THE BOOKS HAVE ARRIVED!
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By Donna Hunt
The books have arrived!!! That’s about all I could think of Thursday when a call was received from Tina Hagburg in the Denison office of the Herald Democrat. The books, “Two Schools on Main Street: The Pride of Denison, Texas 1873-2007” had been anxiously awaited for several days.
Mavis Anne Bryant and I began writing this book almost 18 months ago. That’s twice as long as it takes for a baby to be born and waiting for it to materialize at times has been pretty painful.
Long before we started writing, Mavis had mentioned to me several times that we should write a book about the high school that we both attended in the 1950s and that had just been demolished. One day she mentioned it again and I told her, “Okay, let’s do it.”
Both of us are pretty good pack rats, but she’s an organized one. We both had been accumulating information about our school and the one before it, so the first thing we did was put it all together. Maybe I should say that Mavis put it all together. I had a lot of files, but they weren’t exactly in an order that was easy to locate most anything.
Mavis dumped my files into a big box, took them home with her and probably sat up most of several nights getting everything neatly packaged in plastic sleeves placed in extra thick three-hole black binders.
When she returned with 31 of the fat notebooks that contained our merged information merged, my little home office next to the kitchen groaned when it saw her coming.
It was with all that research and lots more that we began writing well over a year ago with the idea of having the book ready for distribution by Christmas. Mavis’ brother, David Bryant, also a graduate of Denison High, agreed to back our venture and formed the Gate City Publishing Co., to publish the book.
Next we hired a graphic designer to put the book together and an August deadline was set for our part of the project to be completed in order to have the book out by Christmas.
Both our computers began humming as we dug into the black notebooks and began telling the story of the beginning of education in Denison soon after the town was established in 1872. We came up with a wealth of information that has never been assembled in one place before. Putting it all together was fun to see how the Denison Educational Institute/Washington School came into being.
We began collecting pictures from many different sources including local photographers and digging deeply into my historical Denison photo collection. I knew that someday they would come in handy.
After the town outgrew the 1873 school, the school as we knew it was built in 1913 and served as Denison High School, then McDaniel Junior High School until it closed in 1986. That’s all in the book along with more than 200 photographs from the very beginning until the last brick fell in 2007.
Our graphic designer had a good idea that we include every graduate whose senior picture appeared in any DHS yearbook as far back as we could find. You’ll see 4,358 of those photographs grouped with their classmates.
Things went along beautifully with Mavis and I typing away, reading each other’s copy and putting the pictures together with the story. We met our August deadline and began planning for the book’s release before Christmas.
What is it they say about the best laid plans? The page designer and his wife had a few health issues and he was unable to do the work as planned. So Mavis and I had to step in and take on a lot of the work that we hadn’t planned to do.
Since Mavis is the technical person who also is a perfectionist of sorts, she worked with the page designer to put the book together. It fell my lot to scan and work magic on those 4,358 photos, then group them into grids of 48 to a page. With instructions from our expert book designer, I sat at my computer for at least three months working on photos. I feel personally acquainted with graduates all the way back to 1911. There were several years during the depression and a few years earlier that yearbooks were not produced. Thanks to the records in the school administration building, we were able to at least get the names of those grads.
We were very careful to document everything we included in the book and are confident that everything in it is true and factual. Both Mavis and I are sticklers for getting the facts correct and we’ve left no stone unturned.
You’ll find the story of the clock, the bell and the clock tower that now stands on the Woodard Street-Armstrong Avenue corner of the vacant city block when the schools stood for so many years. There’s a chapter with remembrances written by a founding father, and lots of former students, many of whom are no longer with us.
We covered the later years of the school that we all knew and loved including desegregation, the school as a part of the Denison Commercial Historic District and the building as a shell of the former school that many wanted to save but just couldn’t come up with the funds to do it.
The last chapter is one that was the hardest to write because of so much emotion in watching it go from a “sacred site” to a pile of rubble.
Needless to say, the book wasn’t finished by Christmas and we apologize to everyone who bought one as a gift. We worked as hard and as fast as we could, but there was just no way we could complete the task until well into 2009. We’ve written a letter to that effect and place in into each pre-ordered book that we have signed to be mailed or picked up at the Denison office of the Herald-Democrat.
We have two book signings set up where the books will be available to purchase and we will be on hand to sign them. They also are available to purchase at the H-D office and soon can be found at several other places too.
We will be at Mary Karam’s Gallery on May 15 from 5 until 7 p.m. and at Watson’s Main Street Drive-in on May 23 from 2 until 4 p.m. Other signings will be publicized as they are scheduled. Stop by and take a look at the 335 page book and relive some of the wonderful memories.
It is our wish - Mavis’ and mine – that the book will be used for many years for research into the two schools and that families in the future as well as today can read it and look at the photos of their family members with pride.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald and co-author with Mavis Anne Bryant of “Two Schools on Main Street: The pride of Denison, Texas, 1873-2007. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.