Odessa high School - Over a Century of Excellance

Odessa High School

Odessa High School

Early History for Public Education in Ector County

Decade - 1920


School consolidation: In early 1921, W.F. Bates, president of the Odessa school board, suggested that all the schools in Ector County unite into one district. At that time, 34 students were enrolled in Odessa High School. J. T. Cross, the county judge and ex-official school superintendent, traveled to Austin to secure official approval from the Legislature. The bill to create the Ector County school system passed both houses, and Gov. Pat Neff signed the measure. In August 1921, a special school board election was held to establish the new countywide system. E.V. Graham, S.R. McKinney, A.W. Wight, W.T. Whittenburg, R.A. Anderson, T.B. Tripp and W.S. Carter became the first board members of the Ector County Independent School District, and Cora Goodwin was named the first superintendent. Graham served for one year as the first school board president, after which S.R. McKinney took over the position. McKinney was president of the school board until Odessa residents elected him as their first mayor in 1927.


Windmill tower: At the suggestion of state inspectors, City Council members agreed to erect a new windmill tower on the Odessa High School premises in order to provide running water for the lavatory and the girls' bath house. They also decided to hire a janitor to take care of the Ector County Courthouse, its grounds and water tank and gave him the authority to "permit or discontinue bathing in the tank as he saw fit." The water tank was frequently used in church baptisms, as a swimming pool, and as an occasional oasis for cowboys to sponge off or sober up.


"Yellow Jacket" football: To address the high dropout rate among boys at Odessa High, new principal Elmer Watson created a football team in 1923. He obtained a hodge-podge of old uniforms from his alma mater, Howard Payne College in Brownwood. The equipment included khaki-colored pants, gold and purple jerseys and floppy leather helmets that hardly covered the players' ears. Watson also borrowed Howard Payne's team name, the Yellowjackets. He was unable to acquire a football right away, so the team had to use a basketball in practice games. In its first four years, OHS won three district championships.

Games were first held on a field bordering North Grant, at Eighth and Ninth Streets. When the Odessa High School band was formed, it wore Russian Cossack uniforms, because the only other Odessa anyone had heard of was in Russia. They played the only song they knew: "Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here," which became by default the school song, fight song and marching song. More than half of the band also played football, so they didn't march during games but remained on the sidelines.

In 1925, when Murry Fly became superintendent, he suggested that Odessa High should select a new name for the team more appropriate to West Texas. ECISD students voted unanimously to change the team's name to the Bronchos.

Football stories: As told by two teammates on the early OHS teams, Buck Harris and E.H. "Chunky" Hendrick, told these stories:

Dr. E. V. Headlee doctored the Odessa High School football team free of charge for a number of years. In one game, Odessa's Wilfore Whittenburg was hurt and the doctor took Wilfore and his sister to the clinic. After a brief examination disclosed that the player had suffered a broken arm, Headlee sent his sister, Florence, back to the game to inform Whittenburg's mother and bring her to the clinic. Finding her mother along the sidelines, Florence raced over and said, "Mama, Doc says Willfore has a broken arm." "All right, child," she replied, "go back and tell doc I'll be there as soon as the quarter's over." Mrs. Whittenburg had several sons who played for Odessa.

When Fly Field was built, the school district didn't own all the land and the north end zone joined the property of a Mr. Winton, an elderly resident who didn't take kindly to all the noise generated by the football games. He also had the best tasting peaches in town and was plagued more by boys than birds in the trees. When an errant pass, punt or extra point went into his yard, a time out was called and the sheriff had to be summoned to fetch the ball. No one else dared enter the yard. On one occasion the ball flew over the fence and into the old man's front yard. Before anyone could retrieve the ball, Winton stepped onto his porch and blew it to bits with his shotgun.


Murry Fly: Educator Dr. Murry Fly and his wife, the former Mildred Hamm, settled in Odessa in 1925. During the next 24 years, Fly served as superintendent of the Ector County school system. In 1946, he became the founding president of Odessa College, and for the next three years, he served in dual capacity as superintendent of schools and president of the new institution. In 1949, Murry became fulltime president of the college. Fly also was active on the board of directors for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, served as president of the Trans-Pecos District State Teachers Association, as governor of District 2T Lions International, as president of the Odessa Lions Club. He also was a member of First Christian Church. He died on April 4, 1960.

In a radio broadcast interview, Fly once summed up the personal philosophy that allowed him to become one of Odessa's most memorable leaders: "I believe in the dignity of work. It may be mental or manual labor. I was taught as a boy that one should give an honest day's labor whether the boss is around or not."


Football excitement: During the 1928 Wink-Odessa High football game, which was played at Wink, George Tripp, an Odessa High School halfback, carried the ball. As he started to get up, a Wink player tried to jump on him, and Tripp aimed a timely kick, sending the player sprawling. After the game ended, the Wink player's mother, armed with a butcher knife, waited for Tripp to leave the field. Tripp, Buck Harris and Nash Tucker ran for safety, jumped in Tucker's car, and made their escape.