Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Oh Kenmore High Forever – Not Really

I started writing humor my senior year of high school in a monthly column titled “Giving The Bird”. Yes, they actually let me call it that because the mascot at Kenmore High School in Akron, Ohio is the cardinal. Or should I say, was the cardinal, because the school will be closing soon.

My friend Fred suggested I write a final “Giving The Bird” in this blog as a tribute.  I thought that was a lousy idea, but I have been following Fred’s outrageous ideas since we were young pranksters terrorizing the neighborhood.  If this post turns out to be terrible, you can blame Fred. 

Officially, they are not closing the school, but “merging” it with our arch-enemy Garfield High.  However, the new school building will sit on the site of the old Garfield High and they will bus the Kenmore kids in, so they are in effect closing my school. You bastards.

Combining these schools is a horrible idea. It’s like making the Greeks go to school with the Turks, the Hatfields studying with the Mc Coys, the Trumps playing ball with the Clintons. It just ain’t right.  We were taught in grade school that Garfield kids were stupid, smelled bad and had serious cooties.  This had something to do with football games and rivalries or such.  

The acrimony was drilled into us so deeply that it was still anathema to date a Garfield girl even after you graduated.  Even if she was cute, it didn’t matter.  You would be ostracized, and besides that, who wants to visit the medical clinic to receive treatment for a bad case of college cooties.  I have only had one friend from Garfield High my entire life.  Interestingly, she was a former Garfield cheerleader who I met through work.  I overlooked her heritage because she had uh, she was eh, - let’s just say she had a lovely personality. Did I mention she was a cheerleader?

Mixing these schools into one is just plain wrong. You bastards.  The school names, mascots (Cardinal and Ram) and colors (red/black and maroon/gold) are not easily combined for the new school.  Potential new names such as Kenfield and Garmore do not easily roll off the tongue. The worst combo would be Garken, which sounds too much like gherkin, where the school would be the home of the “Fighting Pickles”. Love that mascot! 

The school is closing since enrollment is now less than a third of when I graduated.  The environment inside the school has become more violent.  The mean kids beat up all scholars and the scholars transferred to the nearby suburban district in droves.  Now there are only a few students left and no one 
to beat up.

But don’t feel sorry for the mean kids, the plan is to transfer the Garfield students into the Kenmore building for a year while the new school is being built (the school will have some combo name for one year).  This means the Kenmore hooligans will have a fresh bunch of kids to beat up!  This should work out really well. You stupid bastards.  If the fighting is too intense, there may not be anyone left to attend the brand new Garken High. 

The conditions outside the school walls have deteriorated also.  The community is sliding downhill.  The potheads, turned into meth-heads, who turned into opiate addicts. Convenience store parking lots are  littered with used needles. There is a guy running loose who poops on people’s cars during the night (I am not making this up). In my day (used to hate this expression, but for some odd reason I’m using it more every day), you could walk the length of the main drag, The Boulevard, and feel safe at any hour of the day. Now, people get robbed at gunpoint in mid-afternoon.

My connection with Kenmore High School is tighter than most alumni.  My mother was a secretary there in the 1950’s.  It was a job she dearly loved, however she chose to give it up when she became pregnant with her only child (bonus points if you can guess his name).  She often lamented that her old high school had been closed in the early 80's.  I used to consider these comments as just the aimless ramblings of an old person, needlessly yearning for days gone by.  Ironically, I am now the same exact age as my mother was when they closed her school.  Suddenly, those ramblings are not so aimless and I yearn. Yes, I yearn.

Sadly, the first line of the alma mater is “Oh Kenmore High forever”. Well, now that’s a lie. Thanks, you bastards.  Now we need a new song.  Maybe one titled “My School Was Gone”. No, that sounds too close to “My City Was Gone” and that song was written about a totally different place, what city was it? Oh, Oh, Oh ….. Uh, Chrissie Hynde, could you please write a fourth verse, “I went back to Ohio, but my school was gone”.  
My gratitude to this school runs so deep.  I received a tremendous education there, of much more value to me than I could ever realize at the time.  What America provides you is opportunity and Kenmore High School gave me the opportunity to thrive, and I took it and ran.  First, at the University of Akron where I was the top Marketing student my senior year (“line up behind me, you suburban kids”) and then in the business world.  I’m not sure how high I stand on this corporate ladder, but be certain, the first rung is painted red and black.  Just as important, as mentioned previously, my humor writing began in a classroom there and ultimately lead to me being an author.

I desperately needed that great education, because as LeBron James said “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” You may understand what his words mean with your head, I can feel what his words mean in my heart.  And while LeBron is “Just a kid from Akron”, I will look out at the awesome scene from my hotel room, at a fancy resort where some group has flown me in to speak, and think to myself, “Not bad for a Kenmore kid”.

Now I have a deep, gut-wrenching pain.  The agony you feel at the funeral of an old friend.  A friend with whom you shared many great times, a friendship full of cherished memories.  A friend who departed much too soon.  The administrators who made this decision will claim the school died, I would argue they strangled it to death over many years.  But what these highly-paid, educational poohbahs will never, ever, realize, is when you close this school, you are closing part of me.  And for that, I will give you the bird. Rest in peace Kenmore High, rest in peace.

