Making of the
"In past years, the record of the Richwood High School Student Council has been one of little progress and poor achievement. We feel, and probably you do too, that the Council should not be another honor or social club, but rather should be a leader in bringing about new programs started in the best interests of the school.
"It is in this vein that we are running for Student Council: not on popularity, as has been the precedent in past years, but on a set program of goals for our school. We hope to get away from the popularity contests of past years and hold a real class election."
Thus began a mimeographed letter that was received by all Richwood High School seniors the weekend of September 19, 1964. The authors were Ed Olson, who had been president of his class as a freshman and as a junior and once more was seeking election to the office, and Terry Rockhold, who had never won a class election but was running for the office of Student Council representative.
The letter was planned as the final big push in a two-month, behind-the-scenes campaign, but it didn't quite work out that way.
CHAPTER 1: A PROGRAM OF GOALS
Ed Olson had long been dissatisfied with the work of the Student Council. In his three years as a member, he had discovered that the Council was not a senate representing the views and wishes of the student body but rather merely an informal organization made up of ten class officers. Its primary purpose seemed to be to help the National Honor Society with the homecoming dance and the scholarship banquet.
Olson knew that the Council could do much more. He had read of other Student Councils that had initiated programs that were of real value to the student bodies they represented, and he wanted to see the local Council do something worthwhile, too.
But he knew that the Council members were, for the most part, apathetic. They had been elected because a majority of their respective classes liked them, not because they had any burning ambition to serve. They were not interested in accomplishing anything in particular.
In 1963, working with Dean Lindsay, Kelly Drake, and Terry Rockhold, Olson had helped start a movement to change the method of holding class elections. The proposed changes would have weeded out the honorary candidates by making it necessary for a candidate to do a certain amount of work before he could be nominated. Some of the proposals were nominating petitions and nominating and acceptance speeches. But, due to indifference and an inefficient Council committee, no changes were ever enacted.
There was a way around the problem, however. According to Olson, seniors hold the real power on the Council. For instance, the senior-class president almost invariably becomes the president of the Student Council, and the other Council officers are usually also seniors. Olson's senior year was coming up. He knew that if he could win the presidency of his class this year, he would be in a good position finally to make the Student Council into the active organization he felt it should be. He could lead, and hopefully the other nine would follow.
Of course, his leading job would be easier if he had a group of friends to work with him.
Terry Rockhold liked the idea of trying to get something done for a change and agreed to help Olson seek votes. The two of them planned to work as a team, Olson running for president and Rockhold for representative.
The senior class elects one other member of the Council, the class secretary, and the boys wanted to try to get someone who was one their side elected to this post, too. But neither Jo Ann Prichard nor Tom Thomas would agree to campaign actively, so the boys decided to drop the question for the moment and use another tactic when Election Day arrived.
Not wanting to risk antagonizing the underclassmen, they stayed out of the politics of the lower classes and hoped that whoever might be elected there would go along with their ideas.
Just what were their ideas? The boys came up with many proposals, but eventually they narrowed these down to seven. The planks in their platform were:
1. A Student Employment Agency, a sort of clearinghouse whereby employers could find workers for summer and part-time jobs.
2. A Student Tutoring Service, a system to encourage better students to help poorer ones who were having trouble with their studies.
3. A school newspaper.
4. A debating club.
5. Clubs for future teachers and nurses.
6. A Student-of-the-Month award.
7. An Assembly Committee to help secure worthwhile lecturers and entertainers for assemblies.
An eighth plan, by no means less important, was also included for later action: an improvement in class-election procedure.
These were the dreams of Ed Olson and Terry Rockhold. They knew that they would not be able to accomplish everything in one year, but they hoped to get a good start on their program and then let the classes that came after them finish the job. But before they could put their first idea into effect, they had to be elected.
CHAPTER 2: THE QUIET CAMPAIGN
The Olson-Rockhold team weren't especially eager to start a campaign in the summer, but they saw no other way in which they could win the election by "running on merit" rather than on popularity.
