Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
I concluded my speech to 60-or-so teachers – the Reno Classroom Teachers Association – I think, about an early Reno educator when the luncheon’s master of ceremonies, one of our all-time favorite teachers and principals in both the Reno, then Washoe County School District Chet Green, said, “Nice job, Breck – did you mean to say Lizzie Borden or Libby Booth….?”
Libby (Elisabeth) Booth was the first principal of Orvis Ring School in 1911, and was the longest-tenured principal in the Reno or the Washoe County District. A remarkable woman, and she didn’t give her mother 40 whacks. With an axe.
What was really disturbing was that 60-plus teachers didn’t notice my gaffe…
I retired last evening after reading that two local women – Dolores Feemster and Debbie Smith – were in hot contention for the name of Reno’s newest high school, replacing Hug High at Wildcreek. Always on the lookout for column material – especially since signing up with This is Reno for a column-a-day during the isolation quarantine – I tossed and turned in the sack. How can I write about this without impugning the access to the WCSD of a real-live legitimate This is Reno writer? And that said, how in the hell can the WCSD possibly consider abandoning the “Hug” name?
The biggest insult that could be paid to anyone who was once considered worthy of a school name in this valley would be to strike the name from the roster of schools. And I include in that statement, the downgrading of a full-fledged high school to some ancillary use, like a tech or trade school. High schools have bands, teams – a status among other like schools, and that status needs to be perpetuated.
High schools have alumni, with a pride in the school and the school’s name and song and mascot. That too needs perpetuating.
And most importantly, Hug High’s namesake, Procter Hug Sr., was a former teacher, school board icon and Nevada State Senator.
Whatever the vote comes/came to, given that my success after a dozen column attempts at suggesting names remains at 2-for-12, in the naming of Bud Beasley Elementary, which was a no-brainer going in, and Marce Herz Middle School. I think my suggestions for school names over the years – Betty Morris, John Gonda, Margaret Muth, Chester Green, Effie Mona Mack, Jim Puryear – those I can remember; there were others, carry the same stigma as a jock making the cover of Sports Illustrated: a career-ender.
My other wish is that the WCSD would following the incisive vetting process employed to choose a school name, use the honoree’s full name, in press relations and websites. Few know, and particularly the cub reporters for the current local media and the WCSD’s own press releases, what school is “Beck” or “Booth” or ‘Juniper,” but Jessie Beck, Libby Booth or Lena Juniper are fairly common monikers. And if they go with Dolores Feemster or Debbie Smith High School, there are a dozen Feemsters abounding now and we already have a Kate Smith Elementary in Sparks.
But whatever you do, Trustees, DON’T name the school after the high school principal who won our little ol’ only-public-high-school-in-town Reno High School national attention, frequent kudos in educational journals; made a diploma from Reno High a ticket into any major college on the West Coast and many others throughout the land, and most importantly made us change the lyrics for South Pacific’s signature song to “There is Nothin’ Like a Girl” for our Senior Assembly – DON’T name it “David Finch High School” – please…
(My recommendations have been the kiss of death – maybe that reverse psychology will work!) See you tomorrow – and be safe, huh?
Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article or letter to the editor here.
Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.