Forty-nine years ago, the Refugio High School class of 1964 participated in an unthinkable act of prejudice. The party was held at the country club. It was to be the party of all parties celebrating the high school graduation of a group of Refugio’s finest young students. There were many spoken and unspoken messages from our parents and from the community; and hopes were high that we would go off into the world and make good names for ourselves and consequently a good name for the town of Refugio.
Those young people who arrived at the party were delirious with happiness and pride. They were graduated. They were grown. They were looking forward to going off to college or getting a job or going into the military. They were ecstatic. But soon upon arrival at the party the excitement and pride diminished into shame and sadness.
Friends and classmates of color were not present. I remember standing beside one of my friend’s mothers at the punch bowl and asking about the absences of several classmates. I was told they were having parties elsewhere. My first thoughts were that “they”, my friends and classmates, preferred different parties. But as I began looking around, I began to realize that the ones who were missing were not Caucasian. I voiced my suspicions to my date. He was also upset.
We should have left. We should have rounded up all our classmates and left the party to go in search of our missing classmates. But we didn’t. Whether we were simply stunned or perhaps too polite to walk away from parents who were hosting I don’t know. Instead, my date and I and most of our fellow classmates of like color/race stayed at the party intoxicating ourselves with thoughts of our new adulthood and our anticipated brilliant futures.
There was no returning to school to discuss or process it or to apologize. There were visiting relatives at my house as there probably were at other kids’ houses. There were gifts still to be opened and a three-day trip to San Antonio given to me and several close girl friends by our parents. And then there was all that packing and getting ready to leave home and trips to the beach and communicating with the new college roommate and finishing up odd-jobs or going to summer jobs or simply lazing around in the summer sun before saying our final goodbye’s. It was a fast summer and the last summer of our childhood. The unthinkable deed went unresolved.
It has remained our shame for all these 49 years. Those same kids that were not allowed at the “white party” became teachers and preachers and soldiers and pilots and sailors and nurses and doctors and part of the respectable working class.
The class of ‘64 has been fortunate in that we have survived many things and many have been able to return home to reminisce about the good ‘ol days. But this has hung over our heads for all these years and many who were injured have not returned to reminisce with us. And just as those kids were hurt, so were their parents. After all, they lived and worked and contributed to hometown Refugio. But like their graduating children, they felt the sting of prejudice. And yet they were silent.
Hopefully, nothing like this is still happening in Refugio. Hopefully, all colors, races and creeds are respected. Hopefully the losses of friendships, of trust can serve as lessons to this generation. Hopefully, we can grow past our prejudices and learn to live in harmony with each other as we were taught so many years ago when we learned the words to a Christian song: “Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
On behalf of the Refugio High School Class of 1964 and on behalf of our offending parents, I apologize to the classmates and friends who were wounded and to their parents who always treated us so well and so fairly. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.
The Class of ‘64 is meeting again at 11:30 a.m. Sat., April 13 for luncheon at Charlotte Plummer’s Restaurant in Rockport. Classmates are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can get a proper count for reservations at the restaurant. We are in hopes that classmates/friends who have heretofore not been present will attend this reunion.