very progressive for that time, because for at least three seasons beginning in the fall of 1933 through the end of 1936, there was a girls’ basketball team. The sports team colors were green and white. Their school name was the “Meteors”. These colors and name were also used by the grade school teams."
Boys Basketball
We are certain there were many great feats that the Mokena High School boys basketball program were proud of.  We would love to share them on this site.  However at this point we are only aware of one item.
In the early 1930s District Tournaments were the first round of the IHSA State Playoff format.  Unfortunately this set up led to some very tough mismatches.  Mokena High was involved in one such game on March 07, 1935. On this date the Mokena boys were paired up against the boys of Joliet High School. 
Mokena High School was a two-year high school of 36 students. There were 19 freshman and 17 sophomores (NO juniors or seniors). Of those 36 students there were 12 freshman boys and 5 sophomere boys! A total of 17 boys, all freshmen and sophomores,to compete with Joliet High School, a four year institution, probably appoaching well over 1,000 students.  The outcome was quite predictable, a very lopsided contest and ultimate loss for Mokena. More can be viewed regarding this game on the IHSA website at the address of .
We need the good news from our readers regarding some of the better hardwood court days in Mokena High School's history.  We hope you will contact us and share the information on this page.

Mokena High School Basketball Team 1940-41
Courtesy of Bob Homerding

Mokena High School Basketball 1939-40
Submitted by Bob Homerding

Mokena High School Basketball Team of 1934-35
Submitted by Robert Horras

                                    Team of 1934-35 pictured above:
                    Front Row: Arnold Bertelsen, Carl Behnke, Bill Devlin, Bob Nieman,
                                     Howard Jungles, Wilbert Lauffer
                    Standing:   Russell Nelson, Harold Balaz, Gerald Dunn (coach & prinicipal),
                                     Leonard Bertelsen, Maxwell Williams   
Extra-Curricular Activities 
Schools of Mokena's size usually offered many activities to its students to ensure a good, well-rounded education.  Dances, plays, chorus, band, and clubs were all likely a very important part of the Mokena High School experience.
Mokena historian Robert Horras also relayed the following information on MHS' activities offered:
"THEATER AND MUSIC: For these types of activities, the high school intermingled with the grade school. Prior to1929 play productions and operettas were performed in churches or Hatch Hall on Mokena Street. After the new school was built with a stage and gymnasium, plays and operettas were performed at the school. In 1936 the Mokena Band was formed. It included both grade school and high school students."
Memories and Facts
From former student, Bob Homerding:
"Mokena High School was held in the same building as the grade school.  This is the building that now houses City Hall on the corner of Carpenter and Division streets. 

I attended high school for 2 years at Mokena High in 1940 and 1941.  After two years at Mokena, the students then continued their studies at the school of their choice.  Most went to Joilet Central, but I was recruited by the basketball coach and the superintendant to play for Orland High School.  They even sent a bus to Mokena to pick a few of us up in town and more from the surrounding rural area. 

The Superintendant of Mokena High School and basketball coach was Gerald Dunn during my tenure."
Thank you for sharing this information with us, Bob! 
To Contact Us With More Information On Mokena High School
You contact us via e-mail at  You can also send items to us via USPS at:
IHSGD Website
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il.  60631

Mokena HS Bldg Side - 2013
Submitted by Owen Pulver

Mokena HS Bldg Rear - 2013
Submitted by Owen Pulver