In September 1959, the booming oil town of Odessa gave birth to a new school, which opened its doors to 1,159 new faces. This newly established academic institution strove to set the highest of standards and in doing this; a lasting tradition of excellence was created. Academically, athletically, artistically, and in just about every activity, these Permian students strove for success, and quite often they succeeded.
THE 1960'sDespite an initial rough start in the first year (3-7), the Panthers began the new decade of the 1960's on a successful note, with a record of 8-3-0. The first bonfire, commemorating the 1961 homecoming game, began a tradition which continued through the years. The Permian football team first reached the pinnacle of success in 1965, winning its first state championship victory. Coach Mayfield proudly carried the victory flag in 1965, fondly remembered as "The Year of the Champions." That same year, supportive and loyal fans coined the term "Mojo" during an emotional game. Since its birth this four letter word is echoed by the fans and chanted at the gains, causing outsiders to envy the "magic" of Permian. Permian’s 1st state band championship was earned by the 1962-1963 band when, under direction of J. R. McEntyre, the Permian band named 1962-1963 Texas Honor Band (4-A classification at the time which in reorganization became 5A).
Most of Permian’s student organizations accumulated a list of titles and awards. In 1966 the boys’ track team took second place at the state meet. Permian musicians gained recognition, too. In 1969 the symphonic band performed for the Texas Music Educators Association and for the American Choral Directors Association in St. Louis. They also earned the honor of marching on national television at a Los Angeles football game.
Permian became another home to the various students who flooded the halls each school day. From flower children to hippies, the students enjoyed showing their spirit through activities including "Western Week", Kids Day, and the ever-popular "Neckin’ Week". Of course the times were changing. The issues of the time left an obvious impression on the minds of these "sixties" teens. In response, a number of awareness organizations were formed including Youth for Freedom and the Junior American Red Cross. These, along with traditional campus clubs, gained widespread support from scholars and allowed for a diverse culture and varied involvement at Permian.
In its first decade, Permian students and Panther supporters broke new ground, setting traditions that have lasted over the decades and beginning a standard of excellence that has continued to prevail through the generations.
The students of the seventies were forced to become more aware of the world around them as the idea of the American dream transformed into a harsh reality. The "white picket fence" image faded when political issues and worldly conflicts invaded the home front. Vietnam claimed the lives and hearts of students, families, and friends, while critics of the war gained support for the peace movement. Schools around the nation felt the effects of the Civil Rights Movement and West Texans watched as neighboring states experienced the effects of integration. In the late seventies, government scandals came to a rise, exposing trusting citizens to a new age of national deceit.
In spite of the unrest and turmoil, Permian High School and its students retained a vision of pride. The enviable image of Mojo had gained respect in the desert region, and now this well-regarded name gained notoriety throughout the state of Texas. In 1973 PHS’s Gil Bartosh was named Football Coach of the Year. He helped guide the "boys in black" to an undefeated district season, a tradition which continued in ‘75, ‘77, and ‘78. In 1974 the infamous championship sign became an important addition to the football field. Since then, the sign has served to commemorate each of the football team’s accomplishments and is admired by fans. The Permian golf team successfully completed the season as state champions in 1976. The boys’ track team ran away with the third place title in the state finals meet of 1970. The 1976 volleyball team put girls’ sports on the map at Permian, adding to the list of achievements.
While athletes took numerous awards, other organizations continued to thrive. The activity-packed halls boasted the success of over 35 various clubs and organizations, as students became even more involved in the spirit of the school. Activities ranged from the German Club to the Aerospace Club. The choir introduced an elite singing group in 1978 which later became known as Black Magic. Students took on leadership roles in a number of professional-oriented programs like electronics, engineering, and drafting. These high school students not only took on the pressure of their academically active lives but they began building the bridge to the future.
During the seventies, the nation took on the problems of the world and worked to solve government issues at home. Meanwhile, Permian students continued to move forward. At each pep rally as the lights dimmed, students locked arms and joined in singing the alma mater, reminding all that Permian pride would continue to thrive.
As the eighties approached, Odessa hit an all-time low. With the oil industry in a depression, support for the community seemed to be dwindling. A stream of bad press added to the unsettling feelings surrounding Ector County, but through all the dust, Permian continued to stand tall over the endless West Texas horizon.
