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190506 May 6, 2019


1964 Senior Picnic

Back in 1964 - 55 Years Ago
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    Sue and I went out to eat yesterday at a local hamburger joint and when we walked into the place we encountered a room full of high school seniors on a class trip. They had come from Sommerville to Memphis to enjoy a movie and have lunch together. That does not seem like a big trip for high school seniors, but it was more than my class enjoyed back in 1964. One of our big days was the senior picnic we enjoyed at Big Springs Park.

    I not only recorded the day in a three-minute 8-mm film, but also noted some of the highlights of the day in my journal - the basis of my first book 'A Million Tomorrows...Memories of the Class of '64."  Even though the film has survived all these years, it became water damaged back in the early Seventies when it was in a cardboard box which was in a garage in Texas that became waterlogged during a freak flash flood. Converting it to a digital format to upload to youtube also degraded it, but perhaps you might still enjoy seeing some of it. Youtube replaced the original soundtrack I had for the film with a public domain tune, but there was nothing I could do about that. I only wish I had taken real photos instead of trying to capture everyone in short three-second bursts of movie film.

    If you look hard you can find David Bess centering the ball to Harold Tuck; Tommy Thompson playing tennis with Judith Keel; Carolyn McCutcheon and Dianne Hughey walking away, and Bobby Cochran playing tennis and batting the softball. Phillip Hall does a flip for the camera and Gary Kinkle, Tony Thompson, Lehman Williams, , Milton Shelton, and Jerry Brewer pop up as well. Gene Bryson shows up in a couple of shots along with others, and even some of the teachers like Mrs. Hall, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Blackburn. It takes a bit of looking but perhaps you can make them out. Like Stan Lee and Albert Hitchcock, I make a cameo appearance wearing my striped green and white boat-necked shirt and pith helmet.

    As for the commentary below, as stated the day was recorded in my journal, with the 1964 entry shown below in italics. Twenty-five years later I reflected upon the entries as shown below the italic paragraphs. Now, it is 55 years old, and a lot of things have happened since both entries were made. Some things are good, some are sad, all happened. It especially hurts a little to see the fuzzy images of those friends of mine who are no long with us. Most passed away, some just faded away and I have no idea what happened to them. Many of the names in the account were changed when I wrote the book, so don't spend too much time trying to remember anyone by the names I used.

Friday, May 8, 1964
129th Day - 237 days to follow

    Got up at 7:30 A.M.  David, Bob, and Steve N. picked me up at 8:10 A.M. and we went out to Guntersville Lake and went swimming.  There were a lot of kids from Lee there.  We left at 1:00 P.M.  I came home with Paul - he skipped school today.  We went to Miracle City and I got some film for my movie camera; I came home and packed for the Westminster retreat we're having at Anderson Creek tonight and tomorrow.

At 2:00 P.M. I went down to Big Spring Park to our Senior Picnic.  We played softball, volleyball, football, and tennis.  We ate and then played around some more.  Some of the boys brought their musical instruments and played some songs to dance to; but William and Susie M. showed up just when they started.  Susie drove us over to the camp.  We got there about 8:00 P.M.

We divided up into discussion groups - our whole Presbytery was there.  The subject of the camp was "Science and God."  For recreation the "Generals Three" sang.  Then we went to bed around 12:00 P.M.

    This day marked the occurrence of the second of the big senior events for Lee.  It was the day of the Senior Picnic.  The picnic didn't start until the afternoon, so the morning activities were left to the individual students.  Swimming at Guntersville Lake was a popular choice for a nice way to spend a warm day.  Guntersville Lake was just over the mountain, and the ride with David in his convertible made it all that much better.

    The trip to the lake was a warm-up for the real senior activities at Big Spring Park.  There were no planned activities for the students except for eating.  The rest of the time was spent just enjoying the sun and being out of school.  The boys got to show off their athletic abilities in the many ball games that were played, and the girls got to show off their tans in their shorts.  They would not be wearing shorts if they were in school.  That was absolutely against the rules.  Shorts were not allowed.  Not being in school was really the most important thing about the whole day.  It was a special privilege reserved for those who had earned the right to be called "Senior."

    The activities of the afternoon were captured on another three-minute 8mm film by the seventeen-year-old cinematographer.  I carefully shot five seconds of this and five seconds of that.  There were five seconds of him and five seconds of her.  You became selective about what you filmed when you had to stretch three minutes of film over an entire afternoon.

