Last updated: July 12. 2014 1:51PM - 573 Views
Paul Johnson DHS Class of ‘49

Paul Johnson, a 1949 Durant High School graduate, speaks to those who graduated DHS in the late 1940s-early 1950s during a luncheon held Friday. The Durant High School All Classes reunion was held Friday evening.
Paul Johnson, a 1949 Durant High School graduate, speaks to those who graduated DHS in the late 1940s-early 1950s during a luncheon held Friday. The Durant High School All Classes reunion was held Friday evening.
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Editor’s note: Durant High School Class of 1949 graduate Paul Johnson read this letter during a luncheon held Friday for graduates from that era at the Roadhouse. Johnson is the author of the memoir, “P.J.’s Route which is about his experiences as a Durant Daily Democrat carrier when he was a boy. 

A request is that all of you for whom I do not have email addresses, please send this address to me so I can more easily contact you if we have more lunches. Send these addresses to pauljohnson7333@yahoo.com Thanks.

The purpose is to bring you up-to-date about some people and/or events about those who attended DHS. I do this knowing that I cannot possibly cover all those whom you know and care about, but my sources are limited. So, here are some news events, with my last part dealing with the death of a classmate.

Jim Hampton, MD, Class of ’48, was inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame in May, ’14. For years Dr. Hampton has been a successful oncologist in practice in Oklahoma City.

John Massey of Durant has been a member of Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame for numerous years. I think it safe to conjecture that John is among the most wealthy of DHS’s graduates. He has served for years as a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Regents for Higher Education and was appointed to his 3rd 9 year term of office. Needless to say, John has a powerful voice about higher education in Oklahoma. The School of Business at SOSU is named for him as a result of his philanthropy, which he and his wife continue. Thanks, Massey’s.

Perhaps the most successful (if one determines success by one’s career and monetary value) was Howard Lester of the Class of ’53, now deceased. He was the CEO of Williams-Sonoma. One time, while he was alive, I did a Google search about him and one report listed the number of shares of stocks he owned in Williams-Sonoma. I did a quick calculation of his wealth based on what he could sell his shares for and determined (an approximation) that he was, indeed, very wealthy.

A DHS grad, probably in the 50s, named Joe Williams, was the head basketball coach at Jacksonville, (FL) State when his team won the NCAA basketball championship.

Our Jim Ely was inducted into the DHS Athletic Hall of Fame during 2012. Congrats, Jim! Several of our class members were present to be with him on his induction. I might add that Jim has been a most successful referee in various activities—in high school officiating, in college officiating, and with professional football games. He recently served as the official time keeper at the Super Bowl game.

Another of our classmates, Nancy Hyde Stalnaker, whose letter I read to you, has had one of the most unique careers (after years of teaching in public schools) as she groomed and showed Westies in dog shows. She won many championships with her dogs. Nancy has given me permission to list her email address if anyone is interested in communicating with her. The address is southwesties@gmail.com

Another DHS Athletic Hall of Fame member, Harold Harmon, has contributed in various ways to his alma mater, as well as at his position at Southeastern.

One person whom we may all recall that was proud of having attended the public schools in Durant, but not graduating from DHS, was Eddie Rue McClanahan. Some of you may recall that she returned to the Texoma Lodge numerous years ago to be at the DHS reunion. How wonderfully entertaining she was to all with whom she interacted.

Perhaps the latest DHS grad to receive national and international recognition is Tracy Letts. Tracy just turned 49 years of age on July 4th. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his drama, August: Osage County, in 2008, and a Tony Award for his on stage acting as the character of George in the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.. Tracy’s August: Osage County was made into a movie seen by millions around the world. Marlene knew him when he was in productions at SOSU, even though Tracy did not attend Southeastern. Tracy’s mother, then a professor at SOSU, wrote the novel, Where the Heart Is, that was made into a successful movie.

There are probably other “headline makers” who attended DHS about whom I don’t know. I like to keep some type of record about those. If you know about them, please send me an email at pauljohnson7333@yahoo.com and inform me of their success.

I want to give high praise to all who did not make the “headlines” but received a good education at DHS, and were highly productive in multiple ways in careers, whether inside or outside of the home environment. When I hear about their successes, I am filled with pride that DHS, along with thousands of other high schools around the USA, have contributed to solid education, good citizenship, caring family life (for the most part), volunteerism by the thousands of hours, memberships in religious and civic organizations, and just by “doing the right things” morally and ethically in their lives. I want all of us to remember that for the most part we had good teachers who cared for us and guided us appropriately.

To those who did not attend DHS, but are reading this because you chose wisely to marry a DHS grad, congratulations to you for choosing wisely, and to your spouse for choosing you.

Sadly, I’ll finish by reminding you that one of my best life long friends, George Boyet, died this year. His wife, Mary Ellen, sent his obit to me and it included several things about his home town, Durant, Oklahoma, as well as mentioning his life long friend, Paul Johnson. George taught for many years at Napa, CA Community College. George, as well as several others, made a lasting impression on my life. One humorous thing was when a high school teacher asked us to exchange papers in class to grade them I always tried to get George’s because no one seemed to be able to read his hand writing (I couldn’t very well, either), but I just knew that if George had written it, it was correct. In the last years of George’s life, he continued to write long letters to me using longhand that might consume 6-8 pages of yellow legal-sized paper. It took me some time to decipher his words. But I did so like to receive this “epistle” from George Marcum Boyet. Would we all have such great friends as George and I were.

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