South Houston High principal Dr. Steve Fullen helps direct traffic in the school's newly renovated cafeteria.
By JOCELYN NICHOLS, Communications Assistant
For more than a half-century, the cafeteria at South Houston High School was a place where students ate lunch, danced in their socks on Friday nights, bought homecoming mums and celebrated Senior Day.
More than any other spot on campus, it was the place where Trojans collectively grew up, sharing days of joy -- and one memorable day of pain. Emory Gadd was a junior at South Houston in the fall of 1963. He was eating in the cafeteria early one Friday afternoon.
"I heard a voice come over the PA system announcing that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated," Gadd said.
Like millions of other Americans, Gadd has never forgotten where he was that dark day. For that and a million other reasons, few South Houston graduates will ever forget the semi-organized chaos of the school cafeteria. Those scenes now reside only in memories.
Over the summer, South Houston's 53-year-old cafeteria underwent a radical transformation. Workers began by gutting the entire facility, leaving only the walls. That done, they constructed a new cafeteria similar to the food-court designs at other Pasadena ISD high schools.
The $3.2 million renovation has relieved much of the lunch-time over-crowding in the cafeteria. More than 600 students can now be accommodated during each of the school's four lunch periods. The new cafeteria boasts all new kitchen equipment and spirited decor that coordinates with the school's "Big Red Express" theme.
Students may choose from several dining stations offering a variety of foods such as pizza, salads, snacks and hot meals.
"The new cafeteria has given students a renewed sense of school pride and bolstered the Trojan image," said Dr. Steve Fullen, the school's principal. "It's really strengthened morale."
"The cafeteria does more than just serve meals to students," said Gadd, now the youth minister at Sagemont Church. "That's why I'm ecstatic that the district and community decided to improve it."
The renovation process began slowly last winter as construction crews attempted to work around the need to maintain meal-service operations during the school day. A temporary wall was built to seal off the construction area. Some meals had to be prepared off campus.
Gone are the rows of tables and chairs that used to stretch wall-to-window. Students now sit in round stainless-steel pods. Gone, too, are the enormous space heaters that hung from the ceiling and warmed the facility on cold days.
Although the new cafeteria was badly needed, the old cafeteria embodied three generations of history that won't soon be forgotten by the alumni.
"Lunch cost about 35 or 45 cents," said Herman Williams, a Class of 1964 graduate and a founding member of the Pasadena ISD Education Foundation. "There were no Coke machines. You drank milk. And if you wanted to treat yourself you'd get chocolate milk."
"The first two years I was there, we didn't have AC," said Wayne Adams, a former Trojans football star from the Class of 1967 who went on to serve as principal at Pasadena High.
Still, Adams said, "everybody looked forward to going to lunch because you got to socialize and see your friends."
The new cafeteria was funded by a bond issue approved by district voters in 2004. Construction was done by ArcTec Associates, Inc. with Prime Construction the general contractor.
Assistant Principal Donetrus Hill chats with students in front of the cafeteria's "Big Red
South Houston High students from the late 1950s and early 1960s enjoy the social scene in
the original school cafeteria.
South Houston students socialize with friends in the "food-court" environment of their