WOODRUFF’S 80TH CELEBRATION

They held a birthday celebration at Woodruff High School Saturday, Sept. 9 and more than 550 people packed the Commons area to sing Happy Birthday to their alma mater. Sing and talk they did about old days and fun times. No one from that first class in 1937 came to the birthday party, but local historian Bob Sulaski took us back to that time with pictures and stories. He recounted the growth of the northside school that came after Averyville High School and Kingman. The successful event was sponsored by the Woodruff High School Alumni Association and organized by Myrna Helmick and Carlotta Schaidle. President Mark Claver read a proclamation from Mayor Jim Ardis and Michael Kuhn, principal of the Woodruff Career and Technical School, welcomed Woodruff graduates as did Dr. Ike who represented Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat. Terry Knapp and school board member Dan Walther led tours of the building. Entertainment was provided by Denise Adams and husband Lee Wenger.

Woodruff was closed in 2010 by a slim 4-3 vote after first considering closure of Manual. The recommendation was made by Superintendent Ken Hinton, who was recently recognized by IBI magazine for his community leadership. Not everyone would agree with such an honor as the decision displaced
close to 1,000 students. Since 1937 more than 18,000 boys and girls left 1800 N. Perry Ave. with diplomas. The students distinguished themselves not only in the classroom, but on the field, on the court and on the school stage. It was the city’s northside high school as were grade schools Kingman, Longfellow, Greeley and Irving. All now gone, destroyed by board members ill-fitted to make such major decisions impacting in a negative way the lives of young people, their families, their neighborhoods and even their churches. Anyone who thinks Peoria is a better city and its school district more financially and academically viable as a result of closing Woodruff High School needs to take a urine test. Our school is gone, but the happy memories remain along with many of the friendships. And those were shared Saturday, Sept. 9 for hours.

Sadly, the historic celebration of Woodruff’s 80th birthday received no mention by local media. I understand the television stations’ failure.
The folks who work in their newsrooms are young, fresh out of school, inexperienced and still learning street names let alone what constitutes a local news story. Our newspaper, however, is a different story. Reporters and their editors continue covering stories based on personal bias, political bigotry and newsroom connections. On Friday, Sept. 8, the newspaper had a five-column story about a voter registration meeting scheduled for the next day. On Saturday, the same day Woodruff alums packed the school with 550 people, that voter meeting the newspaper promoted had about 24 people. That didn’t stop the newspaper from writing another five-column story complete with a photo in its Sunday edition. Not a single word about Woodruff.

And they wonder why readership drops each year. Bah Humbug!

GREAT HURRICANE COVERAGE

Pardon me for bragging, but our morning radio show, “Breakfast with Roger and Friends” on WAZU-FM 90.7 had the most comprehensive coverage among local stations during and after the hurricanes. Consider our telephone interviews during Hurricane Harvey with former Peoria radio announcer Mike Smith, who now lives and works in Houston. Mike emotionally described the rising flood waters where he lived. We also talked with George Kovachik of the Texas Medical Center about the flood doors they use for protection. Dan Wales of KHPO in Port O’ Connor, Texas, said station personnel had to evacuate from the Gulf fishing town. The Christian broadcaster gave a blow-by-blow account of the storm. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida we interviewed a 30-year-veteran of fishing off the Keys, Captain Marlin Scott. Scott, a resident of Key West, told us he had to flee to West Palm Beach leaving behind a fleet of fishing vessels that he hoped would still be there when he returned. Former Bradley University Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh gave us a word picture of hanging storm shutters over the windows of his Fort Meyers home in preparation for the winds and waters of Irma. And former Navy fighter pilot Dick Crane, graduate of Manual and Bradley, said even people in Jacksonville were concerned about flooding and wind
damage. Folks, these were real, live, non-network, exclusive interviews that were riveting. That was true, too, for our Sept. 11 replay of the interview we had with Gary Griggs of Louisville, Ky. Griggs was on the 61st floor of one of the World Trade Center towers in 2001 when it was struck
by the first of two hijacked airliners. His words of panic, fear of death and survival were and are compelling. We play that interview every year as a reminder of the threats we face today.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
-Harry S. Truman

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