By ADAM ARMOUR
A dusty old yearbook from 1952 inspired Kevin Brown.
As Dorsey Junior High’s assistant principal thumbed through the pages of the yearbook — by far the oldest of its kind in the school’s library — he noticed that it seemed to be lacking: There were no pictures of the youngest students, no photos of any classrooms, no action shots showing the basketball team mid-game. For Brown, who was anxious to delve into the school’s history, it was a tremendous disappointment.
But, disappointment led to ingenuity, and Brown formulated an idea that, if completed, would help chronicle and preserve the school’s long-standing history.
“The whole big picture is getting an oral and pictorial history down,” Brown explained. “I know these stories are out there … If all of that history is out there, and I’m in a position to relate that history to a new generation … that’s what I want to do.”
Working with the newly formed Dorsey Student Council, Brown strives to compile a collection of photographs and stories about Dorsey Junior High’s history. He hopes to take these stories and pictures and create a DVD chronicling this history, which would be kept at the school, but made available for copying so that anyone and everyone may own it.
Brown is hoping that the DVD will be finished by the end of the school year and can be used to educate young Dorsey students about the school’s growth and history, and perhaps give them a greater sense of pride in what the school has become.
“The buildings have all changed, the dress code has changed and all of the rules have changed,” Brown said. “When our basketball players put on a uniform, they don’t have a clue about the players who came before them … about their uniforms, what they did and what the rules were. Even the game of basketball was very different back then.”
He added that, by seeing the way things used to be — the “simpler times” — youth of the current generation will be more respectful of the older.
“I hear a lot of older people say that this generation does not have the same respect for their elders, and I think part of it is that this generation doesn’t know anything about the older generation,” Brown said.
It will be an ever-evolving project, Brown said — one that is to be added to throughout the years, eventually expanding into covering the entire Dorsey community. It’s a bold and overwhelming undertaking, as Brown and his students now have to go about collecting the photographs and stories to get started.
According to Brown, much of the school’s photos of past principals, of which his great-grandfather is one, and original classrooms have either been misplaced or are nonexistent (although he feels the latter is unlikely). So, he’s putting out a plea to all of Itawamba County who has such photographs — of principals, students, teachers, staff, buildings, rules or even styles of dress — to contact him so that they can be preserved and appreciated through this project.
Brown, who is somewhat of an aficionado of oral storytelling, is also trying to gather oral histories. The plan is to record or videotape former Dorsey students as they tell stories about the school, capturing not only the story itself but also the emotion of the person who lived it. To Brown, these oral histories are an important part of Dorsey’s own history, as the oral tradition has played a role in Southern life for decades.
“Families in Itawamba County still sit down and tell each other stories,” Brown said. “That’s just part of being a family … All of these stories that are told around all of the fireplaces, that’s what I want this generation, and my generation, to know.”
He added a remorseful note to the importance of collecting stories: “The older generation is disappearing, and all of the stories are disappearing as well.”
This is an important project, Brown knows, as the Dorsey community is set to see monumental changes in the near future with the arrival of Toyota Boshoku.
“Dorsey is on the cusp of growing huge, I believe,” Brown said. “If we get to the point where we — as my granddaddy use to say — are ‘too big for our britches,’ then we’re not going to know where we came from.”
Although Brown acknowledges that collecting all of
these stories and photographs will be difficult, he is confident that the people of Dorsey will come together and support the project.
“I think we’ll have overwhelming response — more than I can handle,” Brown said with a laugh.
For more information, contact Brown at 862-3663, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax information to 862-7210.