We’ve got high schools and middle schools, and upper and lower and elementary schools. There are magnet schools and alternative schools, ninth-grade centers and private schools. And, we’ve got Montessori schools and charter schools.
Very complicated. But it wasn’t always so.
For decades, the Dallas Independent School District had the same structure: first through eighth grades in one building, ninth through 12th in another — a simple, uncomplicated system. But as the city’s population increased, so did school overcrowding, and younger teens were becoming more sophisticated, which generated a new adolescent cluster. The DISD school board made a decision, and voila! The junior high was created.
Eventually, seventh- and eighth-graders, plucked from elementary schools, and ninth graders, formerly a part of the high school structuring, comprised the new junior highs. The first to be built in Oak Cliff? Boude Storey, in 1933.
In 1944, boys at Greiner Junior High wanted to play football, but the only junior high program at the time was basketball. Unthinkable today, the DISD allowed the Greiner boys who were in the Sunset district to ride their bikes to the high school and play for the Bison JV, nicknamed the “Hamburger Team”.
In the early 1950s, the junior highs were handed a full slate of athletic teams, along with cheerleaders, girls’ drill teams, majorettes and marching band activities. The junior high programs mirrored, on a smaller scale, their high school counterparts.
Thus began the heyday of the junior high.
On the drill team front, there were the Storey Eaglettes and the Greiner Jacketeers. Zumwalt had the Lionettes, Holmes the Tigerettes, Kimball Junior High the Knightelears, Browne the Troyanns, Stockard the Strutters and Atwell the Arboletes — all comprised of ninth-grade girls. Each squad had officers, and there were head cheerleaders, head majorettes and drum majors. Some had flag corps and pep squads. The whole enchilada. (Don’t miss this slideshow with more photos, including the columnist in her Kimball Knightelear drill team uniform.)
Each activity group ordered custom-designed jackets with participation logos on the front, embellished with the student’s name. On the back, factory stitched lettering announced the group’s name and years involved. Athletes earned letter sweaters, while girls flocked to Robert’s Jewelers in Wynnewood Village or to A. Harris to order boot, megaphone or baton charms to wear on chains around their necks. (There were no girls’ sports.)
Junior high football games were played two-to-a-night on Saturdays, normally at either P.C. Cobb or Sprague stadiums. The stands were populated, the stadium lights blazed, and the games were fierce. Track meets were held at different facilities, with the south zone meets at Sprague and the city meet at Cobb. Basketball games took place at either Cobb or Sprague field houses, and baseball games were played on diamonds at the individual schools, as were the tennis team matches.
Before football games, and for important basketball games, students decorated the family cars with crepe paper in school colors and painted white shoe polish messages on the windows. Naturally, parents drove everyone to and from games, and afterward to Kip’s, Goff’s or Phillip’s Freezette for a burger and shake. It was a booming time of participation and camaraderie, and much of Oak Cliff was involved.
In the late ’70s, however, the DISD decided to reinsert the freshmen into the high schools, and to pull up the sixth-graders to the new “middle” schools. These middle schools had sports programs, but they were after-school activities. And each middle school administration decided which extracurricular programs it would offer. Some had cheerleaders and/or drill teams and marching bands. Some didn’t.
As of 2007, the athletic period is back in the DISD school day schedule, for both boys and girls. However, the individual campuses’ administrations still decide which, if any, additional extracurricular activities they’ll offer — much different from earlier times.
The heyday of junior high school, as many of us knew it, is now a forgotten relic. The old Greiner building has been replaced, and the former Jacketeer, Troyann, Arbolete and other drill team uniforms are a thing of the past. Kip’s, Goff’s, and the Freezette are all gone, as well.
All gone, yes. But not forgotten.