These pages contain text of the things we remember
from our high school experience. Read and and enjoy!
Ki-Yi, Ki-Yi, Ki Yickety Yen,
Come out of the woods! Sandpaper your chin!
We’re rough, we’re rugged, We’re notched like a saw!
Black Shirts, Black Shirts! Ra!! Ra!! Ra!!
It can still hear that call resounding through the hallways of old Central.
I can still see the groups of boys dressed in Black Shirts, with their
arms around each other shoulders in a circle, and shouting that call with
all that they were worth. Oh! Those were exciting days!!
It was during my first or second week at Central High that I was stopped
while walking down the hallway on the second floor by Kenneth Bates and
W.L Hardaway. They were recruiting for new members for the Black Shirts,
and they were looking for Sophomores who would join their ranks. Of course,
all of the other pep clubs were doing the same thing. So there was a lot
of recruiting activity going on in the hallways and classrooms. I felt
it was an honor that I had been stopped, and the manor and demeanor of
Kenny and W.L, with their big grins and friendly approaches won me over,
and so I said I would pledge. To this day I can still see the mischief
in the grin of Kenny Bates when we talked. At that time, pep clubs abounded
at school. There were four of them: For the boys there was the Black Shirts,
the Red Shirts, and for the girls, the Black Skirts and the Red Skirts
Each tried to outdo the other with the number of recruits they could get
at the beginning of each year. Each had its own pledge month, followed
by its own "hell week", and then initiation into the club for new members.
As I look back on it today, I think it was somewhat of a character building
thing for a young person to go through that regiment. We all had a lot
of fun, and everyone who endured the torture of the ordeal looked forward
to the next year when he/she would be dishing out the punishment instead
of taking it. I know, I did.
The first thing that Kenny and W. L. told me is that they would be my
sponsors, and that I was to do what they told me to do. They told me to
make a shoe shine kit and a paddle for myself, and make sure that I had
them with me wherever I went, and that it was my duty to shine their shoes
anytime they demanded it. In fact, as a lowly pledge, the lowest of the
low, the dumbest of the dumb, I was to be their obedient servant, constantly
at their beck and call.
So I went home that day and made a shoe shine kit out of plywood and
pine boards, made myself a paddle out of a pine 1 x 4 board; sanded and
painted it black. I also painted the shoe shine box black, and bought a
brush, shine rag, and a can of black and a can of brown shoe polish to
equip the box. The next day, I, the lowest of the low, and the dumbest
of the dumb showed up at school with my box, my paddle and even my school
books in toe.
It was during the first recess of the day that my sponsors spotted me
and told me that they needed shoe shines, and I needed to accommodate them
at that moment. Of course, I never finished the shining during the 10 minute
break, but did learn what life was going to be like for the next month.
And it was all in good nature fun. Everyone enjoyed the hub- bub that went
on during the pledge month and hell week that followed. Sometimes the events
did get, what some of our teacher sponsors considered "slightly out of
hand" but nothing occurred to cause us any pain....no some things did.
Whenever I received a swat from my sponsors for not acting soon enough,
or making a slight mistake in shining shoes, or doing what-ever other bidding
that they wished at the moment. The halls resounded that first week of
pledging with the slap of swats that the pledges received whenever they
were not 'toeing the line" so to speak.
I wonder now what the teachers of this day would say if students showed
up on class carrying the boxes and paddles that we had to keep handy, or
what they would say when the students came dressed in those gosh-awful
garbs that were required of us during hell week.
The last week of the pledging for a pep club was called hell week. Our
Hell Week consisted of wearing a gunny sack for an undershirt., wearing
our clothes inside out, with a necklace made of garlic tied around my neck,
and doing other crazy things to make us look and feel obnoxious. And some
of the club members were real creative. Sometimes we were required to do
such things as tie a string around a very sensitive part of our anatomy,
bring it up through our pants and inside our shirt and have it available
out of the neck of our shirts. . Whenever the sponsor wanted to make sure
he had our attention,....you guessed it. He would pull the string. This
type of behavior was frowned on by our teachers and administration, but
it did happen, of course. I still think this is a hilarious situation,
but I can see how it might have been distasteful to some and a bone of
contention by those that thought the pep-club situation was getting out
of hand. Was it? I really don't think so. With all of the fond memories
I can conjure up today, how could it have been?
After shining shoes for 3 weeks, and getting struck by my own paddle
numerous times, it was time for our initiation. It was held one evening
on an acreage near Lake Hefner. We all assembled thinking that the worst
would happen to us, and sometimes it seemed it did. We were treated with
all of the distasteful things our "sponsors" could think of before they
conferred the right of full membership to us at the closing of the evenings
festivities. I can remember now what pleasure it was to swallow a raw egg,
receiving those final swats, and having to do every crazy stunt that could
The pep clubs held regular meetings, on a bi-weekly basis if memory
serves me correct. At these meetings attended by all members and our faculty
sponsor, we had a riotous time and somehow took care of the business at
hand necessary to run our organization.
Both of the boys pep clubs, elected a member from the girls pep clubs
to be our sweet heart. I remember the girl who was a member during my Jr
year. It was Pat Stephenson Boy, was she ever a cute trick! I think we
were all secretly in love with her. She had a very good friend by the name
of Paula Sue Nyswonger that was also with us a great deal of time.
The Black Shirts had a choral group that I think was second to none.
You could literally hear a pin drop when the group sang our school songs,
and of course other a cappella numbers. We also sponsored a dance during
the year, and of course attended all of the school athletic events. We
wore a black jacket adorned with a Central Cardinal on the back side, and
our names above the left front pocket. Were we ever sharp!!
Vernon Copeland '49
Note: The following appeared in the fall edition of the Sooner Spirit,
and is published here by permission of the Sooner Spirit Editorial Staff.
B. H. Thomas and the Printing Trade Class at Central
by Wilson Meek '46, Printing Trade Class Graduate
Long before the advent of sophisticated Vo-Tech schools. Central war the
innovator of vocational and trade classes providing education and on-the-job-training
for students eager to learn a vocation. Because our scholorship committee
has structured our fund toward potential vocational students. this story
of a dedicated teacher, emphasizes the importance vocational training has
played for many Central graduates. B. A.
Thomas joined Central's faculty as printing Instructor in 1929 and had
tremendous impact, on the school and the printing industry. He was a printer,
Linotype operator and former-state legislator from Arkansas, destined to
play a major role in the lives of hundreds of printing students.
By 1940 to 1950, Central printing graduates were common in management and
ownership of printing companies throughout the city. Thomas had a mission,
not just to teach, but to prepare his students to make a good living in
Sophomores were eligible for Beginning Printing. Successful completion
enabled juniors and seniors to enroll in a "pre-apprentice" training, at
a time, when apprenticeship to become a joumeyman printer was six years.
Many graduates cut this time in half.
Thomas' reputation spread-demands, by employers, to hire his students were
more than he could supply. Later printing became part of the Distributive
Education program, led by E. Clay Venable, faculty member in 1939. Students
secured part-time jobs during junior and senior years. Mr. Venable visited
each ernployer, gave a grade and school credit for work experience, based
on the employer's performance evaluation.
This was a tough course--with a Lot of dropouts. A stern disciplinarian,
Thomas ran the class as close to a commercial print shop as possible. He
was the undisputed "boss." The three hour class began at 7:00 a.m., so
students could complete their required subjects and be at work by 1:00.
Even after 40 or 50 years, former students are nostalgic in recognizing
Thomas contributions to their lives. Opinions of him range from respectful
to admiring to outright effection. Nearly all have a story to tell about
dodging (or trying to) 'Ihomas' discipline. He was teaching boys to do
a man's job in a man's world. One might expect him to hyperventilate when
a girl enrolled. Billie Jean Bailey Val Braeht '41, gave it the test...showing
up for the beginning class in 1939. Unpredictable, Mr. Thomas was so proud
of Billie that he put her picture in the newspaper.
The International Typographic Union allowed Thomas' students to take their
apprenticeship course. Billie made straight "A's", and Thomas continually
held her up to the boys as the example, to whip them into shape. Whatever
fears Billie Jean may have had about being the First and Only girl were
soon replaced by the very real handicap of being left-handed. EVERYTHING
in letterpress printing was designed for the right-handed person! Especially
the composing stick, used for hand setting type in individual letters-the
first thing a would- be printer had to master. Agony for a 'wrong hander."
Handset type was expensive and easily lost. Mr. Thomas emphasized if you
dropped a piece of type, you not only picked up that piece, but found anotber
piece the guy before you had dropped and failed to retrieve. Billie Jean
spent a lot of time picking up type. She persevered and received Honorable
Mention as Best Trade Class student at graduation in '42.
With trepidation she faced her first written final exam in the Trade Class.
A three-hour, technical test covering many different printing operations,
it was going to be a beast. With trembling hands she opened the test. It
did not contain a single printing question. Instead, it covered how you
acted at home. Do you respect your parents?...do your chores without complaining?
How do you treat your brothers and sisters? Thomas thought his job was
to instill character as well as skills. Quaint idea, right?
Billie Jean worked for Westem Bank and Office Supply (Wesbanao) print shop
during the summer of 1939 for 30 cents an hour; until 1947 when she left
to become a mother. She returned to work at Carpenter Paper company then
became print manager for WKY Radio/ TV for 27 years until retirement. Commenting
on her printing career, she said. "I loved every minute of it"
Following close on her heels was Wilson Meek '46, who also worked at Westbanco
in his first Trade Class year- 1944. Things were looking up--he started
work at 45 cents per hour. Beginning as a hand compositor, he later ran
the Monotype typesetting machine, which was almost obsolete, even then.
Wilson was chosen to replace Billie, running a one-of-a-kind specialty
press for printing 3-to-a-page bank checks. So we have the first recorded
history of a female graduate teaching a male graduate how to do his job.
One of Wilson's vivid memories was the scathing rebukes one could expect
when he made a mistake in class. Mr. Thomas could make the word, "Pal",
a term of affection or the beginning of aloud public and humiliating rebuke,
followed by a lecture on doing things the right way. "Pal" he would say.
"You'll never make a dollar an hour doing it that way." It was effective
teaching. because Wilson says he was always careful not to make THAT same
A funny--almost tragic-happening involved Milburn Lackey, the undisputed
best pupil in the class..always left in charge when Thomas went to the
boiler room for a smoke. While he was so engaged one day, all the male
class decided to 'pants" Lackey as a joke. They started playing keepaway
with Lackey's trousers. Unfortunately, Lackey's pants landed on top of
a light fixture--it fell with a great crash. Panic ensued, we were still
cleaning up the mess when Mr. Thomas walked in. "Pals' he said, 'What happened
here?' Lackey replied, "I was sweeping the floor with a push broom, and
one of the guys goosed me in the side and Ijumped. The broom handle hit
the fixture and knocked it down." Mr Thomas cast a skeptical eye over the
entire class and said, "OK. Let's clean it up." Milburn was a hero!
In spite of such antics, Wilson went on to make his living from printing
and the graphic arts for 50 years. He was at Wesbanco for seven Years before
joining Norick Bros. as a letterman press foreman. In 1957, he switched
to the night shift so he could attend day college classes. After two years,
he became a job estimator for Lunn Printing and he eventually was production
manager, salesman and general manager, under three different ownership's
and three different names. Later, Wilsan established his own company, brokering,
consulting and promoting for graphics-related businesses. He is still consulting
with printers-when it doesn't interfere with his retirement.
The Linotype operator was king of the class, as he was king of most commercial
Shops. It represented the largest advancement in type composition since
the Chinese invented movable type. It also required considerable skill
Don Eckel '46 filled a special place, both in class and in Mr. Thomms'
life. Don was a serous student of the Linotype, and recognizes Thomas as
the mentor who inspired his successful career spanning half a century.
Mr.Thomas had an artificial right leg, walked with a decided limp and drove
a Specially equipped car with a hand throttle. Don had the unique privilege
of driving that car once a week. Times being what they were, Thomas supplemented
his teacher's salary by working as a linotype operator for the Daily Oklahoman
on weekends. It was Don's responsibility to drive to fhe newspaper to collect
Mr. Thomas' wages in cash.
Thomas somehow acquired a second Linotype machine for the school Shop.
It was completely worn out but he and his student Operators replaced worn
and missing parts to bring it to Production status, enabling twice as many
students to learn to set type. He expected his students to do what the
most seasoned commercial Operators could do--and they did!
In 1952, Don became a partner in a company, combining with Universal Typographers.
In 1969 he bought a small typeshop which became Eckel Typesetting. For
the next 22 years he was in business at 8th and Hudson, serving most of
the printers in the Oklahoma City area.
Computer typesetting almost doomed the Linotype, but Don persisted. Most
type shops went out of business. Soon, only Eckel was left. Demand for
his product was down, but so were the companies Supplying it. In 1991,
Don built a building near his home and became a one-man business.
Linotpye composition is still required for special printing, and Don continues
to supply most of it from this part of the country.
The Printing Trade Class survived after Mr. Thomas because of teachers
such as Cecil Tansell, Joe Bush and Mr. Johnson. It is just one of the
many programs at Central which had great Impact on Oklahoma City more Importantly,
enabling many students to lead honest, productive and happy lives...as
well trained printers