Thompson alums say goodbye

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 7, 2008

NATCHEZ — On Sunday night hundreds of graduates from Sadie V. Thompson gathered at the Natchez Convention Center to say goodbye.

Sunday’s event, with a luau theme, was the last event in an epic reunion that started on Thursday.

Reunion committee chair Eva Dunkley said this year’s reunion was the best yet.

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First celebrated in 1994 the Sadie V. Thompson Era Reunion was founded to give the school’s graduating classes from 1954 to 1970 a chance to reunite.

Dunkley said in 1970 the school converted from a high school to a middle school and the reunion acknowledges those who would have graduated in 1971 and 1972 also.

The event was originally scheduled for every three years but Dunkley said it has grown in popularity it will now be every two years.

And with that new, tighter schedule, Dunkley said the planning needs to happened sooner — much sooner.

“We’ll start planning 2010’s reunion tomorrow,” she said.

And while advanced planning for the future is sure to keep the event running smoothly for years, it’s the recollections of the past that keep the party going and reunion goers coming back for more.

Jerry Clayton said it’s the opportunity to remember the years gone by and the chance to visit with old friends that keeps her coming back for each reunion.

“It’s a wonderful beautiful thing,” she said. “I would hate to miss it.”

And while Clayton and others cherish the opportunity to reminisce, the time they reminisce about is much different than today.

Gladys Plaine moved to California shortly after her graduation from Thompson in 1962.

“That was a trying time,” she said of the racially segregated era she grew up in Natchez. “It was a very different time.”

While integrated schooling did not come to the area until after Plaine had graduated, she said the idea of integration still caused tension then.

“Change is not always easy,” she said.

But now change has come.

And those who celebrate the mass reunion have the opportunity to offer a unique perspective on a passed era.

And the unique perspectives are sure to keep coming because Dunkley said the reunion is showing only signs of strengthening.

“It’s only going to get better,” she said.