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180101 January 1, 2018

Lest We Forget
The Classmates of '64-'65-'66
Which We Lost in 2017

Kathleen Ann Robinson Gillespie
LHS '66
December 22, 1947 - December 30, 2016

Sam Harris  "Buddy" Brigman
LHS '66
Dec. 19, 1947 - Jan. 3, 2017 

Jerry Wheeler
LHS '65
?  - May 25, 2017
Brenda Diane Lay Summerford
LHS '65
Dec. 16, 1946 - July 7, 2017

Cherie East Kennedy
LHS '66
April 5, 1948 - July 27, 2017

Michael F. Shawver

LHS '66

May 9, 1948 - May 4, 2012

Gary A. Collier
LHS '66
August 25, 1947 - November 16, 2017

And Teacher

Lois Mozell Yates Watson
LHS Teacher


Mayfair: 1951-53
Rainer Klauss
LHS '64

“Getting to know you, / Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you, / Getting to hope you like me.”
From The King and I, 1951

“All actual life is encounter.”—Martin Buber

In the winter of 1951, my family moved from our first Huntsville habitation, the Longwood Court Apartments, to a rental house at 1818 Overton Road, nearly a mile away in the well-established neighborhood of Mayfair.  Our apartment experience, in the close company of Germans and Americans, had moved us further along the transition into American life. That process of assimilation accelerated and deepened when 1818 Overton Road became our home, and we were immersed, as the only Germans on the block, in the ordinary (sometimes extraordinary) occurrences, activities and environment of Southern community life. For me, there and then, assimilation became identical with getting to know the expansive new world around me.

At the time, Mayfair lay at the southern edge of the city. Drake Avenue served as one of its borders, and the main road heading out of town to the south, Whitesburg Drive, defined the eastern edge. Bob Wallace Avenue marked the northern boundary. Much of this middle-class neighborhood had been built in the 1930s. The houses were modest dwellings, most of them white, and some of them sported red or green decorative shutters. Garages, not much more than large storage sheds, sat detached at the rear of the property.  Ours exuded an unforgettable odor of moldy wood, motor oil, and dirt.

In the picture above, my older brother and I are posed (in the ubiquitous striped shirts of the period) outside our small galley kitchen. It must be an early spring day. In the front yard, you can glimpse parts of the mature trees that graced the yards of Overton Road. I was still too young to appreciate the beauty they brought to the neighborhood. To me they were simply tall objects that I learned to climb with increasing agility and confidence, or dodged around in games of chase, or sprinted to when playing hide-and-seek.

In contrast to the sedate suburban scene in front, thirty yards past our backyard, a large cotton field stretched far and wide to the western horizon that ended at the Louisville & Nashville train tracks half a mile away. (Parkway Place Mall is situated right beyond the tracks now.) Imagine the thrill I experienced during the cotton growing season, when it was not unusual to see crop dusting planes—Piper Cubs or war surplus Stearman bi-planes—applying insecticides or fertilizer. The pilots had to be doubly cautious at the southern edge of the field because a narrow patch of woods formed a barrier that paralleled Drake Avenue. It excited me to watch the roaring flying machines swoop in for their runs, release their payload, and then sweep up over the trees. But as a downside to that airshow, the acrid chemicals that were dumped sometimes drifted into the neighborhood, driving sensible spectators inside.  (It wasn’t until 1962, with the publication of her Silent Spring, that Rachel Carson made known to the American public the lethal effect, on man and the larger environment, of those clouds of poisonous particles).

An important key to my quickly feeling free and easy in the neighborhood (besides the fact that I was five and unselfconscious) was my skill, such as it was at that age, in English. I had picked it up in a matter of months at Longwood Court.  I fit right in with my new playmates.

Soon after we moved into the new house, I began my education in American domestic cuisine. One of my father’s co-workers and his family lived down the street from us. Their son, Eddie, was just a few years older than me, and his mother issued an invitation for me to have lunch with him and then play at their house.  My mother accepted for me, but I had some concerns about the menu. I wasn’t a finicky eater, but this would be my first luncheon away from home, and I suspected that German fare wouldn’t be served.  I asked my mother to find out what Mrs. Berisford had in mind. I know she was nervous about making a call or visit because her command of English wasn’t very strong yet, but she soon passed along Mrs. Berisford’s reply [my reconstructed version]: “Well, I thought I’d give the boys a choice of tuna fish or pimento cheese sandwiches, Kool-aid, and Fig Newtons for a treat. How’s that?” Those items had never appeared on our table before, but my older brother had heard of them and told me I might enjoy them. The lunch proved to be delicious.  Eddie and I didn’t hit it off, though—the age difference may have been a factor-- and we became infrequent playmates. But important frontiers, social and culinary, had been crossed.

Betty Lou Hughes was the girl next door. I remember her chiefly because she’s the first girl I ever kissed. I can’t recall how the situation arose, but we got that important childhood event out of the way matter-of-factly, felt no need for further practice, and carried on with our budding friendship. There was a playhouse in her backyard, but apparently it had been built for an older sibling. The one time we went inside, I saw that it had become a smelly, messy storage place for cast-off household items and projects. What could have been a set for imaginative play unfortunately projected no magic at all. Betty Lou seemed sad about that, too.

