Saying Goodbye To My High School: A Personal Farewell

Feb 6, 2013

Kelley Mitchell, center, along fellow John Marshall students Ed Howard, left and Sherrill Scott, right, in Oklahoma City, OK.
Credit JMHS Staff

I just had one of those "When Life Kicks You In The Teeth" moments.

No, nobody's dying, and, yes, it could be worse, but I'm still reeling a bit.

I've found out that my high school is being torn down.

John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. 

The school we all couldn't wait to follow our brothers and sisters to, even if I had neither.

The school where I took driver's ed and learned from the wrestling coach who was required to be the instructor one hour a day to 'Don't never 'ccelerate during a turn.'

This is the school where I worked on the John Marshall high school newspaper, "The Advocate," with Thom Shanker, who is now the Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times and occasional guest on NPR, and Kathy Taylor, the former mayor of Tulsa, Okla., who has decided she just might like that job again. 

The school that taught me how to do what I do today.

It was not possible to take one last walk through the halls of my high school; that was last Saturday.

But if I could, I'd have made a beeline for that journalism classroom. 

With the same nondescript floors and walls and windows that tried to take the place of air conditioning.

Not to mention the too-small wooden desks with countless carvings from endless students.

But it's where I learned that being able to write might mean something.

Where I learned to sell the ads that make a newspaper run -- I wasn't very good at it, but I did it.

Where I learned to develop photographs in the darkroom buried inside a cloakroom with those weird chemical smells (and, yes, to kiss a senior who was the photographer in that dim, rosy light.)

But I also learned the importance of journalism. And truth. And trying to put anything and everything into context.

I learned all of this in that journalism classroom where our newspaper advisor / adviser ( we struggled with the Associated Press spelling)  Mrs. Louanne Ward had the only telephone allowed outside the principal's office in 1974.

We could call out to check our facts and to make sure the typesetter was ready when we needed to take the paper in and, later, pick it up from the printer for distribution the next day.

We assembled the paper ourselves at our parents' homes during "Folding Parties." 

I always thought that my high school would be there long after me.

Apparently, not. But what I learned there will.

So I say one last thing to my John Marshall High School and all that I treasure from there: "Go Bears and thanks."

By the way, I still 'Don't never 'ccelerate during a turn.'