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
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."
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:
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.
compete with boys." said Ray Motley, a retired radio station manager.
across one Babe Didrikson in a lifetime," said Bud Woltering, a local
"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.
works," said Smith.