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Ernie and I have hit upon a new plan to supplement our retirement income.
We’re starting up the Georgia & Ernie Detective Agency.
I’m kidding around, of course, but with the help of our classmates, friends, the News-Herald and the Internet, we’ve done the near impossible - to announce our 51st Class Reunion (yes we forgot to plan a 50th) on Aug. 2, we’ve located a mailing address for the 58 living members of the Owen County High School Class of 1963.
Although we graduated sometime back in the last ice age and our classmates have scattered all over Kentucky and other states, I’m not too surprised that we’ve been able to do this.
Owen County’s population in 1963 was only about 7,500, and in a sparsely populated rural area, people tend to know each other in a way city folks can’t understand.
The interconnections with our neighbors through geography, history, work, church, community activities and family kinships made us more like a large clan of cousins than a group of strangers thrown together for an algebra class.
I’m not too surprised, either, that we forgot to plan a 50th reunion in 2013. We are, after all, the class that forgot to hire a band to play at the junior prom. We’d already blown through the budget ordering expensive decorations when, about three weeks before the big night, somebody casually asked, “What band do we have lined up?” Our band director Marvin Ray Stewart made a few phone calls, located a decent group of musicians over in Grant County for us and the party went on.
The next year, we forgot to engage anyone to speak at our graduation ceremony. Apparently, committees who know what they’re doing, book a speaker a year in advance, not a month out.
After Adolph Rupp turned down our last-minute invitation, our principal Cy Greene came to our rescue. He called in a favor from a friend, and our graduation was graced with the usual words of wisdom rather than a big chunk of silence.
With this dysfunctional history, it follows that we’d be organizing, not a 50th mind you, but a “50 + 1” reunion – at the last minute.
I prefer to think of the Class of ‘63 as a group of individualists – survivalists - rather than namby-pamby committee types.
Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We were the last of the war babies, born in 1945, smaller than all the classes that came after us. We’ve spent a lifetime straddling the gap that separates the raucous, innumerable Baby Boomers from the sparse War and Depression-era children. I like to think we embody the best of both but then I’m not an unbiased observer.
Whatever the reason, I don’t think our class had a cool clique; at least I’ve never met anyone who thought they were in it. Maybe we were too small, or maybe we were too nice, but in my memory, we each held a respected place in the group.
When we enrolled as freshmen in the fall of 1959, Owen County High School was still brand new. It had been in existence only since the 1951-52 school year.
We were excited to be at big consolidated OCHS that had absorbed the smaller community schools at New Liberty, Bethany and Owenton.
We also were on the edge of another historic change in the education system. The 1959-60 school year marked the first time that all Owen County schools were racially integrated. Although a few black students had enrolled at OCHS the previous academic year, the segregated elementary schools had remained in place.
For both black and white ninth graders, 1959-60 would be the first time we’d sat together in the classroom. While the local school board had lost a lawsuit attempting to stall integration, I don’t recall that we students had any problems with the transition.
I don’t know the size of our class when we started out as freshmen, but in 1963 we finished with 73. Mostly farm kids, raised by Depression-scarred parents, we didn’t dilly-dally about entering the adult world after graduation.
More than a few of our classmates served our country in the military; some were sent to fight in Vietnam. We became teachers, social workers, nurses and basketball coaches, factory, government and office workers, farmers, mechanics, florists, painters, small-business owners, big-business managers, salesmen, homemakers, computer programmers and operators. At least two of us became ordained ministers.
We produced musicians, a poet and several other published writers, a corporate executive, a stewardess, a banker, a lawyer and a candidate for lieutenant governor. Oh, and we volunteered a lot, raised our children and took care of our parents when they needed us.
Now, the new high school we attended has been razed, replaced more than a decade ago by a state of the art facility. It makes me proud that Owen County students have up to date computer labs, a fine auditorium and a beautiful, open building where their minds can soar.
But my breath still catches when I pull up at the old intersection, the crossroads of my youth, and see nothing but grass and ghosts.
But maybe we can resurrect it in our memories on Aug. 2.
We’re hoping that all who graduated with us, anyone who was ever a part of our class, those in adjacent classes – or anyone who even liked us a little – will come out for a night of laughter, conversation, old rock and roll and reminiscence. We plan to gather at the Owen County Extension Service Building in Owenton about 4:30 p.m. and eat at 6 p.m.
For more details, go to the reunion website at erniestamper.com, email email@example.com or call 859-264-0465.