Originally created 11/04/04

1944 graduates observe 60th class reunion



World War II was raging. Michael Douglas, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross were born. A half gallon of milk cost 31 cents while a pound of bread cost 9 cents. Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen's Accentuate the Positive was a hit. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the St. Louis Browns in the World Series. Venus Ramey, of Washington, D.C., was Miss America and Franklin D. Roosevelt was president.

The year was 1944 and about 135 young men were graduating from the Academy of Richmond County, while approximately 145 young ladies graduated from Tubman High School.

Some of the graduates celebrated their 60th class reunion Oct. 28 at the Enterprise Events Center at Enterprise Mill on Greene Street. There were 100 people at the event, including alumni and their spouses.

Ralph Veal, 77, who helped coordinate the reunion, talked about the days when the schools went only to the 11th grade as a "real perilous, trying, hard time."

"Boys were separate from girls (at the schools). Boys were going to war - the big war," said Mr. Veal, a pharmaceutical salesman for Roche Laboratories for 30 years. "Some were drafted before graduating. A lot of them went into the service and came back later for their diplomas."

Mr. Veal joked that this reunion might be the classmates' last.

"A lot of those guys have gone on. That's what makes this one so important for us - we're survivors," he said.

The last reunion the classes celebrated was their 50th in 1994.

"Y'all have spread out clear across this green earth, so it's hard to keep up with you," said the event's host, Clarence Savage, who repeatedly reminded the crowd to speak up if talking to him because he could talk loud, but was hard of hearing. "And some of you have passed on, so it's extremely difficult to contact you."

During dinner, John Smith called off the names of nearly 90 deceased classmates.

Buddy Hodge, a graduate of the ARC class of 1943 who became an accomplished singer in Las Vegas, provided entertainment, singing songs from his compact disc, Buddy Sings Sinatra. He also shared stories of getting started in show business - touring the country with Betty Grable and performing in Vegas.

Classmates Betty Lauthner Murry and Carolyn Usry reminisced about their days at Tubman.

"We were so blessed; we had real good teachers - strict, but we had a good time, too," Mrs. Murry said.

"The boys at Richmond had to have a doctor's note not to do drill; they were all military," Mrs. Usry said.

"And I remember Dora Haines, the assistant principal and disciplinarian (at Tubman). If a boy would come within two blocks of the school, she would call the police," Mrs. Usry said, laughing.

"And the gym suits we wore had big blue bloomers - just awful," Mrs. Murry said.

Ruth Stephenson Jones said she'd missed the 50th reunion and wanted to go to the 60th to see how many people she'd recognize.

"Of course, I recognized very few," she said.

Her husband of 52 years, Bob Jones, moved here in 1948. Mr. Jones, from Troy, Tenn., said he and most other young men of the time were drafted right after high school.

"It taught us discipline. And I already knew what I wanted to do, to be a civil engineer, and then I got the GI Bill," he said. "(The draft) was probably the best thing that happened to us."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.