Time of year has arrived for class reunions

Published 10:34 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Escambia County High School class of 1953 will celebrate its 60th class reunion this weekend.

According to James Norris, one of the reunion organizers, festivities will begin at 11 a.m. Friday with a luncheon at David’s Catfish House. Returning classmates will get the opportunity to renew their friendships and enjoy an hour of reminiscing. Following the luncheon, they will tour their old high school on Pensacola Avenue.

The class members will reassemble Saturday at 8 a.m. for a group breakfast at Holiday Inn Express in Rivercane. After breakfast, they will travel up to Little River State Park to kindle memories from their high school days of dancing and swimming at the park.

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Norris said some classmates would experience their first return home since Rivercane and the casino have come on the scene. He said some have expressed an interest in taking in these attractions, but the reunion committee did not include this in their agenda. He said there would be plenty of time for them to enjoy all these new attractions during the two-day meeting. He said he has heard from almost two-dozen former class members and he expects them to be in attendance. He indicated this will probably be the last reunion they will ever have, mainly because so many in their class have passed away and there are others whose health will not allow them to come.

Suzie (Keller) Newman, formerly of Atmore and now living in Pensacola, and Edgar Norris also serve on the reunion committee.

Now let’s take a look at some news from 1955. Frisco Railroad discontinued their two passenger trains, which made daily trips from Pensacola to connection points in Armory, Miss. The trains, numbers 207 and 205, consisted of the engine, fuel car, one cargo car and two passenger units. Rapidly changing times created a loss of riders, forcing the company to discontinue the route. Those trains had made those trips for a number of years.

Frank Bricken Motor Company displayed Chrysler’s new sedan that year. In addition to its smooth ride, the car also featured its “wrap around scenic” windshield. That dealership was located on North Main Street.

During the same year, Bill Hendrix and Hendrix Tractor Company advertised the new Ford tractor for $555. It was a good time to buy car batteries. Long Motors had them on sale for $9.95, compared to today’s prices of $125.

The 2005 Hurricane Katrina concluded my 33 years of service with the National Flood Insurance program. I think back to all the states (34 of them) I worked and some of the people I came to know. I think about a few of those folks I met who had an “Atmore connection.”

As I wrote a few years ago while getting gas in Flora, Miss., a real big guy pulled his pickup in line behind me. When he got out he said, “I recognize your tag,” and asked me if I was from Atmore. I told him I was and it didn’t take me long to recognize it was Jerry Clower. He told me he often came to Atmore to speak to farm groups as a sales representative for farm-related products. He was friends with T. P. Whitten, the Curries and the Bachelor family.

I worked claims near Jimmy Swaggart’s church and broadcast studio in Baton Rouge in 1980. I remember his telling me of his visiting the Atmore area to preach revivals in the 1950s. I also remember having a conversation with Coach Herbert Barnes in Harlingen, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. He and his wife were on vacation in their long Airstream back then.

There were so many other memorable places and memorable people. I met some of the original McCoy-Hatfield feuding clans while working a Tug River flood out of Pikeville, Ky. in 1984. That same year, I had the opportunity to meet Patti Page while working a big flood in Atlantic City. I met some of Mickey Gilley’s band members in Pasadena, Texas when floodwaters raked the exterior of his building. One of those band members offered me a ride on their famous bull, but I did not take him up on it. While working losses in Los Angeles, I met the chief Barney Miller detective at the famous Farmers Market.

Other people whose claims I handled included a man near Slidell, La., who was on the scene the night movie star Jane Mansfield lost her life in an auto crash on Highway 90 near that southeast Louisiana town. If you remember, she was the mother of “Law and Order” star Mariska Hargitay.

Tropical storm Allison a few years ago permitted me the opportunity to work losses near Beaumont, Texas. These losses were not too far from the homes of Tommy and Luther Nallie, current members of the Sons of the Pioneers.

Noted for so much flooding, I worked the state of Louisiana probably more than any other state. And, I garnered so many, many friends there, especially Cajun friends. Even today I am in touch with some of them. I hope I will be able to go back there at Christmas time to witness their beautifully decorated and colorfully lighted “Pirogues on the Bayou.” Folks from the world over come to these bayou communities to enjoy these unique Cajun boats.

There were a few other well-known people who I did not meet, but I did work flood losses in their neighborhoods.

We are nearing the end of our Pink Lady volunteers and this week we are featuring the husband and wife team of Jack and Betty Ward. You will find this couple working in the surgery waiting room, as well as other Hospital Auxiliary activities. Jack and the late Sam Graham and Giles Chapman (whom I will feature next week) comprised the male constituency of the group. The Wards are long-time members of the organization and have accumulated uncounted hours of hospital related service.

I will have more news of Atmore’s people, places and events next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at exam@frontiernet.net.