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James Prouty

James Warren Prouty, Sr.

Social Science

April 14, 1922 - January 25, 2011

We have all lived many lives over the past sixty years. Each life has its own friends, mentors, happiness and heartbreaks. Each life has a special place in our memory and seems very different than the ones that follow.

I have tried to narrow down those events and the people who have had an impact on who I have become since high school. I think that each life experience has helped form me. What are those lives? High school, college, work, the US Marine Corps, marriage, the birth of my eleven children, and working all over the country as a civil engineer.

Each life has its own inspirations, but I have to look back to the Oroville High School teacher and mentor who gave me the foundation and motivation that has led me through each level of life. My social studies teacher and newspaper guidance advisor, Mr. James Prouty, has proven to be the single influence that has made a big impact on my life.

Oroville High had a school newspaper, Tiger Tales, that was published every two weeks. It featured the Who, Why, What, Where and When of a teenager’s life. Articles for the paper were selected by the staff with Mr. Prouty’s guidance through the fine -tuning of each story. This process allowed us to acquire the one thing that has been so valuable to me: Pride in a completed project. I remember the hours he dedicated to the staff as we worked to put the paper to bed at the old Oroville Mercury newspaper office on Bird Street. We would work until midnight on many editions before we had a finished product ready for Friday’s distribution.

Mr. Prouty spent many class periods generating enthusiasm in us to write articles that had spirit and accuracy. He encouraged us to develop stories that covered activities of many of the not- so- popular students so that we could include as many names as possible. There were many arguments between newspaper staff members and administrators. Some we won and some we lost. These exchanges taught us how to form an opinion, and how to present it in an effective manner. I don’t remember ever having one of my articles, but I do remember Mr. Prouty offering suggestions that improved the quality and accuracy of the article. The Tiger Tales was one of only a few regular High School newspapers published in California. The paper won awards for professional quality and article content.

We all remember the split schedules, long days and crowded conditions at OUHS. The school board had been unsuccessful in getting the voters to pass funding for a new school. 1958 was considered the crucial year to pass a school bond issue. This would mark Mr. Prouty’s greatest challenge and achievement.

He was instrumental in the development, motivation and enthusiasm that we had for publishing a special edition of Tiger Tales devoted to influencing the taxpayers of Oroville to pass the 1958 Oroville High School bond measure. Mr. Prouty was able to motivate our staff of teenagers to develop, write and issue an eight-page newspaper addressing the impact of overcrowding on the students. Over 3,000 copies of the May 9, 1958 Tiger Tales was printed and mailed to every registered voter in the school district. The bond issue was passed by a 2 to 1 majority, and I can’t help but believe that a lot of credit had to be given to that issue of Tiger Tales. That issue of the paper was the largest high school publication with the greatest distribution ever printed in California up to that time.

Mr. Prouty also instilled in the staff the power of the press and the written word. He challenged us to enter one of the more popular school contests, ”The Ugly Man Contest”. Organizations would sponger a candidate and try to get them elected by selling votes, at a penny a vote. The money generated was donated to the March of Dimes after the contest. The event was actually a popularity contests between the movers and shakers of the junior and senior classes and had nothing to do with how ugly the individual was. Mr. Prouty challenged us to select an average student and promote this individual to the limits of the printed word. Our candidate was elected and the fund raiser was able to donate $87.25 to the march of dimes. This isn’t much money by today’s standards but at the time it was greatly appreciated by the charity.

James Prouty gave me pride, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment from hard work. These are feelings that every young person should experience as major building blocks of a successful life.

Thanks, Jim. I feel qualified in calling a mentor and good friend by his first name, for your energy and appreciation for the potential of young people.

John Conaway

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