|Woodlawn: A beautiful sight for us Knights|
"Just on what I've heard," she explains. She wasn't there; she's from Jamestown and went to school at Ringgold, some 35 miles from Shreveport.
But it was our Camelot, like the ideal land of folklore, of King Arthur; like in the early '60s, the Kennedy White House, or so we heard and read. Civility and nobility, and all that.
I'm writing this because this weekend the Woodlawn Class of '63 -- the first class to attend the school for all three years -- is having its 50th reunion. Members from other classes are invited. There will be some memories.
They'll remember our sparkling new buildings and the beautiful quadrangle -- my favorite spot on campus, although the gymnasium and the varsity dressing room and equipment storage areas were where I spent hours.
They'll remember the Camelot theme. We were the Woodlawn Knights. The school was located in the Sherwood Park neighborhood; not Sherwood Forest, but close. We called our place the Castle.
|Woodlawn's Sir Knight|
We had the Herald (school newspaper) and the Accolade (yearbook) and an Accolade pageant and a Knights' ball in which we had a king and a queen, senior Knights (actually "knighted" by the king) and Ladies, junior squires and ladies-in-waiting, and sophomore pages and maids. I remember references to the Round Table ... maybe that was our Student Council.
We had, we thought, the best school colors (scarlet and royal blue), the best alma mater, fight song, cheerleaders, pep squad, band, the best 4-H group, the top faculty and administrators ... and the best kids in town.
We know we had the best fans anywhere. The deeper we went into the 1960s, the more fans we had. Especially for the football team because in the '60s no Class AAA school in Louisiana had a better record.
And by the time the '60s were done, we thought we had the best tradition.
All those kids -- from Sunset Acres, Southern Hills, Cedar Grove, Summer Grove and from points in the Werner Park and Caddo Heights areas -- were pretty proud of that place.
We carried the Woodlawn tradition out into the world. When I went into sportswriting at The Shreveport Times, it was difficult to be impartial because I was still very much a Knight.
But here's what I found as I began visiting other schools regularly -- I loved them all, I loved all their traditions. Loved visiting the athletic departments and school offices, walking the hallways, admiring the memorabilia in the trophy cases.
Especially at Byrd and Fair Park, and Bossier, and Jesuit -- our city rivals in the '60s. All of them with wonderful traditions. And -- yes, you're reading this correctly -- they were all terrific schools with great kids.
Lots to be said for the City of Byrd, the Reservation at Fair Park, the River Rats at Bossier, and Snoopy's Squadron at Jesuit. Extend that, though, to any school in North Louisiana; it was neat to visit them all.
And Ringgold became a special place to me, too. I knew Ringgold from its two state basketball championships in the early 1960s. Beatrice says, "It was one of the best schools academically on its level in the state, tight-knit and nurturing, and filled with tradition, just like the big schools."
One difference: We had about 550 in my graduating class, about 1,500 students at Woodlawn in the early 1960s. Bea had 26 in her graduating class, about 125 students in grades 10-12, and Ringgold's school/campus had kids from kindergarden through senior year.
Our school had this: togetherness.
|The Woodlawn shield|
In that regard, we were like one of our neighbor school, Fair Park. There were more well-off kids at Byrd and Jesuit, more of a military presence at Bossier (and later Airline) because of Barksdale Air Force Base.
Most of our dads were World War II veterans; most of our mothers were stay-at-home moms, maybe with a parttime job but most often not.
At Woodlawn, there was a spirit, a bond that's hard to describe. I felt as if those kids, that school, "belonged" to me, and I belonged there. I'd like to think others felt the same way.
I was asked by a Class of '63 member for some memories of the '62-63 school year, my sophomore year. I began with this: From the first day -- actually starting in spring football practice when I was still a ninth-grader at Oak Terrace -- you realized how important, how business-like, football was at Woodlawn. Winning football.
When we got there on Aug. 15, the start of football practice, we were totally dedicated to that program. And, yet, those coaches made it a lot of fun, too, because they were some of the best people I've known. So were the young men who dressed in those Knights' uniforms ... for years.
But there was great enthusiasm about every program at Woodlawn, far beyond athletics.
As the school grew through the '60s, and enrollment increased, Woodlawn became a power in every sport, peaking in 1968-69 with state championships in football and basketball, a third-place in track and field, and a baseball team that went to the state tournament for the first time.
And I'm sure that every other aspect of Woodlawn grew, too.
The school began changing in 1970 when Southwood opened, followed a few months later when Shreveport schools integrated almost totally. Woodlawn remained a wonderful place for a couple more decades, but it wasn't the same. It wasn't Camelot anymore.
Yet, I think about this -- it wasn't ideal; it was just real life. We had kids that drank -- yes, even at the Knights' Ball, I heard; we had those who smoked (if caught, that meant a suspension or dismissal from the athletic teams); drug use -- marijuana -- was still a few years away. I also heard we had kids who engaged in sex (couldn't prove it by me).
There was little, or no, talk about gays -- the word used in that context then was always offensive to me -- or same-sex marriage. No talk of mixed-race marriage; most of us never went to school with a black person, even in college.
Blacks were a separate world; they might as well have been on a separate continent (and that's what many people suggested in those days). Yet Union High School was maybe not more than a mile from Woodlawn; in our sophomore year, because of roadwork, we went by there every day on the way to school.
We had future alcoholics (maybe alcoholics even then), future drug users, those whose marriages failed (some many times), those who married while still in high school; those who married other Woodlawn kids, and made it work -- even through today.
The early 1960s were a much simpler time, and it was mostly, a good time. But Camelot -- the folktale, play and movie, and the Kennedy White House -- didn't have happy endings.
We had, in Sunset Acres and at Woodlawn, a future serial killer and a serial bank robber; both died in prison, the convicted killer in the electric chair.
Woodlawn was special, but not perfect. Great memories, though, and the Class of '63 reunion will respark those. Maybe those Knights and Ladies will talk about the Castle in Sherwood Park this weekend while they wear scarlet and royal blue, and sit around round tables.