For old time’s sake|All county reunion promises plenty of food, folks and fun

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

Those attending the All County School Reunion Saturday are asked to bring a covered dish, drinks and lawn chairs.

“And your best memories to share,” Bettye Barnett Oakes, one of the organizers, said. And, if you have something from your school days, bring it to be displayed in the “Avenue of Memories.”

Gordon Cotton is an author and historian who lives in Vicksburg.

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This year is reunion No. 6 and, for the first time, the old schools of Bovina, Oak Ridge and Jefferson Davis will be included with the high schools, Culkin, Jett and Redwood.

Much of the day will be spent visiting and reminiscing. One person’s recollections will spark those of somebody else. The following are some of the memories of a few of those students.


Wallace Goza went to Jett from the third grade through the 12th, graduating in 1951 with 14 others in his senior class. Like most, he had favorite teachers and he made lifelong friends.

If you go

The sixth annual All County School Reunion will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at City Park Pavilion, 700 Lee St. Cost is $5 each, and music will be by the Wright Road Band. For more information, call Bettye or Don Oakes at 601-634-8097 or Annie Warnock at 831-1343. Information can also be accessed at or

Athletics, then as now, was a big deal, and Frank Hannon coached both football and basketball. The football helmets were leather, and Goza said you could fold one up and put it in your back pocket.

“During a game one of my teammates began to yell, ‘I can’t see. I think I’m going blind.’ In the previous tackle, his helmet had gotten turned around and his eyes were covered,” Goza said. “Coach Hannon walked up to him, turned the helmet around and told him to ‘get back out on the field.’”

No doubt the most unforgettable event in Goza’s high school years was also the benediction for them, literally. He was to say the prayer at graduation, so he wrote it, memorized it, and when the time came forgot most of it, standing there with his head bowed and saying, “Dear Lord” several times — each followed by a long pause — and finally, “Amen.”

“One of my classmates told me later that he was glad I remembered, ‘Amen,’ or we might have been there all night,” Goza said.

Jefferson Davis

Billy Gene Wright had to walk from the house where he still lives on Wright Road to Goodwin’s Store on Hankinson Ferry to catch Mr. Charlie Luckett’s bus. He remembers, “I had to sit on the heater beside Mr. Luckett, but I never understood why.” A school bus event in later years may explain Mr. Luckett’s reason.

“Mr. Romey Hullum stopped the bus on top of Redbone Hill and put me off — just because I let my green snake out of a tobacco can,” Wright recalled. “You can imagine the excitement it caused among the girls. Mr. Romey let me back on the bus, however, to catch my snake.”

He remembers his first- and second-grade teacher, Miss Clara Stephens, who convinced the students that she had eyes in the back of her head; he remembers all-day lessons in history when they could get Mrs. Gladys Barfield off the subject and talking about the Civil War; and he thinks Miss Dorothy Hullum was “the best teacher ever. She brought popcorn balls almost every week.”


Loraine Hintson Lee and Charles “Bubba” Hanks both attended Redwood in elementary and high schools. Later Loraine taught there, and Hanks is now principal.

Hanks remembers a not-very-popular coach. Some students put a cat in his desk drawer one Friday afternoon and, on Monday morning when he opened the drawer, out jumped the cat which landed on his head and then bounded away. After recovering from the shock, the coach said, “Thank goodness it wasn’t a snake. I’m scared to death of snakes.”

“Guess what was in his desk the next time?” Hanks asked.

Loraine’s memories include the day it rained so hard that it flooded Mrs. Austin’s room, which was under the corner of the gym, but the students just picked up their desks and moved them to the shed by the cafeteria — and Mrs. Austin kept teaching.

Hanks remembers the creek at the east end of the football field. If you ran outside the end zone, you were in the creek, and extra points all had to be kicked on the west end of the field to keep the ball out of the water.


For Annie Douglas Warnock, school at Culkin was fun — all 12 years of it. She was also one of a dozen 1962 grads who spent all their school years there.

Annie can’t think of Culkin without remembering W.C. Sullivan, longtime principal. “He saw the potential in every student, saw each one’s individual gifts,” she said. “He would take in kids who had been delinquents and kicked out of other schools and give them one last chance. It was a story played over and over.”

There was always a great rivalry between Culkin, Redwood and Jett, and Culkin claimed its share of CAC championships in football, girls basketball and track, producing some who became nationally known professionals. One graduate, Emma Lee Vickers Wilson, established a national record when she scored 83 points in a single basketball game.

Annie remembers the first line to the school song, “Every day at Culkin is better than the day before.” She also remembers crying years after graduation as she watched the gym being torn down, and is convinced those were “the absolute best of times.”

Oak Ridge

Attending Oak Ridge School, Joyce Hall Clingan said, “was a privilege not only for the academics, but especially for the lessons in human kindness. The quality of education was awesome.”

Like most schools of that era, the day began with patriotic songs and prayer, “an essential part of our education.” She remembers the children putting on operettas and plays with parents and grandparents applauding “and hoping we didn’t fall off the stage.” At recess, Mrs. Austin not only refereed the games, but also “taught us to get along with one another.” Joyce doesn’t remember an obese child because “we were never allowed to sit still long enough to get fat.”

One day each month was set aside when students meticulously cleaned the grounds, trimmed the hedges and did landscaping. There were treasure hunts that ended usually at a teacher’s home with prizes of Cokes and Hershey bars. There were field trips and one parent, Marion Bragg, taught typing and how to publish a newspaper.

“We had huge windows in all rooms, and I remember Mrs. Austin telling me one day that the answers to our test were not out the windows,” Joyce said.

Children skated on the concrete walks around the school, and occasionally there were cuts, bruises and skinned knees tended to by Mrs. Austin, “the keeper of the Merthiolate, and wow, did that stuff burn! We also had the ‘shot lady’ who came once a month to give immunizations. I remember she had bright red hair and a big bottom. When we saw her car coming, we would run and hide.”

“My time at Oak Ridge School was a time that molded my character, my beliefs and my personality,” Joyce said.


Mark Chaney couldn’t have skipped school no matter what — he lived across the road from Bovina and his parents were teachers and both served as principal. He went to Bovina from the first grade through the seventh.

Life at Bovina School was pretty laid back: kids went barefoot in the spring, had dirt baseball courts and vied for the honor of filling the coal scuttles from the winter supply that was stashed under the building.

The dirt courts were sometimes to the students’ advantages: most other schools had gyms, so when Bovina hosted a tournament it didn’t matter to them if the court was dusty or muddy, for they were used to it and other school teams weren’t. There were several years when a young Bovina team won over older opponents.

Chaney recalls his favorite teacher, Miss Clara Stephens, and he remembers the school nurse, for one boy always fainted when he saw her. After the Chaneys moved east on Highway 80, he rode in school car — a 1936 Ford driven by Mrs. Downey — along with seven or eight others.

The school was closed in the 1940s and demolished in later years. Chaney bought the porch posts from the teachers’ home for $10, kept them in the barn for years before using them on the porch of his home — a daily reminder of his years at Bovina.