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Turkey Valley at  50
Czech Day Coverage 2011
Turkey Valley Football  2011
Czech Day Coverage 2010
Click to enlarge photos
Ft. Atkinson News
1961 Turkey Valley Trojans

"It has now been 50 years since the remarkable
fall of 1961 for the Trojan Football Team"

It is truly one of the remarkable stories in the history of Turkey
Valley.  The 1961 football team in only the second year of the
school went undefeated.

Prior to 1960 none of the players had ever played organized
football.  Some had never even seen a game.  There was very
little football on television and none of the schools that combined
to become Turkey Valley ever had a team.

They had a coach, Don Brooks, who knew how to get the most out
of the eager bunch of young men.  

The Trojans really did not have a field, but used what is now the
Lawler softball field as their "makeshift" field.  They had one set of

Although the district was comprised of the same towns as today
there were still high schools in St. Lucas and Protivin and most of
the students around Little Turkey still attended high school in
Protivin as well.  The players came mainly from Lawler, Waucoma,
and Ft Atkinson.

Bill Sheridan was the center on the team and in the
interview below he shares his memories of the players, the
school, and The undefeated 1961 Turkey Valley Football
The photo above is of the 1960 team,
but most of the players are the same
as the 1961 team...We did not have
available a good picture to use of the
1961 team.  If anyone has one we
would love to have it to share.

Also if you have any articles or
anything else to share let us know
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Note from the author:

The following excerpt is from my book ‘Depot Street Memories...The Lawler
Stories’ about growing up in a terrific small Iowa town between 1944-1964. This
chapter deals with the consolidation of schools: Fort Atkinson, Lawler, Protivin,
St. Lucas and Waucoma in the fall of 1960. Most of us were leery about giving
up the identity of our respective schools, but in retrospect it was one of the
best things thing ever happened to the area. You will see how starting a
football team was crucial in quickly bringing students and parents together
thanks to one magical season in our second year in the sport.

The printed version of my book can be purchased through my website: www.

It can also be bought as an e-book through NOOK or KINDLE.

Bill Sheridan     

Losing a School—Gaining a Wife

Let’s not kid ourselves. Very few people involved really wanted to give up their
respective high schools to consolidate years before other communities were
forced to do so because of declining enrollments and financial reality. But I will
be the first to admit that it was the right thing to do.

This essay is not intended to be an accurate historical record of Turkey Valley’
s birth. Rather, please consider it simply one man’s recollections and random
memories that impacted my life in so many ways as a member of the 2nd
graduating class of Turkey Valley High School.

Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a great historical event—its overall
significance is lost in the small details. That’s exactly what happened to me as
a sixteen-year old when the consolidation of Lawler, Fort Atkinson and
Waucoma schools took place in 1960 (St. Lucas and Protivin were included,
but did not send students there for a few years since each had their own
Catholic School). I was more interested in chasing girls and sports than the
implications and ramifications of what was occurring academically.

Raised in Lawler, my buddies and I had high regard for the guys from Fort and
Waucoma, although we did not yet know them real well on a personal basis.
Because the schools had competed against each other for years in basketball
and baseball, there was always a mutual respect due to the spirited rivalry in
those games. Fearful of losing town identity, not everyone was excited about
consolidating the schools so the vote to do so was very close. I recall my
mother, Virginia Sheridan (who became secretary to the first superintendant,
Keith O’Connell) asking my brother Mike to come home from Mason City where
he was attending a business college to vote on a bond issue. They were taking
no chances on not having the new school building completed—every vote

I’ve often said that the smartest two things that were done to truly bring the
communities together were:
(1). Building the school in centrally located Jackson Junction;
(2). Starting a football program.
The former was critical because it did not show favoritism to any one of the
three villages over the others. The latter created instant camaraderie between
players and also their parents that still exists fifty years later. Going
undefeated in our 2nd year created an exciting atmosphere on Friday nights,
especially since two of the victories came at the expense of neighboring
schools Fredericksburg (35-0) and South Winneshiek (12-7)! Due to the fact
that none of the three had a football program prior to the merger meant that
there were no ‘experts’ second-guessing the coaches and players. It was
simply a bunch of small town and farm kids learning the sport together—having
a whale of a time in the process.

