Leaving for their final destination: World War II
Posted By Sparta Live | May 27, 2010 12:00 am
Editor’s note: Although this story was originally printed in May 2003, The Expositor felt the message from the Class of 1943 was worthy of being reprinted in observance of Memorial Day. The remaining classmates gathered once again, on May 22, 2010, for another treasured reunion. Only 35 still survive of the 142 class members.
The sweet recollections of high school teenagers filled the room, and, once again, every “boy” and “girl” was 18 years old, reliving the most precious days of their lives.
“Do you remember when we beat Monterey 44 to 0?” said Edsel England, former member of the renowned basketball team.
England was only one of approximately 60 individuals who gathered in May 2003, at Sparta Civic Center, for the 60th reunion of the Class of 1943. As England began to reminisce about the glory days of his high school sports career, other men in the crowd chimed in with their version of “the big game” and how they “whipped those Monterey boys.”
For just a few minutes, time had stood still for these men, whose graying hair was the only reminder of their true age. Their smiles were just as brilliant as they were the day they set foot inside the halls of White County High School. Just as soon as one class member would remember a portion of the story, another basketball “hero” would finish the sentence with his remembrances of those wonderful days of youth.
Soon, the women began to join in, remembering the part they played, not only as cheerleaders and majorettes, but their victorious days on the basketball courts of WCHS. Joyce Ware and Sarah Butler talked about their memories of the band and the trip they took to Mule Day in Columbia.
Ernest Cotten kept the crowd entertained, serving as master of ceremonies. Laughter filled the room as he spoke of his many “escapades” at WCHS and how the teachers never thought “he would amount to much.” However, the retired attorney has kept his humorous personality throughout the past 60 years, which demonstrates his never-ending fervor for life.
However, amidst the light-hearted conversation and happy memories, there was a somber remembrance of graduation day, 1943. Within approximately two hours after the commencement ceremonies, every young man, with the exception of two or three, boarded a bus in downtown Sparta. Their destination – World War II.
Eloise Alley recalled how the girls all walked downtown to bid the boys farewell.
“We just cried and cried,” she said. “It was such a sad day.”
When asked what it felt like to be uprooted so quickly from their safe surroundings in White County, to be suddenly shipped overseas, Charlie Graham replied with a very solemn expression on his face, “It was awesome. Simply awesome.”
Four of the young men of the Class of 1943 had already left for Europe in October 1942. The remainder of the class had already taken their physicals, but were deferred until after graduation, because many of them were not yet 18. According to one class member, military officials also wanted them to complete their education.
Several of the men said they immediately rushed home after the graduation ceremony to change clothes and gather up their necessary items for travel. Others said their parents had brought their clothes with them so the transition could be quickly made.
The recollections of the Class of 1943 are still very vivid. The “girls” in the Class of 1943 were extremely pretty, but the “women” at the 60th reunion were more beautiful than words can describe.
And the “boys”… well, the hands of time have only enhanced their good looks and given them the distinguished features that prove all good things improve with age.
Fred Alcorn, Eloise Price Alley, Emma R. Boyd, Sara Sherrell Butler, Ernest Cotten, Isabelle Clouse, Margaret Eller Edgar, Doris Worley Gamble, Fred Gilliam, Jenalee Goff Short, Elizabeth Green, Joe M. Goodwin, Charlie Lee Graham, Herbert Johnson, Leah M. Ellis Johnson, Willene Terry Kell, Ewing Bill Kiser Jr., Martha Broyles Mason, Louise H. McCartney, Enzena Mullins, William Mosley, Leon Lowery, Roy Luna, R.T. Phillips, Reba Williams Pullum, Emily Gracey Richardson, Mildred Randolph, Louise England Rascoe, Reba Gamble Shake, Willie B. Graham Simms, Gene Stewart, Ruth Hutson Teeple, Frances Craw Welch, Ray Watson, Elma Lee Welch.
Robert E. Allen, Owen Andrews, Mary Ruth Austin, Jimmy Bosson, Lester Barker, Suzie Barker, Sam Beam, Lenora Pullum Bouldin, Dorothy R. Boyd, James Briggs, Elise Bradley Brown, Burris Bussell, Carl Cannon, Clata Green Carroll, Willie J. Clark, Anna Ruth Gist, Edna Lyles Clark, Ina Lee Cody, Hardy Cooper, Opal Cooper, Myrtle M. Crawford, Lorene Cummings, Betty Jenkins Dooley, Mary Etta Mills Dunn, Sally Dunn, Comer Ray Eller, Eugene Elrod, Hazel Eller, Bertha England, Edsel England, Martha Jo Evans, Howard Foster, Russell Franks, Dorris Frazier, Elizabeth R. Gasperone, Floyd Geer, Joe Green, Elbert Griffin, Thurman Griffin, Louis Grissom, Juanita Whiteaker Graves, Elizabeth B. Gianoulis, Pauline Hardin, Thelma Lee Hayes, Clareta Holder, Charles Horn, Hershell Howard, Paul Howard, Thomas Hudson, Nancy Hunter, Mildred Hutchings, Allah D. Jarvis, Betty Dooley Jenkins, Edward Jernigan, Bill Jones, Della Mae Johnson, Helen Foster Johnson, Elizabeth Kimsey, Illa Ruth Hyder Kirby, Christine Knowles, WT. George Knowles, James Lollar, Jack Lowery, S.V. McBride, Helen Roberts McGinness, Austin McMahan, Myrtle Marlowe, Mary Howard Matthews, Ruby Miller, Dimple Milligan, Ruth Milligan, Lelloine Mills, Edna Graham Newman, Clifford Officer, Juanita Swack Orris, Martha Perkins, James I. Price, Clifton Randolph, Thomas Rawls, Emily G. Richards, Earl Rose, Lena Sapp, Lois Sapp, Charles Scott, Thurman Sherrell, Hollis Simmons, William Slatten, Cleatus Smith, Laura Earls Smith, Marie Osborne Smith, June Snoody, J.B. Spiva, Edith Saylors Stewart, Ewin Stinnett, Ruth Thurman, Dimple Wilhite Walker, Mason Wall, Ben Ware, Ruth Joyce Ware, Lois Webster, Charles L. White, Reatha Walker Williams, Emmitt Wilson, Maggie Scott Wiser, L.D. Whiteaker, Frances Young