Watch your step around Hannibal High's 'Senior Star'

There are stories about the Senior Star at Hannibal High School dating back to the 1930s.

If you're an alumnus of Hannibal High School, you might remember hearing all about the Senior Star - and maybe have stories about it.

The star is as old as the school itself, built in 1933, and the tradition surrounding the star might go back just as far.

For those who didn't attend the school, the star is located just inside the front doors.

It's an ornate, 32-point compass inlaid into the terrazzo flooring.

Nobody knows exactly when it picked up its famous nickname, but one thing is clear. The star was sacred ground for the senior class.

"The rule was, if you were a sophomore or a junior, you did not step on the star," 1967 graduate Ron Hendren said.

"You actually walked around the star - you didn't step on it," 1970 grad Mark Hedges said.

It might sound like a myth, simply used to scare the underclassmen, but that's not the case.

"You could see the sophomores and the juniors coming down the hall, and when they got to the senior star, they fanned out," Hendren recalled.

But why go to the trouble of avoiding it?

Because school tradition meant there were punishments for those who weren't careful.

Some had to sing the school song on one of two small staircases located in the main lobby.

Others got it a little worse.

"You had to push a penny across the star with your nose," Hendren said with a smirk.

But there was one punishment that topped them all.

"The major punishment was that you handed the sophomore or junior a toothbrush and told them to have at it," he explained.

That's right - you stepped on the star, you scrubbed it clean (or at least a small part of it).

It's important to keep in mind that this tradition wasn't about punishment, it was more about having fun and taking pride in the school.

"We weren't vicious about it or anything, but it was their rite of passage," Hendren said.

"It was tradition, it was fun, and it also taught us respect for our elders, and it also taught us to be responsible for our actions. If you stepped on it, that was your action and you had a punishment - you knew it," Hedges said.

It seems the punishments were different depending on the decade.

Ginnie York, class of 1955, shared a black-and-white photo from 1953 showing a group of sophomore boys standing near the star with their pantlegs rolled up.

It's hard to tell if this was indeed a punishment for stepping on the star, but you have to think it's a good method of identifying offenders.

And according to Ron Hendren, the tradition goes back even further than the 1950s.

"(My mother) graduated in 1937, and I asked her if they had the senior star and she said 'yes'," he said.

That was 77 years ago.

But in that span, the tradition - pennies, toothbrushes, and all - has faded.

Mark Hedges says that was the case when his kids attended the school.

"My daughter now is 43, and my son is 33, and they've never mentioned anything like that," he said.

The same goes for this year's sophomore class.

Class of 2017 students Tatum Schappaugh and Austin Holman both said the tradition no longer existed, only the name of the star.

Times change, apparently.

But Hannibal High School will always have the star, emblazoned in the hallway, a silent reminder of past generations.

The tradition might be gone, but the pride and memories attached to it aren't going anywhere.

"The senior star, when I was a senior, was one of the cleanest parts of the entire high school," Hendren quipped.

Do you have any memories of the Senior Star? Share them in the comments section below.

Also, watch KHQA News at 6 Tuesday night to learn about a part of Hannibal many locals might not know about, located on one of the highest points in town.