They come in pieces now, forgotten memories that return for a moment when one sees a familiar face, passes a classroom door, hears a certain song.
High school, for me, has been a generation ago. For you, maybe it’s been longer, shorter, ongoing or yet to be. For Halls, it’s been a centennial. The original building opened for the 1916-17 school year. That meant it was time to celebrate.
And it has been quite a year. Carl Tindell, Chris Vandergriff, Mark Duff and several others made sure of that.
It started last September. Surreal in its way, I saw some people I haven’t seen in more than 20 years, in the school commons at a brief reunion and at the football game against South-Doyle.
It ended the last Saturday in April at the annual alumni dinner. There, too, I saw old friends. There, too, it was bittersweet.
Dewayne Lawson drove up from Macon, Georgia, for the big bash. For that, I am grateful. Not only was it good to see him, I probably wouldn’t have made it otherwise due to debilitating health issues.
In so many ways, Dewayne has lived the life I initially planned for myself, inasmuch as one can. He went away to school, became an educator, and met a well-read, well-traveled, intelligent girl who is now his wife for almost 16 years and counting. He’s teaching social studies and coordinates technology, most recently for Stratford Academy. His wife, Dr. Bridget Trogden, is a chemistry professor, most recently at Mercer University. They’re both headed to South Carolina. He’ll be back in the classroom. She’ll be at Clemson. They have a precocious son, Jacob, who enunciates better than I do.
At the dinner, we chatted with a fellow classmate, Melissa Rogers Sandling, who is now a teacher at — you guessed it — Halls High. And we saw others — Miki Cates, who graduated a couple of years ahead of us and is also now a Halls High teacher; Paul Williams, who kept an eye on us at the middle school; Rusha Sams, who kept an eye on us in high school; and several others, too many to mention.
As these things go, I missed several people who’ve passed on: Ron Wallace, who did a lot later in life to promote the school and the dinner; Sidney Burnett, who was the old alumni association’s treasurer for years; and several others.
We walked down to the band room for a minute. Dewayne reminisced about playing trumpet for Charlie Blake. I introduced him to current band director Eric Baumgarder. They talked shop, and Dewayne told me stories. As we walked, we talked about girls we’d loved, teachers we respected, plenty of good memories and a few that weren’t.
Passing a doorway, a memory was jogged, and for a moment I lived that semi-regular dream most of us have about being given a test for which we hadn’t studied. Passing others, I remembered faces, fragments, fears, follies. I remembered dreams that died somewhere along the way, but also remembered that a few came true, too.
I became too sick to stay, but I hear former principal Roy Mullins gave a good speech about the school’s history at a ceremony in the middle school auditorium. Dr. Randy Mynatt, architect Greg Rutledge, and retired Halls High teacher and alum extraordinaire Vandergriff were inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. Vandergriff called later to say that Gene Peterson (Class of 1943), Alice Hall Munsey (Class of 1944) and Wilma Hall Carter (Class of 1947) were the most senior alumni present.
As Dewayne drove me home, I thought about those best and worst of times, some of the fragments already beginning to fade again, stared into a serene spring sunset, and thought about what the bicentennial celebration will look like.
If all of us who are younger do half as much as well in the coming years as what our predecessors have done, it will be one heck of a hoedown.