Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Plain Dealing High School's Forest

Future Farmers of America with Oren S. McFatter, vocational instructor.
Plain Dealing High School Collection: 2004.013.020

In 1946, Plain Dealing High School Principal Felix G. Phillips called a meeting to discuss the organization of a forestry program for the school. Phillips explained to his audience that "he had been thinking of and was interested in forestry and the improvement of agriculture in general for many years; and for the past five years had been planning a forestry program for the Plain Dealing High School and had now reached that point where he could put those plans into effect.

"He explained that his idea was to develop a forest project on the land belonging to the school and use it to enable boys and girls to become familiar with forest development and management. In doing this it will also influence farmers in this section as well as other schools to become interested. The school is fortunate in having for its site about 25 acres.

"Mr. Phillips further stated that Bossier Parish is especially suited for the production of forest and forest products and he wanted to do all he could to get the citizenry interested. He believes this can be done by working through the children."

The meeting included members of the State Forestry Commission, Soil Conservation Service, Bossier Parish School Board, fire prevention, Louisiana State Forestry Commission, farmers, and the Southern Craft Paper Mill, an International Paper division. Those in attendance favored the idea and formed committees to see the project through to completion. By the end of 1946, Phillips' vision for a school forestry program became a reality after a 10-acre plot was dedicated to the program.

The District Forester, D.Y. Smith, brought 2,500 saplings for the occasion. That year's freshman class planted the first 500. Students in the Future Farmers of America club lead by Oren S. McFatter, Plain Dealing High School's vocational agricultural teacher; 4-H clubbers lead by Enoch T. Nix and other interested high school students planted the remaining 2,000 saplings. Over the next two years, an additional 4,000 saplings were planted in the school's forest.

Principal Phillips with sign O.S. McFatter presented
to him dedicating the forest plot in his honor, 1948.
In 1948, O.S. McFatter presented a plaque with a dedicatory inscription naming the forest plot in honor of Principal Felix G. Phillips.

Nine years after the program started, John Webb, a representative from the Louisiana Forestry Commission, visited the Phillips Forestry Project to inspect Louisiana high schools' first forestry project. Tommy Kohara, the official photographer of the Louisiana Forestry Commission, took pictures. Six months later, in celebration of the forest's 10th anniversary, a three full-page article appeared in "Forests and People," the Louisiana Forestry Commissions magazine.

According to Webb's article, "Since the dedication, small landowners in the environs of the town have planted many plots to pine. Oren McFatter, vocational agricultural teacher at Plain Dealing High School, is teaching forestry to agricultural classes each year, using the demonstration plot to teach planting and management. He and Glenn H. Crawford, present principal of the high school, plan on expanding the forestry project when and if more land can be obtained."

(L to R) C.O. Holland, James A. Gayle, B.L. Snyder, T.L. Rhodes
Dedication of Haughton High School Forest, 1961. Source: Bossier Press
Three years later, the school dedicated an additional 40-acres just north of the Arkansas-Louisiana line. In 1961, the second Bossier Parish High School forest was dedicated at Haughton High School. A 40-acre tract located just north of Fillmore, where vocational agriculture students studied under Frank Staten. Profits from selling forest products produced by both schools were used to buy equipment for vocational agriculture.

By: Amy Robertson

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