Guest column: Remembering LHS class of 1965, pt. 1
In the wee hours of an early August morning in 1962, my father’s black Mercury drove onto a dimly lit, silent downtown street in LaGrange, Georgia. I was in the back seat peering through the windows with wide eyes trying to capture a town that would become so much a part of my future.
“Georgia? What?” I shouted as my father had sat down with us earlier that summer to tell us of the move.
My parents’ families had settled in Tennessee even before it became a state. My grandparents were 50 miles away along with a gaggle of cousins, aunts and uncles.
My mother was in the middle of building her first home. My father was a lumberman who loved hardwoods, and didn’t Georgia just have pines?
Plus, I had just made the junior varsity cheerleading squad! How in the world could this be happening?!
In the ’60s, when parents decided to relocate for their career their kids were never consulted, just expected to go with them. My brother was just graduating from college, but I was in the middle of being a teenager with the absolute knowledge that life was definitely unfair.
The quiet of the car moving slowly toward this new town was eerie, yet excitement started to build. I have always known I was sort of a nomad. Moves and adventures didn’t scare me, but goodbyes were frightening. In my heart as we left our little town in Tennessee I knew I might never see some of my closest friends again. So the wide eyes of the 15 year old in the back seat were filled not only with wonderment, but tears.
As we approached the center of downtown LaGrange there was a lovely little dress shop with mannequins swathed in pink in the windows. Their frozen smiles seemed warm and welcoming as the soft light bathed their faces. After 53 years, when I remember Evelyn and Estelle’s, I think pink.
The street lights beckoned us to follow them to the central square. It was regal with a statue of LaFayette and a beautiful illuminated fountain giving the quiet, humid air the sweet, rhythmic sound of falling drops of water.
Stores, banks and offices silent, awaiting the next morning’s business, surrounded all four sides of the square. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like in the day. Would it still look somewhat magical?
We drove around this peaceful scene toward Broad Street where I could see the outlines and evening shadows cast upon Antebellum homes and stately churches. All of it that evening looked as if we were traveling through a postcard. To this day, when I think of LaGrange, I see the postcard that is cataloged in my mind.
We were renting a house in the country and school would start within a month. I would be going to classes at LaGrange High School filled with unfamiliar faces. I begged God to just let the month go slow so that I could at least meet someone that would befriend me. Well, God answered big time.
The Sunday following the night we tiptoed our way into LaGrange, we went to the First Methodist Church. Dr. Bevel Jones was the pastor. He took us to lunch and introduced us to many, many people.
The teenagers in the country where we were took me around church and drove me around town. They were all seniors but took the time to be with this new, lowly rising sophomore. I couldn’t believe how nice they were. Soon afterwards, I thought, maybe life was not that unfair after all.
Within a month, I felt at home. I started school, was teased about my hillbilly accent, but was accepted anyway.
I got bullied a bit, but the kindness of everyone else so overwhelmed it that it was just a bother. I had made so many wonderful friends I would lay in bed at night and be thankful for them. The spirit of LHS was something that I latched onto when I entered its doors and looked at all the people that spent the hours there.
I was very aware, even at that age, how special this place was.
Editor’s note: Check a future edition of LaGrange Daily News for the second in this three-part column.