First Posted: 5/10/2009
PILOT MOUNTAIN They come together each year to share memories and a meal. This year, members of the Pilot Mountain High School graduating class of 1944 shared something even more significant their 65-year reunion.
Its a joy to see each person. We were a real close class, said Ethelene Beasley Bunker.
Each year since its 50th reunion, the class of 44 has held a reunion at Mountain View Family Restaurant. The class members order food, share a cake with the reunion year written on it, joke about their age and reminisce about the old days.
We pick up where we left off, said Joyce Payne. Its very easy.
Seven graduates from the class of 44 attended this weekends reunion, along with spouses and a few classmates who didnt graduate. These students attended Pilot Mountain High School, which used to be across the street from First Baptist Church in Pilot Mountain. In 1961, students stopped going to Pilot Mountain for high school and were instead bused to East Surry. The Pilot Mountain school was torn down a few years ago, but the remaining former students vividly remember their experiences there.
The class of 44, which had around 30 students, was the last 11th grade graduating class. Twelfth grade was added to the school length the next year. Prior to that, the school housed grades one through 11, and the graduates estimated that there were more than 300 students in the school when they attended.
We worked hard and studied hard, said Goldie Simmons.
Basketball was the only sport most remember the school having, although Milton Davis recalls injuring his hand while playing football. When it came to academics, the students said they had a great education that focused on the basics such as English, social studies and math. Girls took home economics, and boys took agriculture. Ms. Spell was their homeroom teacher.
We got more basics, but Im amazed at what children know now, with computers and all of that. We didnt have the resources, Payne said.
We had a tablet and pencils. Now they have computers, Davis remarked.
The now grown-ups recall the days when students got whipped for misbehaving, boys carried pocketknives to school, girls didnt drive cars, and school picnics took place on Pilot Mountain.
As the graduates think back on their high school days, one aspect inevitably takes the forefront World War II. They went to school while the war was raging overseas, and rations limited their purchase of items such as sugar, shoes and gas. Many of the girls worked at the rationing board, and listening to the radio was a frequent activity.
We even had boys drafted out of our class, said Peggy Cooke.
But many volunteered, Ethelene Beasley Bunker added.
Payne said, We had plenty of boyfriends to write to.
When the war ended, all five of their classmates made it back home. As the war ended and students graduated, they went on to have successful careers and families. Many of the class of 44 stayed in the Piedmont, with a few never leaving Pilot Mountain.
We kept in contact because we really love one another, Simmons reflected.
Now 65 years later they are back together, and the class members said they plan to continue having a reunion as long as there are two or three of them left. Each year a different person is in charge of organizing the reunion; this year it was Peggy Cooke.
As Cooke sat the table and looked at the invitation card she sent out with a picture from 1944 of her graduating class, she said, I never thought wed make it to 65 years.
A classmate called out, Might make it to 20 more.