I wrote this BLOG so I could share the evening both with those who attended and those who weren’t able to be there.
Big night last weekend: Gary’s 50th class reunion in Heber Springs, Arkansas! The Early Decades Reunion celebrated since 1976 honors the class which is celebrating its 50th year. This year Gary, President of the Class of 1960, was in charge of the program. This account is taken from Gary’s script and other information I gathered.
Good evening. On behalf of the Early Decades Committee and the Class of 1960 we welcome you to the 35th annual Early Decades Reunion. My name is Gary Thomas and I'm the President of the Class of 1960.
Pledge of Allegiance was led by Joyce Gauvey Owens
Jim Alexander introduced Class of 1960 Members
Invocation by Merrellyn Stark: “Dear Lord, as we gather here tonight, we are reminded of those who have gone on before, many of them helped to pave the way for us and we are thankful for their presence in our lives. We are thankful for all those who have worked so hard to make this evening possible. We are thankful for all of the blessings that have come our way over the years, and may we be mindful from whom those blessings have come. We ask that you be with us and guide us in all that we do, say, and think. May we remember that we have been called to serve and to love as we would be loved. When we leave this place tonight, may we go in peace to love and serve you. These things we lift to you and ask that your will be done. Amen.”
Memorials were read by Jerry McGary –classmates photos were shown as he read the names: Barbara Ballentine, Vee (Toodie) Caviness, Jerry Davis, Victor Davis, Harold Haile, Rex Hodges, Donna Lacy, Claudia Love, Lola McGowan, Calvin Mulliniks, Sanford Nichols, Clete Poole, Donald Sartin, Joe Sellers, Roy Walters.
Recognition Beverly (Ward) McCabe-Sellers recognized special guests. (Classes of 1950, 1970, and teacher Miss Jackson)
Program by Gary Thomas:
The evening's program is entitled the "Out-of-Towner's". Our class of 1960 was the last class to graduate from the "old" high school which had been built in 1928 and in use for over 32 years. However, when our committee was discussing a theme for this evening it was brought to my attention that our class was not only the last class to graduate from the old high school, but also the first class to graduate with a significant number, 1/3, of our class, who were from "out of town". They came from the smaller communities surrounding Heber, from larger cities in Arkansas, and from out of state. Even though they were only in the class for a couple of years they were welcomed as if they had always lived here.
I would now like to introduce you to these "out-of-towners" and tell some of their stories of where they came from, how they got here, and what it has meant to them to be members of the class of 1960 and in the Heber community.
Slides and read names and where they came from:
Read Art Gropp's story: “Even before I was born the attraction to dam construction began. My grandparents, on both sides of the family, headed for Grand Coulee Dam in the mid 1930’s at the end of the great depression for work. Neither went to work on the dam. One worked for a lumber company that supplied building materials and the other, my grandpa Gropp, I like to refer to as the social director for the project. He built and operated several taverns in Grand Coulee.
I was born in Kansas City Missouri where my dad was a pilot for TWA Airlines. When he was drafted into the, then Army Air Corp, he moved my Mom, older sister and I to the Grand Coulee Dam area where both sets of my Grandparents were still living. After being discharged my Dad returned to Grand Coulee and with my grandpa Gropp started Gropp’s Electric in the 1940’s. I attended grades 1-4 in Electric City Washington and grades 5-8 in Grand Coulee Washington.
In 1952 my Dad worked on Cabinet Gorge dam in Clark Fork, Idaho and on Chief Joseph Dam at Bridgeport, Washington, from 1953 to 1956. In 1956, with the slow economy in the Grand Coulee Dam area, we moved to Noxon Rapids Dam at Noxon, Montana where I attended High School until the mid part of my junior year. My move to Noxon was great. After being in an area of rocks and sagebrush I was excited to move to forested mountains and good fishing and hunting. I don’t think my parents and sisters were as excited as they had to leave a nice house my dad built and buy a mobile home to go where the work was.
When MK Co. sent my Dad to Greer’s Ferry Dam at Heber Springs, Arkansas, I decided to go with him as my older sister would graduate from High School at Noxon that spring and wanted to stay with her class. So off to Heber Springs Dad and I went. The one thing I didn’t have at Noxon was a car. My parents weren’t to enthusiastic about me having a car or letting me drive theirs. And then it happened. Just outside of Springfield, Missouri the hitch broke and we wrecked the truck and mobile home. It looked like my Dad and I would be stranded in Springfield for awhile. I was walking around and saw this 1949 Ford and ask the sales person at the garage if it was for sale and he said it belonged to the guy in the body shop, but he might sell it. I told my Dad I had enough money to buy it and if I did we could continue to Heber Springs. He thought that that was a great idea. So what was a bad situation turned in a great opportunity for me. I had my car.
Grades 1-3 in Albany Oregon, where I was in love with my first grade teacher, Miss Debbie. I have always loved smart women.
Grades 3-6 in Lookout Point Dam, Dexter, Oregon where I lived on Fall Creek and leaned to swim. This came in handy during my 20 years in the Navy.
Grades 7-9 in Table Rock Dam, Branson, Missouri where I had my first real job at what is now Dick’s 5 & 10. This business experience gave me a jump for my 20 year career at FedEx.
Grades 10-11 in Mount Baker Dam, Sedro Woolley, Washington where I got my first car a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetwood. This taught me the value of buying a new car before the old one breaks down.
Grade 12 in Greers Ferry Dam, Heber Springs, Arkansas where I fell in love with Kay Morton. She made me want to be a good husband, dad and grandparent.
