Bob Howell’s mini-museum pays tribute to Wintersville High School memorabilia
WINTERSVILLE — When Wintersville High School classes are having reunions in the future, Bob Howell predicts alumni will enjoy seeing his school history tribute as part of their festivities.
But Warrior Memories is a place that can be visited and appreciated now.
Howell has set aside part of his Estate Resale business at 1805 Cadiz Road to showcase his ever-growing collection of WHS memorabilia and welcomes visitors who can call him at (740) 264-2344 to arrange an appointment.
As of Nov. 5, Howell officially began making the mini-museum accessible to the public.
“It’s not for profit, no admission, just come, and if you have anything you want to donate, that would be great,” explained the laid-back Howell, who buys and sells estates but has a dedicated section of the building that is devoted to school days gone by.
“This will be an outlet for some of the items,” explained Howell, a 1977 WHS graduate.
How did this come to be?
Howell said he has owned the Cadiz Road building for eight years. “It was an Army surplus store. I sold the store this summer, and everybody wanted to see my collection, but it’s been in my house,” he said. “Everybody wanted to see it, and I figured what better time and location,” Howell said.
“I have collected this stuff for years,” he said, noting he joined a Wintersville Warriors Facebook group a couple of years ago and realized how much interest there is.
“I started looking on this page, and people were, I wouldn’t say enthusiastic, I would say passionate is a better word — passionate for their past. Unbelievable,” Howell said.
He started posting photos on the Facebook page of WHS nostalgic items he had and was “very surprised” by the response, so much so he figured why not start a museum of sorts.
The collection has been amassed since 1993, according to Howell, who said the spring of 1993 is significant as it marked WHS’ final graduating class, given Indian Creek High School, a merging of Wintersville and Mingo high schools, came afterward.
“That’s 25 years,” Howell said of the passing of time since WHS last existed.
And now that Indian Creek High School will be razed as a building program unfolds further fuels an interest in looking back on school heritage, in Howell’s estimation.
“When that happens, people are really going to want to see all that stuff,” he said.
As part of the Indian Creek Local School District’s school enhancement plan, Indian Creek will build new elementary and high schools in Wintersville, and the existing Hills Elementary in Mingo Junction will receive extensive renovations, bringing the building to like-new condition. In total, the projects are estimated to cost around $45 million, of which the state will contribute $18 million. Local funds were secured after voters approved a bond issue on the May 8 ballot, an August news item in the Herald-Star notes. When the work is completed, the district’s new high school will sit on property surrounding the current high school. The new elementary school will be built on the site of the former Bantam Ridge Elementary School.
The “stuff” Howell said he has collected in more than two decades constitutes anything related to Wintersville High School — “things I pursued. I’m to the point now where people see me coming, and they say, ‘We don’t have anything.’ They know me,” he said.
If he goes to a yard sale or estate sale, for example, such memorabilia is first on the priority list.
“The first thing I say is, ‘You got anything Wintersville Warriors?'”
Howell said he has hundreds of pieces in the collection geared from 1928 to 1993– items such as yearbooks, uniforms, diplomas, stadium seat cushions, digital wristwatches, class rings, pendants, tassles, gym bags, pictures, clothing, sport and band letters and more.
“I tell people anything from a pencil to a piece of paper, whatever you got,” Howell said of his museum-worthy criteria.
“It’s either donated, or I pay stupid money for it,” he said. At one garage sale he bought football helmets from an at-first reluctant seller. “I gave them a hundred dollars a piece for them,” he said.
“I’ve had people who have traded me for (vehicle) work for Wintersville stuff because they know I pay good money for it, but lately it’s been donation because of the Facebook page. A lot of people have been donating, which is nice,” he said.
“I tell everybody nothing will ever be sold. If I have three or four of something, I will trade for something that I don’t have, but never put a monetary value on it,” Howell said.
“I also told my wife if something ever happened to me, I want all this to be given to Wintersville, to the town,” Howell said.
“I had a guy call and say there’s an ad in the Herald-Star for Wintersville stuff,” Howell said in sharing a story about how he ends up with items — in this case, something extra special.
It included the school newspaper called Wintersville Hi- Times, Volume I, No. 1, October 1935.
“To me, it’s like the Holy Grail. You can’t get any better than that,” he said.
A history buff, Howell enjoys sharing school history tidbits. The original high school was built in 1928. The first graduating class was 1932. The first football team was the 1935-36 season, originally called the Wintersville Whippets. The school’s original colors were red and white and eventually blue and gold. His mother, Pat Howell, served as a high school secretary for 20 years. What is today home to the Jefferson County Christian School on Fernwood Road served as Wintersville High School from 1931-56. The current high school opened for the 1956-57 school year.
Howell offers a theory about the interest in school nostalgia.
“You get so old in life that there’s not too much to look forward to, so you start looking back. Think about it,” he said
“I have a lot of good memories.”
Howell said he has yearbooks from all the 1950s and most of the 1960s and 1970s.
“I have no ’40s and hardly any ’80s,” he said of his interest in adding to that part of the collection.
There already have been some visitors to Warrior Memories, and yearbooks generate immediate interest.
“Everybody when they come in, that’s the first thing they look at,” Howell said.
Howell welcomes hearing from anyone interested in donating items.
“Instead of throwing it out or leaving it sit in your attic, it will have a good home and be appreciated.”
(Kiaski can be contacted at email@example.com.)