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 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, 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 be imagined.

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 difficult times.
    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? 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. Humiliating!
    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 mistake again.
    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 to operate.
    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 well trained printers