I was a Dam Kid with a long pedigree.”
and Johnny Steadman's story: ”I was born in Little Rock and went through the 9th grade there. I moved to Heber in September, 1957 and went through my high school years.
My dad was assigned to work on the real estate acquisition for the land to be flooded by the lake. My dad was with the Corps of Engineers. While I wasn’t thrilled about moving from the big city of Little Rock to the country, I really enjoyed my 3 years in Heber.
Thank goodness I missed the “Crisis at Little Rock Central High in 1957/58 and 58/59. That is where I would have been going to school.”
Gary’s Story: Another story I want to tell is mine and how I came to be at Heber Springs High School.
It begins in downtown Los Angeles at the Greyhound Bus Depot late at night in early September 1958 and I'm 16 years old. I have just bought my ticket to Little Rock and with my box of clothes I'm waiting by myself to board the bus.
I'll back up a few hours and explain how I got to this point. My father had came home and announced that we were moving again. I was not happy since I had just started my fourth different high school in only two years. This moving again may not seem unusual to those of you who came here with the Dam but prior to this from kindergarten through the 8th grade I had attended 22 different schools. If you ever heard the phrase "new kid in school", I'm the poster child for that saying.
I told my parents I had had enough of changing schools and I was going to live with my grandparents in Arkansas so I could finish school in one location. So I packed a box, got a ride to Los Angeles, bought a ticket with my own money and boarded the bus. I don't think my parents thought I was serious, but I was on my way.
When I arrived in Heber I stepped off the bus and didn't have a clue where I was or which direction to start walking. The first building I saw was Alexander's Cafe & Gas Station. As I stood there little did I know how much this business and the family that owned would play a major part in my life over the next two years. This is where I would learn some basic job skills. Pumping gas, cleaning windshields, checking oil, washing vehicles, selling bus tickets and making change. Also, at the cafe I would help with banquet service and attend a junior and senior prom in the same room. I'm sure many of you remember that room and those events.
When the bus pulled away I turned around and saw the building across the street. I thought it looked familiar but not as it did when I was a young child. Then a light went off in my head and I remembered it was Movie Theater years ago. This is where my granddad would take me on Saturday nights to the movies. We would walk to town, down through the woods with me holding his hand. It was usually a scary movie and I learned that the best way to watch was to put granddad’s hat over my face and look through the hole in the top.
I now knew which way to start walking, so I crossed the street, turned left and headed up the sidewalk.
When I arrived at the High School I now knew where to look for the trail through the woods. And again little did I know the part that this building would play in my life. Not only education but life lessons leaned from involvement in student government, plays, athletics, and friendships which would last over 50 years. The staff provided counseling, guidance and took a personal interest in my development. Previously attending 26 different schools my attendance was less than acceptable, but, in two years at Heber High I never missed a day of school. I did try once to stay in bed and not go to school but I soon leaned the country meaning of a granny going to get a switch off the tree. The next building I saw was the Agri Classroom and I saw the trailhead and started up through the woods. For the next two years I would walk this trail everyday to school and home for lunch. Rather I would run home for lunch, otherwise, Uncle Jim Houston would get their first and have the best of the chicken and peach cobbler. I remember walking home in dark with granddad from a movie holding his hand and he would turn the flashlight off and say "did you hear that"? The rest of the way home I would have my arms wrapped around his leg
Leaving the woods as I came out on what is now Pine Street I continued down the then dirt road and I saw the house where for the next two years I would learn to chop wood, get water from the well, collect eggs, churn butter, grind sausage, work in the garden, bring in coal to heat the house, heat an iron on the wood stove and go out back to use the outdoor toilet. It wasn't until years later that I would realize we were upper class because the toilet had two seats. Remember, I was a city boy and this was a whole new world for me but one I loved and now know that what I learned helped me in later life to appreciate what hard working people had to do just to live day to day. I saw granddad first, out chopping wood and he looked up and said "been spect'n you boy". I then looked to the porch and granny came out wearing that familiar flour sack dress and wiping her hands on her apron. She waved and said "come on in you must be starv'in". I was home.
You've met my grandparents, Annie Newman Collins and Horace Walter Collins. Now meet my Heber moms: my Aunt Blanche Houston, who always made sure I had warm clothes in the winter, Evelyn Alexander who taught me to iron a shirt, Gladys Martin who introduced me to chocolate gravy, and Thelma Bailey who always found chores for me to do with her boys before we ate.
Now meet my role models: Coach Alexander, instilled in me focus and attention, Miss "E", the compassion to understand a homesick boy, Miss Jackson, the business education I’m sure all of us still use today and Mr. Tom Massey, taught customer service and relations before it was popular.
On behalf of all the "out-of-towners" we want to thank you for welcoming us into your community and treating us like we've always lived here. And on behalf of the Class of 1960 thank you for honoring us this year.
At this time I would like to have Larry Crabtree, Vice President of the Class of 1961 to come forward for the passing of the torch. Larry, your Class of 1961 will be honored next year and we look forward to your program.
Before we close with the benediction I have a reminder from the Decades committee to please turn in your name tags after we're done.
Sherlon Martin come up please.
Sherlon will now lead us in the Benediction. (Note: I wish I had Sherlon’s benediction to share but I think it was spoken from the heart and not written down.)
This concludes our program for this evening and we hope you enjoyed yourselves. Good night, God Bless and drive careful and "Go Panthers"