As always, the athletic department fared well in this decade. In 1982 the swim team qualified for state. 1984 was an especially successful year when the track boys won second place at state. The gymnastics team also continued to retain an enviable image when they brought home third- and fourth-place trophies from the state tournament. The basketball team was repeatedly recognized in ‘80, ‘84, ‘86. and ‘87 as the 4-AAAAA champs.
The prosperous football team made themselves at home in 1983 at the newly rebuilt Ratliff Stadium. In 1980, 1984, and 1989 the boys burst through the end zone sign at Texas Stadium, and they took home the state champion title. Fans were found screaming wildly, "That’s another Mojo touchdown." The success was obvious when the PHS football team was named national champions in 1989 and Governor Bill Clements bestowed upon them the honor of being "the winningest team of the eighties."
The fads of the eighties were quick to come and go. Music fans began by listening to leftover disco tunes and later became followers of punk rock, worshipping artists such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Bon Jovi. Meanwhile the music of Permian profited. In 1982 the Permian band earned the title of 5As Texas State Championship Marching Band. The choir program was rewarded for its efforts by being asked to perform in both 1980 and 1985 at the prestigious TMEA convention. The choir went on to awe audiences at the national level in 1983 and 1985. Other academic organizations, including National Honor Society and the Texas State Academic Decathlon Team, established in 1984, continued to gain support.
The eighties became a decade of lasting impressions. A number of images and events are remembered by the decade’s past graduates including the Challenger explosion, the fall of Baby Jessica, and the image of Oliver North. Most importantly, they look back on the eighties and remember the good times at PHS, the success they experienced, the titles and trophies they brought home, and the power of becoming a part of the history called Mojo.
The nineties have yet to be described with a single term. The "brat pack" graduated. Big hair and blue eye shadow lost their touch. America's style seemed to simplify. The competitive work force seemed to grow even stronger as women took their daughters to work and technology took control of the simplest acts.
The students of the nineties did not live without turmoil, though. The Cold War came to an end, the USSR divided, and America lent a hand in the conflict known as Desert Storm. At home, domestic issues included the 0. J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the confrontation at Waco.
Athletes at Permian High School made heroic efforts back home. The boys’ track team was honored to be state champions in 1993, and the boys’ soccer team advanced to the quarter-final competition in 1995. The gymnastics teams reached unprecedented levels and were repeatedly named national champions in 1992, 1994, and 1995. In 1994 female athletes grew even more evident and gained much support when the first girls’ softball team was introduced. In March of 1992, the Permian baseball field was renamed McCanlies Field in honor of former baseball coach Gene McCanlies.
The football team added another title to the already accomplished list of achievements in 1991 after winning the state championship for a sixth time in the history of the school. All of Permian’s 15 competitive athletic teams could be proud of their successes and a new physical education building was opened in the spring of 1997 to house these athletes.
In 1996 Permian had a total of 34 clubs and organizations. School spirit was a priority for many, and the cheerleaders, who had led the student body at pep rallies and various sporting events for so long, added to the list of Permian successes, qualifying for Nationals in 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1996. Mojo's mighty music departments also added to PHS fame. The Permian marching band once again competed at the state competition in Austin in 1994, and in 1995 they placed eleventh in the Bands of America competition. In 1995 select students in Black Magic sang at the inauguration of Governor George W. Bush, and Kantorei, Permian’s top choir, attended the Texas Music Educators Association Conference in 1996. Members of Permian’s highly regarded Satin Strings had the honor of performing at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in January of 1997.
THE 21st Century
As the new century began, the Permian Panthers continued their traditions of excellence. New attention was focused on the school early in 2004 with the filming and release of the movie version of "Friday Night Lights". The movie brought world-wide attention to Permian and the city of Odessa. In addition, the tradition of athletic excellence was continued by the boys gymnastics team winning THREE state championships in a row, 2002-2005.
Throughout the years, Permian students have proven that they would meet a level of excellence to be maintained through the decades, and since those beginning years the legend of Mojo has continued. As the new millenium gains momentum, the spirit of Mojo lives on, with PHS students continuing the fine tradition of excellence.