HOISINGTON — Time stood still on April 2001 for the small community of Hoisington when the fury of the plains struck with unrelenting force, tearing through the city, destroying hearts and homes.
And for a few moments on the 10th anniversary Sunday, the city remembered the strides that have been made and the healing of the community. Few visible signs remain of that storm, yet it will never be forgotten by those who were there and by those who will forever be bonded because of that one experience.
Hoisington High School stood firm that night, and took the full force of the F-4 twister. Roofs were damaged or collapsed, but the structure remained intact.
That night changed many things, but when the clocks stopped at HHS at 9:15 p.m. in 2001, hope was nearly gone that they could ever be repaired.
Since 1940 when HHS was completed by the Works Progress Administration, the tick tock of the clocks kept the time, ensuring students and teachers were where they were supposed to be. For decades, the clocks located throughout the school, have remained the same while faces once young have become old or passed.
And so it was with Edward J. Schwartz. Strong, handsome and athletic, he too spent four years walking the halls of HHS, graduating in 1947 after hearing the chiming of the bell.
Like so many of his generation, he enlisted in the army with his buddies Doyle Webb, Joe Wolf, Virgil Chapman, Francis Behr and Gene Sears to fight in the Korean conflict.
On November 26, 1950, the Chinese struck in force and Eddie’s unit was heavily engaged. Paying the ultimate price, Eddie died.
For his valor in action, he was awarded the Silver Star. Because of heavy fighting, plus the fact the battle was in communist North Korea, Eddie’s body was not recovered from the scene until 2000.
Positive identification was not made until January 2009, and Schwartz was buried in Hoisington on Memorial Day in 2009 with military honors.
Efforts had been made to start the tornado-damaged clocks once again that kept Eddie and so many others on-time, but with no results. The district was considering installing a digital clock.
However, long-time teachers Judy Ray and Randy Willis were preparing to retire last year, and they wanted the clocks restored.
Willis gave a history of the clocks. "It is a very unique system and is impervious to heat and cold," he said. The clock system was made by International Machine which eventually became IBM. The master block is valuable, worth about $4,000 and is located in the main office at HHS. There are also clocks on the second and third floor.
"There is not another lock in the state of Kansas like this," said Willis.
To find a repairman, Ray scoured the internet and eventually found a company in Manhattan. Through the donations of several local contributors and major contributor, the family of Eddie Schwartz, the clock was finally repaired.
Once again the community and the clocks at HHS are whole again. "At this time I dedicate the restoration of the Hoisington High School’s original clocks to Lt. Edward J. Schwartz," said Superintendent of USD 431 Bill Lowry on Sunday.