Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Airline High School

Airline High School crest printing block. Bossier Press-Tribune Collection: 2012.006.004.
In 1962 the Bossier Parish School Board (BPSB) approved the purchase of 65-acres from Harlan Beene for $85,000. During the time when segregation was law, this land would be home to Bossier City’s second all-white high school. They hired Thomas R. Merideth to draw-up the preliminary plans. A few months later the BPSB agreed to purchase an additional 9.46 acres from Mr. Beene to allow room for a stadium for the high school and for a new elementary school, in the near future. 

In June of that year, the Metropolitan Planning Commission approved the location selected for the new schools. With the necessary approvals, the BPSB officially appointed Thomas R. Merideth as the architect for the new high school. Thomas R. Merideth was a Bossier City architect who designed all the schools in the parish for many years. The Bossier Parish Police Jury (BPPJ) agreed to cut a 1-mile blacktop road to connect Airline Drive with Benton Road. In November of 1964, the BPPJ approved the resolution to name the new road Viking Drive. 

On October 3, 1963, the BPSB voted to name the new school Airline High School. “The name ‘Airline’ was selected because of the school’s proximity to Barksdale Air Rorce [sic] Base as well as its location on Airline Drive.” The school was built on a budget of $2.5 million and paid for by selling bonds in District 13 amounting to $1.5 million, based on an increase in property taxes from 14 mills to 20 mills approved by taxpayers in a 1962 vote. One month later the BPSB accepted the low bid of Howard, Weil, Labouisse, Friedrichs, and Co. of $1.5 million for the bonds. 

Before the school opened, new school district lines were required; dividing, for the first time, the Bossier City high school students. Also, the BPSB approved lengthening the school day by 45 minutes, going from a 45-minute homeroom session and five class sessions to a 30-minute homeroom session and six class sessions. The football team played their first intrasquad game, with the Whites beating the Blues 20-12. And, 28 students were selected by fellow incoming students to serve as the student council. Airline’s first student council held a vote selecting ‘Vikings’ as the nickname and the school colors of Columbia and Navy Blue.  

Airline High School opened to grades 9-12 at the start of the 1964-1965 school year with Robert D. (Bob) Horneman as principal. According to an article in The Times on October 11, 1964, Airline High School is described as “a sprawling complex of nearly-completed ultra-modern units on a site that is still dotted with cotton plants. Airline, which has an enrollment of 781 at present and a capacity of 1,500 pupils, opened its doors last month while construction work was still in progress on part of the facilities. Work continues on the boys’ and girls’ gyms, and the auditorium. The entire plant is expected to be completed by the end of this school year. On a 74-acre site on Airline Drive, the school has 195, 000 feet of floor space and cost $2.3 million. Capacity enrollment is expected by 1966.”  
Aerial photo of Airline High School. Bossier Chamber of Commerce Collection: 1998.047.180a.
Airline High School also boasted a home economics department with “ultra-modern” appliances and an Early American living room.  A commercial department equipped with L-shaped typewriting desks and electric typewriters.  An outdoor book-drop for the secure return of library books even after hours. And a modern island-type science laboratory to allow four students to work on one experiment. Plus, a 1290-capacity auditorium, a baseball stadium, tennis courts, an all-weather track, and various practice fields. In 1969 a 10,000-seat football stadium was added to the campus at the cost of $650,000. 

Valhalla 1965, Airline High School's first yearbook.
Donated by Paul Haynie Collection: 1999.116.025.
On Thursday, May 27, 1965, at 8 pm Airline High School held its first commencement exercise for a class of 101 seniors.    

To learn more about the history of Bossier Parish Schools’, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries (BPL) History Center. We are looking for Airline High School yearbook donations. If you have these years: 1970, 1971, 1979, and 2016, please consider donating them to the BPL History Center. If you’d like to donate your yearbooks, please drop by or call us at 318-746-7717. 

By: Amy Robertson

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