The existing election system provided no time for making speeches in support of the candidates. The members of the class simply nominated and elected their officers with no discussion and, in effect, with a 90-minute time limit.
Under this system, the most popular persons in the class were the ones who were elected. Under this system, any discussion of issues and candidates would have to take place before the time set aside for class elections; in addition, it would have to take place independently of school, since the faculty couldn't be expected to set aside more than two class periods for the choosing of class officers.
Now usually the elections were held in the first or second week of school. For Olson and Rockhold to get anything at all accomplished, they would have to start putting their points across before school began, since homework would take up much of their time after the start of the school year. So, not really wanting to do it but realizing that there was no other way to appeal to the voters on the basis of merit, Olson and Rockhold prepared to start their campaign. By the latter part of August, they were ready.
Where, now, was their opposition? Few people are opposed to progress, but this doesn't mean that the boys had an unobstructed path to election.
There were two intangible hurdles in their way: First, the feeling among some seniors that Olson had already been president long enough, two terms, and that it was somebody else's turn for a change; and second, the feeling among some of the same seniors that Olson and Rockhold were using their "set program of goals for our school" as a pretense by means of which to get elected.
And there was one very tangible hurdle: Kelly Drake.
Olson and Drake had been political rivals since the eighth grade, and there was no reason to believe that Drake would let the challenge of an open campaign for the presidency go by unheeded. He was sure to raise a ruckus of some sort.
But the two boys knew that they had one great advantage over Drake: he didn't know yet that they were up to anything. Every day of their quiet, unopposed campaign that went by made it that much harder for him to catch up once he found out.
The boys didn't try to keep the campaign an absolute secret, since their plan was to speak to most of the seniors and to have them spread the word. However, there was no point in talking to their presumed opponent. The boys said they would welcome a showdown of ideas with Drake, but for now it was better politics to get all the support they could before he learned what they were doing.
It would be rather hard for anybody to conduct a nationwide campaign without letting his opponent know he was campaigning, but within a class of 80, the job was not so difficult.
Olson and Rockhold, during the times when they were not working at their jobs, simply went to the homes of seniors and talked to them about their "program." Meeting the seniors singly or in small groups and spending an hour or two conversing with them, often on subjects entirely unrelated to the campaign, they were able to speak personally to nearly 50 people in the two weeks prior to Labor Day. They explained to them what they wanted to do if elected and why they felt these programs would be good for the school.
The usual response was, "Yes, that sounds like a good idea! I especially like this part. I'd be glad to help you put these ideas over. But do you really think Mr. Cochran will accept them?" The boys assured the doubters that they would do the best they could to "sell" the proposals.
They also brought up the point that if anyone were qualified to "deal with the administration," it was Mr. Olson and Mr. Rockhold. Olson had had three years of experience on the Council, two of them as the president of his class, and both boys had worked closely with the principal and others on the 1964 Junior-Senior Prom. They felt that this experience made them the logical choices for the offices. The seniors with whom they talked agreed almost unanimously.
At this point, the boys could have begun to reinforce the ideas presented in these private interviews by working for publicity. They could have put up posters with such slogans as "dynamic leadership with progressive ideas." They could have made their campaign and their platform familiar to even the adults of the community. But such an all-out drive would have been undignified, and it would have made the election seem too much like the very thing the boys were trying to avoid: a popularity contest. It was better to keep the campaign quiet and earnest in tone.
And it was this restraint, this avoidance of the usual political devices for gaining attention, this sincere emphasis on the principles and ideals behind the program, that distinguished the Olson-Rockhold campaign.
Finally, though, on Labor Day the boys decided to make one small concession to publicity in the interest of furthering their cause. That afternoon, Tom Thomas was going to report some items of high-school news on the WMRN radio broadcast from the Richwood Fair. It was decided that to include a brief report about the campaign on the newscast would help the boys by giving them the added prestige of having their campaign mentioned on radio. The fact the Drake would hear about it was now of minor concern, since he was sure to find out anyway at school, which was to start the next day. So, at 2:45 on September 7, 1964, Thomas explained on the air how the boys had been talking to other seniors in an effort to get elected and have a chance to put their ideas into effect.
