The Cowboys are dead; Long live the CowboysWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Miller, Mike: Crystal newspaper, 2,3,4; National Honor Society, 3,4; Quiz Bowl, 2,3,4; Class President, 3,4; Prom Committee, 3,4; Graduation Committee, 4; Homecoming Committee, 4; Salutatorian. Future Plans — College, Work”
— 1985 Libbey High School Edelian yearbook
The first time I saw Libbey High School, I nearly turned and ran back to the suburbs I had been ripped from. Midway through the spring semester, my father relocated our family from the familiar suburbs to Toledo’s south end, in an apartment building on the corner of Field Street and Western Avenue.
Having been in the Walbridge/Lake school system from kindergarten through most of my freshman year, I was accustomed to a smaller building. Libbey seemed like a fortress to me, an impossibly large and imposing citadel. The culture shock was like a 50,000-volt Taser to the crotch. My younger brother and I went from a social bus ride with friends every school day to a three-quarter mile walk. We went from a small group of friends we had known since kindergarten to a sea of strange faces; those faces in Walbridge had looked mostly like ours — young, pinkish, well-fed, well-scrubbed and well-clothed. At Libbey, most of the faces were black. Many were Hispanic. There were Asian students. There were kids from all groups who were clearly not well-fed, not well-scrubbed and not well-clothed.
Libbey High School became the symbol for the upheaval and chaos we were unexpectedly dealing with, and I hated its massive hallways, millions of bricks and the hostility I imagined in the eyes of the waves of student strangers.
The first ray of light and hope manifested itself in the form of Margaret Fields, the guidance counselor who gave me a Libbey orientation tour. One of our first stops was to the classroom of Dave Merritt. Merritt was a math teacher, which did not improve my mood. But he was also the head football coach, and that greatly improved my temperament. The next person Fields took me to meet was Mark Coe, an English teacher with a welcoming smile and a knack for dropping the names of just the right books and authors.
In subsequent years, many of the strangers turned into friends. The number of people who impacted my life — if we are being honest, people who saved my life — grew to a number that still surprises and humbles me. The English teachers gave me focus and constant encouragement: Coe, John McKee, Judy Pfaffenberger and Randy Asendorf. Several teachers set examples for academics and life that still guide my thinking: Ron Hudson, the late Fred Wesoloski, the late Debbie Wilhelms, Albert Flores, Janet Beening, Matt Wiitala and critical thinker extraordinaire Ted Jobe. There were many whom I knew only by last name and courtesy title: Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Dunaway, Mr. Bourland, Mr. Denman, Mrs. Rivers, Mrs. King. In the main office, Principal Bunk Adams and Assistant Principal of Activities John Maxey set the tone of authority. Each of these people made a difference in the choices I made and the man I am today.
There were a number of fellow students in the Class of 1985 who were loyal and true to me at Libbey, and I hope they can look back and say the same about me. Antonia Tyson. Cliff Griffin. Hal Holland. Crystal Lockwood. Dawn Petoskey. Audra Wozniak. Renee Franz. Blong Siong. Rita Barlett. Coleena Butts. Angie Martinez. Heidi Zachel. Fred Perryman, who was the most intrinsically intelligent human being I have ever known.
I have read that the music one listens to in high school is the music that largely defines one’s taste through life. With hindsight, I can argue that one’s taste in women is also forged in the cauldron of discovery and exploration that high school offers, and while I was never romantically involved with Maria Dominguez, Kim Staton, Teresa Christian or Robin Reeves, their innumerable charms and qualities resonated for a long, long time.
On Sept. 20, I took a last walking tour of Libbey, with alumni Larrie Baccus, president of the alumni association and 1973 graduate; Susan Terrill, an activist for Libbey causes and 1966 graduate; and Gayle Schaber, former director of Libbey. I did not expect a misty-eyed nostalgia trip, and I did not get one. I thought a lot about the people I knew in the high school crucible, but I was not moved by the bricks, tile and wood that housed us.
I played football at Libbey, on the “Killer Bees” team that shut out St. John’s but was dismantled by Scott in the Shoe Bowl. I discovered journalism at Libbey, working with Sherry Clendenin at The Crystal. I read “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Flowers for Algernon” and “Wuthering Heights” at Libbey. I fell in love at Libbey, or what I thought was love.
But those moments were not shared with a brick or a hallway. It was the people at Libbey who made it special, and their spirit, through the alumni association and hall of fame, will not crumble when the wrecking ball hits. Their love and fellowship will not die, even as the fortress passes into dust. We are Cowboys. Our Libbey colors blue and gold, are emblems that we love. They fill our hearts with joy and pride, as they proudly wave above. The blue ever like the sky so fair; the gold like the sun shining bright; will lead us on to victory, in paths of truth and right.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. His e-mail is email@example.com.