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Cottonwood High School alumni reunite
Written by Greg Ruland   
Sunday, 03 April 2011 00:00

Not everybody who attended Cottonwood High School excelled at school.

Take longtime Cottonwood resident Don Goddard, for example. The legendary ranch hand, responsible for keeping many Verde Valley ranching traditions alive, said his main reason for staying in class was to win the hand of the woman who eventually became his wife.

“Not in my life was I ever a good student,” Goddard said. “She was a top-notch student and I was a redneck if ever there was one.”

It took the cowboy several years to finally close the deal and persuade his wife to marry. Alongside Goddard, Frank Fuqua also pined for Carol Thompson’s hand, but it was Goddard who won her over in the end. The couple was married 55 years before Carol Goddard died Nov. 30.

Cottonwood High School alumni, from left, Frank Fuqua, Janet Cluff and Don Godard, talk about their high school experiences at a reunion of sorts in the Clemenceau Heritage Museum, formerly the school, on Friday, March 25. The building functioned as the Cottonwood High School from 1947 until 1958.Remembering their courtship brought Goddard to tears for a brief moment, but he quickly rallied to wonder in awe at the fact she chose him.

The memories, both emotional and comedy-filled, highlighted a reunion of former Cottonwood High students at Clemenceau Heritage Museum on Friday, March 25. Fuqua, Goddard and Janet Cluff told tales, many of them true, to a delighted audience of about 20 local history buffs.

“Carol was my secret love,” Fuqua said, grinning. “She never knew that. I didn’t tell her. Don couldn’t figure out why I was always hanging around,” particularly since Goddard was an upperclassman.

“I thought I was the bad one,” Goddard joked.

Fuqua revealed he was the author of several pranks, including the time he and several coconspirators broke into the superintendent’s office one night and wired an emergency horn to the superintendent’s telephone and hid it in the ceiling. When the superintendent picked up the phone to make a call the next morning, the horn went off directly above his head.

Laughing, the trio fondly recalled the man they remembered as superintendent. He was tough but fair, Fuqua said.

“Discipline was immediate,” he said.

Boys sent to the superintendent’s office were normally paddled three times on the butt.

“That third one would lift you off your feet,” Goddard said.

Girls, on the other hand, were ordered to perform chores after school, Cluff said.

The trio described the highs and lows of attending class at the school, which was housed in the Clemenceau Public School building, during the 1940s and 1950s.

The Clemenceau Public School was constructed in 1923-24 by United Verde Extension at a cost of $100,000, Fuqua said.

Kindergarten through ninth-grade classes opened in 1924 with a total of 475 students. Tenth through 12th grades went to Clarkdale School until 1947, when Cottonwood High School opened up.

The Red Devil was the school mascot. School colors were scarlet and silver. The first graduating class consisted of 24 seniors who matriculated spring 1948.

The great white letter C on a hill below the water tower near State Route 89A and Willard Street is one of many public remainders of the school that closed in 1958.

Though graduates annually climbed the hill for many years to clean and paint the C, the tradition died in 1995 when the aging graduates decided it was too much work and key organizers passed away.

“We just got too old and stiff to do it anymore,” Goddard said.

To see class yearbooks, graduate photos and some of the original cheerleader uniforms, visit Clemenceau Heritage Museum, 1 N. Willard St. Call 634-2868 for more information about hours of operation and special end-of-the month presentations.


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