Former students revisit Natchez High School

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2001

The faces of more than 50 members of Natchez High School’s Class of 1951 brightened as they once again walked through the doors of the old Margaret Martin School.

&uot;I remember Ms. Guyton. She was stern, and her tests were so hard, … but you could debate, you had it made,&uot; said Janet Long Knoblock.

&uot;Oh my, yes,&uot; said fellow classmate Anita Parent Walbaum. &uot;She would sit in the corner and read the cartoon in the Commercial Appeal. When someone would ask her what was so funny, she’d just yell, ‘Shut up, boy.’&uot;

Sophie Price Polson remembered that so many of the school’s teachers mixed discipline with a love of students, a passion for teaching and a thorough understanding of the subject.

&uot;When you walked out of their class, you understood the lesson,&uot; she said.

Welcome to the Class of 1951’s 50th reunion, a weekend-long event that included a Saturday tour of the school building, a Friday night reception at Hope Farm and a Saturday night dinner and dance.

The facility is now home to the Natchez Opera Festival and a handful of businesses – but it means much more to graduates.

&uot;I remember my locker was right here,&uot; said one woman, pointing to a now-bare patch of wall next to what used to be the library.

Upstairs, another attendee asks why, if only girls were allowed to take home economics in those days, the boys’ restroom was on that hall.

&uot;We boys had to find an excuse to come down this way,&uot; said a former class clown, getting more laughs from his fellow alumni.

Dr. Donald Killelea, chairman of the Natchez Opera Festival, led the group of alumni and their spouses on tours through the building, including the newly renovated auditorium.

But the building wasn’t the only attraction – hugging old friends, sharing memories, catching up on developments in each other’s lives and snapping pictures were also the order of the day.

Tommy Prince and Lenny Schuchs, best friends in high school, gently ribbed each other about the good old days – but wouldn’t mention specifics of any mischief they caused.

&uot;Nothing was proven,&uot; Schuchs said with a twinkle in his eye.

There was an incident involving a row of lockers being placed in front of a classroom door, making it impossible for the occupants to get to the cafeteria for lunch.

&uot;Nothing was proven,&uot; said Prince, who referred to Schuchs as &uot;my main man.&uot;

&uot;But we did get asked about it quite a lot,&uot;&160;he said.

Betty Sue West Hudson came from Boise, Idaho, with her husband, Ed, to attend the reunion. Saturday’s tour was the first time she had stepped into the building since graduation.

&uot;Everybody’s changed so much,&uot; Hudson said, glancing around before joining a group of fellow classmates, one of them clutching an annual.

&uot;Most of these people haven’t seen each other since graduation,&uot; said Chuck Gilbert, one of the event’s organizers. &uot;Some went to the Korean War, others married and moved away, and many hadn’t seen each other since.&uot;