barr Street News

Class of '66 featured in local newspaper


Memories run deep: Recalling a place of discipline, pride, friendship and fun
Editor’s note: The Barr Street High School class of 1966 gathered Sept. 23-25 for its 50th reunion. One of the event’s organizers was Betty Massey Cooper of Charlotte, the class valedictorian and a retired principal at Westerly Hills Elementary School. She shared her memories with classmates and their guests. Here are excerpts from her speech.

I want to tell you a story about 116 African-American students who were born in 1948. The setting is the small town of Lancaster, S.C., at a school named Barr Street High.

The year was 1966. The average house cost $23,300. The average annual income was$6,900. A gallon of gas cost 32 cents and a first-class stamp was a nickel. Lyndon Johnson was president.
That year we became seniors, the big Golden Tigers on campus. It was a time of segregated schools and long bus rides. Most of us studied to achieve because our parents and teachers expected it of us. School was also our social outlet. In many ways, it was the best of times!

Back then the philosophy was “teachers will teach and students will learn.” Our principals and teachers demonstrated their knowledge and took pride in their teaching, their student discipline and their appearance, always dressed to impress! They were the best role models.

I remember our strong, quiet superintendent, Mr. Aaron R. Rucker, and a serious, no-nonsense principal, Mr. Lafayette B. Belk. If you don’t believe this, just ask Bertha Brown and Jennifer Washington, who were called into Mr. Belk’s office once for joy-riding during the school day!

Our teachers were leaders too. Who can forget sitting in Mr. Spann’s class on the second floor as we slowly typed 10 to 20 words per minute, Mr. “Cool Daddy” Jenkins as he walked us through U.S. history, and Mr. W.D. Young, whose love of math was only surpassed by his love for baseball’s World Series. We watched every game in his trigonometry class and still managed to learn enough to score well on the SAT.

English was taught by Dr. Rubye Johnson, Mrs. Mildred Young, and Mrs. Doris A. Hood, who challenged us to learn or “get out of my class.” She was young, gifted and tough! Mr. Wright and Mr. McMullen helped us to see the connection between science experiments and the real world.

In Mrs. Fields’ home economics class, we all made pajamas that didn’t fit and aprons that couldn’t be worn in the kitchen. Mrs. Barnes taught P.E. and organized the Barrettes, a dance group. One of our most mild-mannered teachers was Ms. Duren, the librarian. Her presence made the library an inviting place to study and learn.

Our French teacher, Ms. Mary Lee Isom, demanded that you listen, respond in French and do your homework. The only school yearbook from BSHS was dedicated to Miss Isom in 1969 – a most deserving honor.

Every student had a chance to participate in extra-curricular activities. Our future writers and authors kept us informed through the school newspaper, The Tigerette, with Nancy Reid as the editor-in-chief. The last 1966 edition included two poems written by our classmate Robert Evans. Our senior class play was a mystery-comedy entitled “The Phantom Bells,” starring Verta Witherspoon.
For the senior prom, we got all dressed up in our gowns and jewelry and suits and ties, only to be escorted to the prom by our parents! Parents had their own room where they sat patiently until the prom ended and then took us home. My, how things have changed!

Our football and basketball teams that year were outstanding – Bobby Mungo, Richard Lowery, and who can forget John “The Gun” Foster. The Barr Street High School Band and the majorettes were second to none in the state. The Glee Club, under the direction of Dr. Peter Felder, won many awards.

Charles Smith was our class president, and he still is. Reva Jean Shropshire was Miss Barr Street. Patricia Wade was Miss Homecoming, and Gennell Mingo was Miss May Queen.

Our baccalaureate service was May 29, 1966. The class play was the next day. Finally, it was June 2, graduation day! Our theme for the day was “There is no security on this earth – only opportunity.” We had our diplomas in hand. Our parents and teachers were so proud.

Today we celebrate those days 50 years ago that prepared us for the present and the future. To God be the glory!

Published in The Lancaster News, Lancaster, S.C., on October 2, 2016.