The wind whistles through the old Miami Central High School building at 1781 NW 95th St. Much of it has been demolished, save for a few walls and the red-brick hearth chimney of the school cafeteria.
But for those of us who remember the 1960’s Central, it was a one-story, cutting-edge architectural marvel! Its ceiling, with its geometric open-air rectangular windows, brought us a dazzling, ever-changing floor design awash in pinks and grays.
We who attended Central High from 1968-1971 didn’t realize we were witnessing history. The public schools had just begun to become integrated. All of us learned to study and socialize harmoniously, in part because of our two principals, Dan Wagner and Cleaophas Allgood.
Wagner always arranged for “rap sessions” between students saying: “Reach out, make friends with one another!”
Allgood arranged for a school-wide “cultural cook-off.” I baked my Swedish limpa, or bread.
An African American student brought sweet-potato pie, and a Hispanic student brought in arroz con pollo.
Together we sampled each other’s food and cultures.
In typing class, we used a manual Royal typewriter with cloth ribbons, taking care not to let the keys stick together
.In journalism class, I’d exclaim, “I’m going to get something in print in the school paper if it kills me,” to everyone’s giggles.
I submitted lots of stories, but our journalism teacher, Miss Wilkerson, only published a few. She’d exclaim: “Think of something unique that no one else would even think of!”
I thought I had discovered a “perfect” story that would surely be published. I noticed several pigs (in temporary care of the Future Farmers of America) had escaped their makeshift cages and had run to Central’s small pond, known as the “reservoir.”
The FFA director jumped in to rescue them. I ran over for a news quote and he said, “Please, not now!”
I was undaunted. I pounded out the following story on my cloth-ribboned Royal typewriter:
“Surely Mr. Duffy must have felt the sweat trickling down his neck, that he was wallowing in the muck and mire as he stared at the figures swimming before his eyes. He might have even wondered if he was getting in over his head. Was he at a faculty budget meeting? No! He was literally wallowing in the muck and mire of the reservoir, and the figures swimming in front of him were several tiny piglets.”
Wilkerson, soundly rejected it, saying: “It’s undignified to write about one of our faculty wallowing in the mud. But I must say, he was very heroic!”
The new Miami Central High is now a towering, mint-green three-story building. It still bears our old Central motto, ad astra, per aspera (to the stars with difficulties).
I’m sure Central’s current students will become far more technologically advanced than we could ever dream possible.
But I hope they will always remember and embrace the principles Wagner and Allgood taught us, to reach out to one another and appreciate each other’s cultures.