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Central

Built in 1917

In February of 1915 the board of education paid J.C. Lang $500 for property at the northeast corner of 9th and Cherokee Avenue, formerly the site of the Johnstone home. A 1917 $100,000 bond issue built Central Junior High School at the site, the first Junior High in Oklahoma.

Designed to house 450 students in grades 7-9, the facility held 653 students by 1924 and a campaign for a $320,000 expansion to the east, which is the wider left portion of the building in the drawing shown at right. The school then accommodated grades 7 through 12 by 1926. The new addition featured an impressive auditorium which could seat over one thousand students and was noted for its acoustics. The English and music rooms featured small stages, and bookkeeping students were taught their skills in a new "imitation bank". The basement housed the manual training and auto mechanics rooms; the latter is now one of the school's STEM labs.

The new addition was built as a separate high school sharing the structure with the junior high, so it once had adjacent restrooms for the same gender: one for junior high girls beside one for senior high girls, and a similar arrangement for the boys.

At this time Cecil "Lefty" Custer became the junior high football coach and later coached the high school team for many years, from a time when they were Yellowjackets to when they became the Wildcats. He also coached basketball, softball, track, swimming, and managed the town's Sanipool. Custer Field and Custer Stadium at College High were renamed in his honor after he passed away in 1953.

A year of junior college was added in 1927. For decades class sizes of 30-40 students were common, with students often divided into sections such as A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2 based on performance. For decades the school had an open hour for lunch, with old movie serials played in the auditorium during that time. 1920s administrators included Virginia Lasley, Eli Foster, and Paul Norvell, with Eli Foster also serving in the 1930s.

By the time College High School was built in 1939, Central's green and gray halls were packed with 1,700 students and the uppermost grades left. The facility has remained a junior high/middle school since that time. The first mention of the Central "Cubs" athletics teams was when the student council selected that name for the basketball team in September 1940. Hot lunches became available in 1942, with students eating in the library or other areas. Levi Muncy was principal in the 1940s and 1950s.

On a rainy and foggy Saturday night in January 1949 a fire broke out in the auditorium. The curtains, stage, and piano were burned and the seats blistered, with smoke damage in the remainder of the building. But the band room with its instruments above the auditorium (which is now another STEM lab) was not damaged.

In the 1950s the principalship passed from Levi Muncy to J.N. Lee, who would retire in 1970. In 1956 a home economics and cafeteria building was built just north of the main building for $157,287. The cafeteria kitchen was remodeled in 1968 for $12,150. In the 1960s the worn out auditorium seats were replaced, and the balcony still features those seats. 

Don Derrick was a principal in the 1970s, as was John Ward. That decade saw girls finally allowed to wear slacks at school; in the 1940s slacks were also popular, but girls had to change into a dress or skirt or blouse when they arrived at school.

Earl Sears began his 32-year long tenure at Central as a woodshop instructor in the 1970s, and would serve as a building administrator for 24 years.  

By the late 1980s the main building had deteriorated to a disgraceful state and the district seriously considered abandoning it. Community pressure to salvage the historic structure led to a 1993 bond issue that provided $4,462,748 to remodel the entire facility, including rebricking the exterior of the 1956 building to match the 1917/1924 structure. The building received new electrical, plumbing and heating and air conditioning systems and new exterior windows. A fire alarm and sprinkler system were installed and building stairways enclosed and renovated for code updates. Doors were replaced and new tile installed in the corridors while wooden floors in the classrooms were refinished. The local Ambler Architects designed the renovations.

Community donations allowed the purchase of existing homes north of Central almost to Adams Boulevard, which were razed for a campus expansion and city park. The massive remodeling effort was completed in 1996. A phone system upgrade was performed in 2000. 2000 also saw the use of both school and community monies to purchase a dilapidated home at the northwest corner of the campus, which was then razed and its property incorporated into the park area, which is now Earl Sears Park. Mr. Sears retired from Central in the mid-2000s and would go on to serve for 12 years in the state House of Representatives.

Later principals at Central included LaDonna Chancellor, Ryan Huff, and Keri Gardner.

In 2012 the school board proposed a new 6th and 7th grade center to replace both Central and Madison, with Central to house district administrative functions functions. The failure of that proposal led to a successful 2013 bond issue vote to renovate Central for its second century of use, including refreshing the finishes in the classrooms and expanding its cafeteria and reconfiguring the ground floor for a new office area and larger fine arts rooms while constructing a new gymnasium. Due to the extensive renovations at the Central campus, the students and staff relocated to the former Madison Middle School site during the 2015-2016 school year.

In 2017 the auditorium at Central was renovated with new carpet, paint, plaster repairs, a glass safety rail for the balcony, new seating on the lower floor while retaining the 1960s wood seats in the balcony, and audiovisual upgrades.

This We Remember: Central from 1917-1981

In 1981, Kathy Jones' 2nd and 5th hour 8th Grade English classes at Central Junior High School compiled a history of the school from 1917 through the end of the 1970s. It has been digitized as a searchable and bookmarked PDF file.
This We Remember Book


Click images to enlarge them.

Before the 1924 addition

Central before the 1924 Addition

1924 Bond Campaign Drawing>       <p align=

1924 Bond Campaign Drawing

Central's 1924 Addition

Central's 1924 Addition

Cecil Custer

Cecil "Lefty" Custer

Custer and some Wildcats

Custer and a team of Wildcats at Central

    Grade Configurations:

   Years             Grades
   1917 - 1926       7 - 9
   1926 - 1927       7 - 12
   1927 - 1931       7 - 13
   1931 - 1933       7 - 14
   1933 - 1939       7 - 13
   1939 - 1954       7 - 10
   1954 - 1982       7 - 9
   1982 - 1986       7 - 8
   1986 - present    6 - 8
Central in 1997

Central in 1997


Central Auditorium 1990s

Central Auditorium - 1990s Renovation

Central Signage 1990s

Central Signage

2016 Gymnasium

2016 Gymnasium

Central Auditorium in 2017

Central Auditorium in 2017 with new seats, carpet, paint, and balcony safety rail