I closed my eyes a bit and breathed in the ambiance of the old building, with its dark brick exterior and wide hallways and the heavy, aged wooden doors that still dominated the corridors of the almost 100-year-old school. Although original wood floors are now covered with vinyl tiles, and formerly high ceilings have been lowered with florescent lighting installed, without sounding redundant, the place definitely emitted “old school”.
It was almost a time-travel experience, with the ghosts of former female students wearing floor-length dresses and young men in long-sleeved shirts and knickers moving about in the shadows. I also saw ghosts of the Charleston and jitterbug sets, and of those who wore poodle skirts with starched petticoats and boys who strutted around in white buck shoes. Then there was the generation whose boys sported flattop haircuts and horned-rimmed glasses, and whose girls styled their hair in the “bubble” and “flip” styles and wore cat-eye glasses.
With a small stretch of the imagination, it could easily have been a scene from the movie “Hoosiers”.
But it wasn’t. It was the 11th annual Adamson Alumni All-Class Reunion, and the place was buzzing with activity.
Each April, the Adamson Alumni Association holds the event, not at a ballroom or other venue. No, not for these folks! They host it at the school, and for several hundred alumni — and often their family members — it’s a day of remembering how things used to be, reuniting with old classmates and sometimes those who came either before or after.
Constructed in 1915, Adamson was originally christened Oak Cliff High School, and until 1935, it remained so. But in December 1935, the school’s popular principal, William Hardin Adamson, passed away, and the Dallas School Board immediately decided to rename the place in his memory.
The institution holds such a string of famous alumni that it’s almost difficult to believe: Ray Price, Brenda Broadnax (the first Miss Teenage America), U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright, Red Bryan, Lance Armstrong’s mother, Michael Martin Murphey (who at the 2010 reunion led a cheer, along with other former cheerleaders, on the school stage — in his cowboy duds!), B.W. Stephenson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the original Texas A&M 12th Man: E. Gill King, just to name a few … and that doesn’t count all the city and business leaders, teachers, doctors, lawyers and athletes that the school has produced over the decades. Adamson was the first Dallas high school to win a state football championship (1923), and in 1964 the Leopards only lost out in the final game of the 4A state basketball championship. It’s indeed a rich history.
The welcoming entry area highlights the school crest embedded in the granite flooring (a gift from the class of ’65) to greet visitors ascending the interior front stairs. (Although the trip up the exterior stairs was already exercise enough for most of us old-timers. Whew!)
Inside, tables offered Leopard gear available for purchase and one to sign up new members. Lon Oakley manned his table, selling and signing copies of the second printing of “Oak Cliff Boys”, and then there were the displays of vintage AHS memorabilia. Association president John Ruiz and other alumni were adorned in the official royal blue shirts with the association’s logo embroidered on the pockets, and, well, it projected a nice, welcoming experience. They do it right!
The association’s quarterly “Alumni Acorn” newsletter is always chock-full of interesting Leopard news, while its website, adamsonalumni.com, welcomes visitors with great music (let’s hear it for the school fight song!) and stays pretty well on top of all things Adamson.
I enjoy driving by the old three-story building when I’m in the area. It just feels good. Though not an Adamson alumna myself, my mother, husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and my children’s godmother all graduated from Adamson. If Oak Cliff was a building instead of a large community, Adamson High School would be its cornerstone. The school’s place, on the corner of Ninth and Beckley, is iconic and steadfast.
The reunions remind me of the importance of history, heritage and tradition. Unlike the rest of Dallas, Oak Cliff is a big, extended family and has been for more than a century. And for those who lived and grew up and attended school here over the decades, if we follow the trail backward, all roads lead to Adamson.
Hats off to the AHS alumni! You are preserving our heritage — and preserving it well.