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A special vote was scheduled for September 1976. The new, unified high school would cost $17.5 million; the money would be raised through a local bond issue whose fate would be decided by the balloting. Once the new high school was ready, Taft and Garfield would be used as junior highs, giving the community, in effect, three new schools. Opponents said the tax bite was too large, that discipline and learning were needed far more than buildings and that Taft and Garfield—both only 17 years old—were perfectly decent high schools. It was said quietly that those opposed to the bond issue also didn't want their children going to school with blacks.
To defeat the bond issue a good deal of money was spent by a swiftly formed group called the Butler County Taxpayers Association. It placed ads in the Hamilton Journal-News and made numerous radio appeals against the bond issue. The Journal-News itself took a pro-bond stand, and its publisher, Chuck Everill, was a vigorous backer of the cause. "Hamilton is very much in need of this improvement, both for its own sake and as a symbol," Everill said privately. "This is a vote not just for a new central high school but for a solution to our racial problems and for a civic enterprise to combat the loss of pride that went along with the loss of industrial jobs. The school will give Hamilton a new image of itself, which we need badly."
Proponents tended to be liberals, blacks and those like Everill who felt a new school would help the community's self-esteem. Their adversaries tended to be the poor whites, who felt overtaxed already, the elderly on fixed incomes and fiscal conservatives, all of whom the Butler County Taxpayers Association purported to represent. The bond issue became a community litmus test. Joe Nuxhall, a Hamiltonian and former Reds pitcher during World War II, who became the youngest player—at 15—ever to perform in the majors, saw difficulties both ways. "When they went to two schools in the '50s they divided Hamilton more than the Miami ever did," he said, referring to the river that runs through the middle of the town. "Now they're trying to put it back together again with a $17.5 million Band-Aid."
Then the Butler County Taxpayers Association, having hitherto claimed only to stand for fiscal responsibility, let its other shoe drop.
In a full-page advertisement in the Journal-News, the Taxpayers Association warned voters that if there were only one high school, there would be "More Busing and Traffic Congestion." In case anyone didn't divine the significance of the reference to busing, the ad threatened: DON'T LET THE BOOGIE MEN SCARE YOU. There it was: BOOGIE.
In person, at the Eaton Manor, Hamilton's only elegant restaurant, the men who made up the Taxpayers Association weren't reticent. Their long discussions touched on subjects as varied as the local economy, the teaching of political science, school discipline and equal rights for women.
"Girls can't compete with boys." said Ray Motley, a retired radio station manager.
"You come across one Babe Didrikson in a lifetime," said Bud Woltering, a local businessman.
"If a woman is doing the same work as a man, she should get the same pay," said Gordon Smith, a retired assistant county auditor. "If a black comes in and works, actually works, he should be paid the same, too," Woltering said.
"If he works," said Smith.