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Tigers Roar
Written June 16, 2015


Classmate's Log, Tigerdate April 19, 2014

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.  I realized that if I managed to continue getting older, eventually I would reach the golden anniversary of my high school graduation back in Richwood, Ohio.  But I hadn’t even arrived at the 49th anniversary when I received an e-mail from Tonya Davis Payne, a classmate from the Richwood High School Tigers.

Next year is our 50th Class Reunion, and we really would like to make it a very special celebration for all of us to get together, reminisce and make some great new memories.  The Alumni Banquet will be on the evening of Saturday, June 13, 2015, and our class will be honored, so this will be the date we will work around.

Let’s get the planning started by choosing some committees and chairpeople.  Committees can meet via teleconferences, emails, and snail mail as well as in person, so please indicate if you would like to be on a committee and if you would like to be the chairperson of that committee.

It will be important to respond quickly so that people have plenty of time to make plans to attend this very special celebration.  Thanks — let’s get this party started!!

I declined the opportunity to serve on a committee, but I dutifully submitted my reservation form.  E-mails continued to pour in every month from reunion organizers including Lynne Glass Ledley, DeeAnn Debolt Payne, Pat Ransome Kyle-Beatley, Bonnie Bell, and class president Ed Olson.  The anticipation grew.

One classmate, Nick Taylor, was in charge of collecting memorabilia for a display.

Nick is now an Anglican priest, serving as a supply priest to congregations in Colorado.  Before that, during the Viet Nam years he flew KC-135s and C-123s.  He's also been a geriatric nurse and a ragtime piano player.

Classmate's Log, Tigerdate May 15, 2015

Having looked through my boxes in the basement, I found dozens of items to contribute to Nick’s table.  I made a display of various pins and medals earned during my high school years. 

Into plastic sheet protectors went photos and documents.  There was an award for reading the books “Proud Pumpkin” and “Petunia Takes a Trip” as a second grader.  There was a program from our senior-year musical Brigadoon.  I brought my letterman's jacket.  Nick brought his Scottish Brigadoon costume, plus his bag of marbles to prove he still had them all.

Classmate's Log, Tigerdate June 12, 2015

Around noon on Friday, Tonya and Nick and I and some others arrived at the Marion Country Club.  That night, the ballroom would be the venue for our Class of 1965 reunion party.  (Surprisingly, the village of Richwood doesn’t have a country club.)

Chuck Magill from the class of 1966, one year younger than us, did a sound check with his band Clear Run.

We older folks set up the displays and the balloons and the centerpieces.

That evening, the rest of our classmates began checking in at 5:00, and the conversations got under way.

At 5:30, all the class members were summoned to the Country Club entrance for a group portrait.

For a much larger version, click this picture.

Ours was a small high school in a small town, and our graduating class numbered only 77 seniors.  (There were 76 in the yearbook.)  There are 63 of us still alive.  Of that number, 39 came back to celebrate!

I’m counting 37 in the photo above, but that includes one who actually ended up graduating from another school.  Then at the Alumni Banquet the following night, three more from our Class of ’65 showed up.  One classmate begged off because “the birth of my great-granddaughter took precedence over everything else.”

Thanks to the organizers, who spent 14 months getting us excited about the upcoming event, nearly 62% of us accepted the invitation.  That’s a remarkable turnout!

Back inside the Country Club, there was a buffet dinner.

There was a short program.

There was music from the live band, and even some dancing.

And there was a lot of reminiscing.

For example, Ed Olson (photographed here by Tonya) talked to Dan Rush and recalled a memorable play from one football game.

Mt. Gilead sent two players back to receive a kick, including Ron Nixon (we think that was his name), while Dan was on Richwood’s coverage team.  The receivers criss-crossed, and most of the Tigers pursued the guy running to the right.  Dan noticed Nixon running up the left sideline and said “That guy has the ball!”

The two fastest players on the field approached each other at top speed.  Nixon lowered his head to try to run through Dan, who lowered his head to try to tackle Nixon low.  Their helmets met.

Watching from the sideline, Ed thought it was the loudest collision he had ever heard.  I was also on the sideline with a clipboard, but I don’t remember the play; I probably just wrote down that Mt. Gilead was going to start first and ten from their own 37, and that Rush might be hurt.

Dan didn’t remember anything after the collision either.  From his symptoms, he obviously suffered a concussion, but in those days we didn’t know as much about the dangers of that type of injury.  He was one of the two players on our team who still wore an old-style leather helmet.  For the rest of its career, that helmet was permanently misshapen.

