By JAMES WEAR
A couple of weeks ago I noted that one way to learn about Liberty Hill’s past is to have coffee with oldtimers. Another, if you’re lucky enough to come across old newspapers, is to simply read through them and review the contents.
Some time ago I came across a stack of The Liberty Hill Independent newspapers from the late 1980s, as well as a few other publications that had been published prior to The Independent. Of course, The Independent, which was launched in October 1987, has remained Liberty Hill’s longest running newspaper and in fact, to the best of my knowledge, has had only three editors in its 27-year history. Other publications have come and gone, but only this one has been able to capture a sustained following through the years.
During my tenture as editor of this newspaper in 1987-1989, one of my duties was to cover the school board and while school board meetings have traditionally been uneventful, that’s not to say there haven’t been a few chuckles to be enjoyed.
One such instance, which I wrote about in an editorial piece that was published in the April 21, 1988, issue, involved Don Cunningham, who was with the school district for many years, first as a junior high coach and later as an administrative assistant.
During this particular meeting, the superintendent advised the board that she would be out of town as the high school band had asked her to join them on a trip to Florida. The board members nodded their approval, and then Cunningham was asked if he had communications for the board.
With only a glimmer of a smile, Cunningham said, “Yes, a student has asked me to join him on a two-week fishing trip.” The room erupted with laughter.
Cunningham, of course, is among those credited with moving the pieces created during the 1976 International Sculpture Symposium from their original location in Veterans Park to what is now the Liberty Hill Intermediate School campus.
Back then, The Independent also had a weekly feature entitled “LHISD Report Card” in which we profiled different teachers each week. One such teacher profiled was none other than Jan Tredemeyer, the current principal at Liberty Hill Elementary. Mrs. Tredemeyer was recently featured in The Independent, and while reading that interview I thought back to the time when I wrote a story about her and her sister, Judith Sweazea (then also a teacher) for the paper.
Going further back in time, we found:
* From the Sept. 9, 1976 issue of The Libertarian, a story about the high school’s return to varsity play on the football field. As many may recall, Liberty Hill had lost its high school and had not fielded a varsity team since the fall of 1968.
The Panthers won the contest 25-6 over Jarrell. Liberty Hill’s first touchdown was scored by Donnie Johnson. Head coach that year was Daryl Moffitt, with Bill Bowie and Joe Gregg listed as assistants. A total of 19 players were listed on the team’s roster.
* Included in the same issue was a report from the high school principal, Ed Pettitt, who noted that 217 students were enrolled in grades seven-12, which he termed as “a very large increase from a year ago.”
* From an August 1983 issue of The Sentinel, a front page story noted results of the third annual Red Bean Cookoff, which was an event sponsored by the Liberty Hill Ex-Students Association.
Charlie Braun, then the head coach at LHHS, was credited with placing second in the event, while Bud Lane, placed third. The bean spitting contest was won by Trevor Vickers, followed by brother Shawn, James Lane and Brian Dungan.
Bobby “Abe” Lincoln won the cow chip throwing contest. The story also reported that “Lori Bohanan dropped out of the jalapeno eating contest after three peppers, and June Lincoln did just better than half a dozen before handing the win to Joel Guzman, who ate 14 unpickled peppers in five minutes.”
Braun also fared well in horseshoe pitching and washers.
* From the Sept. 3 issue of The Sentinel, a front page story explaining street signs had arrived for Liberty Hill, but installation of the signs was being put on hold until Pct. 2 crews could finish up repairs in the San Gabriel River Ranch subdivision. Wesley Foust, the Pct. 2 commissioner at the time, said the repairs were of high priority because the school board said school buses would not run in the subdivision “unless the terrible roads were repaired.”
* In the same issue, there were a number of stories promoting Bertram’s annual Oatmeal Festival, including a brief history of the festival.
The festival began in 1978 and was dubbed the First Annual Shin Oak Ridge Festival, Intergalatic Oatmeal Cookoff and Bertram Acceleration Days. But by 1980, tired of explaining the name, directors shortened it to the Oatmeal Festival.
* From the Dec. 1982 issue of The Sentinel, an article about J.D. Cox being named to replace retiring superintendent Bill Burden. According to the story, Cox was hired at a salary of $34,000 with benefits including use of a school car and gasoline. The story also noted that 10 persons showed up at the meeting to protest the hiring of Cox, who had been serving as high school principal, over Louine Noble, at the time the district’s elementary principal.
Of course, Noble would later become the district’s superintendent, and several years later Burden would be coaxed out of retirement to serve a short stint as superintendent during the 1990’s.
The story also reported that LHISD enrollment totaled 767 students, with 211 in the high school.
* From the Dec. 1981 issue of The Paper, a two-page spread about what high school graduates from 1976 through 1981 were up to.
Of course, Liberty Hill had only two high school graduates in 1976 — Douglas Wayne Bobbitt was the valedictorian and according to the story, died in an auto accident in 1980 while Cody Joe Carothers, the salutatorian, went into the construction business, in which he remains active.
This is just a small sampling of the stories I have come across, and of course, there are many photos as well. Unfortunately, the photos are in many cases dark and/or fuzzy and would not reproduce well even with the technology we have today.
Send comments to James Wear James@LHIndependent.com