Spring 2001


































"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."










































"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."



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
(click on photo
to view larger.)

 



Columbine Illustrator Linda Arnold Shares Her Reflections on How She Rose Above the Special Challenges in High School

As I was 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 high school.

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 to translate.

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 medium.

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.

I 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 school!
















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Linda Arnold (right) stands with Beth Nimmo, mother of Columbine victim, Rachel Scott, at the open house of the newly renovated atrium at Columbine High School in August of 2000.


Read more about Linda Arnold in the April 19, 2000 issue of the Rocky Mountain News



Linda 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.

   


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