Titan Star

Block Number: 63


By Ginger Todd

On a chilly Friday morning, November 5th, Mike Lucas, with the assistance of Farm Bureau Board Members Eddie Bingham and Wayne Miller, erected scaffolding along the front wall of the garden entrance to McDowell High School in preparation for mounting Block #63 on the McDowell Quilt Trail. The high school will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2011, so the timing was ideal for the installation of the school’s quilt block, “Titan Star.” The 8’ x 8’ block is the first quilt block to be placed on a school in McDowell County and become a part of the now well-recognized local McDowell Quilt Trail.

At noon, Jill Lucas, chairperson of the McDowell Quilt Trail Committee, presented the Certificate of Authenticity to Principal Ben Talbert. Principal Talbert voiced his appreciation to the teachers, students, and Quilt Trail volunteers who helped carry out the project. With pride, he spoke of how the students accepted the incentive given them by the Board of Commissioners to become involved in a recycling program, which in turn would render the school the funds to purchase the block. Paper, cans, glass, plastic, ink cartridges, and other recyclable materials were collected toward this endeavor, connecting the “Titan Star” not only to students and faculty, but involvement with the community as a whole.

Accepting the certificate, along with Principal Talbert, was Ira Trollinger, Superintendent of McDowell Schools; Karen Dark, Art Teacher; Karen Hawkins, Apparel and Design Teacher; as well as AP art students Christina Ramsey, Kelly Solesby, Lauren Roquemore, Kayla Heffner, Landon Dirhold and Ashley Pedersen. Also attending the ceremony was Philip Price and Lisa Daye, Assistant Principals, as well as Mike Murray and Becky Pearson, Assistant Superintendents of McDowell Schools.

Toward the end of the school year 2009-2010, Mr. Talbert approached teachers Karen Hawkins and Karen Dark, with the idea of hosting a quilt block for the school, and asked them to spearhead the undertaking Excited about the idea, the teachers informed their students, and initial plans for the design were set in place. At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, a general committee was formed, the design was selected, and then after explanatory discussions, the design was approved by the Steering Committee. During the selection process, the hot topic and faculty buzz around school was, “Have you chosen a quilt block yet?” The resulting product is a slight variation of the school’s logo. The block consists of four wood panels, each a 4’ x 4’ quadrant, weighing 60 pounds for a total of 240 pounds.

To participate in the tedious work involved, six AP art students traveled to the studio of the McDowell Quilt Trail at the McDowell House, for their second period art class to assist with the painting of the block. While Mike Lucas did the design layout on the quadrants, the students taped some of the sections, each being assigned a number indicating which section they would paint. They quickly learned of the precision necessary in both the taping and painting of the design. To make sure the brush strokes are going in only one direction, the paint must be applied in one continuous stroke. After many sessions and three coats later, the students agreed it was definitely an educational experience, especially in the importance of accurate math and graphic calculations.

The students are proud of their creative accomplishment. The entire experience heightened their appreciation and respect for the art and the talent of their great grandmothers, who made quilts, often using only scraps of material they had on hand to piece together the various patterns. Their art teacher Karen Dark reports that the quilt trail program has made the students more aware of the county and the impact this program has had on the community aesthetically, while recognizing that they are a part of something bigger, due to their involvement with this project for their school.

The welcoming “Titan Star” block is truly a work of art, with multiple individual six-inch cubes forming the background, cascading in eight variations of blue, fading from dark royal in the four corners, to the lightest of blues bordering the star. The large centered dark blue outline of the star is followed by decreasing stars within itself of white, crimson, and a lighter blue, accented by a small bright yellow star in the middle. This design is an adaptation of the highly recognized McDowell High School emblem designed by the Athletic Department in 1979.

The establishment of McDowell High School did not come about easily. With the demolition of the old Marion High School on West Court Street for new recreational facilities in the late 1960s, proposals were being put forth for a consolidated high school in McDowell County. The six school systems including Nebo, Glenwood, Pleasant Gardens, North Cove, Old Fort and Marion, were overcrowded, poorly lit, and in need of repair. Merger issues flared up in 1966 and 1967 and the county commissioners deferred action twice, delaying a decision of firm commitment. When the issue was finally put to the voters in 1967, support was lacking and it was defeated by 157 votes. It was evident consolidation was not popular among the county’s residents.

In 1968 the county commissioners endorsed a school bond for the merger/consolidation of McDowell County and Marion City, including one high school and two jr. high schools. In September it was put to the voters once again, and passed. The property having been purchased from Sam Phillips of Spruce Pine, grading and construction began on Highway U.S. 70 West for the new McDowell High School, as well as McDowell Junior High School. In 1971 the school was officially established, with silver, blue and red chosen as its colors, and “Titan” chosen as the name of their sports team.

The original high school symbolic emblem was a Greek god on a shield, armed with a thunderbolt, representing superiority an excellence, and designed by Asheville artist Al Dexter. A painting of this may be seen in the school office and other areas of the school. The theme was “Every one learns every day” and the pronunciation of Titan was noted to be “Tie Ton.”

Although 1971 is the establishment date on the school seal, the actual move to the new school was delayed until the 1972-73 school year. An “open house” was held in 1972, with special attention being given to the individual heat/air units, and emphasis being placed on the greatly expanded rich curriculum, strong preparatory courses, and vocational opportunities, including Driver’s Ed. 160 diplomas were handed out in June to the graduating class.

As summarized by retired history teacher Wayne L. Greene, the Titan emblem’s large size and intricate, ornate details resulted in a simpler red “block style ‘T’ being primarily used on athletic helmets and yearbooks until 1979.” After consolidation of the six schools, other than this crimson “T,” no symbol was used for many school activities. In the fall of 1979, the Athletic Department designed a replacement for the “T,” incorporating the Titan Star and an “M,” which is “now proudly worn and recognized by all graduates and citizens of McDowell County as the official Titan emblem.

Custom and tradition has triumphed the official selection,” remarked Mr. Greene. He related, “Although the Greek god on a shield is the official symbol/seal of the school, used primarily on certain official documents such as diplomas, and sometimes on the yearbook, very few students and graduates realize that, and the vast majority think that the Titan Star and ‘M’ is the emblem most representative of McDowell High School’s ‘Titan Pride,’” that pride now about to celebrate 40 years of existence.

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