Texas History: Send us your high school tales from across the state
- Calling all Think, Texas readers from across the state: We want your memories from high school.
- Nostalgia, serious history, adventure tales all welcome.
- To get the ball rolling, read some memories from old Austin High.
Allow me to present a challenge.
On March 25, the Austin American-Statesman published a story about long-ago times at old Austin High School. I asked alumni to send us their most vivid memories of their years at the recently renovated Rio Grande Street campus for a future column. I’m also gathering memories of graduates from old Anderson High School in East Austin.
Scores of former students have responded, some of them at length. No really, these memories could be published as a small book. I read about some really radical student adventures, but also learned from various readers about the successful integration of Black students at Austin High that began as early as 1957.
Why not try the same challenge with the statewide readership of Think, Texas?
In order to get the ball rolling, let me share a tiny sampling of the short, sharp memories of old Austin High generated by the previous story:
Ezekiel “Zeke” Robert Castro: My class of 1957 still gets together for “First Fridays” every month at Central Market. We had to stop meeting last March when we were hit with the pandemic. Now, there is talk about resuming “First Fridays” when it becomes safe.
My wife, Alice “Aly” Mercado-Castro, likes to tell the story of her typing teacher whose classroom was just across the hall from the school cafeteria and next to the student store. The typing teacher did not like her students talking when they were typing their assignments and would say, “more tap, less yap.” Alice says that sometimes she would get mixed up and say, “more yap, less tap,” and all the students would laugh hysterically to themselves and to each other!
Sidney Brient Lock: Just a quick story about our beloved classmate, Brian Newberry, who owned and ran Tarrytown Pharmacy for many decades, as did his father and now his son, Mark Newberry. Brian and I were close friends since childhood. When we were seniors (‘63) at Austin High, we decided to skip school. Brian said he would go into the Dean of Men’s (office) and tell him he wasn't feeling well.
The Dean of Men would then have Brian call his mother (me at a pay phone outside the school) and ask her if Brian could come home. The Dean of Men then asked to speak to his mother (me). After we hung up, the Dean said: "Brian, I am going to let you go but you have the youngest sounding mother I have ever heard."
Jeffee Palmer: One memory I'll never forget, primarily for its peculiarity, was the rule imposed by an English teacher, Mrs. Atkins, whose classroom was on the third floor on the southeast corner. Since her class was after lunch, many students would arrive early and tended to congregate by the windows looking out on West 12th Street. Pursuant to Mrs. Atkins' directive, however, we could stand no closer than three squares of linoleum from the windows, lest passing drivers look up to see our faces, which Mrs. Atkins feared would appear more as prisoners dreaming of freedom than students hard at work.
Susan Brown Stint: Yes, the tunnel under West Avenue between the main high school building and the gym and band hall on the west side of the street was real. The entrance to the tunnel was in the basement of the main building, so it was faster to cross above ground if it was not raining. I remember the tunnel being about as wide as the school halls, but with a low ceiling.
Scott Chapman: My memories include: Trying to learn Latin from a French teacher, not easy. Singing in the exceptional choir under Ms. (Virginia) Decherd that had a recording played on NBC radio nationally. Hearing the loud boom of a cherry bomb exploding in the tunnel to the gym. Foot races to the lunch line. Football and basketball games that were packed with students.
One humorous event occurring in chemistry lab where our teacher, Mr. Dockall was showing us how railroad rails were welded together with some sort of magnesium compound. He carefully put a little pile of the compound on an asbestos screen held on a ring mount above a pan full of sand. He lit it and here came a flash brighter than the sun. The compound melted through the asbestos, the sand and the pan.
When the smoke cleared, a smoking cup of molten welding material had burned into the lab table top leaving a 4-inch-wide crater. At our class 50-year reunion, we went back to tour the old campus and I went up to the lab room, and sure enough, there was Mr. Dockall's famous crater.
Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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