Monday, September 21, 2009

My Hill Country Assurances: Class of 1957, Hatley High School

by Terry Thornton

Class of 1957, Hatley School, Monroe County, Mississippi
From left standing: Paul Ray Parham, Boyd Bryan, Billy Pounders, Terrance Thornton,
Miriam Springfield sponsor, Shelby Carter, Dale Swan, John Powell, Stanley Farrar, Jimmy Sanderson
From left sitting: Milton Hamilton, Hershel Christian, Gail Newton,
Barbara Nash, Barbara Vaughan, J.W. Christian, Tommy Sanderson

Of the individuals who had greatest influence on my thinking after family comes friends and classmates. I was fortunate to have lived in the same village, in the same house, and to go to school with an interesting set of friends. Of my twelve years of public schooling, eleven of them were at Hatley School six miles from Parham. The other year, my sixth grade, I attended Smithville School which was also about six miles from Parham.

Many of the students I started to school with at Hatley never graduated from high school. We had between thirty and forty to start first grade --- and after twelve years, there were sixteen of us who graduated. Most of them, like me, had attended Hatley School for the majority of those twelve years.

Of the ones starting in first grade who were not there to graduate, a goodly number had moved with their parents to other school districts. During the years I was a public school student, 1945 - 1957, the methods of earning a living and the methods of farming which had employed so many for so long in Hill Country changed. Several families left and moved north taking advantage of employment opportunities there. Several other families moved only short distances away into Amory or Aberdeen or Tupelo or Columbus for employment.

Others students who started to first grade with the Class of 1957 simply dropped out, entered the job market, or started a family. In a class that was almost evenly divided between girls and boys in the first grade, by twelve years later the numbers had shifted to 13-3. My graduating class had thirteen male students and three female students.
In the class of 1957, Hatley High School, were Milton Hamilton, J.W. Christian, Barbara Nell Nash, Paul Ray Parham, Barbara Lee Vaughan, Billy Clayton Pounders, Stanley Joe Farrar, Thomas Ray Sanderson, Boyd Bryan, John D. Powell, Hershel Christian, Dale Swan, Sonja Gail Newton, Jimmy Sanderson, Shelby Dell Carter, and me.

The class sponsor was Miriam Springfield, English teacher. The Superintendent of Hatley School was Herbert Nix.

Mr. Nix refused to allow the Class of 1957 to sponsor a yearbook or annual --- so my class of 1957 does not have such a memory book of pictures. But the Class of 1957 has a host of memories of friendship and fun and learning and of going to class and going places.

We suffered together through a few really terrible teachers and we learned together with some outstanding ones. Whether it was standing up and reciting a different poem a week for the teacher who kept a small dog in a box under her desk to teachers who tried their best to teach us both subject matter and manners, we endured together.

Our class went on its Junior-Senior Trip to Florida (we were such a small school that two classes combined each year for an annual outing). Below is a picture of the group just prior to leaving on that trip.

Almost everyone ate grits for the first time on that trip --- at Fort Benning, Georgia (the military put us up for an overnight). No one was lost --- no one fell out of the boat at either Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia or at Silver Springs in Florida --- but several got splashed by the porpoises at Marine World. In St. Augustine all I remember of the tour through the old city was the horse pulling our carriage had a bad case of gas much to the delight of all aboard who tried not to laugh.

The Class of 1957 decided to all cut classes one day at Hatley --- and at a pre-planned time all headed to the parking lot to get into the one car that was to take us away. Everyone made it, I think, except Paul Ray Parham and me (Paul Ray was detained briefly in the gym and I was detained briefly in the school office where I worked). By the time he and I made it to the parking lot, the loaded car was already headed toward town.

Yes, the entire class except the two of us left unauthorized --- and the only reason we didn't was Paul Ray didn't have his car --- and we decided that since we had been "bus left" to just return to class. Everyone in the class except the two of us were expelled or suspended --- and their parents had to come readmit them to school the next day.

Had there been vans back then, the entire junior and senior classes could have skipped out together.

Of the sixteen members of the Class of 1957, five of us (Milton, J.W., Paul Ray, Boyd, and me) and two members of the Class of 1956 (Jack Williams and my brother Sherman Thornton) and a former classmate no longer attending school (Bob Bridges), left for Fort Jackson South Carolina on the same set of orders to start our basic training in the U.S. Army.

Most of us stayed together throughout our short active military duty --- and five of us returned to Hatley together six months later. Of the other three, one was discharged on a medical disability upon arrival at Fort Jackson, one was hospitalized at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri where we were sent for Combat Engineer training and not released until a few weeks later, and one was sent to Fort Dix for training but got home about the same time we did.

I've known these classmates since early childhood --- and although some of the members of the Class of 1957 have graduated to the Big Unknown, all of these fifteen friends continue to influence my thinking because of the memories we forged together over the years 1945 - 1957.

Photograph Credits:

Graduating Class of 1957 on stage at Hatley School Auditorium: Unknown photographer, May 1957.

Hatley High School Senior Class, 1957: Miller Studio, Aberdeen, Mississippi.

Hatley Junior-Senior Class Trip, 1957: Unknown photographer using my camera.

All three photographs in the collection of Terry Thornton, Fulton, Mississippi.

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