Herndon High's class of 1954 made history when the class of 68 students were the first to attend a full year in the newly built high school and graduate. It recently made history again celebrating its 50th reunion.
Class member Esther Trucksess said the class of 1954 is unlike most other graduating classes in that everyone knew each other and "not just by name or face. We actually knew each other, and still do." Many of the graduating students had begun school together at Herndon Elementary in Juanita Carmack's first-grade class. Some of the class members are also family, related either by blood or marriage. "It binds us together as friends, relatives, in-laws and just good people forever," Thom Hanes said by e-mail.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE reunion began in early spring of 2003 when Virginia Moffett Bernstorf, one of the coordinators for the reunion, contacted Kay Farrar who is in charge of mailing lists of Herndon High's graduating classes.
The next step was locating missing classmates. When Bernstorf experienced difficulty in tracking down some of her classmates she relied on the assistance of "the computer whiz kids" in the class to locate the missing individuals. She had also made contacts through friends and relatives of classmates. During the process, Bernstorf learned that 19 members of the class had died.
Rallying attendance for the reunion became a class effort when Bernstorf began a "Caring Connection," through which friends took the initiative of contacting old friends encouraging them to attend the reunion.
The reunion took place July 9-11, at the Days Inn Hotel Conference Center at Dulles, where the class reminisced of "old times" and caught up with each other. Of the 49 surviving members, 42 attended the reunion.
HAVING MOVED BACK to Georgia after graduation, Saralyn Alston Jaleel had not visited Herndon in 25 years and was ecstatic about reuniting with her class and returning to Herndon. On her return, Jaleel visited the house she used to live in and Frying Pan Church where her family worshipped. Jaleel had mixed emotions of her visit in that her memories were "happy and some sad."
For Hanes, 1954 was a simpler time when gas for his Pontiac Catalina cost "about 20 cents a gallon with green stamps." It was also the time of a major historic event in which Brown v. Board of Education ended racial segregation in schools. Hanes remembers this racially hostile period as "a social change that took some time but a profound good came from this experience."
THE REUNION FESTIVITIES began Friday night when the group got together for an "Early Birds" round-up at TGI Fridays, which was similar to their after-school galas at the old Sasher's Drug Store. While Hanes "recognized everyone from the moment [he] saw them," Jaleel had trouble identifying her classmates.
Saturday morning, Hanes and Jack Rinker coordinated a golfing event, with 10 golfers participating. The team finishing in first place received golf hats with the Hornet logo. Si and Peggy Howe of San Diego, Calif., were recognized for traveling the farthest distance and received the Travelers' Award, a throw with scenes of Herndon.
Later in the day, Bernstorf's sister and former school secretary, Elma Moffett Mankin, guided the class on a tour of Old Herndon. Trucksess was the mistress of ceremonies at the dinner dance where her brother, David, sang the class song. Joy Hollar Costello and Bill Phillips took the class back in time by performing the same song they performed at their Senior Banquet 50 years ago. The class star and recording artist, Ronnie Dove, also took the stage performing songs from the 1950s. Former teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Rolley and Mankin, who were special guests of the night, also joined the celebration.
Kay Updike Schlegel, primary coordinator of the reunion, put together a "Remembering You" booklet which featured biographical sketches of the class. "Not one person there was a clone of their 1954 images," Bernstorf said by e-mail. Lois Carper Marbert arranged for a new class picture taken by a professional photographer called, "Treasured Friends." Bernstorf and Jaleel collected memorabilia from 1954 and Herndon, which were used as door prizes. Pat Rinker coordinated with local merchants to add gift certificates to the prizes.
WITH CAMERAS STILL flashing and the never-ending talks, the reunion ended with an "Afterglow Breakfast Buffet" at the Flight Deck Days Inn on Sunday morning. The class's 50th reunion "was a very special night and everyone had a wonderful, memorable time together," Trucksess said by e-mail.