In 1954, the seniors of York High School said goodbye to school and left for work, college or the military and their dreams.
On Saturday, May 31, 60 years after their graduation ceremony, 24 of the graduates gathered with their spouses and three of their former teachers to exchange stories, tour their former high school and enjoy a meal.
Thirty-nine classmates are still living, mostly in York County. Twenty-one were remembered with pictures on a green-and-white memory board above a candle.
Their 60-year reunion began at the Harold C. Johnson Elementary School, which in 1954 was a fairly new building. As they toured the renovated school building, some felt a familiarity down the hallways and around the corners.
“That’s where Ms. Hazel Roberts’ class was.”
“The library was right there.”
“I went to shop down that way.”
“Were the boys’ lockers rooms always on that side?”
They walked down the center aisle of the auditorium, just as they had in their graduation caps and gowns, but now joined by a spouse and slowed a little by age or medical conditions.
Former teachers Mrs. Anne Allison and Mrs. Ina Lever Frame, both now 88, joined the tour, remembering their years in classrooms. The tour was led by current Johnson Elementary library media specialist Libby Smith Childers, daughter of 1954 classmate Mason Smith.
After the tour, the members gathered in the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Church and enjoyed eating a catered meal, looking at memorabilia and catching up with each other.
Just as the meal started, a man using a cane walked in, with his wife close by. From one of the tables came, “Hey, Coach! How the heck are you?”
Gene Knight had not coached in York for many years, but he coached during the great years for York High School football. During the “Memory Talks,” Eddie Nichols said Knight came to York in 1950. The football team had a 4-4-1 record in his first year.
The record improved the next year to 7-2 and the next to 8-1. In 1953, this group’s senior year, the YHS football team was undefeated and had allowed no one to score on them, almost. In the Clover game, one touchdown slipped past them, but the Green Dragons still won the game with a final score of 7-6. Chip Howell had played in the Shrine Bowl and the late Archie Barron had played in the North/South game. Eddie Nichols and the late Paul Love had played football in the military. The 91-year-old Coach Knight enjoyed a brief time reminiscing before telling everyone he had to leave.
Mrs. Allison said that she loved teaching. “It’s what I always wanted to do.” She led the group in the singing of the YHS alma mater. Not a word was missed.
Guy Boyd began the “Lunch Bunch” after many of the classmates were retired so they can get together a few times a year. And it continues; the next Lunch Bunch will be in September.
Donnie Hill, one of the reunion committee members who had planned to welcome everyone, was not able to attend so he could be with his ill wife.
He passed his notes to Katherine Bolin Montgomery, who called the group to order. She attended Winthrop after receiving a full scholarship from the Bleachery and taught elementary school in Rock Hill for 30 years. She talked about the diverse group gathered in the room. Among those in attendance were a preacher, two business owners, two labor union members and at least 10 who had joined the military.
Class president Bonner Thomason became a doctor in the Charleston area. He had planned to attend the reunion, but his wife’s health had kept him home on Saturday.
There had been two sweetheart couples in the class, Philip and Kate Robinson Neil and the late Archie and Jean Fowler Barron.
Peggy Senn Palmer and Kate greeted members at the door and gave out name tags while Guy gave out directories he and his wife created. Peggy invited everyone to her horse ranch next May.
Lindsay Bailes, who came from Pennsylvania, told a favorite story. He and Eddie had joined the Army at the same time and were stationed near each other in Germany. Lindsay and his girlfriend, now his wife, decided to drive up to see Eddie one weekend, but he was away playing football. He was told Eddie would be back in a couple of weeks. Lindsay and his girlfriend drove up two weeks later to see Eddie and, once again, he was away playing football.
Ray Morrison lit the candle beneath the pictures of the 21 classmates who had passed away and called the names of each one. The group closed with a prayer.
And then, one by one, these friends left another reunion, another good time together, with plans to get together again in September.