And three guys I admired it’s true
Senuta, Fortner and coach Wendschuh
They locked the door, the key they threw
The day the Cardinal died

And we were wailing
Bye, bye, school on Akron’s south side
Tried to study, got too bloody
And that spirit has died
Them Buckey boys passed the ball one last time 
Saying this’ll be the day that we cry


  1. ::::Tears::::: Class of '85 Alumni

  2. A Shout Out to Mrs Jamison, Mr Andrews, Mr McKinney, Mr Zelenka, and Mr Durkin - the worlds finest teachers ever (not counting my wife). They were models of professionalism that truly loved kids and their vocation - they made made learning fun. Never forgot "... debit side is always toward the windows.", Mr "D". God's Speed KHS. - Fred

    1. And Mr. Zelenka, "Hell still hath no fury...!"

    2. Some of my favorite teachers as well!!!

  3. writing... I expect you had the benefit of being in Mrs. Maher's classroom for newspaper or yearbook or journalism? My favorite teacher. Enjoyed your give them the bird. Mike Bastas pointed me this way to read your last KHS column. My thanks to you. N. KHS 70

  4. Such sad comments-so you think only the mean kids are left? Gee, then I guess the 8k in UofA scholarships being awarded to some very fine seniors this Thursday are only going to "mean" kids. Some of us are trying to make things better-what are YOU doing to help?

  5. One of the biggest problems we have in Kenmore is "reminiscing" about the past. What about Kenmore today? Mr. Ake, what have you done to improve or revive the Kenmore you so fondly remember?

  6. Im a senior here now, we have roughly 450 students, and only about 40 to 50 are graduating and about 70 are not. We've really gone down hill, but I'm glad I don't have to deal with the Garfield students next year. rip Kenmore high

  7. Terrific homage, sir...

    - from an '84 North High grad

  8. Well put! Although I don't live there anymore I have so much family left in Akron, Kenmore, Canal Fulton...ji Kenmore High School will be missed! But the memories will be forever. . Ruth A. Klein KHS "91"

  9. Mrs Maher would so love this entire blog. Kudos to you.

    Carmen Garland KHS 81

  10. Mrs. Maher started it all. She is the one who suggested the"Giving The Bird" column. Our editor thought is was a stupid idea. And 40 years later I am a humor author.

  11. Excuse me sir but I'm class of 2014 my sister class of 2016 and my youngest sister class of 2017 the last class to walk the halls as Kenmore high. We have had so many meetings about this school because the community does care about it and wanted it to stay. But as an alumni with a voice and a promising career you could of helped but what did you do but sit on your but merrily doing your job as Kenmore was honestly fighting to keep the school. It's depressing to see those who were so fond of the high school do nothing to try and help. I mean it's too late now but you can't say the kids got meaner you can't say that it became more violent. There are. As people but what about the good ones who made the community brighter or the school. Now it's just something to remember. Funding went to firestone like always and we were promised a new high school but because they spent too much elsewhere we were left with merging and it took the heart of the community and we couldn't do anything about it. People like you could of helped fight but didn't. It's a matter of what perspective you're really in I guess.

  12. I did consider using Zelenka instead of Senuta in the song parody, but it doesn't sound as smooth. He was great!

  13. Tonya, if you were there at the end and were the exception, you are truly exceptional. It would hurt me even more if I was in your place. I don't believe anything could have been done at the end, but I do agree with you.

  14. Wonderfully written. I graduated from KHS in 87. Mr.Zelenka rocked. I have taught at Kenmore foe the last 12 years. It is not what it once was. Thw fight was lost at the beginning of construction in Akron, really before when open enrollment hit and APS did nothing to keep the kids. I will let others see this. Once more nice job.

  15. Tonya,
    I'm sorry you felt abandoned but as many have said, the fight to save Kenmore was lost when Open Enrollment began. You can't let people walk away from their neighborhood school and expect the school to thrive or survive. We attended in a period when every kid in the area knew they were going to be a Cardinal and there was no escape. My escape route was Ohio State. Best of Luck.

  16. I have taught at Kenmore for 23 years. I love this school. I love these kids. They are not all "mean". We have hard-working scholars and talented musicians and actors and future scientists and writers and special Ed and regular Ed and gifted athletes- like any other school. Does the community have problems? Sure. There is more violence and drugs than before. There are also wonderful caring business people and churches and community leaders doing wonderful things. Has the school changed? Sure. Our families are poorer and more fractured. The kids are needier, and school is often where they come to be cared for, to be reminded of their worth, to be given hope and encouragement as well as knowledge.Its just the way it is. Has Kenmore been dealt with unfairly by the Powers That Be? I think so. We have been angry, we have cried, we have felt hopeless and abandoned. But finally, there are the kids. They need love and discipline and structure and positive role models. We need to be there for all of them, the mean ones, (the category you so unfairly lumped them all into), and the majority who are doing the best they can, and deserving of my best. Garfield kids too, next year. We will be there for them, and write a new Alma mater, figure out a new mascot, devise a name, and we will try to inspire, motivate, educate, all those things good teachers still do, no matter what building we are in, or what neighborhood. Will it be different next year? Absolutely. But it could even be, dare I say it, better!

    You do write beautifully- made me laugh out loud and get mad and think. Glad you got a good Kenmore High School education. We are still educating here, mean kids and all.

  17. Speaking as a Garfield graduate, go Rams, I was saddened at what is happening to Kenmore. It is hard to believe the school I was taught to hate, for sports reasons will now be combined with my Alma Mater. But since the education system has changed so much over the years, unfortunately they are leaving public schools to wither away. I am sure this will be a tough transition for all the kids but I have faith in all the wonderful teachers that love on these kids, thugs and scholars, every day and do their darnest to give them a good education. Maybe the new mascot can be a flying Red Ram. I am sure this will all be figured out. Thanks for the great story Don.
    Janet Flora

    1. Janet, I forgot you went to Garfield - and now that makes a couple of my comments in the blog - untrue. 1. I had more than one friend who was a Garfield grad and 2. We very well may have dated in college if I was already engaged! Thanks! and You're Welcome!