What’s in a name?

Sitting in the Natchitoches Events Center, August 12, at the NCHS Meet the Chiefs fundraiser, the energy was palpable. The city turned out and showed out with their attendance and their support. It’s a new era and time for our city school, and it’s long overdue. Sitting there I reflected on my own time as a Chief, some 45 years ago, and wondered out loud if all those present really understood how significant this school, and its history, is to our city.

The desegregation order hit Natchitoches Parish in 1970. I remember a tumultuous and uncertain time as my daddy, Dr. Hoyt Reed, was the Superintendent of Natchitoches Parish Schools. As foreign as it may seem now, there were two schools in the city of Natchitoches; Natchitoches High, the white school, and Central High, the black school. The graduating classes of 1970, were the last classes to graduate from each.

Administrators, faculty, coaches and students; the likes of OA Slater, Eliza Jones, Bob Hardamon, Hamp Williams, Billy Benefield, Frankie Ray Jackson, John Winston, Dan Poole, Jim Bruning, Sonny Melder, Jude Southerland Kessler….too many others to name, worked that summer to plan. The name of this consolidated school would be Natchitoches Central High School. The mascot would be the Chiefs; its colors, maroon, gold and white. A new fight song and alma mater were written. A new name was chosen for the yearbook and school newspaper. Gone were remnants of the NHS Red Devils and the CHS Gophers.

There was no money or time to build a new school, so two campuses would be utilized for the expansive number of students: North Campus (the former CHS on Welch Street) and South Campus (the former NHS – now LSMSA). Students could possibly have to transfer between classes – three a day – for the modified block schedule. If you didn’t have a car, you rode the transfer bus.

Many folks were very apprehensive about how students would get along, the uncertainty was scary. But, when this freshman started in the fall of 1974, all apprehension was diminished. My time in high school is remembered fondly and treasured….lifelong friendships that remain today. Natchitoches made sure its public school would not fail.

As a life-long educator I could spout research on how successful athletics and extracurricular programs enhance the lives of students and increase the overall academic level of a school as a whole, but you know this already. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. If the students are involved in school they will be off the streets, crime may diminish, and industry will want to choose Natchitoches. The present administration of the school and parish are visionaries, and their plan is working. Supporting their efforts is a benefit to us all.

And by the way, Natchitoches Central has many letters….it’s a mouthful. But for those of us that experienced and thrived during this historic transition, it is significant to use the correct name of the school. It’s not Natchitoches High…it’s not Central…it’s NCHS. We are the Chiefs!

Jacque Reed Horton

The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Natchitoches Parish Journal. If you have an article or story of interest for publishing consideration by the NPJ, please send it to NPJNatLa@gmail.com.