SHS Class of ’58 celebrates with 55th year reunion

Published 2:26 am Saturday, September 14, 2013

One of Covington County’s high schools, Straughn, has experienced tremendous growth during the last few years. Its excellent academic record and success in a wide range of extra-curricular activities have been widely acclaimed. It also should be noted that the school has evolved from a very sound foundation from the beginning and through many years of operation as a top-notch rural school.

A strong influence on the success of the school has been the support of a strong community and the pride held by it as well as the many alumni. The vast number of contributions of money, time and even sacrifices has made a great impact on the well being of the school even from the beginning. In 1886 leaders in the community met and organized a school for their children, and that has been the story since. In 1986, an alumna of 1927, Izola Williams Chesser, compiled a brief history of the school and scheduled an anniversary celebration. Twenty-five years later in 2012, Kelley Carter, an alumnus of 1961, updated the history to the present with a 125-year celebration. (This publication is available for $10 with all profits going to the Straughn Heritage Collection and may be purchased through Kelly Carter or Curtis Thomasson.)

Just as with most high schools of today, Straughn plans homecoming activities each year during which various classes are honored on their ten-year anniversaries of graduation. This encourages all alumni to participate in the school’s activities and maintain their loyalty to their alma mater.

The graduating class of 1958 has had its own long-standing tradition of having a reunion every five years during Labor Day weekend since graduation. Actually a limited gathering was held after one year at the former Gantt School. After this, the class waited until the tenth year after graduation (1968) to stage its first large-scale reunion. This consisted mainly of a program following a dinner at the former Star-Lite Restaurant, which was located on the site of the current Old Mexico. From this date, the pattern became to have a reunion every five years.

In 1973 the class held a reunion at the Rose Hill Community Center during Saturday afternoon and traveled that evening to Opp for a dinner at Billy Boy’s Restaurant. In 1978, the reunion was held in the Jeff Bishop Student Center at L.B.W. Junior College with a catered dinner. The 25th or silver anniversary reunion in 1983 was begun with a session in the Lurleen B. Wallace Memorial Room at the college and concluded with a dinner at Billy Boy’s Restaurant in Opp. For the 1988 reunion a fellowship period was enjoyed in the Jeff Bishop Student Center at L.B.W. with a buffet dinner at The Market Place in the Charter House Inn.

The 1993 event was similar to others with fellowship at L.B.W. College and dinner again at Billy Boy’s Restaurant in Opp. In 1998, the class returned to its alma mater and gathered in the school’s new cafetorium for the usual fun and a buffet dinner provided by local classmates. In 2003, the class once again assembled in the Straughn School cafetorium and enjoyed a buffet meal. Former teacher, Mrs. Rubie Gantt, called the roll for each graduate to report on his current life, and the group viewed a video made of the 1998 reunion. Another former teacher, Gertrude Powell, entertained everyone with her humorous stories.

The 2008 reunion was special as it was the 50th year reunion. Many of the classmates assembled in the library of the new Straughn School building on Friday morning for visitation, refreshments and a tour guided by Principal Shannon Driver. The activities continued on Saturday with a Dutch-treat luncheon at David’s Catfish House. Twenty-two classmates and most of their spouses shared this period of time together reminiscing and catching up on each person’s life during the past five or so years. A memory booklet had been prepared for each class member to commemorate the 50-year anniversary.

During the afternoon of August 31, 2013, the ’58 grads held their latest reunion, the 55th year anniversary, in the Civic Room of the Covington County Bank of Andalusia. Upon arrival, each registered and received a nametag featuring his high school picture. On display was a poster honoring each of the 12 deceased classmates. Next to it was an arrangement of pink carnations, the class flower. Also on display was a folder containing memorial information for each one deceased and folders with information and photos related to each former class reunion.

After the initial visiting period, the friends shared the highlights of their lives for the past five years or so as the class roll of 40 members was called. An update for those unable to attend was reported by those who had been in contact. Afterwards, an abundance of finger-foods was served from tables decorated in the class’s colors, blue and white.

The special occasion was concluded with many expressions of love and good wishes. It was agreed that the class would continue to reunite, but the meetings would be scheduled on the Labor Day weekend of each year from this time forward.

Those classmates able to attend included the following: Onell (Blocker) Anderson and husband, Gerald; Don Gantt and wife, Barbara; Ed Ganus and wife, Aubrene; Irone (Goodson) Kilpatrick; Wanda (Hall) Greene and husband, Don; Jo (Hammett) Ray; Roger Moody; Faye (Taylor) Stokes; Curtis Thomasson; Wanda Eloise (Ward) Davis and husband, Johnie; and Glenda Wood.

Those unable to attend included Carlton Bowers, Ferrell Bryan, Anava (Carter) Jackson, Carlton Cassady, Haniel Croft, Ann (Hicks) Castleberry, Ray Jones, Andrew Kilpatrick, Charlotte (Mathews) Willis, Malinda (Moody) Driver; Mary June (Owens) Brown, Lomax Raley, Ina Ruth (Register) Miller, Ralph Simpler, Jo Ann (Wallace) Woodall, Peggy (Warren) Grimes, James Harry Watson, and Robert Worley.

The deceased members include Earl Blocker, Donald Gibbons, Patricia (Griggs) Echols, Jimmy Ham, Peggy Harrelson, Sara (Helms) Posey, Bobby Johns, Walter Johns, Faye (Jones) Chaney, Darl Kersey, Gail (Sharpe) Odom, and Thad Straughn.

Of interest to all Straughn School alumni is the project of compiling a heritage collection and display at the school. The effort was begun several years earlier by the Straughn Community Club, which has recently been dissolved. All items collected to date are housed in the Straughn Middle School library and adjacent hallways.

An appeal is ongoing for each person and or class supportive of the school to help locate and donate memorabilia to the heritage collection. Anyone with available items is requested to contact Allison Thomasson, the middle school librarian, or one of the following interested alumni who have volunteered for this project: Wanda (Ward) Davis, Kelley Carter, or Curtis Thomasson.