Olson and Rockhold listened to the broadcast from a secluded hideaway on South Franklin Street and then returned to the job of writing and mimeographing their letter to all seniors. This letter, explaining their plans and their platforms, was a condensed version of their main arguments. The machinery had now been shifted into high gear, the election was probably only a few days off, and the boys went to school the next day with eager anticipation.
Drake had been in Cincinnati for a horse show the day before and had missed the broadcast, and apparently no one had told him about it yet. Neither Principal Cochran nor Superintendent Fetter made any comment, either. Was it possible they hadn't heard? Were they merely keeping quiet while they decided what action to take, if any?
What about Drake? Surely he should have known by this time. If he did know, why hadn't he said anything? Perhaps he wasn't interested in putting up a fight but that didn't sound like Kelly. Perhaps he underestimated the size of the campaign and didn't consider it a serious proposition. Whatever its cause, the unexpected silence had the boys worried.
Another cause of worry was the matter of timing. Olson and Rockhold realized that they had a definite jump on anyone who might oppose them, for they had started much earlier and now had some 50 seniors behind them and their program. This was clearly a majority of the 80 members of the class. But they were not overconfident, for they knew that the pendulum of opinion could very easily swing the other way in the last hours before the ballots were cast. The campaign had started strong, and the boys were now faced with the problem of keeping up the momentum while they waited for the election. If Drake suddenly came out against them, they might quickly lose much of their support and find themselves without any ammunition left with which to win it back.
To counteract anything Drake might do, Olson and Rockhold had decided that they would offer proof that they had not been standing still since August. They had already done some preliminary planning on some of the planks of their platform, notably the newspaper, the tutoring service, and the clubs for future teachers and nurses. To each of the seniors to whom they had spoken they now wrote personal notes, explaining the progress so far and asking for support in the coming election. These notes were included with the mimeographed letters they had printed up on Labor Day. One of these letters, with or without a note, was addressed to every senior, and the envelopes were stamped and sealed and readied for the opportune moment to be mailed.
The boys knew the best possible time for the letters to reach the homes of the seniors would be on the day before the election, so that they would have the maximum impact; but the two campaigners had no idea of the exact date of the election. They had expected it rather soon after the start of school, but almost two weeks had gone by. The class officers would have to be chosen before long, since the Student Council was responsible for the homecoming dance and, as yet, there was no Student Council. Members of the faculty who were sympathetic with the program were alerted to watch the faculty bulletins for any indication of when elections might be held.
Finally, on September 17, the boys made a decision: the letters would be mailed the next day, Friday, and would reach the seniors over the weekend. Any further delay would run the risk of not getting the letters mailed at all.
This time, the campaign would definitely lose its behind-the-scenes nature. The letters explained precisely what the boys wanted to do, and they were being sent to all 80 seniors even Drake. Olson and Rockhold realized that perhaps it was naïve to ask Drake to vote for them, but they addressed a letter to him for two reasons. It would be better for him to know exactly what their campaign was about, rather than to hear a distorted version of it from someone who did get a letter and to reach false conclusions about the boys' intentions. Secondly, the boys weren't sure yet that Drake would actually be against their ideas, since he still had made no mention of what they were doing. Should he happen to like their proposals, they didn't want to turn him against them by treating him as an enemy.
But the boys were still cautious about telling Drake anything. It happened that some of the letters couldn't be mailed since the addresses weren't known, so these were to be given to the addressees before school Monday; Drake's letter was included in this group. The boys weren't about to give him a whole weekend to get organized.
The main group of letters was mailed, and there was no turning back now. The Olson-Rockhold forces braced for Monday.
