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July 4th gathering

Former North High School teacher has fond memorie

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Arthur Darnborough, a retired teacher from the former Columbus North High School, holds the plaque he received when he was named to the North High School Hall of Fame. The longtime history teacher wrote a post-master's thesis on the history of North after its official closing in 1979. For the teachers and faculty, old North High School in Columbus was the best and its students were the brightest.
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For the teachers and faculty, old North High School in Columbus was the best and its students were the brightest.

"You could not ask for a better place to teach in your entire career," Northwest Side resident Arthur Darnbrough recalled last week.

"You didn't need to go to the suburbs. We were better than the suburbs."

Darnbrough, 71, was a history teacher at North High School on Arcadia Avenue just south of Clintonville from 1966 until the bitter end -- the controversial closing of the building in 1979.

ROARS, the newsletter of the Polar Bear Alumni Association, came out recently announcing the schedule of events for the 22nd annual "North on the Fourth." That's a July 4 gathering at what's now Columbus International High School for graduates, former students, administrators and faculty members.

Darnbrough, voted "favorite teacher" by the seniors four times during his 13-year tenure, is a fixture at North on the Fourth.

"It's like a family reunion," Darnbrough said.

The alumni group, named for the school's athletic mascot, sells T-shirts, memorabilia and other items at the annual event, "that keep our memories strong and keep us loving one another," Darnbrough said.

The history teacher wrote a post-master's thesis on the history of North after its official closing. He did so at the urging of a professor at Ohio State University.

"North High School is unique in many ways, one being the intense love and devotion of its former students and faculty," according to another history of the institution, written by Leeann Faust and posted on the alumni association's website.

"It is most likely the only school in the country with three different alumni associations: a men's social group, the Old North Hi Club; a woman's social group, the Woman's Alumnae Association; and a service group, Polar Bear Alumni Association) which sponsors the North on the Fourth open house reunion each Fourth of July and issues quarterly newsletters.

"The three groups working together raised over $100,000 to bring a sculpture of North's mascot, the polar bear, to the Columbus Zoo."

In 1939, Darnbrough said, North High's teams won city championships in football, baseball, basketball and track.

"You do not see that anywhere," he marveled.

Mike Hagley, the legendary football coach for whom the school's stadium is named, won 15 championships during his tenure, which stretched from the 1923 to the 1960, according to Darnbrough.

"It was the envy of all the other schools in the city," he added.

And then, abruptly, it wasn't.

North High, which opened Feb. 3, 1893, at the original location near the intersection of Fourth and Dennison avenues before moving to Arcadia Avenue Sept. 2, 1924, was to close at the conclusion of the 1979 academic year.

In spite of predictable bitter remonstrations on the part of parents, students and graduates, school board members stuck by their guns.

"Due to declining enrolment and busing, North was closed in June of 1979 after graduating 30,551 students," Faust wrote in her history of the place.

"It was political that they closed it," Darnbrough asserted.

"Even though we were the most convenient high school to get to in the city ... it was purely political that it was closed."

Although most of his memories of colleagues and students are especially fond ones, Darnbrough admitted his recollections of that final year are bittersweet, at best.

"It was tragic," he said. "It was like a death knell hanging over everyone.

"No one could imagine the North End without North High School. It was just like we were waiting for the anvil to fall. The last teachers' meeting we had was a big cry session."

Richard Munsell, the last principal in the long history of North High, "did a marvelous job of keeping us together and focused," and also helped find jobs for his teachers at other schools in the district, according to Darnbrough.

"He had a titan's job and he did it and we are forever grateful for it. He held us together. I still tear up when I see him, and I hold him high regard."

Since the end of the line for North High School, the Arcadia Avenue building has been the North Education Center, a swing school while East High was renovated, home to the Linden McKinley STEM program and now the location of Columbus International High School.

"We're all for that," Darnbrough said. "My hat's off to them. They're keeping a tradition going by having a school in that area and we all applaud that. We're all so happy that it's taking its rightful place again in the education of the youth."

And Arthur Darnbrough is happy that he was there back in the day, educating young people.

"I can say I taught at North High School," he said. "That was the highlight of my entire career. I loved those kids. Some of those kids are in their 60s now, but I love them.

"I so look forward to seeing them again."

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