Several teachers were invited to the reunion as our special guests.  In these photos by Tonya, we see biology/science teacher Rex Smith and his wife Cherrie, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary; Spanish teacher Rosemary Taylor, Nick’s 90-year-old mother; Virg and Jani Rankin; and Sharon and John Merriman.  You may recall that Mr. Merriman was my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, and although I’d forgotten about it, he still has a startlingly boisterous laugh.  All the men were also coaches.

And here am I with Nick.  Tonya posted many other photos on Facebook, and I’ll include some of them in a follow-up article next week.

The celebration lasted until 10:30.  Then I packed up my memorabilia and returned to my motel.

Classmate's Log, Tigerdate June 13, 2015

Two separate events were planned for noon on Saturday.  Some of the guys were going to play golf at the Country Club, and some of the girls had organized a luncheon at the Richwood Fair Grounds.  I don’t golf and I’m not a girl, so I opted for a steak at Steve’s Dakota Grill and then drove down to Richwood to see what had changed.

The building we attended is no longer there, of course.  Built in 1939, it was Richwood High School for a quarter of a century.  Ours was the last RHS class before the district became North Union in the fall of 1965.  When a new North Union High School building opened four years later, this structure became North Union Middle School.  It served in that capacity for another 40 years until it was replaced and torn down in 2009.

The front walk, seen in an archival aerial photo below, was wishbone-shaped to welcome pedestrians coming down the street from either the north or the south.  That pavement has also been removed.  But, as one of my classmates pointed out, a “ghost walk” of discolored grass remains.  It begins at the lower left of my photo from ground level and continues in the general direction of the still-standing goalpost.


The “new” North Union High School building, itself almost half a century old, is on the north side of town.  It was the site for the 99th annual Alumni Banquet on Saturday evening.  Again at 5:00 we gathered, this time in the gymnasium as a thunderstorm passed outside.

The Alumni Banquet welcomes both NUHS and RHS graduates.  Fortunately the colors of North Union’s Wildcats (orange, black, and white) match the old colors of Richwood’s Tigers (orange and black).  Ed recalled that when Richwood merged with Byhalia to form North Union, there was some debate over what the new school’s colors should be.  Then someone pointed out that Richwood had purchased orange and black uniforms for the marching band only two years before.  That settled the issue.

Our class was by far the best represented at the banquet.  We filled this table plus two-thirds of the table behind it.

Nowadays there seems to be less interest in remembering high school days, and fewer and fewer alumni come to reunions.  I’ve heard adults from other cities grumble that they have no good memories of high school.  They hated it, couldn’t wait to get out, and don’t want to think about it now.  That wasn’t the case for us in our small town, where everything revolved around the school during a very important part of our lives.

Nevertheless, the younger generation doesn’t seem to reminisce as much as we do.  From the 94-member Class of 1990, only these five alumni were on hand to celebrate a milestone of their own, their 25th anniversary.

In contrast, our 50th anniversary group filled a whole section of the bleachers.  There were 30 of us posing for this photo.

To embiggen it, click the picture.

Following those festivities, the Class of 1965 adjourned to Bonnie Bell’s house less than five miles outside town for an after-party.

We were all very relaxed, like the old friends we are.

Carol Anne Ferguson McCreary remarked to me that it was much more comfortable than the 20th reunion she attended, when everyone sat around quietly, almost afraid to talk.

Perhaps the difference is that we’re no longer trying to impress each other with our accomplishments.  Having reached retirement age, we’ve finally become grownups.

Tonya later posted this profile of me in Bonnie's kitchen, munching on a cookie.  [In my defense, I lost 40 pounds over the next 20 months and have kept it off ever since.]

Lynne wrote today, “It amazes my sister (Class of ’73) that we scheduled five different events and had a great turnout for everything!  She asked if we ran out of things to talk about and I told her no.  We have been talking about the past 50 years and even our lives before that!  Her class is just not a close class, and they have a hard time getting a few people together for one event.  We are truly a blessed class!”  [A graduate of another fortunate class elsewhere agrees here.]

And somewhat to my surprise, the 50-year reunion does not mark the final chapter in our stories.  At the banquet, alumni were honored who graduated from Richwood High School 55 years ago.  And 60 years ago.  And 65 years ago.  And 70 years ago.  And even 75 years ago.

Keep on roaring, Tigers!



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