40 Years Later, Old Classmates Have Changed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

Forty years can change a person, often for the better.
That was my conclusion at the Davie High Class of 1971 reunion a week ago. Some had changed very little. Some a lot. Without those handy little name cards and photos from the yearbook, I would never have guessed some old friends. Others were unmistakable.
Sure, there were extra pounds and gray hair, but the class has turned out okay.
There were about 250 of us. Ten percent, 25, have died from a variety of reasons — murder, suicide, AIDS, cancer, heart attacks and other maladies. My old bus driving friend Jerry Koontz was first, struck by lightning on the farm as he was getting up the cows.
Yes, I did say “bus driving friend.” Davie County licensed 16 year olds to drive 50 children or more to school daily. I started driving a bus a month after turning 16. Parents were just fine with us farm boys at the wheel. Most of us had been driving tractors since we were 10. Accidents were remarkably few. The bus driver alums huddled during the reunion to recall how safe we were.
Ours was the first class to be fully integrated all four years, and that was celebrated during the reunion ceremonies. Awards were presented to principal Jack Ward and key teachers who kept us from acting out the racial tensions seen elsewhere.
We weren’t a class of great athletes. We didn’t rewrite the record academic books. But we did get along, and in the years 1968-71, that was an accomplishment.
We were raised on songs such as “American Pie” and “Proud Mary” and “Let It Be.”
Michael Jackson was a boy wonder then. The Beatles broke up. Lester Maddox was the ugly governor of Georgia, ruling with an ax handle.
“All in the Family” debuted on TV with Archie Bunker spouting his wisdom. Richard Nixon hadn’t lied to us … yet. America was tired of Vietnam.
Only a few of our class actually made it to Vietnam. David Foster had a low draft number and joined the Army because the recruiter had told him he could avoid the South Pacific that way. He still got to go and made the Army a career as a member of the Special Forces. Now free of the Army barbers, he sports a long ponytail.
His grandfather operated a garage and store at “The Corner” on the property that is now CVS Pharmacy. We wondered what Paul Foster would think if he could see it now.
Our class hadn’t gotten together since the 20th anniversary. Class president Buck Hall died of a heart attack …