Many folks reading this either may not remember that the classes of 1961,
1962 and 1963 did not attend the ‘new’ school in Jackson Junction. Rather, we
used the old Lawler High building (which had the nicest gymnasium) for
academics and all three gyms for basketball practice while the new school was
under construction. In addition, our football games and practices were held in
the outfield of the baseball diamond in Lawler, known as Junko Park. That had
a few advantages for the home team:
1.        The lighting consisted of a few poles barely tall enough to handle slow-
pitch softball games; let alone a hundred-yard football field. And they were
only on one side of the action rather than surrounding the field. We got used
to the dim lighting but visitors had a very short time to make such an
adjustment compared to their well lit home fields.
2.        There was no clock or electronic scoreboard, so time and scores were
kept on the field by the referees. I am convinced that we may have lost at least
one game had the opposition hurried up a little bit on the final play. They were
on our 2-yard line with a potential winning drive when the head ref shouted,
“Time’s up. Game over!”
3.        Another important factor was that the field, which was very rough, also
slanted downhill on the south side. So we always did our best to make sure
that’s the way we were going in the final quarter when the players were getting
4.        Most of us put our pads on backwards the first time because we did not
have a clue how they were supposed to work.
5.        We had only home (white) uniforms the first two years so when we went
on the road—our opponents wore their away uniforms.
Other extra-curricular activities that pulled us together were the concert band,
a marching band, class plays, basketball, baseball, track, speech teams and a
Future Teachers of America club.
Today schools take class trips to Washington, DC, New York and Europe. The
class of ’62 took a one-day trip to Como Park Zoo in St. Paul and a baseball
game in Bloomington, Minnesota to watch the Twins. And I do mean a one-day
trip. Up and back the same day on a very bumpy yellow school bus.
Selecting a new name for the school was an important decision, as well as
picking school colors and a name for the athletic teams. Of course, it seemed
logical to take advantage of the Turkey River in choosing Turkey Valley High
School rather than a set of initials followed by one of the towns.
What the school board members failed to take into consideration, however, is
the grief that we took as student athletes early on. There were very few
consolidations at the time. And when it did occur—they normally took the name
of the town in which the high school was located. With our non-conventional
new name, we took intense teasing.
It seems silly now since TVHS has built up such a powerful reputation in five
decades—but it was a tad bit embarrassing to line up across from another
team on the gridiron and hear eleven opponents utter in unison, “Gobble,
gobble, gobble. Here come the turkeys!” (On the other hand—it may have
been one more incentive to hand them their lunch on the gridiron as the class
of ‘62 walked away without a loss).

Since none of the three schools prior to becoming TVHS had utilized a red and
white combination for school colors—those two colors were selected for the
consolidated school. It is my understanding that in later years a coach
attempted to change the uniforms to red and black—but, fortunately, his
efforts were rebuffed by the school administration.

The sports nickname came down to a choice between Trojans and Scarlets
(previously Lawler Fighting Irish, Fort Atkinson Indians and Waucoma Braves).
The guys thought that Scarlets was sissified, so voted as a block for Trojans.
The transition from three individual schools to one consolidated school was
most likely easiest for the freshmen class. It would be the first to complete high
school together for all four years, graduating in 1964. They spent their first
three years in the old Lawler school building and finished the final one at the
Jackson Junction location.

As incoming juniors, it was a bit more of a challenge for us to bond since by
then most deep friendships had already been formed. Many of us were
working part-time jobs with less time to just hang out with new classmates in
those final two years of high school. That being said, however, reflecting while
writing this piece at age 65—I have dear friends from Fort Atkinson and
Waucoma whom I would not have known had Turkey Valley not been formed.
And to take it even one step further—it affected my life more profoundly than
most because it was at TVHS that I met my wife (Renee Einwalter/Fort
Atkinson) of 46-years when I was a senior and she a freshman (class of ’65)!

I am so grateful for having the privilege of being part of Turkey Valley High
when it was a baby. The school has matured into an outstanding example of
academic, athletic and cultural success—but is certainly was fun to be there at
the beginning. I got to graduate with a wonderful group of 43 young men and
women, meet the girl who was to later become the mother of my three sons,
observe my mom serve as a secretary for many years, and eventually observe
my brother Pat become an outstanding teacher in the school system for three
decades before retiring.

About that school name…Turkey Valley. I’m just glad that it wasn’t the Skunk
River that ran through the school district!


The Book above may be about
memories of Bill Sheridan growing up
in Lawler, Iowa in the 1950s, but the
stories he tells just as easily could be
about Protivin, Waucoma, St. Lucas,
Ft. Atkinson, Cedar Rapids,
neighborhoods in Des Moines,
Chicago, New York, Washington D.C
or just about anywhere else.

If you ever grew up anywhere at
anytime you'll find the stories

Click the book above to find out more
of how you can order!  
You'll be glad
you did!!!!!!

To purchase 'Depot Street
Memories...The Lawler Stories' :  


For a look at photos based on stories
from my book about  growing up in the

In 1955 Bill Prochaska of
Rudolphinum HS in Protivin set
the all-time scoring record in
Iowa for a basketball player.  
The record stood for 7 years.  
His team that year were
conference champions.  
Prochaska, now retired after
30+ years as coach and AD at
Upper Iowa University talks
about 1955 and his storied
basketball career
Hear the interview and see
photos and stories from 1955