’63 Aggies hold 55-year* reunion

*Classmates jokingly insist it won’t be 56 years until the end of May

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Seated, left to right: Joyce Williams Rodgers, Melba Fay Stidham Clark, Jo Ann Lands Hall, Linda McGriff Wilhite, Donna Yeager Price and Glenda Gay Bilbrey; standing, left to right: Wayne Roberts, Galeon Campbell, Dwight Rayburn, Donna Boyd Prentice, Zonie Linton Sullenger, Gary Reid, Kenneth Bowen, Kenneth Ray, Geraldine Roberts Baker, Willene Moody Creel, Jo Mangum Needham, Beverly Jo Smither Waters, Albion Hudon, John Wayne Thurston, W.D. Perry and Larry Arrington (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

FAIRVIEW, Ala. – The Fairview High School class of 1963 met for a reunion Saturday at the local Brandin’ Steakhouse, where close to 25 members of the class, along with their spouses, remembered all the great times from more than 50 years ago. They also remembered the classmates who have passed.

The reunion was organized by Joyce Williams Rodgers and Melba Fay Stidham Clark.

Rodgers said, “This is 1963 class of Fairview High School. That’s 55 years, and we never had but two reunions maybe. When we had one for the 50th, I got with some of them and said hey, let’s start doing something.”

Now the class has meetings January-October on the third Saturday of the month. They meet at the Golden Corral.

Class vice president Gary Reid welcomed everyone to the reunion, reminding his classmates, “By today’s standards, we didn’t really have a senior prom. We thought we called it a prom and it was kind of special to us. That was 56 years ago tonight. Where did the years go??”

He recalled an assembly near the end of their 10th-grade year. Students who were running for class officers for the upcoming year were making speeches. One of the candidates said something that has stuck with Reid all these years.

The candidate addressed the student body: “A students, B students, C students, D students and friends.” Reid laughed, “There are report cards here tonight so we are all friends.”

Reid recognized the many in the class who served in the U.S. military, and a moment of silence was observed for all of the class members who have passed away: Benny Bailey, Duval Bennefield, Ann Butler, Hershel Chumley, Morman Easterwood, Don Garmon, Jerry Harper, Becky Hodge, Wilda Faye Hood, Kathryn Horton, Donald Lewis, Harold Martin, Nina Martin, Frankie Mechaw, Edna Morgan, Jerry Nix, Jackie Persall, Joe Ponder, Carson Redding, Johnny Sears, Alton Shedd, Gaynell Smith, Ronnie Thornton, James Hoyt Tipton, Wayne Tomlin (class president), Edward Vaughn and Billy John White.

Wayne and Pam Roberts traveled from South Carolina to be at the reunion. They spoke of their time at Fairview High School as they flipped through their senior yearbook. Fairview wouldn’t have a football team until 1964, so basketball was big during their years. Wayne Roberts spent much of his time playing with his band on Friday nights and his love of music has stayed with him. Now retired, he still plays guitar.

Reid described himself and his classmates as mostly “farm kids” who had to work when not in school, saying, “We thought just going to school was a big deal. Most of us came from feeder schools.”

Fairview and Holly Pond were big rivals in basketball. When asked who the basketball players were, Reid looked around and laughed, “The two shortest people here.”

Wayne Roberts told about playing pranks on one teacher, Mrs. Creel, laughing, “She had an alarm clock sitting on her desk and we would go in there and set the alarm clock and hide it down in her desk for it to go off in the middle of class.”

Another teacher that made a lasting impression was their American History teacher Mr. Lambert. In the early 1960s schools still had a smoking ground and Mr. Lambert could be found out there often.

Reid described Mr. Lambert as “a Marine veteran and he always wore a starched white shirt and a tie. He had really high pants and they called him ‘high pockets,’ but not to his face. Mr. Lambert would have to unzip his pants to get his cigarettes out of his pocket.”

Lambert was remembered for being a great teacher, but strict. He eventually went on to teach at Snead State.

Jo Helen Mangum Needham joined her classmates for the reunion despite graduating from Cullman High School. She attended Fairview until the end of the 10th grade, but said she considers herself a Fairview Aggie and attends all the events.

A sly Reid had to clear his conscience, so he made a confession: “Jo Helen introduced her sons to me and I wanted them to know how much I thought of her. So I told them the reason Jo Helen was so smart was because she copied off my paper in school. That part was a lie, but one time I did had to shove her out of the way. I was trying to copy off of Larry Arrington’s paper.”

The laughter filled the room for a couple of hours as everyone remembered all their fun times together.

Rodgers and Clark said they hope to plan more events with their senior classmates. They kicked around the idea of a cruise in the near future as well as continuing their monthly lunches that start at noon. They hope to make sure everyone stays in touch and to create more memories as the Fairview Class of 1963.

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Seated, left to right: Jo Ann Lands Hall, Jo Mangum Needham, Joyce Williams Rodgers and Glenda Gay Bilbrey; standing, left to right: Linda McGriff Wilhite, Geraldine Roberts Baker, Melba Fay Stidham Clark and Zonie Linton Sullenger (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)
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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com