The civic and medical unrest of the past months has caused me to recall my growth years in a small, North Carolina cotton mill town owned by J.W. Cannon. 1964. A.L. Brown High School; Kelley green and white; the Wonders.
The original school was built in the 1920 expansive years of Cannon Mills when Mr. Cannon donated land in East Kannapolis for it. First named for the area, Centerview, it was named in 1951 for a popular mill executive, Alfred Luther Brown.
I don’t know how or by whom the colors and mascot were chosen, but as I look back to my years there, I am thankful for a few decisions that were made then and have, in my mind, proven wiser with time. That world was not perfect (it was a segregated one, for instance), but it was not riled by so many issues high school students face today. For instance: The school was named to honor a local person who helped the local community. The colors represent growth and purity and no other school is or was ever a Wonder.
Ours was a city school, but it was the time of school consolidation. I remember large schools being built and given such names as South Rowan because it served the southern part of that county. I suppose its town location, China Grove, was not chosen for its name so as not to show favoritism and so the Raiders were born wrapped in their red and black.
The name of a school should identify it, so if named for a person it should be a person in close association with the school. To name a school after a long-lost historical figure seems false and empty, but when named after a vibrant, local person the school gains heft. The same is true if the school is named for the specific locale it serves, such as Myers Park in Charlotte, which gives the school an instant identity.
The Kelley green of my school matters, like all school colors, because Kelley green represents Ireland, growth, and lushness. The white is purity. All colors symbolize something, so they are important, but the mascot of a school really matters.
Now, ours is unique. Wonders? How do you draw that? Animal names and historical figures are convenient names to use as mascots, and easily drawn, but the latter present some potential problems like we encounter currently, such as Redskins.
These choices are important and may have repercussions, but the high school world I lived in was not attacked because it had not the name of a person whose life had become myth filled, the colors were ordinary, and its mascot was never before heard of, but a Wonder of its own.
The wonder of it all is that we have created and continue to create such a mess over our school names. We can and must do better. Our children deserve it.