COLUMBIA — Students and alumni of Jefferson Junior High School sported their centennial T-shirts and gathered Thursday night to kick off the school's centennial celebration.
Under a full moon at Hickman High School's football field, the Jefferson Cyclones lost 14-6 to the West Junior High School Vikings, a rival since West opened nearly 50 years ago. But, the game was a happy opportunity to recognize former staff and students.
Jefferson Junior High School is offering other opportunities this year for alumni and former staff to get together and talk about their time at the school, including a girls basketball game on the day of the anniversary, Jan. 3, against West, the school’s annual chili supper Feb. 4 and its spring golf tournament in May.
The centennial is mainly a celebration of the building at 713 Rogers St., which originally was Columbia High School when it opened its doors Jan. 3, 1911. After Hickman opened in 1927, Columbia High became Jeff Jr. The backs of the T-shirts worn at the game read "1911-1927 Columbia High School, 1927-2011 Jefferson Junior" — red shirts for staff and white ones for students.
Gregery Caine, who is in his fourth year as principal, said he works to preserve school traditions such as an annual freshman picnic and a chili supper held near the end of basketball season.
“We are very proud of our history,” Caine said. “People spend their entire careers here.”
One example was Caine’s predecessor, Nyle Klinginsmith. He started in student teaching at Jeff Jr., Caine said. In 1975, Klinginsmith became a guidance counselor and then principal in 1998, and retired once Caine was hired.
In attendance at the Jefferson-West game was former teacher Janet Wright, who was given flowers as part of the halftime festivities. Wright taught eighth- and ninth-grade social studies while her husband was in law school in 1961, then substituted when she was pregnant with her son, Randy, who later attended the school.
“Our family has been in and out of Jeff Jr.'s doors through the years,” Wright said.
Her daughter also taught there when her daughter’s husband was in law school. Both of Wright's children and three of her four grandchildren went to the school. Wright said she still recognizes her former students in and around Columbia.
“They still call me ‘Teach,’ and we high-five each other,” Wright said. “The only problems I ever had with my students were telling them to spit out their gum.”
Also honored at halftime was Bill Burnley, who began as a seventh-grader in 1954, went on to Hickman and MU and then began teaching industrial technology, also known as shop class, at Jeff Jr. in 1966.
Burnley, who retired in 1996, said he recalled a moment many years ago when a girl poked her head into the all-male shop class then fled down the hall. Burnley said she was curious about what was going on, and he began collaborating with the home economics class to switch with shop several times during the year.
“They know sewing machines and could handle a saw just the same as the boys,” Burnley said.
The next year more boys were interested in the home economics class and girls wanted to sign up for shop, resulting in a need for more teachers, Burnley said.
A family of former Jefferson Junior students
The Brady family was not at the game, but they maintain strong allegiance to Jeff Jr.
“My brothers, my dad and my grandpa all went to Jefferson. I don’t know, maybe even my great-grandpa,” said Sean Brady, 30, one of four sons who continued the Brady tradition of going to Jefferson Junior in the mid-1990s.
Almost 40 years after his father attended, and the clothing style had shifted from “Happy Days” to “Beverly Hills: 90210,” one thing that remained the same was the auditorium.
“The auditorium hasn’t changed at all since I went there,” said Jerry Brady, student in the mid-1950s and father of the four Brady boys. “The basketball court is on the stage, and the seating for the auditorium is the seating for basketball.”
“I remember basketball practice was at 5:30 or 6 in the morning on the stage,” said Josh Brady, 23, the youngest Brady brother and a Jefferson student in the early 2000s before the 9/11 attacks.
The Bradys' memories highlighted how education technology changed the most over the years.
“They came out with a transistor radio when I was in ninth grade that my parents got," Jerry said. "There was very little technology in the schools, but they did have telephones. They also had overhead projectors, but that was as far as they had advanced.”
For Sean, the phenomenon of online mail was introduced in one of his classes.
“E-mail showed up when I was in eighth grade," he said. "In a shop-tech class, we did some electronic stuff, and I learned how to do e-mail there. It wasn’t in any of the other classes at all. I don’t think anybody had any idea of what it was going to be like.”