Fifty years ago, the Woodrow Wildcats joined the rest of America in leaving to fight the Axis in the dark days following Pearl Harbor. The cats were ready. Under the leadership of Cols. Neher and Royster, Lt. Hooper and Sgt. Forster (who won a purple heart in the Spanish-American War), Woodrow built the largest ROTC program in America. For nearly two decades, a dozen companies, rifle teams and the beat of two marching ROTC bands dominated the school.
Uniforms often were required (a welcome option for those who couldn’t afford school clothes during the Depression), and an obstacle course was established next to the country club.
The school’s basement was converted for use as a rifle range. (The range remains, and the basement also can be used as a fallout shelter). During the summer, cadets went to Camp Dallas to compete with ROTC programs from other schools.
During that period, Woodrow’s group brought home many shiny, Art Deco trophies.
Many girls marched in a drum corps called the Crusaders, because President Woodrow Wilson earned the title of “crusader” for his efforts at world peace through democracy.
If you were a boy and weren’t in ROTC, there was no way to avoid the kindly wrath of Principal “Pop” Ashburn. He instituted the draft before Congress.
E.C. “Doc” Harrell opened his drug store and soda fountain in 1926, two years before Woodrow opened. As neighborhood kids approached adolescence, Harrell’s (now the former Maine St. Seafood building) became the Woodrow equivalent to a binary star system around which everyone’s world revolved.
Even the Lakewood Rats behaved there.
When the boys went off to war, surrogate father Doc Harrell published and distributed a booklet to the soldiers overseas. Called “My Hometown”, it featured pictures and news of Lakewood and Dallas.
Harrell advised the boys: “Remember, your hometown is the best. In the best state and the best country on Earth.”
Many Woodrow grads credit this morale booster with their survival. However, one of those killed from Woodrow was Harrell’s only son, Charles. His plane went down off the coast of Florida and was not found until 1986, when search parties were scouring the waters for remnants of the Challenger space shuttle disaster.
Harrell remained a neighborhood father figure until his death about 20 years ago. His name lives on in Harrell Park.
Kibbles & Bits
CHOIR HONORS: Woodrow students selected to the All-Region Choir include Tate Henderson, Ryan Looper and Trey Pendergrass. Ninth graders selected include Stephanie Cagley, Amy Jones, Joe Theriot, Brennan Wallace and Brantley Aufill. Woodrow’s choir director is Marca Lee Bircher…
BAND HONORS: Wildcat band members selected for All-City Band are Jamie Burch, alto sax; Michael Coy, tuba; Sara Farrier, clarinet; Dominique Leone, trumpet; Matt Olin, tenor sax; and Julio Torres, trumpet. Alternates are Sofia Badillo, flute; Lauren Johnson, alto sax; Ben Ollsen, trumpet; David Sanchez, baritone sax; and Oscar Uribe, trombone.
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