The class of 1958 at Sylacauga High School had a reunion last week, not unusual because they gather often to share memories and enrich friendships that have continued down through the 64 years since they graduated They have had more class reunions than any other SHS graduating class, with 21 planned events beginning in 1968. If you have been on the edge of planning or even attending a high school reunion, you may be shuddering at the thought of tasks so difficult,           

This reunion, under the leadership of Phyllis Crysel Cooper seemed to come together so effortlessly. I am sure that is not the case because attending, it reflected lots of planning and hard work. I was fortunate to get invited by my husband’s niece, Patty West Taylor to meet her at the VFW Hall about 11:15.  The class would gather there a bit earlier for visitation and fellowship, she said, and afterwards, we are eating in a downtown restaurant. Patty, who has some health issues, was coming from Franklin, TN, with her husband Rodney, but would need to leave for home shortly after lunch. “This will give us time to visit and catch-up,” she reasoned. I wrote it on my calendar, and did not even call and check with Phyllis until the morning of the event, but she was gracious and welcomed me to meet her assembled classmates there on Hammett Avenue.                                                              

I researched the class before I left home looking through my 1958 annual and found special memories of special people in a time of happy days that can never be replicated. The Syhiscan was dedicated to Miss Velma Goodgame that year, and there are several pictures of the petite, very particular, unforgettable tenth grade English teacher and another one of an unfortunate student at the window tossing objects and participles.  I could almost hear the theme song in my head, “The verb to be can never, never, never take an object.” Jeanette Covington, Syhiscan Editor, nailed it when she said, “Looking back over our teen years, we realized that we are in the midst of the happiest and the most carefree year of our lives. We bop, yell ourselves hoarse at football games, speak our own ‘crazy’ language, go steady—about 5 months, watch TV, listen to the radio while doing homework, and drive the family car, when we can get it.”                                               

The people with whom  I reconnected there were just as special as I remembered them to be. Coaches Tom Calvin and Louis Machen fielded a good football team that year, and Don Machen and Joe Harris led the team to 8 wins and one tie (Alexandria).Some outstanding class members have passed, and some have chosen not to attend, but this core group seems dedicated to holding on to old friends and wonderful memories.                                                         

At their first reunion in 1968 at the SHS lunchroom, they voted to gather every five years, but they broke their own rule often. For example in 2004, 2005, and 2006 they gathered at the home of Bob and Susan Green. The committee that had organized that first reunion keep the class membership list updated; and when Bill Payton passed, Joe Harris took over that job. No one in this class seems anxious to take any credit for himself; but from my observations,  Joe and Phyllis Crysel Cooper have taken much of the responsibility for keeping the good times rolling. Many of the group have not missed a single reunion.

Many of the venues have been local, and showing up has been the aim, not showing off. For example, Noble Park and J. Craig Smith Community Center were meeting places for the 15th and 20th reunions.  Four times they celebrated at the Sylacauga Country Club; then, at Alpine Bay, Pursell Farms, Payco Electric, and even at the First Presbyterian Church in Perryman Hall.  Classmates repeatedly stepped up, and Nance and Cecile White Lovvorn hosted a couple of times, once in 2017 when they met to plan to attend the Magic of Marble Festival, and later in 2010  with a birthday party at their home, the year most class members were turning seventy.                                                                                                                     

Always a 50th reunion is a milestone; and with this class, it was no exception. The class rented the lodge in Fayetteville from Kimberly Clark  and had a big sleep-over.   A memorable incident Friday night was when the caterer Kenny Boggan, came to deliver dinner. He and some gathered classmates could not get the code to work to open the locked gate. Remembering Kenny, I was not surprised to learn that he just removed the hinges from the gate. Later they learned the reason the code did not work; they had failed to enter the # before the numbers. Everyone had a big laugh about that. Phyllis Cooper said it well, “We awoke to the smell of coffee, and the ladies cooked breakfast. Bill Payton cooked ‘trash- can turkey’ and peach pie for lunch.” A weekend of fun was more formally celebrated with over fifty classmates at the Sylacauga Country Club on Saturday night. One more great breakfast on Sunday morning sent folks home with many memories.                                                                                                                                      

Many classes stop reunions at 50, but not this class. Sally Lebron Holland hosted lunch at her home on Hatchett Creek for the 60th. After a beautiful day of nature and golf for the men, the class gathered at LaCosta for dinner.  The luncheon the next day at Perryman Hall at the First Presbyterian Church climaxed another wonderful reunion.                                                                                                                  

Of course Covid interfered with plans for reunion in 2020, but in 2021 they gathered at the American Legion Hall and on to Batter-Up for lunch. At that time they voted to “keep the date” and meet yearly. That is where I came in, at the American Legion on Hammett and at Booker’s on Norton for a great lunch and a beautiful cake honoring the Sylacauga High School Class of 1958. As dessert was served at the end of wonderful food and fellowship, the announcement was made that the cost of the meal was covered; a little bird flew over and paid the tab for this wonderful meal. Thanks from everyone to this unknown benefactor.            

You cannot get much better than this class for cherishing friendships and traditions!  And so I end with a quotation from Miss Marie Tuck in the 58 Syhiscan. Miss Tuck was new to SHS, but she saw in this class something special and said, “Pictures may fade; faces mature, hairs, turn grey—but these words will never change, and will always recall to all who read them, ‘ a year to remember.’” It was not so long ago at that.

Front row:  Ann Decoudres Eady, Brenda Handley Armstrong, Jane Stewart Machen, Carol Howard Collins, Betty McKee Price, Patty West Taylor
Back Row:  Phyllis Crysel Cooper, Jimmy Reynolds, Nance Lovvorn, Don Machen, James Heigl, Joe Harris, Ray Collins, Charles Hymphrey and not pictured Bobby Green
Ray Collins, President of the class, Bob Green, and Don Machen, Captain of the football team in 1958