Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 10, 2013

What’s in a name?

Informal poll indicates Paul Blazer should be called Ashland

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — The buzz about Blazer is that it should be Ashland.

Ashland High School, that is, instead of Paul G. Blazer High, the current name of the city’s landmark school.

At least that seems to be the consensus from an informal poll based on responses to a post on The Independent’s Facebook page.

The topic has come up from time to time over the years, and now the Ashland school board is seriously mulling over the prospect of changing the school’s name to reflect the community in which it is located.

“Ashland for sure!” posted Phil Haney, who elaborated later when contacted by a reporter. “I think the school should identify with the community where it is located. The school is the community, a community establishment. When you put someone else’s name on it, it doesn’t show the community relationship,” he said.

Haney taught English and journalism at Blazer for 26 years and all four of his children went there.

Park Beam was in the second class to graduate from Blazer, the class of 1964, “but I don’t consider it Blazer,” he said. “Playing sports it was Ashland High School. No one knows it as Blazer High School. To me there’s no question about it,” he said.

“As a high school kid I only knew that Paul Blazer was the Ashland Oil president and had money to spend on the school ... The kids now probably don’t have a clue who Paul Blazer was or what he did.”

After a couple of generations, the person a building is named after is mostly forgotten. “That’s just human nature,” said Carol Allen, class of 1961 at the old Ashland High School and proponent of changing the name of Blazer back to Ashland.

“The Ashland Tomcats has a history,” she said.

That does not mean the name of Paul Blazer should be forgotten, nor should that of George M. Verity, the namesake of Ashland’s middle school which is also under consideration for a similar name change, she said.

“We definitely need to preserve the names of Paul Blazer and George Verity as parts of the school,” she said.

Others have made the same point. “Ashland and name the pool for Mr. Blazer. That is what he wanted the money to go towards, wasn't it?” Virginia Pinson Tipton posted in a Facebook comment.

“Name the pool Paul Blazer. We are all from the community of Ashland not Blazer,” posted Michael D. Ward, class of 1977.

Ward, who moved away in 1983 and now lives in Florida, echoed the sentiments of many for whom “Ashland” is inextricably linked to the name of their beloved Tomcats. “We were the Ashland Tomcats, not the Blazer Tomcats,” he said.

Naming the pool for Blazer would be a nice gesture, he said. Blazer donated $100,000 to the district during the construction of the school and it is widely believed he directed it to go toward paying for the pool — but correspondence from the period shows Blazer gave the district latitude to spend it as needed.

Class of 1973 graduate Phillip Rogers is among those preferring the status quo. “To eliminate the name of the benefactor, Mr. Blazer, would be an insult. What’s wrong with Ashland Paul Blazer?” he posted.

Now a middle school teacher in Georgia, Rogers was an Ashland Inc. employee until 2000 and the son and grandson of Ashland Oil employees.

“The name has been there for 50 years. Why take it off now?” he said. Though not a household name anymore, it remains part of the community, he believes. “We have room for the name of a great man like Paul Blazer.”

While it is far from certain the school board will make the change, the topic will be discussed at the Feb. 28 board meeting. Board member Charlie Chatfield made the request in January.

Blazer was president of Ashland Oil from 1936 to 1957 and the Ashland Refining Co. for 12 years before that. He was heavily involved in planning and building the school and, in addition to the $100,000 donation, made several smaller financial contributions to smooth the way.

Verity was president of Armco Steel from its early days as a metal roofing company.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.