Our big reunion will be Oct. 17-18, coinciding with Western Week, when we plan to ride a float in the parade. We may be senior citizens now, but we still know how to have fun!
Today’s graduates would be amazed at how different the world was when we began first grade at Tyler Elementary School in 1952—there was no public kindergarten then. We had no cell phones, computers, Facebook, electronic games—and most of us didn’t even have televisions yet.
Some of us were in classes together for all 12 years; those who attended Our Lady of Victory, St. Joseph’s, Lott-Canada or Jackson Schools joined us in junior high or high school.
Beeville schools integrated way ahead of many others in South Texas. In 1952, Jackson School, formerly called the West Side School (which years later housed Moreno Kindergarten) was still all-Hispanic, but in the early ’50s Mexican-American students had the option of attending Tyler if they wished, and quite a few did.
Lott-Canada, the school for African-Americans, wasn’t closed until 1960, but JHS was completely integrated by the 1950s. It was simply too expensive to maintain separate high school programs.
When our class learned that our popular African-American football hero classmate, Ronnie McCraig, couldn’t attend the Annual Dance, at which he would be named “most popular athlete,” we protested—and succeeded in socially integrating JHS.
Our class was the vanguard of the baby boomers—180 strong, we were the last class under 200 to graduate. Our burgeoning numbers, plus the reactivation of the Navy base around the time we began first grade, resulted in construction of several new schools. I remember the day in the second grade when our teacher introduced a new student whose father was stationed at Chase Field. For the rest of our school career, Navy dependent classmates brought the wider world to our classrooms as they shared their varied experiences with us.
Through eighth grade, we walked to Central Cafeteria, where for many years we paid 30 cents for lunch. A special subsidy provided milk snacks for two cents an eight-ounce carton when we were in the fifth and sixth grades—we especially relished the chocolate option!
Movies at the Rialto Theater downtown cost 20 cents until we turned 12, when admission skyrocketed to 60 cents.
In elementary school we had recess, when we could play as we wished, rather than physical education class. In the first grade, we enjoyed a big slide on the playground, until Tim Rider fell off and broke his arm. To our disappointment, the slide was moved to Klipstein Park. Girls played jacks, hopscotch and jump rope, while boys enjoyed marbles and various ball games.
We walked across the street to Buncy’s Store and bought candy cigarettes and little packages of bittersweet “koolaid” powder to eat.
In 1958, we celebrated Bee County’s centennial, with old-fashioned dresses for girls and our mothers; many fathers sported beards and mustaches.
The most memorable day of our junior high career was Feb. 12, 1960, when it began SNOWING around noon. Our teachers let us go out to play in it until school was dismissed early. (In 1958, it had snowed during the night on the same date, but that was less exciting than enjoying snowflakes at school.)
Our schools were not air-conditioned, but it wasn’t as hot back then as it is now. Each classroom had a large oscillating fan for air circulation. Our junior-senior banquets and proms were held in the Central Cafeteria and the high school gym, but they were early enough in the spring that suits and evening dresses could be comfortably worn. Boys didn’t rent tuxes in those days, and no one even considered driving to Corpus Christi for a pre-prom meal!
We girls always wore dresses or skirts and blouses to school, unless the weather was so bitterly cold that the superintendent gave permission on the radio for us to wear pants. Crinoline petticoats were worn under our skirts; when we accidentally stepped on them, they ripped, resulting in “PHDs”—petticoats hanging down.
Girls back-combed and sprayed our hair for the fashionable “bouffant” look, while most boys had crew cuts.
Many of us got our driver’s licenses when we were 14, if we took driver’s ed with Mr. Pfenniger. He must have been effective, for I cannot remember any serious wrecks. For out-of-town school trips in private cars, our teachers frequently let us drive!
Several teachers and students smoked at school, just not during classes.
American Field Service exchange students were an important part of our student body. Sigridur “Sidda” Gunnarsdottir from Iceland, “our” AFS classmate, has attended several previous reunions and already has her plane reservations for October.
We ask readers who know of out-of-touch ’64 grads to put them in contact with reunion organizer Wylie McMahon (email@example.com) or with me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Class of ’64, please “save the date” and prepare to reminisce!