On the evening of Saturday, June 20 the 99th annual Buckskin Alumni Banquet was held at Buckskin School in South Salem.
Hostesses, the Bland sisters, Sue Bland Graves ’65, Rebecca Bland Graves, McClain ’75; Tina Bland Dreher; McClain ’78, and Sarajayne Bland Lawwell, McClain ’81, greeted alumni, family, and friends for the social hour. As folks enjoyed a delicious punch, they visited and had the opportunity to view the school and community memorabilia that was on display.
Alumni Committee president and pastor of the Buckskin Community Church, Mark Current, McClain ’77, welcomed everyone and gave the invocation. All enjoyed a buffet meal, catered by McCoy’s of Wilmington. Following dinner, Current officially welcomed everyone and introduced Mike Shumate, principal of Buckskin Elementary, who also gave words of welcome and added his appreciation for the friendliness and laughter that is such a part of the annual gathering.
Current then named those graduates and former teachers who had passed away during the last year, remembering them with a moment of silence: Gladys Armstrong Ritchie, teacher; Kathryn Staats Schiller ’40; Phyllis Kline Buchhammer ’45; Alvin Conway ’51; Elizabeth Waggner Bartley ’53; Jane Kline Curren ’53, Wanda Carter Stroud ’56; Genevieve Mann Smith ’57; Jodi Schneider Flynn M’76.
In the first order of business, secretary Mary Kensinger Gilbert, McClain ’73, read the minutes of the 2014 98th alumni banquet. Roll call was taken with 99 graduates and three former teachers present. A rose was presented to the oldest graduates in attendance: Ruth Anderson Bristley ’35, Suzanne Benner Gregg ’38, and Donna Shepler Angel ’41.
In all, a total of 181 reservations were made for the evening.
Sherry Truitt Hudson ‘65 gave the treasurer’s report. The carryover balance and receipts are sufficient to cover expenditures. With some bills outstanding, there will still be a positive balance remaining.
Current introduced Bonnie Smith McCloskey ‘64, chairman of the nominating committee, to present the slate of officers for the 2016 banquet. The slate put forward was: president, Sheri Crabtree Rolfe, McClain ‘78; vice president, Lu Ann Lucas Roe, McClain ‘76; secretary, Sandy Smith Parker ‘63; and treasurer, Sherry Truitt Hudson ‘65. Nominations were closed and the motion to accept was carried.
The first honor class to be recognized was the class of 1945. For this 70-year class, Donna Storts Curry represented her classmates as speaker. On May 22, 1945, 16 seniors graduated, three of who are still living, with Curry being the only one able to attend. World Was II was declared only three months after the class started high school. Comparing present times to then, she told about the phone system, the South Salem Exchange, where the switchboard was at Mr. Brown’s home. Everyone had a “ring code” on a party line and they were only supposed to pick up calls with their code, though sometimes a call might have more listeners than intended. For a couple to go out on a Thursday night date in Greenfield for a movie and a coke and a hamburger after, the cost was a total of $1. What a difference from today.
The 60-year class of 1955 was represented by Peggy Streitenberger Lucas. Of the 17 members of the graduating class with 11 boys and six girls, 10 went through all 12 years together. Six members are now deceased and were fondly remembered. Teachers were remembered and especially coach George Barnes. The square dances after the home basketball games were always enjoyed, but the highlight of their school days was the senior trip to Washington, D.C. They worked all summer at the concession stand at the Greenfield ballpark to earn the money. They traveled on the B & O train from Greenfield and had seen all the sights. The city lights left quite an impression on the kids from South Salem.
Carolyn Storts Miller spoke for the graduating class of 1965, the last class to graduate from Buckskin High School. Due to consolidation, all subsequent classes attended high school and graduated from McClain. Twenty students graduated, 12 girls and eight boys; the three members who had passed were remembered. When they were seniors, gas was 31 cents a gallon, a stamp cost 5 cents and the mini skirt came into fashion. In sharing some of the highlights of their high school years, Miller conveyed the camaraderie and humor that characterized their experiences together. In closing, she made a donation of her cheerleading uniform from her senior year and gave a gracious tribute to Ruth Bristley for the inspiration she gives to the entire community and presented her with a lovely floral bouquet.
It was a special treat that was saved for last – an interview by Current of the 80th honor year graduate, Ruth Anderson Bristley, class of 1935. Answering questions on her early life and her school years, attendees were given a glimpse of the life of a country girl growing up during the Depression. She attended a one-room school with the same teacher for grades 1-8. She did well in school and even took second and third grade together in one year. She started high school in Chillicothe, but when she was a junior her family moved to a farm just at the edge of South Salem. From there she walked to school most days of her junior and senior years.
She said, “Buckskin was much more enjoyable than Chillicothe.” There were only 17 in her class at Buckskin. She was voted vice president of her junior class. Under the instruction of Wallace Fisher, she played the violin in the school orchestra and sang in the chorus. Her musical talents were evident when she blessed the crowd with an all-too-brief rendition of the popular 1930s song “Always”. When asked if she would be available for one-on-one questions and well wishes following the official proceedings, she readily agreed.
To give the year’s report on the SAVE committee, Lew Speakman ’63 was introduced. There is currently a balance of 13,225.09. Maintenance to the grounds and new landscaping were accomplished this year with the help of the donated services of: Bruce Free, McClain ‘83, shrub removal; Brian Stapleton, tree removal; and Clive Bartley, electrification of the gazebo. New donations of Buckskin School and community memorabilia have been added to the museum and thanks were given for those items.
In regard to local historical topics, Speakman shared some highlights of the research that he’s been doing on the Lyndon Farmers’ Picnic, first held in 1901. Pictures and newspaper articles were on display covering the annual event that lasted for 28 years, the last picnic being held in 1929. In 1906, a pavilion was built to accommodate up to 3,000 attendees to the speakers’ series on topics of interest to the farmers and their wives. The next year, 1907, there were 8,000 in attendance. For a few years it continued to grow in popularity, but changing interests and economic times brought it to a close.
Current thanked the individuals, organizations and businesses that contributed to making the evening a success: his fellow officers for their work and support; McCoy’s Catering for the delicious meal; Steve Pearce and the Letter Shop for the printing of the programs; Julia Eselgroth and the South Salem Garden Club for decorating the tables; Morton Road Liars Club for the tables and chairs; Greenfield schools for the use of the building; the nominating committee for their hard work; and the honor classes, with a rose being presented to each of the class speakers.
And so, with the traditional singing of “Auld Lang Syne”, another banquet came to a close. Hopefully, all those present and more will be able to make it to next year’s 100th Buckskin Alumni Banquet to be held on Saturday evening, June 18, 2016.
Submitted by Mary Gilbert, Buckskin Alumni Association secretary.