A number of famous people attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, my alma mater.
Opened in September 1939, Will Rogers High School, home of the Rogers Ropers and also known as “Will on the Hill,” is the third oldest high school in Tulsa and is well-known for its art deco architecture design.
Some well-known names who graduated from WRHS include Anita Bryant, the Miss America Runner up in 1959 and Florida Orange Juice spokesperson; Gailard Sartain, an illustrator and actor who was on the Hee Haw cast for 20-years and actor of at least 27 movies; Leon Russell, owner of the Church Studio and session musician who recorded 31 albums and wrote 430 songs; Elvin Bishop, musician known for his song, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love;” David Gates, a founding member of the 1970s rock group, Bread; Russell Meyers, creator of the comic strip, Broom Hilda; Paul Brooks Davis, an American graphic artist; Charles Bell, a photorealist painter; and S.E. Hinton, author of such novels as “The Outsiders,” “That was Then, This is Now,” “Rumble Fish,” and “Tex.”
I mention Hinton, who graduated from Will Rogers in 1966, because of the popularity of the movie, “The Outsiders,” her first novel that was adapted from her book of the same name and released March 26, 1983, nearly 39 years ago.
Hinton began writing “The Outsiders” at age 15 and sold it at age 17, quite a phenomenal undertaking for someone that young.
Much of “The Outsiders,” movie was filmed in Tulsa in 1982 under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola. The movie featured Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, S.E. Hinton, who played a nurse in the movie, Leif Garrett, Darren Dalton, Tom Waits and Gailard Sartain.
I’ve never read the book, but do I have a signed copy I purchased at Barnes and Noble a few years ago. And I have seen the movie.
My interest in “The Outsiders” was peaked last week after reading an on-line story in the Tulsa World about sixth-grade students from Will Rogers who toured the museum and learned about the movie.
Will Rogers is much different than it was in the 1970s when I attended. In 2011, Tulsa Public Schools converted Will Rogers to a dual enrollment school for students in grades, 6 – 12. Once they complete their course work, they will have up to 66 college units, the equivalent of an associate degree. The school has since been renamed “Will Rogers College Junior High and High School” with the first graduating class in 2014.
The Outsiders House Museum, which is located at 731 N. St. Louis Ave., and located north and east of downtown Tulsa, was the primary film set for the coming-of-age movie. The movie is about a teen gang in rural Oklahoma, the Greasers, who are odds with the Socials, a rival group, and what follows between the two groups.
In 2015, hip hop artist Danny Boy O’Connor, a fan and memorabilia collector of “The Outsiders” movie, purchased the house, which had fallen in to disrepair, for $15,000 and spent four years turning it into a museum, which opened in 2019.
O’Connor first learned of the house while in Tulsa in 2009 to perform a concert at the iconic Tulsa honky tonk, Cain’s Ballroom.
Anyway, last week 200 sixth-graders from Will Rogers Middle School toured the museum. According to the Tulsa World article, the tour was part of their English class, along with reading Hinton’s book, and watching the movie in class.
“I can’t think of another scenario in which young people can walk the halls of the same school as the author, read the book, watch the movie, visit the movie location and see memorabilia from the production,” O’Connor said in the news release.
It reminds me of my high school days at Rogers. I took an English course on rock music of all things. The goal was to learn about a rock group and write an essay about how the band started. I chose the rock group, Boston.
I was telling Debbie that I rode my bicycle about a mile from my boyhood home down 15th Street to the Oz (CuriOzity) head shop to purchase a copy of a Rolling Stones magazine that featured an article on the band. For those who don’t know, a head shop sells smoking papers, tobacco products and other goodies.
Somehow I entered and escaped the head shop while remaining true to my beliefs and values. But it was still scary and was not what Dorothy called home.
I’m all for learning outside the box. I think students gain real-world experiences when they can step outside the classroom and experience and learn about life. What a great opportunity for these young people.
If you love “The Outsiders” and are in Tulsa, you might want to check out the museum. For more info, visit https://www.theoutsidershouse.com/
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.