    I tried to get a lot of "pans" with the camera capturing as many of my classmates on film as I could.  I did not have the option to zoom in on anyone because there was no zoom on the camera.  The only controls I had was the aperture and a manual focus.

    The seniors played and enjoyed their time away from school that sunny afternoon.  In less than a month, they would have all the time they needed away from school.  Many would never have to worry about school again.  My part of enjoying the picnic was cut short by the arrival of my friends from Huntsville High.
The kids at Huntsville High School were not having a Senior Picnic.  William and Susie were a part of that group.  The three of us were going camping with the rest of our Westminster Fellowship group at Anderson Creek which was the site of the church summer camps, but wasn't used much during the rest of the year.

    Before Anderson Creek, Central Presbyterian Church sent all the kids to a Camp Ovoca up in Tullahoma, Tennessee.  I don't know where the name came from or what it meant, but it looked like a CCC camp you saw in old movies.  It had a large central dining hall at the top of the hill and cabins on both sides of the gravel road that led up to the hall.  The boys used the cabins on one side and the girls stayed on the other.  One of the prime attractions of the camp was the small waterfall below the lake.  I had gone to Ovoca three or four summers when I was younger.

    Ovoca had at one time been used as an orphanage or something.  My father had a Bible that had a rubber stamp imprint on the inside that said "Snow at Ovoca, 1928" or something cryptic like that.  He never explained where it came from or anything about it.  It remains a mystery.

    That weekend it was not snowing and it was not at Ovoca.  It was Anderson Creek.  The Fellowship was meeting to discuss "Science and God."  That was the reported reason.  The kids were there to have fun.  Other than the title of the discussion, little was else was reported about what we did.

    There was one thing missing from this day's entry of 1964.  It's funny that it is remembered today.  There was not a word written about that day being Connie's birthday.  Its lack of comment seems strange.  Such an event would have been the primary entry if I had started the journal one year earlier.  In May 1963, Connie and I were a steady couple.  We thought we would be together forever.  She thought we would be married when I graduated from high school.  Now graduation was less than a month away for me, and I didn't even see or mention her.

    The strangest thought about its being her birthday was which birthday she was celebrating.  On this day in 1964, Connie turned "Sweet Sixteen."  Sixteen.  That sounds so young.  It is so young.  She had just turned old enough to drive.  She had just entered the age when she should be dating boys and was not yet at the age when she should try to get serious about any of them.  She had been doing that for over three years.  She had been serious about at least three boys.  She had tried to grow up too fast.  She never got to enjoy life the way she should have.  I went with Connie for over two years.  I dated her before that.  In remembering her, I never realized how young she really was when we were dating.  In my old memories, she was my age, seventeen.  In reality, she wasn't.  She wasn't even sixteen.  She was fourteen when I first started going steady with her.

    In high school, two years difference in people's ages is a lot.  As we get older it doesn't seem that way.  The kids at the picnic that day are all in their middle ages now.  Some are even dead.  That doesn't seem right.  To me they will always be teenagers.  The old 8mm movie film ensures that.


        Memphis, TN -  Once again I turn back the hands of time to share with you some of my past writings. I do not know how many of you have noticed the crop of seniors turning up in your community, but in the last few days it has come to my attention. I got to thinking back to my own life when I was at their stage on my own and remember my world being both rewarding and scary at the same time. I do not think we appreciated how simple our lives were when we were still in high school, and how complicated they would be after graduation. Be it marriage, college, military or just finding a job to earn a living, there were strange things facing us we had never encountered before.

    Having talked to many of you at the Lee Lunch Bunch get-together, I know you read the Traveller, but many admit they have never bothered to contribute anything - thinking no one wants to hear what they have to say. 

    Anyway, I offer this week the subject of the 1964 Senior's Picnic and hope perhaps some of you might have some similar memories to share. 


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    BOUNCED MAIL


    Both these accounts' mail bounced back to me as being undelivered.

A Few More Photos From the Latest Lee's Lunch Bunch Meeting

John Scales and Carolyn Burgess Featheringill 
Bob and Mary Alverson
Bucky Hoffmeyer and Tom Bush
John and Ester Pierce Hudgens
Alice Gullion and J.R. Brooks



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