CHAPTER 3: THE ELECTION
Shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Monday, September 21, on the second floor of the Richwood High School building, Terry Rockhold walked up to Kelly Drake and handed him an envelope. "You probably won't agree with the last part of this," Rockhold said, "but we'd like you to consider the main ideas." Then he walked away.
Inside the envelope, Drake found the statement of the Olson-Rockhold position which by now had reached every one of his classmates: We all know that the Student Council hasn't been doing very much. We'd like to see it do more, so we've drawn up this seven-point program of goals. We'd like to be elected so we could have a chance to put this program into effect. Therefore, "we are urging you to vote not for popularity, but for ability, merit, and experience."
Drake began to laugh as he read the letter. He apparently was learning of the campaign for the first time, and he appeared surprised and amused at the serious tone of the document.
He must have thought it rather ridiculous for Olson, a three-year member of the Council, to attack it for its record of "little progress and poor achievement" in "past years" and solemnly to set himself up as a reform candidate. He must have wondered a little about Rockhold's motives in helping Olson promote such an ambitious plan a newspaper, two services, three new clubs, and two other programs. Drake had no idea of the massive support for the two boys that had been built up all around him.
Minutes later, Mr. Cochran was making a surprise announcement over the public-address system: this year, there was going to be a change in the method of electing class officers. The plan was essentially the one that had died in a Student Council committee the year before. Cochran, apparently liking the idea or perhaps, having heard of the campaign, trying to eliminate any possibility of unfair advantage had instituted the plan on his own.
Petitions would be circulated that week for the office of class president (the other class officers would be selected similarly the following week). The nominees, as well as any other persons who wished to speak on their behalf, would address their respective classes on Friday, and the ballots would then be cast. The winner in each class would become president; the runner-up, vice-president.
Both camps considered this good news. Drake, who unquestionably wanted the class presidency himself he had lost it three times by narrow margins now had a chance openly to attack Olson and his wild ideas about student tutors and debating clubs. Olson and Rockhold knew that Drake could not now steal away their support in a last-minute surge, for Olson would also have a chance just before the election to speak in support of his platform.
But aside from politics, the announcement was good news to Olson and Rockhold for another reason. The whole idea of their campaign had been to eliminate the popularity contest and to elect leaders who wanted to lead. Having failed the year before to change the election procedure, they knew only one way to try to get the class officers chosen on the basis of merit: the private campaign. Now that it had been announced that a form of public campaign under the auspices of the school was to be conducted, the boys realized that all their work had actually been unnecessary. They could now present their ideas to the class as a whole, and the class would be able to see the value of those ideas when they compared Olson and Rockhold to the candidates who had no plans and no platform. The fight was not yet over, for there was an election to be won; but the boys had already won a victory.
All petitions for the office of president had to be turned in to the principal by the end of school on Wednesday. Both Olson and Drake filed theirs on Monday, although Drake had much more trouble getting people to sign his than he had expected. The number of refusals he encountered, even from his friends, left him somewhat shaken, but he obtained twenty signatures (only ten were required) and filed his petition.
No one besides him and Olson filed by Wednesday, so the stage was set for the showdown. The winner on Friday would become president of the senior class and of the Student Council, while the loser would be relegated to the insignificant vice-presidency of the class, with no Council seat and very little power.
Olson eagerly awaited the election. Drake was getting worried, for he had begun to realize the extent of Olson's support. He made a few remarks about the possibility of his conceding the election at this point; but, rather than run away from a fight, he decided to give it all he had.
The day of the election, Friday, September 25, dawned cool but clear. Before school that morning, Drake was looking determined; Olson was busily checking out last-minute details; Rockhold was becoming nervous and tense. The 8:45 bell rang; then the 8:50 buzzer sounded, and the four classes assembled in the rooms set aside for the elections.
The senior class met in the band room on the top floor. Folding chairs were set up in a big semicircle around the podium, and these were quickly filled by the 78 seniors who were to vote that day. When the students and the class advisors were ready, the proceedings began.
(For a few original notes on the speeches, click here. This picture of Kelly Drake speaking was not taken that day.)
