Remember When: Area seniors recall their high school days

Left to right are Betty Horton, Mickey Bates, Allen Little and Dora Johnson. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Seniors from across the county come to Cullman’s Donald E. Green Senior Center to participate in fun activities and enjoy a few laughs with friends. Last Friday afternoon, they swapped stories from when they were different kinds of seniors. They reminisced about the good ol’ days of high school and the great times they had.

Sherry Boatwright, Shirley Nelson and Anne Meiman are members of the Senior Spirit Dancers and Kickers and they had plenty to say about their high school experiences.

Boatwright was a cheerleader in junior high at Welti before transferring to Holly Pond in 10th grade. The Holly Pond cheerleaders were already chosen, she said, so she hung up her pom-poms, but she did get involved in other organizations.

“When I got to Holly Pond, I was involved in different clubs like the Beta Club and FHA (Future Homemakers of America),” she said.

That might sound tame, but according to Boatwright, not so much.

“The initiation back then, people just think they get hazed and bullied now. I swear, I kept saying, if I had known what they were going to do to me to get into the FHA. I did not enjoy it! A lot of girls thought it was just funny. I am crawling through this parking lot on my hands and knees in the rain. It is not funny.”

She added, “We spent the night in the Home Ec. Building, like a big spend the night party. It was fun once I got into the FHA as I remember. But I remember that initiation was awful.”

Boatwright said Ms. Pope was the home economics teacher, and she had the FHA members to her own house for a sleepover.

Boatwright graduated from Holly Pond in 1968.

“We didn’t have any hazing that I recall,” Nelson said of her high school days.

Nelson grew up in Birmingham and attended West End High School. She took the street car to school.

“We got out and rode our bikes, we skated and we did whatever we wanted. We would walk to Five Points West which was 5 miles away,” she said.

Skating was the activity Nelson and her friends enjoyed the most.

Nelson laughed as she admitted, “If I happened to get mad at home in Fairview (Birmingham), my grandmother lived in West End. I‘d climb out my window at night and go to my grandmother’s, wake up the next morning and daddy would call and Granny would say, ‘Yeah, she’s here.’ You wouldn’t do that anymore.”

Meiman went to high school in north Mississippi and worked for the school paper, the yearbook and other clubs. She grew up with party lines and recalled a night with her friends playing on the party line.

“I took three years of Latin in high school and we hated our Latin teacher,” she said. “We had a spend the night party so we would call her up and say stuff. Like, is your toilet running? Silly stuff. We annoyed her all night long like she wasn’t going to find out who it was. The next week in school, one of our English teachers asked, ‘What did y’all do this weekend?’ So, in school we all wrote about being at a spend the night party. We just confessed!”

The Latin teacher called the girls into her office and lectured them about tying up the party lines.

Allen Little, Mickey Bates, Dora Johnson and Betty Horton get together every Tuesday and Friday to play Mexican Train dominoes and would love for other seniors to come join them. They had lots to say about their times in school.

Little graduated from Cullman High School in 1969. He played baseball but started rodeoing when he was just 14.

He said, “I rodeoed for 15 years. I rode bulls and I was 16 making more money than my daddy was.”

Little went pro when he was 19 and said there were lots of broken bones. He would rodeo full-time in the summer and on weekends during the school year.

He said, “I stayed in the principal’s office! I had Ag and study hall for the last few periods. I would cut those. The principal would sit up there watching for me in the gym. The next day he would bring me in the office and ask me about skipping school. He’d wear out my rear with a paddle.”

Bates would have graduated from Fairview in 1962, but she dropped out to get married. She was married for 55 years. She did go back later to get her diploma from Wallace. She remembered getting in a little trouble in school.

“I chewed chewing gum and got sent to the office,” she said. “Slipped to the store to get a bar of candy and got whipped by the principal. They did the girls hands back then, and you talk about hurting!”

Bates said she and her siblings would take the bus to school each morning. If they missed the bus, they would have to walk.

“We didn’t get to stay home,” she said.

It was a 4-mile walk so they made sure to get to the bus.

Johnson graduated from Cullman High School in 1958 and rode the bus each morning from the Smith Lake area.

“I lived way down near Goat Island so we lived too far to be in too many things. I was in FHA and some things like that.”

Johnson didn’t go to the football games but did go to the baseball games. When she stayed in town with friends, Johnson would hang out at The Globe and the drive-in. Little and his friends enjoyed the same places and admits to being a bit mischievous. He and his buddies knew where to get strawberry wine in Cullman.

A 1950 graduate on Holly Pond High School, Horton said, “We ran after the boys!”

Basketball games were the big events for Holly Pond in 1950. The school did not have a football team in 1950.

“High school was good!” Little said.

The Donald E. Green Senior Center is located at 1625 Cleveland Ave. SW, Cullman, AL  35055. It is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Contact the center at 256-734-4803 or

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Christy Perry