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A&M Consolidated celebrating centennial this school year
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A&M Consolidated celebrating centennial this school year

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Before Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight, before Pluto was discovered and before College Station was established as a city, A&M Consolidated School was educating students.

Originally established for children of families living on the college campus, the school opened in 1920 with 304 students, supported by what was then known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, according to a historical marker at the current A&M Consolidated High School site on Welsh Avenue.

Students from the surrounding school districts of Wellborn, Shiloh, Rock Prairie and Union Hill began attending the school in 1928, officially making it the A&M Consolidated School.

One hundred years later, the school’s legacy continues as A&M Consolidated High School.

Randy Bond, a member of the A&M Consolidated High School Centennial Committee, said some may wonder why the school’s name has such an obvious connection to the university.

“But once you discover the history, then you realize that the college and the high school are inseparable, and we wouldn’t want to have it any other way than to have A&M in the name of the high school,” he said.

The A&M Consolidated School spent about a month in Guion Hall on the A&M campus and then moved into its own building near where The Quad is now. Then, when space became tight, the high school moved to Pfeuffer Hall, 1945 A&M Consolidated High School graduate Bill Lancaster said.

Lancaster, 92, attended the on-campus school from 1934 to 1939 and said he remembers seeing the Corps of Cadets dormitories being built when he was in fifth grade at the school.

“Before that, it was just field, just open field,” he said.

The idea to open a public school on campus was the idea of then-A&M President William Bizzell, who in 1914 had elected to enroll his children in the Bryan school district, Brazos County Historical Commission member Bill Page said.

“He thought it was important that the professors’ kids were educated during that time,” said Gwen Elder, an A&M Consolidated High School graduate and the school’s current principal. “I want to give credit to the ones who paved the way for all of us to have the opportunity to still be able to attend A&M Consolidated High School or work at A&M Consolidated High School because if it hadn’t been for their vision, there’s no way this school would have been in existence for 100  years.”

The school moved off campus in January 1940 to a site near where College View High School currently sits. The move, which came two years after College Station was incorporated as a city, also marked the start of the College Station Independent School District. The school moved to its current location in the 1970s.

Lancaster said he remembers leaving for Christmas break of his sixth grade year in December 1939 and being told to report back to the new campus in January 1940.

He lived in the College Park area, which his parents helped develop in the 1920s, and said the south edge of the city was Park Place Street.

“It was a very rural setting,” Page said. “It’s hard for us to imagine today just how rural. ... You don’t think about that when you look at A&M today, but it was in the middle of nowhere.”

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As a working agricultural school, he said, the campus had horse pens and cow lots.

The school year began in mid- to late-September to accommodate the farming and ranching lifestyle.

Black elementary-age students in the community attended school in churches, Page said. High school students had to travel to Kemp High School in Bryan until the A&M Consolidated Negro School was established in 1941, according to an associated historical marker. The school’s name changed to Lincoln School in 1946. The site is now home to the Lincoln Center, where the historical marker is located.

Lancaster, 92, said the center of life for A&M Consolidated students was the A&M campus, where there was a grocery store, Heaton Hall, where they got their books, and the YMCA, where the A&M students held yell practice.

“Campus was home,” he said.

With miles of sidewalks accessible to them, Lancaster said, he and his friends would roller skate and ride their bicycles all over campus. All the students, whether they lived on campus, off campus or came in from one of the rural communities, played together, he said.

He said it was on one of those bike rides through campus that he was bitten on the foot by the original Reveille.

Before radios and TVs were widely available, Page said, sports and school plays were an important activity to the community.

Lancaster, who also served on the College Station school board in the 1970s, played cello in the orchestra. The program for A&M Consolidated School’s third annual Little Symphony Orchestra concert from 1936 shows the conductor was Richard Dunn, who led the Aggie Band and developed the famous “Block T” formation.

Bond said one of his favorite things about Consol is the diverse list of successful alumni that includes professional athletes, Grammy Award winners, national news correspondents and actors.

“It almost ties back to its early roots of pulling different people from outlying communities,” he said. “Can you imagine what a hodgepodge — when you’re pulling a kid in 1922 from Wellborn, which was way out there back then and mixing them with the professor’s kids? I don’t think you can really define A&M Consolidated as being a jock school or a geek school or an artists’ school. It’s just part of a fabric of a large cross-section of successful people.”

Elder said she is honored to invest in future generations of A&M Consolidated High School graduates.

“I would have never thought back in the ’80s that I would ever come back to my alma mater and be able to help shape the lives of our young men and women,” she said.

The school had planned to have a big assembly to mark its 100th year, but COVID-19 has halted those plans. Elder said she is talking with students and district administrators to find alternatives to celebrate the milestone.

The Centennial Committee is establishing an endowment through the College Station ISD Education Foundation that will be earmarked for use at A&M Consolidated High School.

To help raise money for the endowment, the committee is collecting donations and offering sponsorship opportunities. Groups or individuals can sponsor commemorative banners or benches and bricks that will be placed in the Centennial Plaza the group plans to develop.

For more information about the centennial, the school and district’s history or to donate, go to www.consol100years.com.

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