Class reunions, for some, open old wounds. Yet, others find them a means to relive the best years of their lives. When the idea of a reunion for the Byhalia High School Class of 1965 to have a 50th reunion Brandt was less than enthusiastic. The majority of his closest friends were not in his class. Nevertheless, we orchestrated a class reunion last August and simultaneously strategized what became the Byhalia Bud’s Reunion. I love these gatherings. Brandt and I are in our 19th year. I enjoy getting to know the friends and acquaintances from his life pre-Tim. You’ve heard “the third time’s the charm?” Brandt’s only steadfast rule was all or nothing. We’ve been trying to make this happen for a year. We had a date and illness interrupted. We had a second date and grandchildren interrupted. We picked a third date and a retirement threatened the confirmation but on April 13 we received the go sign and moved full speed ahead. “Bud’s” came by land and air from six states. I’d like you to meet them…
From the Byhalia High School High School Class of 1966…Charles Crain.
Charles and his sweet wife Joy live in Byhalia where Charles is the president CLM Insurance. Charles played the role of historian and fact checker. Those that have moved away often had trouble recalling a location, family name or relation. Charles was like a back stage prompter. The Bud delivering the story of the moment would hesitate and Charles would fill in the needed word or sometimes even complete the sentence. Without Charles, some of the Bud’s might have appeared more senior than they prefer to admit.
From the Byhalia High School Class of 1965…Jimmy Edwards.
Jimmy aka James Rufus, Rufus Crap, Rufe, Hollywood or as I call him Brandt lives Town and Country in Memphis and Byhalia. He is Shipping Manager for KP Distribution and Operations Manager for Custom Link Manufacturing and is married to me. Actually, it’s still a bit surreal that we get to say that. This was the first time I had met some of the Bud’s and certainly the first time “Jimmy” had been able to introduce me as his husband. As I mentioned, he was the event organizer. He did all the communication and planning. Oddly enough, his acting skills didn’t show themselves as they often do. More often than not he claimed deniable plausibility. However, there were the few classic moments where he used his finest New York expletives with studied articulation and timed down to the millisecond. He has a real talent for taking a party over the top with the perfectly projected fuck(ing) or goddamn. It instantly runs the gamut of emotions as some clutch their pearls from the shock and others hyperventilate from laughter.
Also, from the Byhalia High School Class of 1965…Van Finger.
Van aka Dooner and his lovely wife Mary reside in Fairhope, AL where Van is president of PCM capital. I would call Van the “ring leader”. Most of the memories either began with Van or segued to him. The most infamous of all the memories is as follows…“I saw dead William Faulkner in downtown Byhalia. If I had known who William Faulkner was while standing there looking at him I would have been more appreciative of the moment!!!!! When the driver said to us “Do you know who that is?” we said no and he said “Aw, he’s some writer from down there in Oxford! He laid dead in the hearse, in his wife beater T-shirt and white boxer shorts, not at Wrights. We skateboarded around him. Then, he waited, dead, for the hearse drivers to try those “new fangled” skate boards of ours. Trust me! I wuz there!!!!!” Folks you don’t get this kind of information on Wikipedia!!! I would share his other historical recollections. I know there is such a thing as the statute of limitations but it’s best not to take any chances. I will say that it’s a miracle that some if not all of the Bud’s are alive…if not in jail. Toys were too mundane for these guys. Cherry bombs, “horse apples” and DYNAMITE are the things that made their childhood interesting and provided us with uproarious entertainment for the entire weekend.
From the Byhalia High School Class of 1963…Claude Locke.
Claude and his fetching wife Beth resides in Dallas, TX where Claude is Executive Producer at Apollo Films, Inc. I would get in trouble if I chose a favorite of the group but I will say this…I have an instant rapport with those who are REAL. Claude is very transparent and maybe a bit self-deprecating. He told a bunch of stories on himself. Yet, my favorite stories were the ones the other Bud’s told on him. The stories would start with, “Claude, was it you…”. Like Jimmy/Brandt, Claude attempted plausible deniability but as the story would continue he would say…”oh yeah, that was me”. Some of the stories had the potential to be really funny. However, they were so unbelievable I found myself just staring at the storyteller. Who in their right mind would hire a Mississippi boy to go to Michigan to teach SAILING at a summer boys camp? A Northwest Mississippi boy…not one from the coast. Nevertheless, after a brief lesson from another staffer Claude took a group of First Graders out to teach them how to sail…and what do want to bet those kids are telling their grand kids about “this one time at camp…”!
From the Byhalia High School Class of 1961…Jimmy Rochester.
Jimmy and his dear wife Joanne reside in Clyde, NC. He is a retired educator and is the most senior of the Bud’s. JImmy is one of those that’s made a career out of education. I don’t mean just because he taught school. Brandt was in the 8th grade when Jimmy graduated from Byhalia. Yet, Jimmy was still at Ole Miss when Jimmy/Brandt got there…and stayed a while longer. I loved hearing about his natural gift for music. It seems there was once an attempt to start a band in Byhalia…think The Music Man. Jimmy chose the flute because he thought it made pretty sounds. The band never really took off but Jimmy did. He basically taught himself to play and went on to study at Ole Miss. He even taught band for a year before, of course…going back to school. He mentioned Law School in there somewhere. However, he eventually became a Spanish teacher. He is such a teacher. He sat in the social circles like a teacher keeping watch over the children at recess. Now and then he would have to assist Charles…the two of them filled in the blanks often. My favorite Jimmy story came after most of the Byhalia stories had been told and the subject matter moved to life in more recent years. The subject of travel came up. It seems Jimmy and Joanne were fortunate to visit a son working in Japan. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say some really important details get lost in translation. A mother, father and son trying to get a room at a “love hotel” makes for some raucous storytelling. And, holding up three fingers to someone who works at said hotel and doesn’t speak your language…well, it was a funny story. But, getting to see Jimmy tell the story and watching Joanne’s face as she relived it was one of the high points of the weekend.