"I don't need to parade a lot of my friends up here to tell you in deceptive terms what I plan to do if I'm elected," Drake began. "I'll only talk about five minutes; if the other side wants to use the rest of my time, they can have it."
After this preliminary swipe, which gained him few friends among the heavily pro-Olson audience, Drake went into the main point of his speech: that the seniors were being deceived by an impractical, overly-ambitious program that Olson would be unable to put into effect. "Our high school is far too small for all these things," he told his audience. "Three hundred and fifty students can't support a teachers' club, a nurses' club, a debating club, a newspaper, and all the rest. And do you think Ed Olson will be able to convince the faculty that these programs should be adopted? He's been on the Student Council since he was a freshman; why has he been unable to accomplish one single thing in all that time?"
Forced to take a conservative position in order to oppose Olson, Drake could not propose a strong platform of his own. In fact, he almost came to the point of having to run on popularity. "I have no high-sounding platform to offer you," he said; "still, I would like to be the president of this class. This is my class. You are my classmates. I have shared your joys and your sorrows, your victories and your defeats, in sports as well as in other activities; and I would like to have a chance to be your leader and to help to build a good image for our school."
When Drake sat down, Rockhold, who was to be the master of ceremonies for Olson's presentation, walked to the podium.
First he introduced Tom Thomas, who reviewed the history of the Olson-Rockhold campaign. Thomas also answered Drake's question as to why Olson had not accomplished anything in his first three years on the Council by stating that the real power of the Council is held by the seniors and that Olson, as an underclassman, had not been able to get solid Council support for his ideas.
Then Peggy Swartz and Dianne Steele were introduced to tell why they were in favor of the Future Nurses' Club and the school newspaper, two of the most popular proposals in the platform.
Finally, the candidate himself addressed the class.
"When we seniors graduate next spring, what legacy will we leave to our high school?" he asked. "Will the Class of 1965 be remembered as a class of progress or will it simply be like any other class?
"We have a great opportunity for progress, a great opportunity to leave a legacy of which we can be proud. In a very few years, considering the increase in population and the upcoming consolidation, this high school will be one of 600 students. Surely a student body of 600 would not be too small to support these programs.
"Perhaps 350 isn't quite enough, but we will not be that small for long. Perhaps we will not be able to accomplish every plank of our platform this year, but we must start somewhere. The point is to begin.
"The time has come. The decision is yours. What will your legacy be? Conformity to tradition and the past, or bold progress for the future?"
And then the seniors made their decision.
Only the names of the winners were announced, but the actual vote counts were available to the candidates if they asked. Drake didn't bother, but Olson checked and found out just how overwhelming his victory had been.
He had expected it. He and Rockhold had had their campaign so well organized that they knew before the election how almost every senior was going to vote. Their prediction was only slightly off: they had estimated that 20 ballots would be cast for Drake.
But the defeated candidate and new vice-president still could not bring himself to believe that he had been beaten badly. On the football bus that evening, he remarked, "I don't know how much Olson won by, but I'll bet it wasn't much." An Olson supporter who had heard the 62-16 score didn't hesitate to tell Drake the facts.
It was a bad day all around for Kelly. That bus was headed for the football game at Highland, where the Tigers would lose 28-0.
CHAPTER 4: THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Only half the election battle had been won, but the other half was much easier.
Rockhold filed a petition the next Monday for the Council-Representative election that Thursday. Drake tried desperately to talk one of his supporters into running against Rockhold to keep him off the Council; but no one would agree to do it, so Rockhold was unopposed.
Criss Somerlot and Roxye Carter did run for treasurer and secretary respectively, but they were easily defeated by Dianne Steele and Jo Ann Prichard simply because the latter two had Olson and Rockhold's endorsement and had come out in favor of the Olson-Rockhold platform.
So the two boys scored an impressive sweep of the senior-class elections. They now prepared to fulfill their mandate, to get down to the work of creating a legacy.
