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First LCHS graduates gather at park for 50th class reunion

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Class members recall personal reactions to consolidation

By Ron Benningfield

LaRue County High School’s Class of 1959 holds the distinction not only of celebrating 50 years since graduation, but also of being the school’s first graduating class.

That consolidation brought together in the fall of 1958 seniors from three high schools – Buffalo, Hodgenville and Magnolia – who until that time had been arch rivals. They each had their own school mascots, colors, their own sports teams and cheerleaders. Some had mixed feelings about giving up that identity to meld into a completely new environment.

Three of those alumni – Carl Howell, Carolyn Sutherland Mather and Phyllis Benningfield Perkins, related their feelings and their experiences during that year of change.

“I wanted to stay where I was, at Buffalo, where I knew everyone and felt comfortable,” Mather said. “I was a little scared, I guess of the unknown more than anything else, going to LCHS.”

Perkins said she had been looking forward to traveling with the rest of her class on Buffalo’s planned senior trip to Florida, but, with consolidation coming, the trip was changed to a one-day adventure at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green her junior year. Other than that, she didn’t mind the move.

“It really didn’t bother me that we would be with a lot of people we didn’t know at LCHS,” Perkins said. “I was looking forward to meeting them.”

Howell’s class at Hodgenville also amended what would have been their senior trip to traveling to Cincinnati while juniors.

“We went there to watch a 3-D movie,” he recalled. 

Hodgenville supplied the majority of the seniors that year, 42, with 28 from Buffalo and 13 from Magnolia. All three alumni remembered that, when classes first started that year, students from their respective schools tended to group together. There were logistical problems, too.

“I didn’t know where the restrooms were,” Perkins said.

“And I couldn’t remember my combination to my locker,” Mather added. “We never had student lockers at Buffalo.”

It didn’t take long, however, for them to feel more comfortable in their surroundings and with new classmates.

“I was the only guy in a physics class with three good-looking girls, so I enjoyed the consolidation,” Howell said with a smile. 

Getting along well together is perhaps an understatement as Howell explained, “I think our class holds the record for marriages; during our senior year, 13 students from our class were married.”

The three alumni credited several things for the mindset change from identifying with three schools to one. They voted on a new mascot, the Hawk, a school motto, a new yearbook, “Les Memories,” and, thanks to band director Gene Hoggard, a new school song.

In sports, the school fielded tennis, baseball and track teams. Football wouldn’t come along for another year and they would have to also wait for a gymnasium.

Howell saw consolidation a definite improvement at least in sports.

“Each of the schools – Buffalo, Hodgenville and Magnolia – had excellent players, and, with them molding into one team, we improved our chances against regional teams such as Elizabethtown and E’town Catholic,” Howell said. 

The Hawks basketball team, with Corky Cox coaching, won its region in 1958-59 and' 59-60. Howell won the district in the 100-yard dash that year while classmate Roy Davenport claimed the district shot put title.

The band and chorus also performed well. At the Bowling Green Music Festival, a trio consisting of Perkins, Bonnie Beard Cundiff and Barbara Skaggs Easton earned a superior rating.

“Without a gym, though, everything outside of class took place in the cafeteria,” Mather said.

Because they had no gym, the class held outdoor commencement exercises at Lincoln’s Birthplace on May 22, 1959, a Friday. 

Juniors with lighted candles lined each side of the steps leading to the Memorial Building. The seniors marched down the steps to chairs positioned in the area at the base of the steps where the program took place. For the recessional, the new graduates marched back up the steps and out through the Memorial Building.

Mather recalled the extreme darkness.

“It wasn’t too bad going down the steps because of the candles, but when the program ended, and we returned past them to enter the Memorial Building, you couldn’t see anything,” she said.

“Yes, and I nearly killed myself when I hung my right high heel in my graduation gown,” Perkins said.

The class held a two-day reunion recently. Former classmates enjoyed a picnic on Howell’s property at Malt (Ball Hollow area), toured the district schools, had a class picture taken on the steps of the Memorial Building as they had done so many years ago and held a banquet at Buffalo Baptist Church’s Fellowship Hall where they honored their six deceased classmates.

“We intend to reunite every Lincoln Days after the parade,” Howell said.

Former classmate Sandra Wright Akin wrote an account of the class which read, in part, “It was this class that started its senior year with students from three rival high schools coming together and ending the school year with a cohesive bond that has lasted 50 years; a class that was the foundation of LaRue County High School which paved the way for future graduates.”

Those attending the reunion included Mather, Sue Miller Tickle, Ronald Nunn, John Marcum, Janice Howell Henderson, Brenda Hazel Miller, Lucille Hornback Steele, Brenda Roark Slayton, Betty Willian Cox, Shirley Eastridge Ramsey, Edwin Pendleton, Gordon Hash, Wendell Warren, Libby Vittitow Arnold, Akin, Linda Hutcherson Tharp, C.A. Brown, Mary Alice Mather Hildreth, Carolyn Clopton Horn, Billy Lawless, Barbara Skaggs Easton, Roger Easton, Patty Howell Sidebottom, Judy Walters Florence, Barbara Broady Cruse, Suzanne Beams, Norman Worful, G.A. Howell, Tommy Burba, Betty Jones Bradbury, Paul Williams, Earl Riggs, Maxine Grubbs Bowen, Paul Cottrell, Howell, Nancy Polley Alexander, Perkins, Beverly Raikes Akermon, Henry Shoffner, Donald Marcum, James Thomas and Bobby Pendleton.