Paul W. Barada
My, does time fly! On June 22 next month, the Rushville High School Class of 1963 will celebrate its 50th anniversary. To be honest, 1963 doesn’t sound all that long ago, until one considers that, when we graduated in June 1963, the Class of 1913 was celebrating its 50th anniversary! Now, 1913 seemed like a long time ago when I was just 17 years old. The year 1913 was four years before the United States entered World War One.
In years gone by, when I have attended the annual RHS/RCHS Alumni Association Reunion, the Silver Anniversary class seemed like really old people to me, far older than we seem now. It all has to do with perspective, I suppose. Nevertheless, 50 years seems like a very long time ago; and, yet, in many ways, it just seems like yesterday. The memories of my high school years are still vivid and clear. We were one of the last classes to go through that last period of innocence: before the war in Vietnam, the antiwar protests, the drug culture, flower power, and the whole “Make love not War” movement. The final years of the 1960s were a time of upheaval, unrest, and the beginning of the counter-culture movement.
Locally, 1963 was also one of the last years before consolidation, a bitter memory still painful for those who recall when there were high schools in Arlington, Carthage, Mays, New Salem, Milroy and Manilla. Consolidation didn’t take place until 1968 when most of the members of the Class of 1963 were either starting their careers, finishing college, or being drafted into the Army.
The years we spent in high school were wonderful years of innocent fun like riding up and down Main Street, going to the bowling alley, taking part in all sorts of high school activities, and occasionally sneaking out the family car before we were old enough to drive. Ben Early was the high school principal and, by today’s standards, a far stricter administrator than most of us would have preferred. He had come to Rushville from one of the tough Muncie high schools, and it is still rumored that he carried a lead pipe behind his back at every high school basketball game (in case there was trouble, which, of course, there never was).
We were fortunate in another respect, also. We had some of the best teachers ever to pass through the doors of the high school. Florence Madden; Maude Jones; Madeline Knight; Grayson Mahan, who was, by the way, current Principal Matt Vance’s grandfather; and Justine Mitchell, who taught Latin, were some of the finest teachers this high school has ever had. All of them were tough and tolerated no nonsense during class, but they were also caring, compassionate instructors who gave us the start we would need as we moved on to college or careers. Those of us who were in high school during the early 1960s were blessed with an exceptional cadre of teachers who truly cared about teaching and, more importantly, cared about their students.
The four years we were in high school were a special time in other ways. We made lifelong friendships. If one looks at the high school yearbook, the Holcad, for the 1962-63 academic year, one will find a pretty decent looking, clean-cut, engaged bunch of kids. We didn’t cause trouble. We didn’t smoke, do drugs, or drink as a regular part of our daily lives. About the worse thing a bunch of us did, at least as far as I can recall, was try to move a cannon across town one night with the goal of putting it on Pat Kennedy’s porch. The cannon, or its companion, now sits on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn. Naïve as we were, we thought we’d actually be able to roll that artillery piece though the alleys all the way over to north Morgan Street. Of course, we didn’t make it. It’s just not possible to roll a cannon quietly down alleys without somebody hearing the noise. At the corner of 12th and Morgan the city police showed up. Several were caught, but several of us managed to get away (scared to death).
About the worst thing we ever did “in” school was pitch pennies and occasionally throw them at a very large brass plaque that used to hang on the library wall. The trick was to hit the brass plaque with a penny, which would cause a very loud “gong” which disturbed the librarian, Mrs. Bishop, immensely! I remember one particular incident of penny throwing. Jim Marshall heaved a penny, which struck the plaque with a resounding gong. Everyone in the library who had been looking down at a book or paper immediately looked up, while Jim immediately looked down. Mrs. Bishop knew immediately who had done it. Everybody in the library was looking around to figure out who might have thrown the penny. Jim was the only one with his head in a book. Mrs. Bishop said, “Jim Marshall! You come up here this minute!” We all had a good laugh at Jim’s expense while he had to go see Mr. Early of lead pipe legend.
One final note: We’ve already started to receive cards from members of our class who will be coming from places like Connecticut, Mississippi and Florida. Guess where the classmates are from who claim they can’t make it. Right here in Rushville. Come on guys! We probably won’t do this again.
That’s -30- for this week.