Grantham Class of '55 goes to Washington
By Renee Carey
Published in News on June 26, 2005 2:00 AM
The story of the Grantham School's 2005 reunion really begins 50 years ago.
Back then, the seniors had just learned that their school principal R.L. McDonald had decided there would not be a senior trip that year.
It was nothing they had done, said the seniors, who have added a few more years since then. The previous senior class had been so out of control on its trip the principal decided there was just too much risk.
It wasn't easy news to hear.
"It was a tradition at Grantham School that the senior class got to go to Washington, D.C.," said Robert McDonald, the principal's son. "But the Class of 1954 behaved so badly they canceled all of them after that."
So, 50 years later, when Sherwood Williford and some of his classmates started talking about what they would do for their 50th reunion, an idea came to mind.
Why not take that denied trip to Washington?
So, after the formal reunion of the class of 47, a select group and their "chaperones" -- friends and spouses -- loaded themselves on the bus and headed up the road to the Capitol.
Their day began at 7 a.m. that Monday.
After a five-hour trip, they arrived at their first stop -- Union Station.
And there, they found the first sign that this was a trip that was meant to be, the seniors said.
"They had a jukebox and you could put in a nickel and it would play songs from the Fifties," said class member Joyce Corbett. "We played 'Shaboom, Shaboom.'"
After breakfast, the group, under the able guidance of Per-Flo Tours of Goldsboro, headed for the National Shrine, the White House, the Lincoln, Vietnam and Korean memorials and finally, the Jefferson Memorial.
And, the seniors said, the three days of touring were only beginning.
The second day included trips to the Kennedy Center, the Capitol, the Smithsonian and the World War II memorial.
It was at the Kennedy Center that the class members were reminded they weren't in the 1950s anymore.
"The salads were $9," said Shelton Jackson. "Most of us farm boys paid dearly."
But there was one visit that day that was especially poignant for class member Elizabeth Williams Fry and her husband, Walter.
Fry is a World War II veteran and had not yet seen the memorial in honor of his and other soldiers' bravery during that war.
"We were really impressed," Mrs. Fry said. "He wanted to get out and walk around, but his legs just wouldn't let him." Mr. Fry had his picture taken, however, standing straight and tall, in front of one of the pillars that decorate the memorial.
The final day of the tour included a visit to Arlington Cemetery and a chance to see the rows of crosses.
"In the cemetery, all the stones, whichever way you look, they are in lines, like they are marching in formation," said Jean Hollowell.
Class member Myrna Tyndall said she was particularly touched by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, seeing President John Kennedy's grave and the changing of the guard.
They said their trip to Washington was special for many reasons -- but much more so because they went in 2005 rather than 1955.
"There is a big advantage to waiting 50 years," Mr. McDonald said. "There was a lot more to see."
And there was much more to appreciate, Mr. Jackson added.
"We probably enjoyed it more now," he said.
And they were not alone on their trip either.
"There were about a thousand kids doing the same thing we were," said Ray Mozingo, who along with his friend and honorary classmate, Linda Satterfield, made the trip.
"We told everyone we were on our senior trip," Mr. McDonald said. "They were amazed every time."
The group credited their tour director, Judy Farfour, and their bus driver, Don Cumbo, for their whirlwind tour.
"I have never done so many things in two days in my life," Mrs. Hollowell said. "Every minute was filled with something."
Mrs. Corbett agreed. Her class members teased her because she took every chance she could to see a movie or other presentation at the historic sites.
"I took any chance I could to rest," she said.
Best friends since high school, Mrs. Corbett and Mrs. Hollowell have remained close since their Grantham days. They were college roommates and are still best friends, they say.
Their memories from high school are similar to those from the rest of their lives -- they all center on love and friendship.
They said each Grantham reunion is special, especially since the class decided to have them yearly, 11 years ago.
Changing the gatherings from every five years to once a year was Shelton Jackson's idea. He has not missed many of the reunions, and he always wins the prize for having traveled the farthest. He comes from Salt Lake City, Utah.
He also brings along his 92-year-old mother, Lillie Jackson, who worked in the school cafeteria.
"She comes every year," he said. "She knows everyone."
At the time the decision was made, Mr. Williford reports Mr. Shelton told the group: "After all, some of us might not be around much longer. Let's enjoy each other as often as we can."
So, the tradition was born. Each of the 11 annual events has been special -- one year the theme was a luau and the women did the hula dance. For the 49th year, the men rode stick horses in keeping with the western theme.
But for the 50th, the theme seemed obvious -- "The Way We Wuz."
There were plenty of reminders of those carefree high school days from the 1950s at the June 18 gathering -- lots of pictures, old cars and memories from their school days. Those memories include bobby sox and skirts and the coal pile.
Mr. Mozingo and many of the other men said they spent a lot of time shoveling coal from that pile as punishment for various wrongdoings.
"I was king of the coal pile," he said.
But what these classmates say allows them to count themselves blessed is the warmth they feel for each other.
"I am closer to this group now than I was in high school," Mr. Williford said. "Back then, about all you had on your mind was girls and the test you were going to take."
All of the classmates agreed their relationship is special.
"We learned about what was important in life -- friends," Marlene Best said.
So, the book closes on another Grantham reunion. The planning will begin soon for next year, but this one will be a special memory, the seniors said.
"Fifty years later, we finally got our senior trip," McDonald said.
And on the last day of the trip, as the group held its last devotion, Mrs. Hollowell included a mention of Principal McDonald.
"I said he would have been proud of how we behaved," she said.
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