The year was 1943, and my grandmother, Virginia (Mock) McConnaughey, graduated from Buford High School. Twenty years later my father, Steve McConnaughey, graduated from Buford High School in 1963. Thus began the legacy of the McConnaugheys and the Bulldogs.
Both my grandmother and my father passed along their school pride to all of us, and I still bleed Buford red to this day.
How can a small school embody so much magic and nostalgia, you may ask? I am not really completely sure, but that little red brick school in the middle of a small town named Buford does just that. Ask anyone who attended Buford, whether when it was a high school or in the days when it just housed an elementary, but they will tell you the same. They will say it with a smile on their face and a twinkle in their eye — I was a Buford Bulldog.
My father played basketball for the Bulldogs in his day and was pretty good. He was left-handed and stood at 6’4. I imagine that was pretty tall back in the day. He was very thin, but likely tough as nails as he grew up on a farm. I can only imagine what a high school game would have looked like back then on that small court with limited seating. It would have been great to see a game played by my father for the school that he loved. He told stories of games back in the day. I wish that I could remember them better, but he talked about the many great players that he played with and against.
There always seemed to be tight games with Lynchburg and Whiteoak. This was a time when they had county tournaments, so he always spoke of those as well. Teammates I remember him mentioning were Ronnie Sirabry, Jimmy Purdy and Ronnie Moberly. He also mentioned that Charlie Etienne, who played for Lynchburg, was always a formidable opponent and Ritchie for Whiteoak was tough as well. My father’s finest game that I have record of seems to have been against Martinsville where he poured in 26 points.
I believe I may have heard more stories about the pranks and jokes that were pulled while he was a Bulldog, but the fondest memories he had were spent in the school cafeteria with cook Goldie Cornetet. Ask any Bulldog about the food at Buford and they will instantly think of Goldie. My father used to work in the kitchen as a student helper. I think he only did this to get free food from Goldie. She sure took care of her workers. Her homemade pizza was the absolute best. It was real, not from a box.
In the early ‘80s, I became Goldie’s helper and the cycle continued. I loved helping Goldie in the kitchen. She would always tell stories on my Dad and the mischief that he got in to from time to time. She even bailed him out on a couple of occasions.
All five of my siblings and I went through Buford Elementary. We then moved on to meet up with the Lynchburg kids in the seventh grade. I can remember this being such a stressful situation for us Buford kids. We were leaving our small Buford confines and starting a new leg of our journey. I am not so sure that the stress wasn’t more about leaving our Buford stomping grounds than starting anew with a bunch of new classmates from the Burg. Either way, it always worked out. I even married a Lynchburg girl, so it couldn’t be all that bad.
Such fond memories have been made over the years in the little school building in Clay Township. From all the many basketball games, to all the Farmer’s Institutes, to the many baseball and softball games.
I can remember playing on the playground and picking the honeysuckle from the fence and getting a taste of the sweet nectar. I also have a not so fond memory of a pole to one of the swing sets. It had an unfortunate meeting with my chin that ended badly and spilled some of that aforementioned Buford eed of mine onto the asphalt. Who can’t forget that little bottle of mercurochrome the office stff would use on small cuts administered by everyone’s favorite secretary in Mrs. Barbara Ferrell. I am sure this treatment would never be allowed today and likely isn’t even an approved medicine now.
One of our favorite gym time games included a large trampoline. That is one apparatus that definitely would not be allowed today. We could bounce so high on that thing. It was great.
As I think back on all of the stories and my time spent at the Buford school one thing always seems to be the common denominator. We were family. We still are. There is something magical that happens when people are in a tight-knit community. That sure is missing these days in many aspects.
I sure love our school system now, and I should, as I serve on the school board at Lynchburg-Clay. I always speak with pride of our staff and our students at L-C. Many of these current students are the offspring of those little Buford Elementary and Lynchburg Elementary kids. In my case, my children got the best of both worlds as they bleed red and black.
To the wonderful memories from days and years ago to the present and future, Buford will always be the home of the Bulldogs, and the magic will never cease.
Goldie, if you catch wind of this article in that big expanse in the sky, I miss you and I miss your pizza.
Chad McConnaughey is the Highland County recorder.