The boys had not expected this work to be easy, and they found that indeed it wasn't. But the difficulties were of a different sort than they had anticipated. The difficulties were not so much with their program as with the Student Council itself.
Olson and Rockhold, seeing the almost complete lack of interest in the Council, had assumed that it was solely this apathy that kept the Council from accomplishing very much. They had thought that if they could create more interest, they could easily make the Council a more active and effective organization.
But a conference with the principal, held a short time after their election, forced them to realize that the school administration did not intend the Student Council to be a very active organization.
The Council was not the voice of the student body; it did not represent the wishes and opinions of the student body; it was only a group selected from the student body, a liaison group for the promotion of harmony in the school. This meant that the Student Council had no authority to discuss many of the boys' proposals.
The system was somewhat analogous to that in some of the early American colonies: there was a popular assembly elected by the colonists to confer with the royal governor as he saw fit, but since the governor had the ultimate authority, the assembly could do nothing on its own. The difference here was that the Student Council was permitted to do certain types of things, although the extent of its power had never been fully defined. But Olson and Rockhold realized that they would not be able to accomplish as many of their proposals as they had hoped, at least not through the Student Council.
In mid-November, the seniors who had expected prompt action on the various planks of the platform began to notice that nothing at all had happened. The Student Council was apparently doing just what it had done before: nothing. (Actually Olson and Rockhold were working on several of their proposals, both through the Council and through individuals, but all this activity was behind the scenes.)
Finally, the charge was made that the boys had never intended to put their platform into effect, that they had used it only to get elected so that their pictures would be in the annual. Olson exploded at this, but Rockhold tried to keep him from making any unwise statements.
Since one of the complaints had been that the students had no idea of what their Council was doing, Rockhold agreed that it might be a good idea to post a report of each Council meeting. Not everyone was satisfied, but this compromise was enough to let tempers cool, and the threat of rebellion disappeared.
Over the next several months, progress was made slowly. Only two and a half planks of the platform had been put into effect by the first of May. One of these, the Student-of-the-Month Award, was considered to be within the jurisdiction of the Student Council, so its machinery was set up within the framework of that body. The independent efforts of an interested group of future nurses and doctors brought the Future Nurses' Club into being as the Medical Careers Club. And the journalism class produced two editions of a newspaper without a name and planned to join the Byhalia students in publishing a joint North Union newspaper sometime in May.
None of the other planks appeared to have much of a chance for the 1964-65 school year. There was little student interest in the employment agency or the tutoring service, and none at all in the assembly committee. The Debating and Future Teachers' Clubs had to be dropped because there were no faculty advisors available.
However, the Student Council accomplished several other goals that Olson and Rockhold had not envisioned.
It established for itself a constitution providing for biweekly meetings, the results of which were to be posted for the information of the student body. It successfully completed a drive to collect clothing for needy school children in Appalachia. It undertook a cleanup campaign for the school. It revived the annual Teacher Recognition Award.
These were minor improvements, perhaps, but nevertheless they were significant ones significant if they could be retained for future years and future growth. "The point is to begin."
Olson and Rockhold had drawn up their platform in order to have a specific list of goals for the Council, but their objective was not really so much to achieve these particulars as to improve the Student Council in general. They were not able to attain all their goals, but they were able to create more interest in the Council. They were not able to make the Council into the type of organization they wanted, but they were able to move in the right direction. In looking back at the year's accomplishments, Rockhold said, "I think we did succeed and make the Student Council a bigger part of the school than it's ever been before."
And this was the legacy that the boys created for the Class of 1965. The legacy left by this class to the new North Union High School was not one of bold new programs with an activity for every student; such change was not the students' to make. Rather, the legacy was one of citizenship of leadership and service, of a concern for the best interests of the school, of a desire to make the school better.
Without the student interest that the boys helped to create, the best of platforms would have been meaningless. With student interest, the most inadequate of extra-curricular programs can be made meaningful. Thus it can be said that Ed Olson and Terry Rockhold truly succeeded in creating a legacy.