Southwinds

60 years later

Don't forget to attend the Annual Richard Thompson Track & Field Classic on February 24, 2018.

Former+South+Mountain+High+School+student-athletes+Richard+Thompson+%28left%29+and+Bobby+Heard%2C+who+attended+in+the+mid+1950s%2C+stand+by+the+Roeser+Road+mural+next+to+the+old+Rebel+mascot.+In+1985%2C+South+Mountain+replaced+the+controversial+Rebel+with+a+Jaguar.%0A
Former South Mountain High School student-athletes Richard Thompson (left) and Bobby Heard, who attended in the mid 1950s, stand by the Roeser Road mural next to the old Rebel mascot. In 1985, South Mountain replaced the controversial Rebel with a Jaguar.

Former South Mountain High School student-athletes Richard Thompson (left) and Bobby Heard, who attended in the mid 1950s, stand by the Roeser Road mural next to the old Rebel mascot. In 1985, South Mountain replaced the controversial Rebel with a Jaguar.

Photo by Makayla Lambert

Photo by Makayla Lambert

Former South Mountain High School student-athletes Richard Thompson (left) and Bobby Heard, who attended in the mid 1950s, stand by the Roeser Road mural next to the old Rebel mascot. In 1985, South Mountain replaced the controversial Rebel with a Jaguar.

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The South Mountain High School that we know today was another world in the 1950s. Bobby Heard and Richard Thompson attended South back then and were on the track team.

“I started running in grammar school,” Heard said. “I didn’t run at all until I beat my wife. She was the fastest.”

“I had to make a choice between baseball and track,”  Thompson said.  “So, when I looked over and [saw] that there was nobody out for baseball … that’s when I chose track.”

Heard participated in the 100 and 220 meters, the quarter-mile, and the long and high jumps. Thompson was a high jumper, until the end of his senior year when he ran hurdles.

 “In those days … the high jump pit had bales of hay with sawdust in it,” Thompson said. “The major difference … [was] that we ran on a dirt track. Not what you see out here now.”

The local competition for South back then was only five schools: Phoenix Union, North, East, Camelback, and West. In 1958, South won the state title in track thanks, in part, to an exceptional athlete.

“What I remember about the team was that we had one guy that was very outstanding, and his name was Jack Carter. He won the 100, the 200, and the 400 overall,” Thompson said. “South Mountain in those days [was] a very strong team in pretty much every event.”

When Thompson and Heard attended South, the Civil Rights Movement was just beginning.

“We were not black. We were not African American. We were not negroes. We were colored,” Thompson said. “What you need to understand is that when we came to this school, there was no guidance in terms of making a transition from [a] colored school to an integrated school. No one was prepared for that.”

Still, despite having all white coaches and being a part of an integrated team, Thompson said they faced no discrimination on the squad.

“We didn’t have any problems with our teammates,” he said. “We didn’t have any problems coming from a racial stand of point.”

One issue that did arise was South’s Rebel mascot. The Rebel symbolized a Civil War soldier in the Confederate Army which fought to keep slavery intact in the United States. In 1985, the school’s mascot was replaced with a Jaguar. Today, you can still see the Rebel in the lower right hand corner of the mural on the back of the Auditorium Building.

Thompson and Heard both shared that many black students were uncomfortable with the Rebel representing them. Some fought it, but there weren’t enough people against the Rebel to replace the mascot at the time.

South has changed in many ways over the years.

“The opportunities are far … greater,” Thompson said. “There’s far more counseling, far more guidance in terms of an athlete or a student making it. There’s a social counselor and there’s a counselor in terms of academics. They have an opportunity to do more things.”

The Annual Richard Thompson Track & Field Classic will be held here at school on February 24, 2018. The South Mountain track team will participate and both Bobby Heard and Richard Thompson expect to be in the stands cheering on the current athletes. Though, Thompson wishes he could be down on the field with the rest of the Jaguars.

“I’m still an athlete,” He patted his chest and smiled. “I’m just too old to participate.”

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