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Rock Hill High Class of '42 relives a 'swell' time

From left: Bill Kirkpatrick, Pansy Kirkpatrick and Mary Whisonant Ward examine memorabilia from the Rock Hill High School class of 1942 during a gathering of graduates at Thursday's Too. Thirty-one members of the class met for its 65th reunion Wednesday.
From left: Bill Kirkpatrick, Pansy Kirkpatrick and Mary Whisonant Ward examine memorabilia from the Rock Hill High School class of 1942 during a gathering of graduates at Thursday's Too. Thirty-one members of the class met for its 65th reunion Wednesday.

Every face in the room was lined, some deeply. All hair, if there was any, was gray.

But nobody cared.

Because when Doris Allen threw open the doors of Thursday's Too restaurant and looked at 30 classmates from her Rock Hill High class together Wednesday, what she saw was "1942."

She saw ruby red lipstick for girls and Vitalis in the hair for guys. She saw the lady whose picture was next to hers in that yearbook that lay open on the table to that very page. A yearbook with signings that had expressions unused for generations, such as "To a swell friend," and "You are a grand boy" and "May you always have the best of everything."

No longer was the lady she looked at standing before her Wilma Peebles, but Wilma Massey from 1942.

"What I see is when we were young and together," said Doris Allen, who was now Doris Matthews again because that was her name in 1942. "I woke up this morning and came here and thought, 'I would be right now in typing class.'"

She pointed at two men.

"And right there are two of the three boys who were the only boys in that class."

Both "boys" now are grandfathers.

She saw Pansy Kirkpatrick, who was again Pansy Adams, who could have been a movie star because she could flutter her eyes like stars did. Pansy Adams Kirkpatrick fluttered her eyes again Wednesday, and every male heart in the room, including mine, skipped a beat or two.

Of course, these people are at least 80, so a skipped beat could be fatal.

Many classes from many schools meet, but there are likely few like this class. Once a month, a group meets for lunch. But this lunch was special, the 65th reunion.

The ones whose husbands or wives are still living, they brought them. The ones who were on the second husband or wife because in this generation one may have passed already, they brought the newer model.

Widows cracked jokes about finding boyfriends.

Of a class of 163 people, organizers couldn't find 21. Another 10 didn't respond to invitations. Then 15 couldn't make it, but 31 did.

That leaves 86 who are gone.

Some, such as all-state athlete Bill McKibben, died young. McKibben enlisted in World War II and got killed fighting for his country.

Time has passed, but on Wednesday the clock turned back.

Elaine Duncan claimed to be from the class of 1942 but she clearly is not old enough. I looked inside the yearbook where there are four pages of who won what honor 65 years ago. "Prettiest" was one.

And there was Elaine Duncan, on this day of youth Elaine Dabney, and it is a no-brainer why she was "Prettiest."

Into the door walked a woman in pearls but she had no class of 1942 name tag because she wasn't in the class.

Too old.

Grace Stuckey McLeave, who was 24-year-old U.S. history teaching "Miss Stuckey" all those years ago.

"She looks younger than me," some lady blurted out.

"Me, too, and she taught me," said another.

There was lunch and there was punch. There were homemade cakes.

But more, there was something not printed on the menu.

Friendship, 65 years of it. That, for a couple of hours, gave a lady named Doris Matthews Allen, and 30 others, smooth faces thought lost but found again.

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