SHS Class of ‘58 celebrates 58 years

Published 1:54 am Saturday, September 10, 2016

Straughn High School Class of 1958 held their annual reunion on Sat., Sept. 3, in the private dining room of Chen’s Garden restaurant in Andalusia. These alumni have been enjoying such occasions for several years on the Saturday before Labor Day. This year of 2016 is exactly 58 years since this Class of 1958 was graduated. After their 55th year reunion, the decision was made to meet annually for a meal and fellowship.

Even though this class of 39 graduates chose many different walks in life and moved to several areas, they have remained amazingly close with much love and concern for each other. They keep in contact throughout the year by sharing information and news regarding the activities of each other. On the sad occasion of losing a class member a memorial donation is made usually to Straughn School’s Heritage Room, a project established by the former Straughn Community Club.

The Heritage Room collection was officially begun in 2007 when the above club began gathering various kinds of memorabilia related to the school and community. These included such items as yearbooks, pictures, and information on teachers and each class. A vertical file was established to maintain folders on each class’s history and current activities, and the committee purchased a large cabinet to display select items. Early on it was housed in the library area of the Middle School, and now it is located in the Heritage Room of the High School Library. The Class of 1958 has supported this project by donating memorabilia and making donations of money on several occasions. Anyone who has any related items such as pictures, records, books, etc. is urged to donate those to this historical collection of the school and community. So many valuable materials are being trashed each year that would be great contributions to this project.

Other items of interest are the two histories of Straughn School. The first, A Brief History of Straughn School, was published in June 1986. It was compiled and written by Izola (Williams) Chesser, a member of Straughn Class of 1927. The second, also entitled A Brief History of Straughn School, included a reproduction of the first book with an addition called A Continuation of the History of Straughn School Through September 2012, which was written by Kelley Carter, member of Straughn Class of 1961. Also, Curtis Thomasson, member of Straughn Class 1958, has written histories of the Straughn (formerly Haygood) community and the families for which they were named. These were printed in his genealogy column, which is published weekly in the Andalusia Star-News.

The Class of 1958 has remembered several of their teachers, especially those who faithfully attended earlier class reunions. Among these were Mrs. Margaret Shine, senior sponsor and business teacher; Ms. Gertrude (Powell) McCusker, Senior English teacher and volunteer counselor; and Mrs. Rubie Gantt, science teacher. Hugh D. Wilson was their principal during the senior year, and they had Harold Richburg as principal for the previous three years.

As members of the class arrived they were greeted and asked to draw a question from a box to be answered during the meeting. This served as a simple “mixer” in that those who did not immediately know the answer could ask their classmates. The activity was also to promote memories of the class’s history. Some of the questions were: Class motto? “Success Awaits at Labor’s Gates;” class flower, pink carnation, inspired by song “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,” which was popular at the time (Men wore white sport coats to social events.); class colors, blue and white (school colors were black and gold); class song, “Let the Good Times Roll;” and What was the name of the junior class play? “No Bride for the Groom;” The senior play? “It’s a Great Life.”

Some of the questions related to various class members and activities included the following: Where did the class go on their senior trip? New Orleans; In what Hotel did they stay? LaSalle; Name the steamboat on which they took a ride on the Mississippi River: USS President; What two boys “stepped out” for first time in Bermuda shorts for the trip? Thad Ray Straughn and Curtis Thomasson; Miss Straughn High in 1957? Irone (Goodson) Kilpatrick; Who were Mr. and Miss Sophomore in 1956? Malinda Moody and Haniel Croft; Where did the class have an all- night party after the graduation ceremony? Home of Wanda Eloise (Ward) Davis’s sister, Claudette Colvin; What teacher helped chaperone the senior party? Mrs. Margaret Shine; Which graduate is currently Mayor of a town? Roger Moody, mayor of Dozier. What were some of the spots visited during “senior week?” (All seniors were allowed to take finals early and enjoy a free week.): Ft. Walton Beach, Sleepy’s place at Dunn’s Bridge, Open Pond; and which night-spot in Andalusia did Straughn students visit and park behind in Andalusia? Idle Hour.

Attending the 2016 reunion were the following classmates and their guests: Onell (Blocker) and husband, Gerald Anderson; Carlton and Lois (Longenecker) Cassady; Edward and Aubrene (Henderson) Ganus; Wanda (Hall) and husband, Donald Greene; Malinda (Moody) Driver; Roger Moody and his sister, Janice (Moody) Norman; Mary June (Owens) Brown; Lomax and Diane (Elmore) Raley; Ina Ruth (Register) Miller and her son, Ronnie Miller; Ralph and Marzelle (Jeffcoat) Simpler; Curtis and Margie (Jacques) Thomasson; Jo Ann (Wallace) and husband, Carl Woodall; Wanda Eloise (Ward) and husband, Johnie Davis; and Peggy (Warren) and husband, Otway Grimes.

Of the 39 graduating classmates, 15 are deceased to date. Those and the place of their residence at the time of death are: Earl Blocker, Pensacola; Don Gantt, Gantt/Andalusia; Donald Gibbons, Anoka, Minn.; Patricia (Griggs) Echols, Andalusia; Jimmy Ham, Andalusia; Josephine (Hammett) Ray, Andalusia; Peggy Harrelson, Rose Hill/Andalusia; Sara (Helms) Posey, Pensacola, Fla.; Ann (Hicks) Castleberry, Montgomery; Bobby Johns, Andalusia, Walter Johns, Andalusia; Faye (Jones) Chaney, Pensacola; Andrew Kilpatrick, Ramer, Ala.; Gail (Sharpe) Odom, Andalusia; and Thad Ray Straughn, Gantt/Andalusia.

The following classmates were unable to attend this reunion and their current residences are: Carlton Bowers, Ga.; Ferrell Bryan, Athens, Ala.; Nancy Anava (Carter) Jackson, Eoda/Andalusia; Haniel Croft, Monroeville; Irone (Goodson) Kilpatrick, Harmony/Andalusia; Ray Jones, Jacksonville, Fla.; Charlotte (Mathews) Willis, Cullman, Ala.; Faye (Taylor) Stokes, Andalusia; James Harry Watson, Mobile; and Glenda Wood, Andalusia.

The Class of 1958 was consolidated in 1954 when students from two feeder-schools, Rose Hill and Sanford, transferred to Straughn to join those who had spent their first eight years there. A few joined the group within the next year or two from Carolina School and outside Covington County. At the reunion it was discovered that of those attending, six were from Sanford, five from Rose Hill, one from Straughn and two from Carolina School.

Following the meal for which Ed Ganus, a local Baptist minister, voiced an invocation, activities continued with each person sharing the things which had happened in their life and some of their future plans. Carlton and Lois Cassady had the most children with seven total, and they had the most grandchildren and great grandchildren. The youngest classmate present was Lomax Raley. Carlton Cassady had traveled the farthest since he came from Mesquite, Tex.

Those classmates present expressed their goodbyes and well wishes for the future with feelings of once again being bonded as a class. Many had spent 12 years of school together, and the class as a whole at least the four high school years. The next reunion is planned for the same date, the Saturday before Labor Day, in 2017.

The writer of this column, Curtis Thomasson, was elected President of the Class of 1958 and is always involved in planning the reunion with special assistance from the class secretary, Eloise (Ward) Davis and other class members. Some classmates reminded him that since he was president when they graduated, such responsibility would continue throughout life. It is a genuine pleasure for this writer to be a part of this class.

Anyone who might have a question regarding this class and the reunion as well as Straughn School history is requested to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: