Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ft. Worth 4A-5 High Schools

When we walked through the doors of EHHS for the first time, each of us formed our own impressions of the place. For most of us, that was the fall of 1960, EHHS’ second year. Since the school was so new, there really wasn’t any history or traditions for us to absorb. There was a bit of an informal traditions carryover from Handley and Poly High Schools where much of the faculty and staff had previously taught or had attended themselves. Our football coaching staff was two-thirds Poly grads and I think about half or more of the faculty came from Handley HS.

Through some of our older siblings we knew something of Handley or Poly while others of us came from long-term resident families of the area whose parents had also been Handley or Poly graduates. And still others of us were relative newcomers to the area as we moved into the newly built neighborhoods of the late 1950’s that surrounded the then new EHHS.

Most of the c.1963 (white) Ft. Worth high schools made up the Texas UIL District 4A-5. There was no 5A classification in those days and there were sixteen 4A districts that were made up of about 110-120 of Texas’ largest high schools. Poly had an established and distinguished Ft. Worth history by 1960. Handley High School, which was replaced by EHHS, had been a traditional 3A school. In my mind, HHS had a greater influence on the early EHHS than Poly. A significant percentage of Meadowbrook Jr. High students went to Poly when they left for high school.

After spending its first year, 1959-60, in 3A, EHHS joined the big boys, 4A-5, in the fall of 1960. At that time, 4A-5 consisted of Arlington Heights, Paschal, Technical, Carter-Riverside, North Side, Polytechnic, and Eastern Hills—all of them, except EHHS, were long-established schools within the Ft. Worth area; the newest of them dating to about 1937.

This piece started with a curiosity about the gracious old Meadowbrook Elementary building that still stands on Meadowbrook Drive. I recall that school and its grounds as being particularly attractive and that it had served as the Jr. High school for that area before the newer building was built across the street from it. From my days at the newer Meadowbrook Jr. High, I knew the older building was built in 1936 and had never won a city football championship—that information was constantly trumpeted in the Ft. Worth newspapers when we won the first crown in 1959.

Several bits of information and technology have combined recently to enable presenting a concise illustration of nearly a century of Ft. Worth high school history in one picture file. Personally, I find a diagram or a picture showing dates and relationships much easier to digest when wanting to understand how it all fits together. None of the buildings we knew in 1963 have been torn down and fortunately a Ft. Worth Architecture website has posted modern HQ pictures of each building (except EHHS—too new at age 50+, I suppose). Also fortunate is the fact that the FWISD thoughtfully constructed most new additions over the years to the back of the original buildings so as not to deface the original architecture.

The top row of Ft. Worth High School buildings are as they were when we attended EHHS and as they remain today. The second row of pictures shows the predecessor buildings for each school where there was one. Some things to note in the second row of buildings is that Handley, Polytechnic, and Arlington Heights were individual ISDs before each was annexed into the City of Ft. Worth generally in the 1920s. The Handley and Polytechnic areas first sprouted as small villages along the 29-mile Dallas to Ft. Worth interurban electric railway that, from 1902-1934, originally ran more or less along East Lancaster—old US 80.

Note also that as FWISD outgrew and replaced its buildings, the older structures were put into subsequent use, so you can find most of them still in service as middle schools or serving other support functions. The first Ft. Worth High School (c.1911) was replaced by Ft. Worth Central High School (c.1918), which was renamed R.L. Paschal in 1935, and replaced again by a new R.L. Paschal building in 1955. After Paschal moved into its new building their vacated c.1918 Ft. Worth Central High building became Trimble Tech and remains occupied by Tech to this day. Also in 1918, FWISD built its second high school, North Ft. Worth High School, which was subsequently replaced in 1937 by North Side High School.

The circa 1936-37 building spree were WPA projects, no doubt in large part brought to Ft. Worth by Amon Carter who was then in his prime and politically well-connected. Ft. Worth is fortunate to have so many of these classic structures still standing. Meadowbrook Elementary was one of them. A much more detailed history is available here.


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