Beyond the Byline: Wilkes-Barre Area schools must choose wisely

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Bill O'Boyle Aimee Dilger Photos/The Times Leader4/3/2008 -

WILKES-BARRE — So next year the three Wilkes-Barre Area high schools will become one.

Or so they think.

The plan is for Meyers, Coughlin and GAR to become one big school for athletics, fielding one football team, one basketball team, one baseball team, volleyball, wrestling and down the line — one boys team and one girls team.

All I can say, speaking as someone who has been there and done that — lotsa luck.

The school year 1966-67 — for all you West Side historians — was and always will be the very first year of the Wyoming Valley West School District. That first year, there were three high schools — Plymouth, Kingston and Forty Fort Areas — and all students graduated from Wyoming Valley West wearing burgundy and gold gowns.

In 1968, we were the chosen ones who attended one school — we had 692 in our senior class, the junior class was over 700. It was pretty crowded in the building, which is now the WVW Middle School and was always Kingston High School before the merger.

Anyway, in 1966-67 all members of the senior and junior classes were asked to fill out a survey. Among the questions asked were our suggestions for school colors and nickname. It was a struggle.

Many students were still unhappy to be part of this “monster” school district. Many wanted to remain in their hometown schools, wear the hometown colors and fight, fight, fight for the colors they let fly.

So we filled out the surveys. We offered our thoughts, some good, some far-fetched and others ridiculous. We were told they were taken to some secluded office and tallied. The next thing we knew, Wyoming Valley West would be the Spartans and the colors would be burgundy and gold. And there was peace in the land.

Hardly.

Many people who were not from Kingston, actually did not want burgundy, because, ya know, burgundy is close to maroon, which was one of Kingston High School’s colors — the other being gray. I mean it was bad enough we had to matriculate in Kingston High School and play football at Kingston’s stadium and basketball in Kingston’s gym, but to wear one of their (almost) colors — no way.

This is on top of us having to share classrooms with kids from other towns. Kids we didn’t know, nor were we sure they were like us, whomever us was.

It was a confusing time. But when you really don’t have a choice, you adapt, or at least try to.

So voting on the school colors and nickname was over, now came the difficult part. Would the coaches of all of these teams be able to separate their parochial feelings for the good of the order?

As it turned out, there were outcries of favoritism from the get-go. And I am pretty sure, those outcries continue echoing today — 50-plus years later.

But how could it have been avoided? My dad, the most honest man I have ever known, had an idea. This is the guy who co-founded the Plymouth Little League in 1950 and served as its president every year of his adult life except for the four years I played. Dad didn’t want even the appearance of favoritism shown to his son.

Dad’s idea was for the district to refrain from hiring coaches from within the district. His theory was that the coaches would likely favor the kids they knew, whether it be intentionally or not. And, if you check the time capsule, he was right.

It has been a problem in the district for most of its existence. I am certain there have been some coaches — at least I hope so — who have managed to choose their players and select their lineups with complete impartiality. But for the most part, I think one would be safe to say that sometimes the best players were benched or cut.

So as the new one-school Wilkes-Barre Area district proceeds with its plan to field one team in all sports, do as Indiana Jones once did.

In the 1989 movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” they search for the Holy Grail. When they get to their destination, they are met by the centuries old Grail Knight who advises: “You must choose. But choose wisely, as the true grail will bring you life, and the false grail will take it from you.”

When the first choice proves to be incorrect — a gaudy gold chalice — the Grail Knight says, “He chose poorly.” The man disintegrates. Indiana then selects a cup that had an unassuming look. He chose wisely.

Meyers’ Mohawks wore blue and gold. Coughlin’s Crusaders wore red and blue. GAR’s Grenadiers wore gray and blue.

It will be difficult and at times uneasy to select colors and nickname. For some reason, Badgers comes to mind.

All I can say is follow the Grail Knight’s advice.

Whether it be coaches, colors or nickname, please choose wisely.

Bill O’Boyle Aimee Dilger Photos/The Times Leader4/3/2008
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_Columnshot-1-1-2.jpgBill O’Boyle Aimee Dilger Photos/The Times Leader4/3/2008

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]