Hickman alumnus continues to serve school

Charley Blackmore stands between Mr. Kewpie and Mighty Kewp, two new mascots for Hickman High School that Blackmore helped fund through his own efforts and his website for Hickman alumni, kewpie.net. 

Courtesy of Bob Martin

By BOB MARTIN Special to the Tribune A picture containing person, person, wall, glasses

Description automatically generated

Posted Oct 2, 2016 at 12:01 AM


In 1912, Columbia High School printed its first yearbook, titled the “Cresset.”

Two years later, CHS adopted the Kewpie as its mascot. In the yearbooks from 1912 through 1956, it was common for each graduating senior to have a squib by their name. Sam Walton’s in 1935 was “Hats off to the President.” Sabra Tull (Meyer)’s in 1945 simply said, “Vargas Presents” a reference to the Vargas Pinup Girls popular at the time.

In 1928, the first class from the new David H. Hickman High School graduated. Even though Columbia High School’s name was changed, the Cresset and Kewpie remained. Throughout the 42 years the Cresset supplied the squibs, at least one or more seniors were described as “Mr. Kewpie.”

But there really is only one Hickman graduate that deserves that title, and he is Charley Blackmore.

Blackmore has done more for Hickman High School than any other single graduate. He created a website called Kewpie.net. He has raised $110,174 and, from those funds, created four scholarships for graduating seniors, provided a portable sound system for the school, audio visual equipment to be used in the cafeteria and the commons and, most recently, two new mascot uniforms. It is rumored that if he cuts his fingers the right hand bleeds purple and the left, gold.

For Hickman classes that still have reunions, Kewpie.net has been a much-needed resource.

The class of 1956 had its 60th reunion in July, and Russ Sloan, student body president that year, said, “Numerous times the information from Charley re: Kewpie classmates has been extremely helpful. I don’t think there is another high school in America that has a database that would begin to rival what Charley’s Kewpie dedication has accomplished. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude, as does Hickman High School.”

Blackmore graduated from Hickman in 1963. He joined the Missouri National Guard to avoid ROTC at the University of Missouri and being drafted during the Vietnam War. After his six-month stint on active duty, Blackmore returned to Columbia and enrolled at the University of Missouri. Two semesters at Mizzou made it obvious to Blackmore that academia was not his forte. He took the government test, passed and went to work with the U.S. Postal Service. He remained there for the next 35 years, retiring in 2000.

When asked if he was a leader in high school, he said, “Social, maybe, but not academically or sports-wise. I hurt my knee when I was a sophomore, and Doc McElroy told me when I healed I could go back and play football and possibly have problems the rest of my life, or not play and probably not have any other problems. I went for the long term. He was right.”

Blackmore dismisses the idea that his work for Hickman stemmed from a desire to give back to his alma mater.

“Nah, it got started, and I have a lot of fun with it. I just enjoy what I’m doing, and Hickman benefits from it,” Blackmore said.

The website came about in 1997 when Blackmore was organizing the 35th reunion for his class. At the time, he was in a relationship with a 1969 Kewpie graduate. One night, he was searching on his computer and calling people, trying to find some of the members of his graduation class. Because Blackmore was not paying enough attention to his lady friend, she walked into the room where he was working and sarcastically said, “Why don’t you just find everyone that ever graduated from that high school?” After apologizing, Blackmore realized that wasn’t a bad idea and, in October 1998, he started the website.

One of his first decisions was what to call it. There was no Hickman alumni group, but he didn’t want to call it the alumni association. He decided to call the organization, The Classmates Association, and the web page became the “Kewpie Gathering Place,” which led to incorporating information about all Hickman High School activities.

He has every Cresset starting from 1912, the entire Verse Choir book of Poems, Roger Gafke’s “A History of Public School Education in Columbia” and a lot of other interesting information about Hickman and its alums. The website gets 700 views per day, and more than 5,000 Hickman graduates are registered on it. Blackmore’s database has more than 4,000 accurate email addresses.

At the 1998 reunion, the class of 1963 decided to give a scholarship to Hickman. The classmates raised $5,000 and directed Blackmore to initiate the scholarship. As he puts it, “There was a lot of red tape. You had to be responsible for the money and the selection of the recipients and the criteria for the recipients. I don’t know anything about investments, and I sure don’t know anything about how to pick the most deserving kids. So, what happened was I went to the school and asked what we could do to help the school and put our class’s name on it. They needed a portable sound system. The system was a little more than what we had, and the school came up with the rest.”

Three years later, he raised $7,900 through Kewpie.net for audio visual equipment.

“I started thinking about scholarships again around our 40th reunion in 2003, but nothing really happened until our 45th in 2008. One of my classmates stood up” and “made a motion that the class start a scholarship named the ‘Charley Blackmore Class of ’63 Scholarship.’ It passed, and the class funded it. I figured that if the class provided one, I would start another one on the web page and call it the Kewpie.net scholarship,” Blackmore said.

The “Kewpie.net” scholarship fund now provides two $1,000 scholarships, and the “Charley Blackmore, Class of ’63″ scholarship provides two $500 awards each for a deserving male and female graduate. Blackmore also created a Facebook page for the recipients of the scholarships. So far, 32 students have received funds, and each year the number grows by four. This year, Blackmore invited all those who received funds to lunch to celebrate with the new scholarship winners.

This year at the graduation ceremony, two new mascots were introduced to the student body, and Blackmore was responsible for those. Blackmore said he was at the high school, talking to the secretary who works with Principal Eric Johnson, and she mentioned the mascot they were using was in really bad shape. She didn’t know how much a new one would cost, but figured probably around $2,000. Blackmore knew he could raise that much on his website.

As usual, he took it on by himself. He contacted the companies that make mascot costumes, exchanged drawings and specifications and selected Bam Mascots from Canada as the firm most qualified to provide the Kewpie mascots. The price tag was a little steeper than the off-the-cuff estimate, but, as had happened before, 126 Kewpies notified by Kewpie.net came through and provided the $10,500 needed for Mr. Kewpie and Mighty Kewp.

Blackmore said he has enjoyed his success as a one-man fundraiser for his alma mater, but those who really benefit are the students at Hickman High School. It is Blackmore’s hope that each year the graduates will contribute to Hickman and use his website to stay in touch.

But what he really wants is for each Kewpie to appreciate the experience at Hickman and give something back to the school that contributed so much to their development toward adulthood.

Back to www.kewpie.net