Our neighbors on the other side were Mrs. Miller and her three daughters. The oldest daughter, Linda, was near my age, and the other two were twin toddlers.  Her husband was fighting in Korea, and the poor woman was almost overwhelmed. I was used to the stink of dirty diapers (because of my younger brother, Gunter), and I soon grew accustomed to the occasional smell (but not taste) of burned biscuits. That house is where I learned to love saltines and peanut butter, however.

My main friend in the neighborhood was John Butler Saint, who lived several houses farther down the street.  One summer afternoon, he, I, and several other kids were romping all over my yard, completely absorbed in our play of running gun battles, as opposing gangs, or a posse chasing an outlaw, or cowboys and Indians. Our property offered plenty of places to hide and bushwhack people.  The game was afoot and allegiances were fluid.

At one point in the raucous fun, John and I—momentary enemies-- lost track of one another. I chanced a dash from the garage toward the front porch, looking back over my shoulder for pursuers. My gun hand pointed straight out in front of me. At the same time, John raced along the front of the house in the same defensive posture. We slammed into each other at the corner of the house, knocking each other down. Stunned and hurt, we quickly found that we were bleeding freely. His pistol barrel had raked across my forehead, opening an inch-long gash. Just above his left eye, my pistol scraped along the suborbital bone underneath his eyebrow. We wailed in pain and shock. 

Hearing our screams, my mother rushed out and started tending to us. She sent my older brother or one of the other kids to fetch Mrs. Saint. With all the blood and our hysteria, it was difficult to tell at first—especially with John--but our injuries didn’t constitute an emergency situation. However, the wounds would require professional attention. 

My father was summoned from work, and we then drove to the Huntsville Clinic, just a block south of the courthouse square on Franklin St. Dr. Robert Sammons, who was just starting his career in Huntsville then, sewed me up. He became our family doctor thereafter. He stitched another one of my head wounds together a few years later, saw me through a rough bout with strep throat, and when I was thirty, just before I bid farewell to Huntsville and him, took out my inflamed tonsils. Years later I was told that he had been a duck-hunting companion of my father-in-law.

I never found out if Dr. Sammons worked on John, too.  Once our wounds healed, we became playmates again, but never so heedlessly. Although we lost touch when we left Mayfair I never forgot his stately name or our violent encounter. I learned recently that he passed away in Mobile in 2014.

The last memory from Mayfair is dream-like because much of it took place at night, and it was such an unusual event.  One evening at twilight the Klauss family walked over to Mayfair Park, the recreational facility of the neighborhood. It had become the setting for a community fair. A softball game started the festivities and fun.  The tantalizing aromas of grilling hot dogs and popcorn filled the air. Potato chips, soft drinks, ice cream, and chunks of watermelon were in abundant supply. Kids scampered around, and neighbors chatted and joked with each other. The spirits of communal harmony and pleasure reigned.

To conclude the celebration, a movie screen had been set up, and all there were treated to a presentation of Steamboat Willie, the short animated film (1928) which marked the debut of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I had seen and been dazzled by Dumbo and The Wind in the Willows (before I understood English) at a post theater at Ft. Bliss several years earlier, but this open-air, night-time screening surpassed them. The madcap, slapstick comedy, sparkling inventiveness of the action, and the music enthralled young and old. It was the exemplar of an art form, the animated cartoon, which, as it developed,  brought laughter and delight to people all over the world.  We came to look forward to them every Saturday and Sunday at the Lyric or the Grand theaters, part of the standard bill of fare of an afternoon at the movies.

It would be fitting if the fair at Mayfair had taken place in May, but I can’t recall if that was actually so. Whenever it happened, I do know that the event, in its generous and magical entirety, had been pure Americana, and we were glad to be an engaged and appreciative part of it.

Steamboat Willie

        Memphis, TN - We start off 2018 with our traditional review of all the classmates we lost last year. I know in this time of frequent moves, changing telephone plans, and email address changes there is a possibility some have been omitted, but this is the best list I was given in the past year.

    I had a lot of emails kicked back last week, so of which I know I have deleted and I cannot figure out what might have brought out an old list. I will use the same list this week (on a different computer) and see if they are bounced back again. Remember, even if you do not receive an email about a publication you can still find it at . 

    I hope all of you have a great 2018 and I hope I get to visit with some of you this coming year at the Lee Lunch Bunch get-togethers.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Christmas Eve's Traveller

Skip Cook

LHS '64

    Barbara Donnelly’s article about the Cinderella dress captured the true essence of the spirit of giving. Great job and thanks for sharing.


    Gene Bryson has not lost that wonderful smile in the past 50 years.  I don’t think Gene every missed a football game no matter how cold. I remember him with a stocking cap pulled own over his ears and cheering for the Generals. 



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