Most elementary and middle schools in Las Vegas are named for people. High schools get more descriptive names such as Canyon Springs and Arbor View. That’s easy enough to understand.
So, how did Cimarron-Memorial High School, 2301 N. Tenaya Way, get its name? That’s not so easy to understand.
The school originally was approved in 1988 to be named simply Memorial High School, a tip of the hat to the brave soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice in battle.
Junior high students who would make up its initial student body took issue with the name, saying it would not instill a sense of school pride or a positive image among young people.
“They said it sounded like a cemetery,” said Joe Caruso, the school’s current principal.
They asked what their athletic teams would be called — the Memorial Mummies, perhaps?
The Clark County School District’s board acknowledged the concern and inserted the word “Cimarron” in front of the name but without the hyphen that it has today.
Eddie Goldman was an associate superintendent at the time and observed the process.
“The district was pushing Western theme names at the time,” he said. “So we thought, ‘OK, we’ll kill two birds with one stone.’ “
The word “cimarron” caused concern for another reason. It is an American Spanish word (root: carnero) that means “ram” or “wild sheep.” Some sources expand on that to mean “wild and unruly.”
The addition caused alarm among veterans, who voiced concern that the “Memorial” part of the name would be dropped off in regular use, effectively relegating them to second-class status.
In response, the school board added the hyphen so that “Memorial” would always be included when referencing the school.
But veterans still were unhappy, saying the school should simply be known as Memorial High School, as was the original plan.
“For us to compromise would be like saying we lost the war,” said Herman Molen, a World War II veteran and president of the Council of Nevada Veterans Organizations, in a Las Vegas Sun article from Aug. 17, 1990.
Ron Heinen, president of the Las Vegas chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, was quoted in the same article, saying his group didn’t “want to be
identified with that word (cimarron).”
“Every week, six veterans would come back and yell at them,” Goldman said. “I’m like, ‘Make a decision and move on.’ “
He said the board threatened to drop the “Memorial” part completely.
In response, there was talk among veterans groups of withholding support for future bond issues that supported the school district.
About the same time the veterans were crying foul, the students spoke up again. It seems “wild and unruly” was not exactly the connotation under which they wanted to be known.
Calling it a lose-lose situation, the school board slapped the hyphen into the name and refused to revisit the issue again, slamming the door on any further discussion.
The school’s athletic teams would go on to be called the Spartans.
It was the first school in the district to have a name changed after it already was approved and the only one to have a hyphen.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-2949.Naming Las Vegas
The history behind the naming of various streets, parks, schools, public facilities and other landmarks in the Las Vegas Valley will continue to be explored in a series of feature stories appearing in View editions published on the first Tuesday of every month.
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