By Jordan Likens
For 80 years, the Trinity School, more commonly known as “Old Red”, served not only as an educational opportunity for the children of Trinity, TX, but would later unify its alumni in their effort to preserve its memory.
Old Red opened its doors to students of all ages in 1915, after a four-year construction period. The two-story school building had eight classrooms and saw about 93,000 hours of student attendance during the time it was open to the public. One of many students who walked the hallways of Old Red was Raymond Smith, who is now 81 years old.
“I hated to miss school worse than anything because I enjoyed it so much. Come rain, shine, sleet or snow, I’d run my legs off to make sure I didn’t miss that bus,” Smith said.
Throughout the years, the students at Old Red were not the only ones experiencing growth and change. According to Smith, Old Red opened a cafeteria during his second year of attendance, where students would spend two cents a day on lunch, as opposed to the homemade sack lunches they had grown so used to bringing. By the end of Smith’s second year, Old Red finally put an end to the use of chalk slate for certain core subjects, as well.
In 1928, a new middle school/high school was established in Trinity, which resulted in a more even distribution of students. Old Red, a school for all grade levels, was then used as additional classroom space and was painted yellow in order to match the new school building. Despite the paint job, the nickname “Old Red” remained.
After decades of educating the children of Trinity, Old Red was closed by the Trinity Independent School District in March 1993. Because of the age of the school building, Old Red was scheduled for demolition. To protect the fate of their beloved school, Old Red alumni united to form the Committee to Save Old Red.
After discovering the news about Old Red, Smith joined the committee’s efforts and teamed up with the school district to renovate and maintain the schoolhouse.
“When I found out Old Red had been condemned and was going to be torn down, it really tugged at my heart. I tell people I went through Old Red twice; the first 12 years to graduate and the second 12 years to save and restore it,” Smith said.
With the help of a $70,000 grant from the Sam and Malcom Barnes Foundation, the Committee to Save Old Red patched and painted the roof, replaced the mortar between the bricks, restored the building to its original color, refurbished multiple classrooms and the auditorium, and much more internal work.
In his old age, however, Smith has grown incapable of performing extensive physical labor, and restoration of Old Red is currently incomplete. This does not mean his desire and efforts to preserve Old Red’s memory have failed, however. Old Red has since been listed as a Texas Historic Landmark in 2004 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
One honor bestowed upon Smith himself would be the Ray Smith Room, the newly renovated north upstairs classrooms and auditorium that the school district named in his honor.
“I was overjoyed and tears came in my eyes when [the school district] read the resolution,” Smith said.
Old Red has stood tall for 100 years and though its renovations remain incomplete, its sentimental value has not wavered. To some Old Red has provided an opportunity to create a better life through obtaining an education, and to others it has defined what a community truly is. Because of the efforts of alumni, like Smith, and community members the city of Trinity may continue to embrace the legacy of Old Red.