Ronald Reagan's high school football team photo, Dixon, IL, 1925
Dixon High School 1924

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In 1924, Ronald Reagan entered Dixon High School with a strong love for football. He wanted to play on the team more than anything, but at 5’3” and 108 pounds, his coach wasn’t even sure they had regulation pants to fit him. He tried out for the team, but didn’t make it as a freshman. He determined that next year he would be ready to play and decided over the summer to make sure he was bigger and stronger for football in the fall. Over the summer, Ronald Reagan took a job -- working for 35¢ an hour – helping build and remodel homes around Dixon. He learned to lay floors, shingle roofs, and work with concrete. Not only did he earn money for his future, but built up his muscles for football.

Ronald Reagan’s brother, Neil, also played football for Dixon High School, although he attended the Dixon Southside campus. Since the Reagans had just moved to the north side of town, Ronald Reagan attended the Northside campus, while Neil decided to remain with his friends at the south campus. The river that ran between their two schools divided the Reagan boys both figuratively and literally as Neil was drawn to a tougher crowd that would fight and frequent a local pool hall while Ronald Reagan began to pursue his studies more seriously, and took elocution lessons from his mother. The Reagan boys began to go their separate ways, even though they shared a small enclosed porch for a bedroom.

In the fall of 1925, Ronald Reagan, a sophomore, was proudly elected captain of the football team – in a newly-established division for players under 135 pounds. He loved football as much as he had dreamed and went on to play varsity football his junior and senior years. By then he was 5’10½”, 160 pounds and a proud right guard and tackle. He also involved himself in writing and acting as president of the Dramatic Club. He worked as art director of the yearbook and vice president in charge of entertainment for the YMCA ’s Hi-Y Club, which was dedicated to “Clean Speech, Clean Sports, Clean Living, and Clean Scholarship.” In his senior year at Dixon High School, Ronald Reagan was elected Student Body President and had his first real leadership experience.

Around the time Ronald Reagan started high school, his church hired a new minister who had three very proper daughters. One of them, Margaret Cleaver, caught Ronald Reagan’s eye and a friendship ensued. Margaret reminded him of his mother – she was short, pretty, had auburn hair and was very intelligent. Ronald Reagan and Margaret were involved in dramatics and leadership at Dixon High School together, and although they kept their relationship at a friendship level until their senior year, by graduation they were very much in love and began to dream of a life together.

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