Magazine After 15 Years
The Loblolly magazine, a great source of pride for the Gary community for about 30 years, began about 45 years ago under the direction of longtime Gary High School teacher Lincoln King. The publication was a project of GHS students to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and the people of East Texas.
It was filled with all kinds of stories, especially historical ones, photographs, reminders of old-time ways, transcriptions of interviews with hundreds of people, and some recurring features. Since its beginning, 63 magazines and six books have been published as part of the Loblolly program. Not long after Mr. King’s retirement, publication of the magazine stopped.
The community is surely delighted that after an absence of more than 15 years, the Loblolly is back! Nerissa Coligan, who teaches journalism and English at GHS, says, “Over the past year and a half, GHS journalism students have been interviewing, photographing, transcribing, and typing away! Their hard work has paid off with publication of the new issue. The magazine has a ‘twist;’ it is actually two publications in one. The first half of the magazine is a brand new Loblolly that still features local people, culture, and folklore of today, and the second half is a reprint of a popular volume of the original Loblolly. Our first new issue features Mr. King in the ‘current’ section. He has been actively involved in seeing to the successful return of the magazine. He and his wife Mary Nell even inspired the planting of a Loblolly pine tree on the school grounds to celebrate. They are our biggest cheerleaders! The most popular and best-selling Loblolly featured Bonnie and Clyde, so that is is the issue we reprinted in the ‘past’ section.”
Nerissa continues, “Other sections sure to please will be the Our Daily Bread and Coming Full Circle sections. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread was the title of the Loblolly cookbook which was published in 1996 and we titled the recipe page with that in mind. We will include several recipes gathered by students from local people known to be great cooks; in this first issue our food theme was finger foods, and we asked teachers to tell us about people they knew had some great recipes. It turned out to be very fun as the foods were prepared, photographed, and even shared with Loblolly staff members. Coming Full Circle will feature a past Loblolly staff member who has gone on to become a successful individual in a community or career and offers reflections and words of wisdom to the readers.”
Nerissa was involved with Loblolly in the early 1980s as a student. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in economics and had a career with Pappas Restaurants, but when she and her husband Casey began having children, they decided to buy property in Gary so they could come back when it was time for the kids to go to school. After their return, she did some substituting and worked as an aide, but then completed an online program through SFA to get her certification to teach social studies. A high school job teaching English to students in grades 9-12 came open, and the superintendent offered it to her, explaining that she could do the job for a year without certification in English but then would be required to take the subject matter exam for certification. She taught those classes from 2004 until 2016, when her assignment changed to teaching English I and II and journalism, also serving as advisor for the online student newspaper, The Gary Growl, and having responsibility for preparing students for UIL Journalism events.
Nerissa’s interest in resurrecting Loblolly began before she became the journalism teacher because of the fond memories she had from working on it as a GHS student. so she created an extracurricular student club for ones interested in working on it. As with many online publications, the Growl newspaper was struggling to gain a greater number of readers, and Nerissa and then-journalism teacher Shannon Bush agreed that maybe if Loblolly could somehow be revived and done online, it might be presented with the Growl and thereby help increase readership of both publications. The club was a mix of students, mainly from Nerissa’s Senior English class and Shannon’s journalism class. They began to interview people and put their transcriptions and articles online with the newspaper.
After that first year, when Nerissa had the opportunity to become the journalism teacher, the club decided they wanted to resume publishing a print magazine (one issue per year instead of the multiple issues done earlier), in addition to the online content, so work is now done as a staff in journalism class, along with work on the Growl and UIL competition prep, instead of as an extracurricular activity.
The staff discovered that the school did not have a full set of all the Loblolly magazines that had been printed and wanted to be able to see all of them. They found out that Panola College had archived all them online, and they visited the Panola library, where librarian Cristie Ferguson taught them how to access them online. They also accessed one of the college’s Lunchbox Lectures that featured Mr. King and added transcriptions of Cristie’s introduction of him, as well as of Mr. King’s lecture, in the magazine.
They also visited the Old Jail in Carthage, where hard copies of all the issues are archived, and set a goal to obtain a full set for the school, collecting copies at estate sales and from people all around the area. Donations have come from everywhere, including some old copies from people who have found them when going through their parents’ and grandparents’ things.
Nerissa says that plans for next year’s issue of Loblolly are already in order. The theme will be a celebration of Texas Country Music, so of course there are many people throughout Panola County who can be interviewed and stories that can be told on that subject for the “new” section of the magazine. Another very popular issue of Loblolly had Linda Davis on the cover and a story about her inside, so that issue will be reprinted in the “old” section. Nerissa also has plans for the students to attend a writing, publishing, and archiving workshop given exclusively for her students by the Stephen F. Austin State University’s Public History Department to help them as they begin next year’s issue.
“I have been proud to work with the students and adults and businesses in our community who have come together to bring Loblolly magazine back into business,” she says. “It has truly been a great partnership, a wonderful team effort, and I have enjoyed every minute! My students are growing and learning in the same small, tight-knit school community that inspired me to return to teach after spending time working in the Houston area. They are dreamers, thinkers, interviewers, and reporters. They are inspirations to themselves and others around them, even if they don’t know it yet. The work they do in journalism, especially through Loblolly, teaches them about communicating and participating in an adult world successfully. They are local ambassadors, entrepreneurs, and so much more. They are our future, and I want to give them a great start in becoming lifelong learners and doers!”