muttered, "Yes, I remember you." But what I really
"I remember you and all of the other miserable bunch who
made my high school years a living hell."
love doing artwork because people can relate to me through my
paintings. My art abilities helped me through the hard times when
I was struggling with my hearing loss and speech therapies."
Painted in honor and memory of
the victims of the shooting at Columbine in 1999, Linda Arnold's
watercolor painting, titled "Columbine Forever", hangs
at Columbine High School
to view larger.)
Illustrator Linda Arnold Shares Her Reflections on How She Rose
Above the Special Challenges in High School
doing the dishes from the night before, the phone rang. I picked it
up and a voice answered saying, "Hi, Linda. Do you know who this is?"
I couldnít remember and began rattling names off who I thought it could
be. He said no to each name. Then he said "Iím Rick Hoaglund, remember
me from high school? I stood there shocked because I hadnít seen him
since our graduation thirty years ago. I began getting that scared feeling
in my stomach that I would get when I was in high school. I couldnít
believe that I was being brought back to that awful experience called
I muttered, "Yes, I remember you." But what I really wanted to
say is, "I remember you and all of the other miserable bunch who
made my high school years a living hell."
He then said, "It is good to talk to you and wondered if you would be
interested in helping to organize the thirty year class reunion."
I was surprised that he was even asking me because I wasnít popular.
I blurted out, "Why me?"
He said that they needed some people to help locate the classmates that
moved away from Idaho Springs, which is located in the mountains 35
miles from Denver. "Sure," I said, "I can help with that because
my mother was still in touch with some of the classmateís mothers. So
when is the meeting and where is it?", I asked. He said next Tuesday
at 7: p.m. at a local pub in Idaho Springs, Colorado. He said that he
contacted some other people and that they would be there.
When I hung up the phone, I went over and got my yearbook out to look
at it. It is hard to believe thirty years has gone by since I graduated
in 1971. But the pain is still there like it happened yesterday. I couldnít
believe that I was going to subject myself to that pain again by seeing
everyone. High school could be a wonderful experience if you are popular,
but it can be hell if you are not.
As I looked through it, I saw the cheerleaders, jocks, pom-pom girls,
home-coming king and queens, etc. I tried so hard to fit in, but I couldnít
because I was different. I was a hearing impaired child who struggled
to be normal and tried to fit in a normal world who would frowned on
someone who was not perfect. I was born with a severe hearing loss but
the doctors didnít discover it until I was almost 4 years old. My mother
knew something was wrong because I wasnít talking but the doctor reassured
her that I was slow in language development. She took me to a speech
and hearing clinic to have my hearing tested.
Finding out that I had a hearing loss, they put hearing aids on me and
began an extensive language therapy called the "Acoupedic Method".
When they work with a hearing impaired child, the therapist cover their
mouth so the child learns to listen and not read the therapists lips.
It strengthens your listening skills so later you can learn to use a
telephone and dictating machines. I was one of the first children to
go through this process. My parents, though, had no final product to
look at to see how I did growing up.
Mom and dad didnít want to send me to the school for the deaf and blind
in Colorado Springs. They also didnít want me to learn sign language
because they wanted me to learn to listen and speak. They felt that
I would be an independent person and not have to rely on interpretors
My family then moved to Idaho Springs. Back then, it was a very small
community and I was the only child in school that had a hearing loss.
It was a struggle because in those days you didnít talk about your handicap
because kids would make fun of something they didnít understand. My
mother would talk to the teachers to help them understand my hearing
loss and give them pointers on how to help me understand what was going
on in the classroom.
I would copy the kidsí notes if I missed something in class and sometime
I would go up to the teacher for extra help. When I was in six grade,
that was when the kids started their groups or cliques. That was when
the whispering and finger pointing started. I didnít understand what
was happening as one day these kids were my "best friend"
and then the next day they werenít. It was maddening for me because
I wanted to belong or fit in.
I had one friend in middle school who would play with me and talk to
me. But as soon as we entered high school, she dropped me like a hot
potato because she became a cheerleader and popular. She couldnít be
seen with me because I had the "cooties". I became a loner
because I couldnít fit in any group.
Did I mentioned that I was "ugly" too? I wore braces and awful
glasses that looked like Coke bottles. Just as now, looks and wearing
the latest fashion was the staple of social survival in high school.
