Former students recall school days at 50th reunion

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ray Hearn, left, takes a picture of Faye Hearn Duet and Jim Cowart Saturday morning during the 2015 All-County Reunion at City Pavilion. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Ray Hearn, left, takes a picture of Faye Hearn Duet and Jim Cowart Saturday morning during the 2015 All-County Reunion at City Pavilion. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

They came from across the state and across the South to renew acquaintances and relive old times with former classmates.

The former students from Culkin Academy High School, Redwood High School, Jett High School, Oak Ridge High School, Jefferson Davis High School and Bovina High School gathered under the City Park Pavilion on Lee Street for a 50-year reunion to look at old school yearbooks and class pictures, talk about their teachers and their exploits as students and catch up on what their friends have been doing.

“There’s a lot of grey around here, but inside of each person is the heart of a teenager,” said Joe Campbell, a 1962 graduate of Culkin Academy. “It’s good to see all the old friends I went to school with. My mother graduated from Culkin and she taught there for 42 years.”

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He said one thing that makes the reunions special is the small size of the schools.

“Back then, you didn’t have 750 students in a class. You had 450 in the whole school. It was like one big family,” he said.

Officials in 1916 decided to create the six schools to consolidate about 30 or 40 one-room schoolhouses in Warren County. Culkin Academy was the first school built in 1916. The schools went from first through 12th grade. In 1965, the high schools were consolidated at one school, Warren Central.

Several schools — Culkin, Jett and Redwood — had tables set up where former students could sign in and get a name tag with a picture of the school’s mascot in the top left corner. Along the fence bordering the pavilion, posters and boards were hung with school photographs and photos from the last reunion.

At the Jett table, old yearbooks was spread out so former students could see how they and their classmates looked in another era.

Pat Creech, who now lives in Rankin County, was a sixth-grader at Jett when the school was converted to an elementary school in 1965. “It’s wonderful to come here and see the people,” she said.

“I can recognize the faces but I can’t remember the names,” said John Carlisle, who transferred from Jett to Warren Central High School in 1965. “I have to look on their chest for the nametag.” He said attending Jett was a family affair. His father, uncles and aunt graduated from the school.

Donald Oakes, a 1957 graduate of Redwood and former superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren County School District, said the reunion is the one opportunity many alums have to return to Vicksburg to see old friends.

“You come back and see people who went to other schools and you hated, but then later you found out they weren’t such bad people at all,” he said. “This began, because each school began planning its own reunion, and after a while, they decided to put all the schools together.”

Robbie Whitaker was a member of the first senior class to graduate from Redwood in 1945. She returned on 1956 to work there as the school secretary and retired in 1988. She continued working there as volunteer until 2012.

“It’s great to see a lot of the students,” she said. “I look forward to this every year.”

When the school opened, she said, “We had a dirt floor (to play basketball). We played basketball outside, and we didn’t have too many home games because of the weather. We went to other schools’ gyms a lot.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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