It was an evening of laughter, hugs and sharing memories of school days when ex-students of Oak Lawn School and Turner High School entered the Hospitality Suite Room at the Waxahachie Civic Center on Friday night for the “get acquainted” time.
The theme for the weekend festivities of the Oak Lawn-Turner High School alumni reunion, which continues through today, is “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
The classes of ex-students represented ranged from Chinese (Brewer) Mitchell (class of 1933) to Wanda Allen Terry and Edith Finley (classes of 1967 and 1968, respectively).
Terry is the treasurer and Finley is the past president of the alumni association.
The Oak Lawn-Turner reunion was organized in 1981 by Mildred (Nunn) Ammons (class of 1939) along with Sadie B. Jones and E. D. Finley. Ammons lives in Chicago.
Asked which teacher was the greatest influence, Mitchell said, “It was Mrs. Golthwaite. She taught us home economics. She taught us how to sew and cook and so many other life skills.
“I went to school during the Depression, but at the time, we didn’t really think about how hard times were,” Mitchell said. “It seemed to me like we had enough to eat.”
Joseph Powell, class of 1944, served in the U.S. Army in Europe until the end of the war. He came back to Waxahachie after his military service but soon moved to Colorado where he still lives.
“I have such wonderful memories of growing up in Waxahachie,” Denise Green Duchesneau said. “I attended elementary at Oak Lawn until 1965 when we moved to Abilene and I graduated from Abilene High School. My mother, Mrs. Annie B. Cross-Smith, graduated from Oak Lawn in 1939, and she taught school in Abilene.
“We lived right across the street from the school and I remember riding my bicycle at the school in the afternoons. I was involved in Brownies, and our family was involved in the community,” she said. “One of my fondest memories was when our family would go to Fort Worth or Dallas to eat out. There were not that many places in which to eat out here in town. Also, each month we children enjoyed walking to town to pay the water bill.”
“It was during my years at Oak Lawn that phonics was introduced. Mrs. Weaver was my teacher. She along with my other teachers were strict disciplinarians, but yet they were loving,” said Duchesneau, who attended the reunion with her sons, Adrian and Keir, who live in Round Rock, Texas.
Erma Newton, class of 1947, also recalled her days at Oak Lawn.
“The teacher who stands out in my memory is Mrs. Doll. She was strict, but was so good to us,” Newton said. “We were a close community back then. Everybody knew everybody. There were no phones and no cars. But if we got in trouble in school, our parents knew about it immediately. “We didn’t have a cafeteria at the school, but because I lived right across the street, I could just run home and eat lunch,” Newton said. “Or, during special days I could go over to Derrough’s Grocery Store and buy a chili meat sandwich or meat loaf sandwich. They were the best things. We could get a hamburger for a nickel and a soda water for a nickel.
“People talk about the good old days when things only cost a nickel,” she said. “But they forget how hard it was to come by those nickels. These are the good old days today.”
The reunion weekend wraps up with music and catered food at 2:30 p.m. today in the Crape Myrtle Room of the Civic Center, immediately followed by a business meeting at 5:30.
According to the Ellis County Museum Web site, Oak Lawn School was built on North Aiken Street in 1887 and was moved to Wyatt Street in 1893. Expansion of the student body led to the separation of elementary and high school students, and Turner High School opened in 1952.
In 1970, Oak Lawn was closed upon the completion of integration in the Waxahachie school system, and Turner High School is now Turner Middle School.