I remember my mother would make me wear skirts to my knees. The other
girls wore mini-skirts, so as soon as I got to school and I would run
into the bathroom and roll up my skirts until they looked like mini-skirts.
I donít know if the hems looked uneven but I didnít care because I was
"in style". But I had to remember to roll the skirt back down
before I went home so my mom didnít know what I was doing. It made life
in high school somewhat bearable.
One day I overheard some kids making fun of me, so I went home crying
and asked my mom why the kids were so mean. She told me to wait and
see what happens to these kids when you graduate from high school. She
said the world outside of high school was a totally different place
and no one will care that you were a cheerleader or a homecoming king
- that "the playing field would be leveled". She said wait
until your class reunion and you will see what happens to the popular
kids. Somehow her wisdom comforted me and I kept that close to my heart.
After I graduated from high school, I moved to Denver to enroll in an
art school. I went to work at a company no longer around called Stearns-Roger
after art school and helped start up a word processing center at the
Solar Energy Research Center. I got married, started a bindery business
with my husband and raised two beautiful girls. I went back into my
art and started painting watercolor pictures to sell.
I love doing artwork because people can relate to me through my paintings.
My art abilities helped me through the hard times when I was struggling
with my hearing loss and speech therapies. I also teach watercolor classes
to kids and adults so they can feel comfortable with the watercolor
As I was looking through my yearbook, all of my emotions and feelings
of dread came back to me. I was wondering if I was making a mistake
doing this. Well, the dreaded day finally arrived. As I drove my car
toward Idaho Springs, I was going through so much emotion and turmoil.
When I finally arrived at the pub, I walked in. I saw a group of people
sitting at the table in the corner so I figured it was them. As I approached
the table, they were looking at me. I have changed a lot since high
school. No braces, wearing contacts, stylish clothes, and have lots
of confidence. But I was afraid I was going to lose that confidence,
being around the former classmates who were popular.
recognized Rick Hoagland, the guy who called me. He looked the same,
but he seemed amazed at how I looked. Ray Kingston, Tom Routes, and
Jim Kirkpatrick also were surprised to see how much I have changed.
But when I looked at Tom, I was shocked how much he had aged. He was
the popular jock at our school but life hadnít been good to him.
Everyone was so happy to see me and wanted to know what had happened
to me. Suddenly I heard a voice behind me and when I turned around I
came face to face with a woman whom I couldnít recognize. She ask me
who I was and told her I was Linda Thomas. She looked at me in amazement
and told me she was Sally Lenox, my friend in middle school who dumped
me when she became a cheerleader. I was stunned! She had aged so much
and she kept telling me how beautiful I looked!
Most of the people that were there still live in Idaho Springs and Empire.
They never left the town. I couldnít believe that these classmates were
still "stuck" there. As I looked around the table at all of
the ex-jocks, ex-cheerleaders, and ex-homecoming queen, I remembered
my motherís words of wisdom that comforted me thirty years ago and said
a prayer of thanks that I found that there is life after high
TO MAIN PAGE>>
Arnold is a forth generation Coloradan. She was born in Denver and when
she was almost 4 yrs. old, she was diagnosed with a severe hearing loss.
Her parents enrolled her in an extensive speech and hearing program called
the Acoupedic Method which helped her to listen and speak with the help
of hearing aids.
Linda and her family moved from Englewood to Idaho Springs when she was
five years old. She graduated in 1971 from Clear Creek High School and
attended Colorado Art Institute for two years in Denver. After art school
she worked for Stearns-Roger Incorporated and SERI-Solar Energy Research
Institute. She married Stuart Arnold in 1975 and they started Lakewood
Bindery Incorporated. Linda and Stuart have two daughters, Alisa, who
is 20 years old, graduated from Sheridan High School and is attending
Metro State College. She is a French translator for an international company.
Kim is 18 years old and is in the Army. She is going into intelligence
work for the Arabic language.
She also teaches watercolor classes to kids and adults so they can feel
comfortable with the watercolor medium. She is the treasures of the A.G.
Bell Association, and is on the board of directors for the Listen Foundation.
She also became involved in the tragedy at Columbine High School through
her artwork called, "Columbine Forever". The original artwork is hanging
in the conference room in Columbine High School and she was asked to make
prints so it could be available for the public in memory of the victims
who were killed. The families of the victims have this picture in their
homes and it was sent to the public in all fifty states, including Denmark,
Germany, and Santiago, Chile. She has spent countless hours reaching out
to the people in the Columbine community.