From the Central High School in Memphis, TN and the Class of 1965…Tom Vegod.
Tom and his charming wife Jean reside in Pendleton, SC where he is retired after a first career in real estate and later owning a travel agency. Tom was the most silent of the Bud’s. Mainly because he grew up in Memphis. He did have grandparents that lived in Byhalia but the friendships with Bud’s really formulated at Ole Miss. He and Brandt were Beta’s…although neither of them remember much about it. Tom did tell a heart warming story that involved…guess who…Claude. After graduating high school Tom moved to Byhalia. As he was unpacking it seems Claude was across the street washing his car. It seems too many libations the previous evening had caused a physical response that somehow landed on Claude’s car. That day was also the day Claude was driving to Michigan to teach sailing. Of course he couldn’t go with his car in that predicament. However, being the good Byhalia Methodist boy Claude was he paused from his focused work to share a public notice with Tom. Claude said, ” don’t ever go out with___________ ________, she will drink you under the table”. I don’t know that Tom ever ran into __________ ________ but seemed grateful to have the information; just in case.
From the Byhalia High School Class of 1964…Billy Walker.
Billy and his delightful wife Denise reside in Centerville, OH where he’s a sales consultant in the specialty steel industry. When you look up class clown in Webster’s there is Billy’s picture. And, that’s not a negative. Somehow he recalled more people, places and things than all of the Bud’s combined. Funny doesn’t begin to describe his delivery. He recalled Charles bailing hay for the Powell’s and fixing flats on that old Plymouth. He lamented the scar on his thumb and finger because of the homemade go-kart crash in front of Dr. Moore’s office. Seems there was an issue with a spark plug wire that really added a lot of entertainment value to the race viewers. He spoke of Cecil, Duck, Dan, Smiley, and Snooky. He was a bit demur as everyone agreed he always had the fastest rides that always attracted……well, you know. With respect to Denise the Bud’s didn’t go too far into that neighborhood. Suffice to say, if there is to ever be an in-depth history of Byhalia it will not be complete without the accounts of Billy Walker.
Everyone gathered at 230 Edwards Road for a Supper Social. When Brandt began talking about the event I told him that no matter what we couldn’t entertain 14 people. Long story short we looked for a place and nothing felt right. Therefore, I did my thing…
The car port made a lovely dining venue. The new landscaping and the Vesper light created magazine quality ambience.
The supper “spread” was inside. Just think church social with an Italian twist.
Poached Wild Sock-eye Salmon and Next Day Gulf Shrimp (hand delivered by Van)
Caprese with Nectarines, Fusilli with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Garlic, Melon and Cold Smoked Pork
For dessert we moved to the patio for Panna Cotta with Macerated Berries and lots of memories.
Saturday morning everyone gathered at The Whistle Stop in Byhalia. The gathering was electric. The Bud’s mixed with the “regulars” and the gravy sopping scene was one that will be remembered for years to come.
They all went to the original Byhalia High School for a guided tour with Faye Woods who was a chemistry teacher when they went to school. Now, she’s the director of the Byhalia Arts Council which is turning the school into a multi-use building. They have remodeled the auditorium where Brandt made his stage debut in the Second Grade production of Hansel and Gretel. Brandt recalled the performance when Gretel ate a marshmallow off the gingerbread house and he (Hansel) had to ad lib….a star is born…and the rest is history.
They toured the Chamber of Commerce…
and what was once the mercantile W. C. McCrary Co. Inc. and is now McCrary’ Arts and Antiques. They visited Claude’s childhood home, Cedar Hill, built pre-civil war where his sister Becky and her husband Donald Hollingsworth currently live. Finally, they came to Rabbit Ridge, once a religious campground but currently owned by Brandt’s nephew and namesake.
Clancy’s of Red Banks provided Sweet Corn Dip, Greek Salad, Grilled Chicken Tenders and Pulled Pork.
It was a warm…well…really hot afternoon but the clubhouse was cool and the spirits were high.
I think everyone took naps after lunch and that evening gathered once more for some local food and color at Clancy’s.
I thought it was going to be a simple fish dinner. However, Tyler Clancey mentioned he was using black and white damask tablecovers. So, I added a few touches.
A sausage and cheese platter was on the table when the guest arrived and most everyone ordered the house specialty…fried catfish.
The house was lovely and a good time was had by all.
Hey, old friend
What d’ya say, old friend?
Are you okay, old friend?
Are we, are we unique?
Time goes by
Everything else keeps changing
You and I, we can
Continue next week, yeah
Most friends fade
Or they don’t make the grade
New ones are quickly made
And in a pinch, sure, they’ll do
But us, old friend
What’s to discuss, old friend?
Here’s to us, who’s like us?
As we see every time we turn on the news…life is so short. Take time…make time…to see those you love and care about. The Bud’s did and we all cherish our “new” memories.
Cheers, old friends!!!