What has been a lifelong friendship spanning from kindergarten through high school and beyond resulted in a generation steeped in community spirit.
Hilda Chapman, Susan M. Calvert-Thomas and Don Wilson, who have remained close since childhood, came together Jan. 1 to witness each of their respective sons receiving the oath of office as Ellis County officials – Judge-elect Jim Chapman, County Court at Law No. 1; returning Judge Gene Calvert Jr., County Court at Law No. 2; and Patrick Wilson, appointed District Attorney.
Don Wilson noted that this was probably the first time in Ellis County that a Waxahachie High School graduating class had three offspring all sworn in at the same time. The trio of friends graduated in 1959. Wilson noted that although their sons were different ages they all knew one another through the family friendships.
“Another unique thing is that Susan, Hilda and I go all the way back to kindergarten. We all graduated in white cap and gown from Mrs. Douglas’ kindergarten,” Don Wilson said. “It was a well-known small kindergarten here. There were 17 in our class. We had a 50-year reunion for that (kindergarten) class.”
If there was a special element that bridged from one generation to the next, perhaps it is these enduring friendships that have spanned the years and the strong sense of community pride that set the stage for success.
“Our class is unique. There is a substantial number of us who have remained close friends and have wound up back here (in Waxahachie). Half or more have stayed in touch. We do five-year reunions,” Wilson said.
A lot has changed in the community since those 17 children with well-scrubbed faces and mischievous smiles donned pint-sized white graduation garb for the 1947 graduation of Mrs. Douglas’ school. The population in Waxahachie in 1940 was 8,655 – less than a third of the current 29,621 count listed in the Texas Almanac.
“We all got our drivers licenses when we were 14 – back in the ancient ages. You have to remember that Waxahachie wasn’t as big as it is now,” said Susan Calvert-Thomas. “We grew up playing in the neighborhood and didn’t go home until the street lights came on. Our kids did, but the grandkids aren’t fortunate enough to be able to do that.”
Calvert-Thomas said there are lots of stories along the way, but mostly they just enjoyed being in the same class all through school and doing things as a class. They attended Ferris Elementary through fifth grade, then Marvin Elementary for grades six, seven and eight, and finally to Waxahachie High School, in the building that now houses Global High School.
“We all went to college and then came back. We are a close-knit group – you don’t see that much now days,” Calvert-Thomas said, noting they keep up with other classmates as well. “Don and I went to Texas Tech together and Hilda went to SMU. When I was at Tech and she was at SMU, we pledged the same sorority.”
Hilda Chapman said there were 92 students in their high school graduating class.
“We had our graduation at Chautauqua Auditorium and they fit all 92 of us on stage in our full robes,” Chapman said. “At out last reunion we went back to Chautauqua and had our picture made on stage.”
She said it is the closeness of the friendships that keeps people in Waxahachie or brings them back.
“When we graduated, we knew everybody in town – we knew their cars. We went to the Youth Optimist Center Saturday nights and all the girls had slumber parties,” Chapman said. “You don’t find many people who remain friends from kindergarten. You don’t find that sense of longevity now.”
Those friendships have trickled down to a third generation.
“When Gene and Jim were little, we lived three or four houses down from each other. Susan’s grandson and my grandson are really close friends,” she said.
Chapman said the fact that the sons of these three friends from the WHS class of 1959 were being sworn in as judges and district attorney of Ellis County hadn’t crossed her mind until Don Wilson mentioned it at the ceremony.
“When I mentioned that no other graduating class had done this – I was just bragging,” Wilson said.
Calvert-Thomas, Chapman and Wilson display obvious pride in their respective son’s accomplishments, and credit their success to their own hard work and drive to support the community.
“We just tried to teach them right from wrong and lead by example that giving back to the community is what you do,” Chapman said.
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