Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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1700 4th Street SE, Mason City
School Colors - Red and Black
School Mascot - Mohawks

Central & Mason City High School, 1910
Central School was destroyed by fire in 1912.

Mason City High School, year known

Mason City High School, 1910

The red brick High School was built in 1890 east of Central School. The High School building was struck by lightning in 1911 and completely destroyed by flames. The building, insured for $68,000, amassed a loss of $80,000.

The Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Mason City Centennial Issue
Monday, June 01, 1953, Section 7, Page 25

Agitation developed for a new high school. At a special election on Jan. 18, 1916, a proposal to bond the district for $250,000 for a building carried 751 to 594, but a $35,000 proposal for a site lost 716 to 587.

On March 20, 1916, a petition was presented asking for an election on April 21, 1916, to vote on purchasing the half block now [1953] occupied by Radio Chapel and St. John's Episcopal Church and bonding the district for $39,000 to make the purchases. The proposition lost by the narrow margin of 1,096 to 1,013.

On May 31, 1916, a citizens committee suggested [the] purchase of the half block east of the old library building (Iowa Hardware Mutual). On July 7, the citizens of Mason City voted 414 to 282 to bond the district for purchase of this site.

The next day the board started condemnation proceedings to acquire the property. The following October the general contract for the high school was let to H. F. Jones of Cedar Rapids for $194,000. By the summer of 1918 the building was completed.

Mason City High School, 1920's
building completed in 1918 at 220 East State Street

Mason City High School, 1953

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Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Mason City Centennial Issue
Monday, June 01, 1953, Section 7, Page 37


The excellency of Mason City's school system extended into the field of athletics. For years the High School has been recognized for producing top-flight teams. The Mohawks have earned several mythical state championships in football and in basketball, baseball and wrestling tournament competition have won Iowa crowns. Basketball titles were won by the 1935, 1940 and 1943 teams; baseball championships by the 1935-37-38-46 clubs; and wrestling crowns by the 1948 and 1949 teams.

The greatest basketball teams produced by the Mohawks were probably the 1940 or 1943 clubs, both coached by Judge Grimsley. The 1940 team won 32 games and lost none in winning the high school title while the 1943 club also was undefeated in taking 30 straight contests.

Paralleling the achievements in athletics was the development of instrumental music to the extent that the Mason City high school band got nationwide recognition at contests. Starting in 1929 under Gerald S. Prescott and continuing under Carleton L. Stewart, both band and orchestra attended national meets, the outcome of which were awaited with suspense by home folks.

These nationally known bands were a product of a music program that stated with children learning to play instruments while in the grades. Vocal music has also been emphasized. In 1934 the Music Hall was built, one of the first in the county of its kind.

It was the emphasis on band music in the Mason City schools that led indirectly to the giant North Iowa Band Festivals held every June.

NOTE: Gerald S. Prescott, dubbed "the High School's original Music Man," was the Mason City High School band and orchestra director from 1927 to 1931. When he arrived in Mason City the only band was an extra-curricular boys group, known as the Mohawk Band, from which he developed a band from 39 members to 120. He started the instrumental music program at Mason City High School and expanded the band library. Under his direction, high school band members traveled to national contests where they played in mass bands led by John Philip Sousa and Karl King. The band placed second at the Iowa State Band Contest in 1928, first place in 1929, 1930 and 1931. In national contests, the band placed 6th out of 16 in 1930, and 3rd out of 23 in 1931. Prescott left Mason City in 1931 to pursue graduate work at the University of Minnesota where he served as director of bands until 1957; from 1957 to 1967, when he retired, he taught music education courses. He wrote a series of nine training manuels, "The Prescott Technique System" (1931) and a college textbook "Getting Results with School Bands" (1938). Prescott was inducted into the American Bandmasters Association in 1936, was grand marshal and guest conductor at the 1952 North Iowa Band Festival. Prescott was born July 19, 1902, Plymouth, graduated from Upper Iowa University in 1920 with the goal of becoming an engineer but also received a band director's certificate, and earned his master's degree in education at the University of Iowa. He was an honored guest in 1992 at the Mason City High Schools'65th Anniversary Concert. Prescott died at the age of 103 years on November 22, 2005, Tampa, Florida. SOURCE: Gerald S. Prescott obituary, The Globe-Gazette, Nov. 30, 2005.

From the June 27, 1931 issue of the Globe-Gazette, page 3, "I have noted a general approval of the selection of Carleton Stewart to replace Gerald Prescott as director of the high school band. Stewart has endeared himself to the community and proved himself a fine musician [cornet] with the municipal band. Stewart and his buddy, Clarence Andrews, have given generously of their talent here in Mason City and the popularity which they have won attests to the practical benefits of such a course. Both were in the minds of the high school authorities when they set out to find a band director. Stewart's background of public school teaching experience [at Elizabeth, New Jersey] was adequate, too. He will be in a "tough spot" in following one so capable as Gerald Prescott. But I am sure Stewart can do it with credit to all concerned." (Mr. and Mrs. Carleton Stewart moved into the residence formerly occupied by the Prescotts at 213 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. in August of 1931.
~ Globe-Gazette, August 31, 1931)

Carleton L. Stewart, born June 3, 1907, Clarion, Iowa, head of the Mason City High School Instrumental Music department from 1931 to 1950, was the co-founder of the North Iowa Band Festival (1938). He was named to the Distinguished Conductors Hall of Fame of the National Band Association in 1936 and was elected the organization's president in 1960. Stewart was born June 3, 1907, owned and operated Carleton Stewart Music Company, and died in 1985, Mason City.

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Mason City High School, 2010
building completed in 1966.



Transcriptions and Submission by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011; updated December of 2014



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